what do you do with a bonus that came unexpectedly?

two weeks ago, my boss handed out a white paper to me.

on it was an official approval that i am to receive a six-digit bonus for a job well done in the last six months and the increase he verbally told me four months ago as well. retroactive, effective July 1st 2008.

though i was expecting both- i wasn’t expecting it will finally come. in the highs and lows of the re-organization this year, i have finally stopped counting what was due me and decided to love my job for what it is: not for the money (but damn, it is good money) but for the chance to finally help shape other people’s professional successes.

and so when it finally came, i was caught off guard.

what to do with all that money that isn’t anywhere in your cash management worksheet?

up to two years ago, this wouldn’t have been an issue. up to two years ago, i would have spent it before i even earned it. but that phase of my life is over now. instead- all non-guaranteed income i may get are not factored in my financial planning worksheet until they are realized. and they are only realized the moment there is an official schedule of it reflecting in my bank account already.

when i called my banker to set another monthly coffee session with him, i mentioned the bonus and the retroactive pay increase. i also mentioned that its not factored in my cash management sheet therefore, i can lock it away longer this time.

“any future plans you think you can use that for?” he asked.

“i cannot think of anything as of this moment.” i told him. “i’d like to lock it in 5 years. i can tolerate medium risk- that would be the limit. i’d still like to sleep at night not worrying about whether or not i’d lose the principal down the line…”

it wasn’t that big a bonus, don’t get me wrong. but i am particularly conservative when it comes to how i want my money managed now, quite an opposite (actually) to how i subject myself when it comes to my professional career.

“i know just a product.” he said and confirmed the 9am coffee appointment the following day.

i told zsolt about the bonus too. if this was three months ago, he would have screamed “travel money, baby!!!”. he is not quite like that now. he is turning his financials around, too. of whether he is doing it to keep me from doing another unsolicited lecture of how credit card companies rip off $$$ from their credit card clients through charges and interests or he is doing it because he is finally done with the “living the edge” mentality- it seems to be working now. and i couldn’t be happier.

and so- for the first time in my working life- i locked away an entire bonus without feeling ripped or insufficient. it wasn’t factored in my budgeting- and what isn’t there for me to spend wouldn’t hurt me if it eventually won’t reflect there.

i can still travel. i can still throw father a beach-themed 50th birthday party. i can still splurge on my family. i can still swipe my credit card to buy the things i want to buy without having to worry if i have enough money to shoulder it when the bill comes due.

and i still have no debt. 2 years and counting now.

and it feels wonderful.

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