The Engineer’s Guide to Financial Mastery

The Wandering Engineer
12 min readApr 11, 2024

--

Money is a big issue for most people.

In the past few years, we’ve seen an increasing wealth gap around the world, as well as a decreasing quality of life for the average person, as I outlined in my recent blog.

Younger generations are not living the same quality of life that their parents had. Over 60% of people in the U.S. are living paycheck to paycheck and many are one emergency or missed paycheck away from financial ruin.

As we continue the journey to reveal the truths of the world and help everyone achieve their full potential, we want to help more people achieve financial independence and mastery.

Although money isn’t the end to all means and won’t solve all problems, in this world, it greatly impacts everyone’s lives, especially the lack of money. It is closely tied to people’s well-being.

The truth is, many people have the wrong understanding and mindset about money, which is what leads them to be poor.

There is a lot of bad financial advice out there. Having struggled and walked through this process myself and learned from other people’s mistakes, we are putting together this guide to help you achieve financial mastery.

Many people believe money is the holy grail, the means to solve all their problems in life, and the key to happiness. They put money on a pedestal and chase after it their entire lives. They see money as their main life goal.

Even in engineering, tech, and finance, I see too many people chasing TC (total compensation) above all other things in life. These people are constantly looking for the next higher-paying gig, looking for ways to get rich, and they are often miserable. They are missing the big picture.

Also, coming from an Asian immigrant background, many, including those in my family, are overly frugal. They do everything themselves, calculate every expense down to the penny, and refuse to spend money to enrich and improve their quality of life. It’s a scarcity mindset. They are exchanging their time and well-being to save a few bucks here and there that won’t make a difference in the long run. It will never make you rich.

Most people out there are actively trading time for money — working longer hours, working multiple jobs, and chasing after that measly raise or promotion (which often makes you work a lot more for a small pay increase). That mindset will never make you big bucks.

As I mentioned in my time management blog, your time is finite and is your most valuable resource, so use it well — stop trading your most valuable commodity for money! Instead, put that time into enriching your life, learning, well-being, and becoming a better version of yourself.

Money is not the end to all, and despite what many people think, one cannot buy many things with money, such as life, youth, time lost, and genuine relationships. Money does not solve all your problems. Just like relationships, many people are unhappy and think having money will change that, but it doesn’t happen without fixing their internal issues.

Money is merely another resource or tool at your disposal, and there are many more important aspects in life, from your health and time to your knowledge, relationships, and experiences. Making money should not be your main goal in life.

Your money is a representation of your value. If you become valuable, money will come to you as a byproduct. Just like what I said in dating, if you work on being attractive and not unattractive, you will eventually succeed.

Chasing money is a slave mentality — you are being a slave to money. To truly achieve financial mastery, you have to become the master, the one in charge. You attract and utilize money instead.

Making lots of money is not rocket science. It’s basic economics — supply and demand. The world is transactional. If you are valuable as a person (i.e., have valuable ideas, talents, and skills and can demonstrate them), and are hard to replace by others, you will make money.

So you need to start by increasing your value. From learning in-demand skills to developing valuable ideas and talents that the world needs.

Too many people have this individualistic and selfish mindset where they only care about their own needs and wants, and only pursue their own passions and interests. The cold, hard truth is that this mindset will not make you money, unless your passions happen to be in an area of demand. I’ve talked about how blindly pursuing your passions is bad career advice.

Instead, you should follow the opportunities — look at skills that the world needs right now, from technology to finance to medicine. Learn and master those skills. Look at the problems that the world is trying to solve right now and develop ideas and solutions in that area.

You don’t have to be Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, trying to solve every major technical problem in the world and being at the forefront of innovation. You can instead hone in on a few important and in-demand skills (like programming and AI) and become an expert at them. Become at the level where you are irreplaceable. Be a niche so that your skills are unique.

But just becoming valuable isn’t enough. People need to see your value — and you have to do a good job of showcasing your value. You have to sell yourself well. It doesn’t matter what talents you bring to the table, if nobody knows about them, it’s pointless. We live in a market society, not a monastery.

Nowadays, simply obtaining degrees and certifications won’t set you apart from everyone. The modern education system is broken and degree inflation has been rampant in all disciplines. Education and academic success have become too easy to crack.

