In this episode of the Fiscally Savage podcast, Dylan talks about the significance of value in the money equation, how you can develop your value, and what it means to work for yourself in today’s economy.
- [03:26] Self-improvement as the key to making your time more valuable
- [04:54] The first thing you need to do to develop your value
- [05:47] Why charm can make you valuable
- [06:11] Why insight can make you valuable
- [07:06] Why reliability can make you valuable
- [07:34] W-2 self-employment and what it means
- [08:03] The questions to ask yourself as a W-2 employee who wants to be self-employed
- [11:05] Why you should evaluate what your job does for you
- [15:19] The key difference between self-service and selfishness
- [15:40] Working out as an act of serving yourself
- [18:46] The questions to ask yourself when thinking about your position in the job market
- [21:19] How Dylan used his experiences as a teacher to successfully apply for his first job as an auditor
[00:00:00] Intro: Forget the civilized path. It’s time to break the chains of debt and dependency, take control of our financial lives, and live free. This is the Fiscally Savage podcast.
[00:00:15] Dylan Bain: It’s 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I’m sitting at my client’s office. I’ve been in this room without windows since 7 a.m. on Friday morning. I’ve just finished my work and I’m getting ready to send out the bills for this quarter’s progress. I’m reflecting on my career to this point. I started out as a teacher for eight years. And now I’m a CPA working for a huge firm on a brand new client. And this is my first time that I’m gonna be sending out the billing. And so I open up the spreadsheet that the partner has given me. And I look at it and I start adding up all the hours from the database that we have for our time tracking software.
[00:00:58] And out of curiosity, I decided to actually, like, look at that spreadsheet. And I’m looking at it. And I see my name, and I see my rank, and I see my hourly rate that I’m about to bill my client for at $250 an hour. My curiosity gets the better of me. And I’m now opening up my phone, moving to the calculator app, taking my salary, and dividing by the number of hours I actually work wherein discovering that while I’m only making $20 an hour as a CPA with an MBA, my firm is charging the client $250 an hour for my time.
[00:01:35] And now I’m thinking, what the hell? Why am I not getting paid more for my time? I mean, I’m valuable. I’m a husband and a father. I got out of another career. I did everything right. I graduated top of my class. And now, I’m sitting here at two o’clock in the morning having worked since 7 a.m. the day before and learning for the first time that my firm charges $250 an hour for my time, one of my most precious, nonrenewable resources. And I’m giving up that time in exchange for $20 an hour and taking that time away from my family, from my friends, from the time I could spend working on myself.
[00:02:19] And I’m thinking, what is the point in working here when I’m not getting paid? And then it hits me. It’s like a lightning flash because the client didn’t hire Dylan Bain. And I’m sitting here realizing that I am just the cog that the machine plugged into this client. No, no, no. The client hires the Big Four accounting firm with $50 billion in revenue and an international footprint that’s rivaled only by other Big Four firms. I am not the value that’s being sold to the client. The value is the firm, not the monkey in the seat.
[00:03:03] And I start to understand. I’m starting to see clearly that the value that’s brought by the firm is that the firm can defend its work. The firm has the resources to handle anything. That once the client signs the contract and issues the check, they just don’t have to think about their audit and financial services again because that Big Four international firm has got it on lock.
[00:03:26] And if I wanted to get myself to $250 an hour, I had to be adding $250 of value. And that self-improvement is now the key that I need to start on taking to make my time more valuable because time does not equal money. Time plus value equals money. And of those two things — time or value — the only thing I can truly increase the quantity of is value. And I’m sitting there at the client site, looking out the windows, and watching people come out of the bars after having a fun night on the town. And I’m resolving to stop working for my boss and start working for myself. And ladies and gentlemen, that honestly made me a better employee.
[00:04:11] And so now, I’m here talking to you about how to develop your value. How, if the equation is you take time plus value equals the payment you get and we only have x amount of time. And I know the trope of, well, everyone has the same 24 hours. And I’m well aware that that is not actually true. But this is what it comes down to in that value piece, right? That value piece is the thing that you can actually make money with. That’s the thing you can control. So when you have a set amount of time and you want to increase your money, you have to be able to add the most value at the littlest amount of time to increase and maximize the money equation.
