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Construction Revolutionized My Finances

This article was written by in Personal Finance. 21 comments.


This is a guest article by Jon the Saver, a personal finance blogger at Free Money Wisdom. His mission is to spread financial wisdom and help people get their financial lives under control. In his down time he loves a mean game of Scrabble and spending quality time with his fiancee.

I’m probably the only personal financial blogger who works in the construction industry. It may sound like a strange combination, but it actually makes sense. There are so many financial aspects to construction, it blows my mind.

To give you some background, I currently work for a Fortune 500 general contractor in the heavy civil industry. We work on large scale projects like highways, bridges, and power plants. I graduated college with a degree in Construction Management and love what I do. How many people do you know can say that? Well, I can and I’m proud of it! I love the ability to go out on a project site and then be able to come back indoors. I would hate cubicle life and feel like I’m wired for construction.

Construction BulldozerTo say that the construction industry has revolutionized my personal finances is pretty bold. As bold as it may be, it’s true. I have always had big picture personal finance principles as my foundation, but construction has really taught me a lot about personal finance, some of it from studying long hours in college and some of it from getting my work boots dirty in the field.

Let’s dig our boots in and explore this revolution.

1. Execution without planning will result in failure

You can try to execute, but if you don’t have proper planning, it’s doomed to fail. In construction this happens when someone doesn’t do his job and forgets to plan accordingly. This could be as simple as a missing checklist or as serious as not ordering enough concrete. Another big one is planning for safety. You never want injuries on your job site. If you don’t engineer out the risks of an operation, how can you be confident in your execution?

Effect on finances: This is everything from proper retirement planning to education on personal finances. I mean, why do you read this blog? Probably because you want to plan for your future. Planning is everything. If you have a good plan, you’re destined for success.

2. 80/20 rule applies to your finances

I’m a huge believer in the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle. I first heard of this rule from a professor in college. The basic idea is that 80% of your results come from 20% of your work. More and more I’m finding this to be true. There are only a handful of decisions that are really going to affect you on a construction job. Things like a concrete pour are extremely critical, whereas a meeting on the door paint may be pushed to another week.

Effect on finances: Very few of your decisions will really have a big effect on your finances. I would say the top two decisions that fall into the 80/20 rule are living a debt-free life and saving 15 to 25 percent of your income for retirement. Now, there are others, but those two come to mind right now. Take the 80/20 rule and apply it to your financial life. You might even start to feel less stressed.

3. Where are you headed without a schedule?

A construction project is 100 percent schedule-driven. Without an organized schedule, how will you know what will be happening the next week? How will you know when to mobilize big equipment? These issues are solved by keeping an in-depth schedule and maintaining it. Most of our meetings on a job site are schedule-related, and there is good reason for that.

Effect on finances: Your retirement timeline will determine what your savings goals and personal schedule looks like. Knowing this timeline will also tell you what percentages you want to be in various asset classes for stocks and bonds. For example, a 20 year old should be invested in 20 percent bonds and 80 percent stocks. Now, take a 50 year old. This person would want to be invested in 50 percent bonds and 50 percent stocks. Knowing your schedule has a huge impact on your investment decisions.

4. Know your costs

On a construction project, knowing your costs will make or break your bottom line. Everything down to the office supplies need to be accounted for. Not only is this a good practice for keeping good records, but it ensures that you get paid by the owner. Without a record of your costs, your boat is going to sink and sink fast.

Effect on finances: When you relate this concept to your finances, this means keeping track of all expenses and where your money is going. Knowing where your money is going is crucial to saving effectively and ensuring you don’t fall into the trap of debt. If you don’t know where to start for tracking your costs, I recommend Mint.com.

5. Protect your assets

As a general contractor, we own much of our heavy equipment, everything from bulldozers to mobile cranes. Part of the responsibility of owning these pieces of equipment is to protect our assets. We maintain this equipment and always keep the moving parts up to date. A broken bulldozer is useless in the eyes of a general contractor.

Effect on finances: This one is more human related. Part of personal finances is keeping your body and mind healthy so you can enjoy your retirement or enjoy your hard earned money now! I’m always trying to explain this to people. Your body is your greatest asset. Without it, you’re in for some serious repercussions. Eat healthy and exercise on a weekly basis. You want to enjoy your “glory years” right?