Instead, you need to set yourself apart through tangible things that can demonstrate your skills and expertise — work experience, projects, research work/publications, portfolios, patents, etc.

However, it seems like everyone else is already doing the above, and it is increasingly difficult to break into any field at the entry level right now, from engineering to tech to finance to medicine to education. You need to set yourself apart further. Therefore, it is just as important to network.

Humans are cliquey after all. If you know people in the right places who can advocate for you or provide you with opportunities, you have a better chance of breaking in and getting your ideas out there compared to a complete outsider. Doesn’t matter how stigmatized nepotism or favouritism is, it is basic human nature to trust someone you know over a complete stranger, given similar qualifications.

Once you invest in yourself, make yourself more valuable to the world, and make it known to others, the money should come easily. Don’t be stuck in the mindset of chasing money — money is the result of your value, not the main cause you pursue. Instead, pursue self-excellence.

How much money you make is only half of the equation to financial mastery. Many people don’t know how to manage their money and put it to good use. There are many people out there who are making lots of money and are still in financial ruin from mismanagement.

Let’s start with the basics. If you can’t even manage your personal life (poor time management, lack of self-discipline, addictions, poor health, etc.), how can you expect to manage your money well?

Many people are throwing money away to addictions and habits and they don’t even realize it — from impulsive shopping, hoarding, and attention seeking (i.e., buying expensive stuff or living beyond their means to impress people) to partying and drugs/alcohol to gambling (including crypto and stocks/options) and sexual interests (prostitutes, camgirls, OnlyFans, pornography, etc.).

Others are paying the price for their poor lifestyle and choices, such as poor health (e.g., having to take meds/treatment for obesity, chronic illnesses, or mental health issues), poor interpersonal boundaries (e.g., always “helping” or “lending” people money), and poor risk management (e.g., taking on reckless debt, getting into shady “investments”).

So get your personal life in order — control your addictions, get healthy and fit, have good boundaries and risk tolerance, and be knowledgable, and chances are, you are less likely to be recklessly throwing your money away. Once you are disciplined about your life, you can also be disciplined about money.

However, being a master of your finances isn’t just about controlling your spending. Money is a resource, and you want to put it to good use.

As I mentioned in other blog posts, we live in an overabundance of materialism. Material possessions can be lost or broken. But your knowledge and experiences are everlasting.

Don’t waste your money on pointless material possessions — keep your life simple. Buying lots of expensive items or living a lavish lifestyle to impress people won’t work — you’ll only attract other similarly shallow people.

Also, live within your means and always keep an emergency fund. Many people today live paycheck to paycheck and are one emergency away from financial ruin. Instead of getting that latest iPhone, brand-new car, or going on another vacation, save that money. Save for the rainy day so your life is not ruined if you lose your job, get into an accident, or get sick.

Many of those people you see on social media flaunting their travels, cool cars, and lavish parties are probably deeply in debt living that lifestyle (or using their parents’ money). Capitalism makes you believe you are missing out and encourages you to consume, so don’t fall for that trap. Your financial well-being is important. Don’t live in fear of missing out.

On the other hand, you should invest in quality items and services that can make your life convenient and save you time — appliances and electronics that increase productivity, cleaning services, pre-cooked food and meals, etc. Remember, time is your most valuable resource. Money can always be earned. Trade your money for time, not the other way around.

Use your freed-up time and that extra money to enrich your life and enable you to gain knowledge and experiences. From learning and education to volunteering, travelling (modestly), therapy, and building relationships (spending time with family and friends, helping others) — do things that make you grow as a person. Think of that as an investment in yourself.

Deteriorating your quality of life and your experiences just to save a few bucks is not worth it. At the end of your life, you won’t remember how much you worked or how much money you saved. You’ll remember all the things you did, the places you went, the positive relationships you built, and your knowledge and experiences.

Furthermore, the wealth gap is widening every year in the developed world. Everyone is getting a smaller cut of the cake, and more money is being funnelled to the top (through taxation, inflation, etc.).

To be a master of your finances, you want to be able to hold onto your wealth in the long run, and have the free time to do what truly matters instead of trading away your valuable time for money.