[00:04:54] So the question then becomes, how do we develop this? And I’m gonna tell you that the very first thing that you need to do is you need to start working for yourself. And I’m not talking about self-employment here. I’m talking that you need to start working for the betterment of you. And this applies to all areas of your life, not just money. But we’re gonna focus on the money here because after all, money is my jam. It’s my gateway into talking about everything else that I love talking about.
[00:05:20] But when I say you need to start working for yourself, you need to start understanding what makes your time valuable. That is to say, the company or the W-2 employer or 1099 employer, whatever it is, is going to extract the time from you regardless. So the question is, what is the value you’re putting in that time that’s then generating the money? Why is it that company hired you?
[00:05:47] Let me give you some examples of things that make people’s time valuable. Charm. If you’re in sales, the ability to be charming is incredibly important. The company may have identified your ability to work a certain prospect or a referral source because you’re charming. You know how to put people at ease, make them feel comfortable, help guide them to decisions.
[00:06:11] Another thing that makes people valuable is insight. As a CPA, which is my professional career now, people pay me for insight. They pay me for observation. They pay me for my independence, my ability to walk into a place on a consulting contract and say, okay, well, I’m gonna take this whole place apart and I’m gonna tell you where your opportunities for improvement are. And if I don’t find any, it’s because you really did a great job ’cause that happens sometimes, too. That insight is what they pay me for.
[00:06:40] How do I get insight? Well, here’s another thing that makes my time valuable. I have tech skills. And I have, over my career as a CPA, have said yes to every data analytics opportunity I possibly can, even when I had no idea what I was doing, to gain the tech skills that make my time significantly more valuable than other accountants. That is to say, there are just certain things that I can do that other accountants simply cannot.
[00:07:06] Another thing — and this is probably the easiest, most accessible thing that can make your time valuable — is reliability. It’s a free thing. Your ability to show up or to do the thing you say you’re going to do — underpromise and overdeliver, as the saying goes — is extraordinarily valuable. And there is a double-edged sword to all of this, of course. But those things, employers will pay a premium for. Your reliability, they’ll pay a premium for.
[00:07:34] And so I kind of term this the W-2 self-employment, quote unquote, because you’re working for yourself. Whatever job you have, you need to start working for yourself to identify what makes you valuable and then grow that skill. And make that skill accentuated, make it marketable, get out there. You need to start working for yourself and saying yes to the opportunities because it’s serving a purpose. It’s serving a vision that you’re going towards.
[00:08:03] And one question you can ask yourself as a W-2 employee who wants to be self-employed, working for yourself to increase your value in the marketplace is, what is the “why” of the job you do? Why is it somebody pays you to do the thing you do? What is the value that that job, that role, those tasks that you perform, what is the actual value to the company, to the customer, to all the different places that your work touches? And if you were gone, what’s the thing that they’re gonna miss the most about you when you’re gone? So what is the “why” of a job?
[00:08:44] The second question you can ask yourself about W-2 self-employment is, what’s the next exit strategy? So in my own career, and this has been a trope for me for most of my life, is that Dylan never focuses on anything longer than two and a half years. After two and a half years, he just, he’s gotta move on ’cause he’s burned out. And part of that is because, well, they’re actually right. I do, on many levels, I’ve mastered whatever job I’m at after two and a half years. And I need to move on. Otherwise, I get bored.
[00:09:10] The other part about it is that I have been climbing a corporate ladder for the past seven years. I was a teacher for four years before that. And I think what saved me from my two-and-a-half-year role was that, you know, I was four years in Flagstaff, and two years in Taiwan before that, and two years in Milwaukee before that. And so, in my eight years of teaching career, I had four years of consistency. But the last probably year and a half, I was focusing on my exit. So the question I had to ask myself as I’m getting ready to exit this is, what are the skills, what are the qualifications that the job I want to have needs? And how can I learn it here?
