Are You Letting Your Paycheck Hold You Back From a Better Career?

Are You Letting Your Paycheck Hold You Back From a Better Career?


When you first got out of school, your career priorities probably looked something like:

  • Good job

  • Good money

  • Promotion . . . followed by more money

You now know that money alone is no substitute for compelling, meaningful work.

Yet while you can’t imagine staying on your current path, it’s easy to assume a career change will mean less money and drastic lifestyle changes.

It’s a classic case of the golden handcuffs. Are you allowing your paycheck to hold you back from a better career?

Money should be a key enabler for your career goals, not the thing that’s keeping you stuck.

Here are 3 ways to put your paycheck in perspective before it dictates your path:

  1. Define your Rich Life

  2. Identify your hidden money beliefs

  3. Nail down your Number


Define Your Rich Life

I love asking people to define “success.” Most say something like:

  • Make an impact

  • Enjoy what I do most days

  • Have a life outside of work without feeling like my career is stagnating

Money rarely comes up.

Yet in the traditional corporate culture, the paycheck is paramount. Fulfillment, purpose, and happiness are postponed until later. Even your parents can’t fathom why having a great job with a steady paycheck isn’t enough.

I don’t want to live by that definition, and I don’t want you to either. Once I decided to get super clear on what a truly rich life looked like for myself, my career and life broke wide open. Sure, my definition had a financial component (we all gotta eat), but the real richness came from abundance in other areas: freedom, deeper relationships, creativity, and lots of time to think big thoughts and pursue projects that had a real impact. 

Your turn to define what a "rich life" looks like for yourself. Depending on your goals, money may be a big part of your definition, but is it the only thing? If not, what else is in there?


What’s your definition of a rich life?

  1. Define the elements

  2. Rank them in order of importance

  3. Indicate whether your current job supports, conflicts with, or has no impact on each element

Look at your answers. What opportunities do you see?

Identify Your Hidden Money Beliefs

I mentioned that people rarely mention money when defining success.

Yet when I ask them about career change, the fear of making less money comes up . . . a lot. What gives?

Three common pitfalls emerge:

  • Scarcity mindset – This is the giant assumption that a career change will necessarily leave you worse off financially.

This is fear disguised as fact, and it keeps you stuck.

We are living in an age of side gigs, self-employment, flex work, and startups for every flavor and combination.

If you find yourself assuming a change automatically means less money, it’s time to think bigger.


  • Thinking Short-term vs Long-term – Let’s assume that there is a short-term pay cut (which often doesn't need to be the case, but I'll play along for now). What's the long-term potential for money, happiness, fulfillment, growth, and opportunity? What are the short- and long-term impacts of not making a change? How much is it worth to have a career and life you love?


  • Comparison – For high-achievers like yourself, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing your money goals to previous years, colleagues and friends, or other external benchmarks.

While comparisons can be directionally useful, they’re not specific enough to determine how much you need to meet your real-life goals.


The trap with scarcity, short-term thinking, and comparisons is that it’s easy to come up short. These hidden money beliefs, along with so many others, silently kill your career aspirations.

So, what are the right measures? Let’s start with cold, hard facts.


Nail Down Your Number

Do you know how much money you need to meet your goals?

I don’t mean a vague sense that you need a lot more or a giant retirement target number. Nor am I asking how you spend what you currently make.

I mean an actual bottom-up breakdown of what you need to make each year.

With a few budget tweaks, the difference between what you currently make and what you need will likely surprise you.

It also might give you the freedom to consider a career that brings you a lot more purpose . . . and still pays the bills.

I did it myself when I went part-time in my Corporate career to launch my business. By making a few savvy budget decisions, I absorbed a pay cut without feeling the pinch. And knowing the exact number I needed to quit for good helped combat the fear of taking a leap.

Several years on, that budget still doesn't budge without serious consideration. Any surplus goes straight back into the business or savings, which builds in flexibility for future career, business, and life decisions.

Giving up manicures or a few meals out every month could be a game changer for your career. Isn't it worth a look?

At the very least, you’ll bring awareness and intention to how you’re spending money. You’ll make choices based on dollar amounts and priorities rather than fear.

Once you nail down your number, you can explore the options to get there.


It’s Totally Okay to Value Money and Make a Lot of It

Money can be a great tool to enrich your life. The challenge arises when you let destructive money beliefs blind you to reality and hold you back.

Leading with assumptions and fear prevent you from making career moves now that set you up for long-term happiness, success, and even financial freedom.

The key when factoring money into career decisions is to operate from a place of intention, clarity, and fact--rather than fear, vagaries, and assumptions.

Get started now, and trade in those golden handcuffs for an abundant career on your own terms. Let me know how you do.


Continue Your Money Education

Interested in learning more? Here are two of my favorite books EVER on the topic of money. They're both easy reads yet teeming with insight.


Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

This book is responsible for helping me think about money in a totally different way. Robert uses the story of his own father (Poor Dad) and that of his friend (Rich Dad) to shatter some of our most commonly-held (and unhelpful) beliefs about money. I credit this book for finally forcing me to leave corporate to start my own business, since my fears around money and misconceptions about building wealth were some of the strongest forces keeping me working solely for the paycheck. This book not only raised my financial IQ but encouraged me to invest in my ongoing financial education. It is not a how-to book. Rather, it presents a framework that will likely challenge how you think about earning and spending money. There is some fair criticism of this book, but it's a great primer for anyone interested in taking control of their financial destiny.


Money, A Love Story by Kate Northrup

This is my go-to resource for people interested in unpacking how their money beliefs hold them back. I don't relate at all to Kate's personal story of growing up so privileged that she amassed a huge amount of debt in her early 20s. That part was a bit rich (pardon the pun), but oddly enough my reaction to her story helped me identify some of my own deep money assumptions. Relatable-ness aside, this book is jam-packed with practical exercises and wisdom to help you understand and rewrite your money story. Whether we realize it or not, we all have a relationship with money (mostly unhealthy unless we've already worked through it). The sooner we understand that relationship, the sooner we can take action to get what we truly want out of our careers and lives. P.S. don't skip the exercises! 

If you buy the books using the above links, I earn a few cents at no extra charge to you. I'd love it if you chose to support me in this way, but you can always go directly to the site--or your local library.


What’s your definition of a rich life? What money concerns are holding you back?

Scroll down to post your questions and comments. 

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Author Bio: 

Before becoming a coach, Caroline spent 20 years in management consulting and financial services. She's made it her mission to help people grow, contribute, and get wherever they want to go.

Caroline wants women to recognize how much power they truly have to define their careers. The life and career you want really is possible once you have the roadmap. Take the first step by downloading her free guide.

She’s also a tennis fanatic, aspiring Minimalist, FIRE (Financial Independence and Retire Early) enthusiast, and Aloha Spirit seeker 🤙. She loves to share stories from her unconventional life and career focused on freedom, creativity, fun, health, family, and community. If she can do it, you can, too.