Who knew that construction had so many lessons that you could apply to personal finances? I hope you enjoyed this post. Now you know it’s not so crazy to be in construction and love personal finance!

Photo: bucklava

Updated November 20, 2011 and originally published November 18, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar SB @ One Cent At A Time

I think every profession has lessons to learn from. You construct equipment and machinery, I construct software programs. These principles apply in my field too. Very well written

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avatar Jon | Free Money Wisdom

I’m glad you enjoyed it! It’s true, every industry has lessons to be learned that can be applied to personal finance!

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avatar Ceecee ♦53 (Newbie)

I had not heard of the 80/20 rule but it seems to make sense. It’s sort of like, take care of the big stuff, and all of the little stuff will fall into place.

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avatar Jon | Free Money Wisdom

Exactly Ceecee! The big things will have the greatest effect, whereas the small stuff never really matters in the long run. I’ve applied that rule to everything in my life and I’ve found my stress to be non-existent :)

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avatar LaTisha @ Young Adult Finances

Construction seems to have some good ties into personal finances. I think the biggest comparison is the point of planning. If the construction is not planned and checked on often, it could go over budget or worse, never get finished! Good points all around Jon!

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avatar Jon | Free Money Wisdom

It really does. It’s so involved however no one at work seems to be interested in personal finance! Glad you liked it LaTisha and remember, plan plan plan!

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avatar 20's Finances

Very inspiring post – I am definitely a planner. I like to create a schedule in order to motivate myself to success. Way to think outside the box.

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avatar Jon | Free Money Wisdom

I couldn’t live without a structured plan. It keeps me in line and keeps me focused.

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avatar Money Beagle

I agree that the 80/20 rule should be thought of more often. I’m guilty of not following it as well. I’ll obsess about something that can save me $0.40 when the time involved could have been spent doing a different task that could save more or even earn me money.

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avatar Jon | Free Money Wisdom

Exactly Money beagle! I’ll tell you what, that happens to me too.

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avatar Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager

Love the comparison! Thanks for sharing.

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avatar Jon | Free Money Wisdom

You’re very welcome Jenna! It’s crazy how many lessons can be learned huh?

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avatar Krantcents

Everything is connected. I always thought sports was a metaphor for life. It turns out everything is!

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avatar Jon | Free Money Wisdom

So true! It ceases to amaze me about you can learn from anything, even things that don’t seem to be related.

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avatar Diane

I’m a construction PM, and I love what I do too! It’s great fun. Plus it REQUIRES you to be detail-oriented, know how to execute complex things in a simple, low-drama manner, and keep costs totally organized. I run my own business – and the PM skills and business skills have huge overlap.

PMs rock!

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avatar Jon | Free Money Wisdom

Great to meet another PM! The cool thing about our careers is that we love what we do and don’t hate going to work everyday!

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avatar KNS Financial ♦404 (Nickel)

Jon, it’s amazing to see what we are able to learn from the various aspects of our lives.

When you talked about planning, it reminded me of the parable that Jesus told about counting the costs. Of course, he was talking about salvation, but He did use a construction & finance analogy to teach the lesson.

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avatar Jon | Free Money Wisdom

Totally. I love how Jesus used down to Earth examples to teach about salvation. And the fact that He was a carpenter makes me love my job even more haha.

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avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

This is the best post I have read on any site in a very long time. Your comparisons are creative, yet on the mark. DH was a PM and loved his job too. Well, a mechanical engineer who ended up as a PM.

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avatar Jon | Free Money Wisdom

Wow, I’m honored Lynn. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I’ll be honest, I whipped up something special just for Flexo haha. It’s an awesome career and one that I’m thankful for. It’s so satisfying to finish a project, stand back, and say “I worked on that building!” Hope to see you around my blog Lynn :)

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avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

Great post – I’ve read your Free Money blog before and find it really interesting. My college student is pursuing an architecture degree and several of these same principles have come up in her architecture classes. I suppose they are consistent throughout life regardless of your profession. Thanks for sharing!

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