[00:09:49] So once you understand what is the value you add, then you have to look at what is the exit strategy out of here. Because in our current economy, corporations do not have an economic incentive to hire from within. They have every reason to hire from without for a variety of reasons that I’ll get into at a different time. But you should expect to career-hop in your career if you actually want to start moving up.
[00:10:08] The last question — I’ve already kind of touched on it — is, what can I learn at my current job? How does my current job serve me? And I’m well aware of the internet tropes that say, well, I’m passionate about this job because I’m passionate about paying my rent and not starving to death. Well, don’t get me wrong, that’s a good reason. But that’s not actually how the job serves you. The job’s only gonna pay you the bare minimum so that you don’t go someplace else. And their willingness to pay you more is probably more dependent on how easy you are to replace than anything else.
[00:10:40] So the question you have to ask yourself is, what can I extract from my current job? And I personally don’t think that extractive relationships are good. But let’s face it. We’re talking about corporate America here. So the question for you is, how does this job serve me? What can I get out of it? How can I use this job to leverage the experiences, the trainings that I need to be able to get that exit strategy and add more value into the marketplace?
[00:11:05] And ladies and gentlemen, there’s literally nothing wrong with this because what I’m inviting you to do in starting to work for yourself and to put it a different way is, what’s the with them? What’s in it for me? And this is a question that I think a lot of people have trouble asking because they’re actually afraid to go “Well, what’s in it for me?” because we’ve been taught and sold a bill of goods that somehow, if we’re just humble enough, if we just lower ourselves enough, if we just grovel, if we just toil in the darkness, and we do a good enough job, the magic hand of the market will come and select us and pluck us out and put us in a place that we’ve truly earned and deserved and that somehow by asking “What’s in it for me? What are my exit strategies? How am I gonna learn? How is this job gonna edify me?” that we’re somehow greedy.
[00:11:52] You’re not greedy, ladies and gentlemen. You’re self-interested. There’s a difference. And I hear a lot, and this is, you know, I’m a millennial and I’ve worked with a lot of millennials and Gen Zs. I’ve coached a lot of millennials and Gen Zs. And one thing that comes up a lot is, I wanna serve, I wanna be of value, I wanna work for nonprofits. I hear this all the time because they’ve been sold a bill of goods that somehow the only work that’s actually worthy is if it’s, you know, for low pay and for somebody else’s benefit.
[00:12:18] But that doesn’t make any sense. And it doesn’t make any sense because the hierarchy of service is as follows: it’s service to self, service to others, service to a higher cause — and in that order. It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In fact, it actually works quite well because the bottom two tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are all self-service. That is your physiological needs and your safety and security. And the next two tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are all about other people: relationships and esteem. And, of course, what’s the top tier of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Well, it’s self-actualization, or service to another cause, a higher cause, God, whatever you wanna call it. And it goes in that order.
[00:13:04] And ladies and gentlemen, we’ve all actually heard people talk about that you have to serve yourself first because in the event of a crash landing, if the oxygen and pressure in the cabin decreases, the mask will drop from above. Put your own mask on before helping others. How many of you have heard that? Every airline says it first. You have to put the mask on your own face and then you can go help other people because if you pass out while helping other people, you’re not much of a help now, are you?
[00:13:32] And so when you’re asking “What’s in it for me?” you’re working on that first tier, service to self. If you are not in a place where you can help, you’re not a help. You’re a hindrance. And I’ve heard a lot of people go, well, I don’t wanna be a burden. Well, okay. But sometimes you have to serve yourself by actually asking for help. That’s, of course, why people hire me as a financial coach. This is why corporations hire me as a CPA because they are asking for help because they’re serving themselves. They want me to come in and provide a service so that they can get better.