Fiat money that is not based on gold will be worth less and less over time, as we have seen since the end of the Gold Standard in the 1970s. You’ve seen the inflation in the recent years. You cannot hold your wealth in cash. Saving it in banks is not safe either as they can go bankrupt and collapse, leaving you with nothing (like Silicon Valley Bank).

You instead want to put your wealth into real assets, not depreciating consumables. There are only so many assets that hold value in the long run — land (real estate), businesses (blue chip stocks, index funds, starting your own business, etc.), and natural resources (precious metals, oil, etc.). Many other so-called “assets” are not based on real value and can crash as soon as they boom (crypto, penny stocks “stonks”, certain startups, options, etc.).

Again, don’t waste your money on material possessions that lose value and don’t make a real difference in improving your quality of life (like a fancy car or designer clothes).

You need to collaborate with others to build value. The whole idea of the “self-made man” is a complete lie. Nobody is truly self-made, we all had someone help us along the way to success, whether it is your parents, family, friends, colleagues, or mentors. Humans achieve great things through collaboration, so you also need to work together with others and pool your resources together, from money to ideas to skills. Pool your resources with your family, friends, etc., and put that into good use. Buy real estate, invest in other assets, start a business, or create value. Keep the wealth in your clan rather than throwing it away to make someone else money. However, it is important to vet your collaborators, as money often tears people apart.

Furthermore, don't be afraid to take calculated risks, especially debt. Risk leads to reward. Too many people are afraid to do this and that because it’s “risky” — that’s how you miss out on opportunities to be financially free. The safest option, i.e. working at the same job forever, guarantees that you will stay as a corporate slave for your entire life. Albeit this option is even going away as companies continue to outsource and cut back on pensions.

Also, use debt to your advantage — it’s a tool set up for you to gain wealth by the wealthy. From mortgages to venture capital to bonds, it is a means to grow your wealth. Don’t avoid debt just because it is debt. Make calculated decisions about whether or not you should be taking on a debt — don’t be reckless.

Finally, put yourself in positions where you can control your fate — from your career to money to time. Recent mass layoffs in tech have shown that doesn’t matter how high your salary is, or how high your position is, you still work for someone else and you are disposable.

In this day and age, you don’t earn big bucks or achieve financial freedom by working for someone else. Staying employed at the same place for your entire career is a thing of the past, as companies will replace you with cheaper and younger talent. Corporate pensions/retirement are no longer a thing. Loyalty to an employer is not rewarded, and employers are not loyal to you, so why should you be loyal to them? Always be on the lookout for better job/career opportunities and keep your best interests at hand.

You should instead make money with ideas and money (business, investing, etc.) rather than your labour — you need the master, not a capitalist slave making money for someone else. Try to set up multiple income streams, preferably passive income streams, if you can. Never put all your eggs in one basket. There are many ways to achieve that (real estate, entrepreneurship, etc.) and I won’t go into the details here.

Ultimately, I believe your corporate job should only help you gain professional knowledge and achieve a basic level of wealth in your younger years. Eventually, you should diversify your income streams and apply your knowledge to do something for yourself, rather than working your entire life away to put money into another person’s pocket.

At the end of the day, it’s not about how much money you make, it’s about how much you own. The world is increasingly trending back to feudalism — fewer and fewer people at the top are owning more of Earth’s resources, from land to natural resources to knowledge, and the wealth gap keeps increasing each year. You do what you need to do to maintain your hard-earned wealth and not get them sucked away by capitalism.

Finally, I believe you should give back to the world.

The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself. (Proverbs 11:25)

It doesn’t matter how much money you end up making in a lifetime, everyone dies at the end of the day. Your money is just a number.

Countless people are still struggling with hunger, poverty, disease, and conflicts. You are fortunate if you’re reading this post right now.

Money is a resource after all, so do the world a favour — give money to those in need of help. Use that money to solve problems. The world needs kindness and it is up to the people who own the resources to put it to good use and make the world a better place.

People with a rich mindset don’t worry about saving a few bucks here and there that they could’ve used to help others, and it won’t make a difference in their lives in the long run. It’s not a coincidence that the wealthiest people on earth happen to be the greatest philanthropists.

Just like most other things in life, if you cannot let go of money, you cannot be tasked with owning more of it. So stop putting money on a pedestal, adopt an abundance mindset, and start becoming a master of finances.

--

--