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Why Skilled Trades Can Help You Become Financially Independent

My name is Cory Kleinfeldt. I am 31, married with three kids, and I believe that you can reach early financial independence without being in IT, in engineering, or going to college. Say what? Likely not words you hear from someone in their 30s, but that’s what we’re here to talk about.

Skilled Trades And Financial Independence

I don’t think our society gives the trades the tip of the cap that it deserves. It is looked down upon as a “lesser” job sector in our economy. Why do we think that? Is it because we use our hands instead of a mouse? Or because we wear jeans instead of slacks? Or because our college attendance has convinced us that we are above this type of skilled trade or blue-collar work?

I am here to share my story in hopes that I can inspire others to choose the trades as a career path–and a path to FI. Back in 2009, I actually left my skilled trade job to button up my white collar and slip on my Kohl’s dress shoes to try my hand in the sales world. Let’s just say I have been back at my trades job for five years now and appreciate it much more than ever.

My Job

I am a paintless dent repair technician–no, not the suction cups and dry ice you see on YouTube. There are actually tens of thousands of us PDR (paintless dent repair) technicians all around the world, fixing shopping cart dents, door dents, and hail (hail, like the flying ice balls dropping from the sky) damage to perfection. Our industry lacks highly skilled technicians as do many other industries.

Many of you have likely never heard of the career path I have chosen, but it comes with a flexible work schedule, above average compensation, and geoarbitrage options. Aren’t those things that many of us are looking for?

The best part is that there are dozens of other skilled trade jobs that get passed over by the young millennial generation and others while we cry woe is me, complain of there being no jobs and move back home with mommy and daddy to nurse our $35,000 student loan debt. There are high paying jobs out there. You just need to look in the right places!

Benefits of working in the trades

  1. Schooling is shorter and cheaper: no $40k in student loan debt. In some cases, you can actually earn when you learn A.K.A. an apprenticeship.
  2. Satisfaction of your work: Seeing the fruits of your labor brings a primal satisfaction that can’t be achieved by making a spreadsheet.
  3. There is plenty of money in the trades: If you hone your skills and learn some business tactics, then there is no hard limit on your income. You are not held back by a yearly 2% raise.
  4. There are plenty of jobs: Most tradespeople are in their 50’s and retiring soon. There is definitely a skills gap in this country and those gaps need to be filled.
  5. Your job can’t be sent overseas: When something needs to be built, serviced, or fixed it has to be done on site. It can’t be shipped across the world for cheaper labor.
  6. The skilled trades are in every city in the world: With the internet world of engineers and IT professionals, they tend to congregate in certain cities. Think S.F. Austin, New York, and London. The trades are needed in every city in the world so take your pick!

Drawback of working in the trades

  1. Working in the elements: A lot of people consider this a drawback. Working in the rain, snow, or 100+ degrees.
  2. Stigma: People like to answer the question “What do you do?” with answers like Manager, Analyst, or Officer.
  3. Demanding on your body: It’s true that the trades are demanding on your body, but that’s why we pursue FI so we don’t have to swing a hammer for 45 years.
  4. The trades can be dangerous: Yes, there are tripping hazards, big machinery, and sharp tools in the skilled trades. These can be much more dangerous than paper cuts.

This is a quick list of the pros and cons about skilled trade and blue collar work.

Related: “Follow Your Passion” Might Be Bad Advice–Here’s Why

It’s Not For Everyone

But you know what? Neither is getting a college education to become an engineer. This amazing world we live in takes all kinds of people to make it run, and I want to give a voice to those underappreciated tradesmen/women hustlers out there that help build our buildings, fix the airplanes for our vacations, and keep our Uber cars running smoothly.

The trades are a perfectly legitimate, something-to-be- proud-of, well-earning job! Sure, most people don’t know what I do, and I don’t have a cool title like Assistant to the Regional Manager, but FI isn’t about taking a normal path. It’s about finding the levers that work for you and pulling them to regain your freedom.

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Why Skilled Trades Can Help You Become Financially Independent

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