[00:14:06] Self-service, ladies and gentlemen, is not equivalent to selfish. No matter what else our economy, our society might tell you, serving yourself first — edifying yourself and improving — is the most noble thing you can do because it’s the foundation of service to all other things. And people will often struggle with this idea of worthiness. And with money, it’s so huge. If I handed you $5 million tax-free, what are your first thoughts and feelings? Well, for 75% of people, it’s, I’m not worth this. Well, you are worth that. Somebody has decided to gift that to you, whatever or however you came about it, you are worthy of that type of thing, which is why you’re worthy of self-care.
[00:14:51] That’s why you’re worthy of saying, “What does this job do for me?” And your employer might be saying, “Well, you should just be grateful you have a job.” No, you should be grateful that we don’t all revolt and take down the economy. You should start looking at how does this job serve me, what skills am I getting out of this, because you are worthy of being served. You are worthy of serving yourself first and foremost. You’re worthy of building and creating the epic portrait that is your life.
[00:15:19] When you ask “What’s in it for me?” the difference between self-service and selfishness, the selfishness is trying to extract from everybody else, and self-service is saying, I’m going to take this thing to make myself better and that’s because I am desperately working to work up the hierarchy. You’re worth serving. You’re worth serving yourself.
[00:15:40] Let me give you an example that’s not money-related that maybe is easy to see: working out. How many people, at the end of the day, don’t know what to do in terms of working out and getting healthier? Because, let’s just face it, the secret to fitness is easy. Eat real food in the right quantities and move around more. And we all know what real food is. It’s not Twinkies and chalupas. It’s like whole foods, things you go find out in nature. It’s pretty easy to figure out. And move around more. Who here can’t just go for a walk? Do some push-ups, do some sit-ups. There’s a ton of free, you know, knowledge is free on YouTube. So why don’t people more do it?
[00:16:22] Well, probably because they don’t think they’re worth the time. Or they’re exchanging their time for money because they’re not adding enough value to get the money that they need out of it to survive and thrive. But what’s the flip side of that? If they worked out more, they’d be stronger and more capable. When was the last time you heard somebody say, you know, in that situation, I was just too strong. I was too fit. I was too capable. You’ve never heard it because nobody would ever say that. But we’ve all heard the stories of, I just didn’t have the strength. I couldn’t keep going. I wasn’t ready. We’ve all heard that. But if you work out, if you work on your body, you make your health a priority, you are more capable. You’ve engaged in self-care.
[00:17:04] When I was an accountant for the Big Four, one of the things that was noted by my co-workers was that I was considered crazy because I was at the gym at six o’clock every single morning. And then I would still make it to work on time by seven. Why was it so important for me to go work out? Maybe I should do it after work. Well, for starters, I never would make it ’cause I stayed at the client late every single day. But I started off my day by ripping the face off my workout so I could handle the trials and tribulations throughout the day. By ripping the face off my workout, I wouldn’t rip the face off my client when they annoyed me.
[00:17:36] And as a result, I was more focused. I was centered. And I was disciplined. I knew what I was about. I got up and I got jump-started because I was going to take care of myself by going to the gym and working out and investing in myself. I had learned through working out how to set a dedication and follow through, how to put off the immediate instant gratification and work on something over time in the face of a lot of self-esteem issues, of worry, of actually having to humble myself enough to ask my trainers for help.
[00:18:10] Working out is very similar to money in this. And I’ve said this before, that once you start getting your money issues together, the rest of your life will typically follow because the lessons are universal. The same with fitness. People who start down a fitness journey typically get their money stuff together. And people who start down their money journey typically get their food stuff together. And people who start down their food journey typically get their family stuff together. This is not actually that hard to see once you start getting into motion, which is why I’ve always said the most important step that you can take is the first one, and then the next one, and then the next one. The important thing is to get into motion.
[00:18:46] You need to start working for yourself and look at the jobs and things that you do and how they serve you. What skills and talents are you working to make you more valuable to live your life on your terms for you? It is time to start thinking of yourself as the CEO of your own self. Think of yourself as a company. Think about your position in the marketplace. What is your brand? This is a common thing you hear in business college all the time. What’s your brand? I’ll tell you what Dylan Bain’s brand is. Dylan Bain’s brand is reliability, is lifelong learning, is never-say-die attitude, is enthusiasm for the hard things in life. That’s my brand. Everybody knows that. I advertise it. I market it. Those are my core competencies.
[00:19:33] What is your brand and what are your core competencies? What are you known for? If they’re looking at a job and they see all these different attributes, how have you positioned yourself and developed yourself so that as soon as they see those attributes in that job or that challenge, they think, Dylan Bain. Why would they select you over others? And if you don’t know, it’s time to start figuring that out because you’re worthy of serving yourself. You’re worthy of development. You’re worthy of being able to reach out for the stars.
[00:20:03] And one of the things that I have lived my whole life by, that I’ve had countless amount of success for, is when they say, they like to say, shoot for the stars, or shoot for the moon and you’ll land among the stars. That’s the phrase, right? Well, I think that phrase is bullshit. Walk in and demand the entire night sky because maybe they’ll sit there and go, hey, well, give them the moon and a couple of the planets and maybe they’ll go away. You’re damn right.
[00:20:29] Walk in and demand the whole night sky. Demand your time to be able to improve on yourself. Think of yourself as a CEO of your own company. What’s your brand? What’s your core competencies? Why would other people select you over the other competition? What development do you need for market positioning? How are you positioning yourself in the market to take advantage of the opportunities? What opportunities do you even want to find? And if you, once you identify that, where are they? How do I get in front of those clients so that I have the opportunity to at least make the sales pitch?
[00:21:00] As a CEO of this self corporation, these are the things you have to think about. What’s my brand? What’s my core competency? Why would they select me? What development do I need to position myself in the market? You can do this, ladies and gentlemen. And you have an edge. When you just step up, you have an edge because so many people won’t.
[00:21:19] And in today’s economy, with all the different things and social media distractions, you don’t even have to step up. You just have to not step back because that’s what everyone else is doing. And I know how you feel because when I applied for my first job as an auditor, I went through job descriptions. And I was looking at it and I was thinking to myself, I am not qualified for any of this. I have none of this. They want documentation, skills, and experience working with regulatory issues, soft skills or effective communication, collaboration, multitasking, cross-department collaboration. I have none of those. I mean, I’ve been a teacher for the past eight years. The fuck do I know about the corporate world? I’ve never ran a team in India while sitting in Denver, Colorado. Come on.
[00:22:07] And then it occurred to me. I, in fact, had all those experiences. I knew how to document things. I’ve been documenting lesson plans and student success records for the last eight years. I had been dealing with regulations at the federal and state and local levels. I’ve been dealing with standardized tests, working across departments, taking lessons to best practices from the English department into the math department where I taught.
[00:22:32] And I was able to have all the soft skills in the world. I could handle 10 situations between the parents and principals and state departments of education. I, in fact, could deal with a clientele that did not have the same interest, even internally, between the students, the parents, the school. None of those three groups agree on what they want. And yet I had been able to successfully navigate that for eight years. And my numbers showed it.
[00:22:58] And so I wrote all that into my applications and really showed and showcased all the different skills that my eight years as a teacher had taught me. And I applied to nine accounting firms, nine firms, that a week before I put in my applications, I did not believe that I was qualified for. Nine applications, each one with the promise of being able to pay me enough that I could work one job for the first time in my adult life, that I could have health insurance for my kids, that I could work towards my vision of a house with a yard, with the grill and the steaks, and my wife gives me the compliment that she loves what we built. Nine documents of hope.
[00:23:35] Ladies and gentlemen, I got nine offers. You’re worth serving yourself. Stepping up, being seen, establishing your brand, getting out there, creating the life you are meant to live.
[00:23:55] Outro: Thanks for listening. If you like what we do here, please hit that subscribe button. Leave us a rating and review. And share the content with somebody who would benefit from the message. You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, all @fiscallysavage. And head over to fiscallysavage.com to get our free tools, suggested reading, and everything else you need to take control of your financial life and live free.