5 Considerations When Money Is the Only Thing Keeping You At Your Job
I’ve often quoted the statistic that 70% of people are unhappy in their jobs. This is actually the US percentage. The global percentage of disengaged workers is 85%, according to a June 2017 Gallup poll.
That’s a lot of disengaged people. Yet so many of these 85% choose to stay in a job they hate because of the paycheck.
I get it. I’ve been there myself.
Even if making good money wasn’t something you set out to do, it can be incredibly challenging to imagine your life with even a little less of it.
I’m not here to tell you whether you should stay or leave.
I’m definitely not going to say that money is bad.
I am going to encourage you to understand the real value of your paycheck and what it means for you, so you can make informed, intentional decisions about your career and life.
Here Are 5 Ways To Think About Your Paycheck When It's the Only Thing Keeping You At Your Job
1. Know Your Number (then set your calendar)
I’ve talked before about knowing the bottom-up break-down of what you need to earn, so you can explore other career options and make a smooth transition.
The same holds true if you’re staying for the money. Staying indefinitely out of fear of making less or to make an amorphous amount of more are surefire ways to end up years down the road questioning what the heck happened.
If you’re staying for the money, what’s the amount you hope to earn, and what will you use it for? Maybe it’s to squirrel away 1-3 years of savings, hit a target number in your 401k, or take a special vacation for your 30th birthday.
Know your number and the goal behind it.
If you decide to stay for the paycheck, make it mean something. Set a dollar amount, mark your calendar, then leave once you’ve hit it.
2. Calculate Your Hourly Wage
A lot of people look at their annual salary, or even their monthly take-home, as a key measure.
But what does that number really mean?
If your $100k salary is divided across 50+ hour weeks and working vacations, what’s your real hourly wage? Don’t forget to add in the Sunday Sick Pit time you spend trying to get ahead on email or trying not to think about work.
Even a slightly lower salary at a predictable 40 hour-a-week job could increase your hourly wage. And if you chose to put that extra time saved into an income-generating side hustle or passion project, you could increase your hourly take-home even more.
Consider how you might increase your hourly worth—whether it's cutting back on your time spent in your existing job or landing a new one.
Amazing things happen when you put a real dollar value on your time.
3. Time Is the New Money. What’s Yours Worth?
Many people reach out to me when they've arrived at an important tipping point: their free time has become more valuable than their time at the office.
This is not to say that their paycheck is no longer important. On the contrary, their key question is often something like, “How do I find fulfilling work that still pays the bills?” They simply have decided to place a premium on their free time.
Some realize the value of their free time because they’re done giving their life away to work. Others want to use that time on a strategic side hustle or invest in their education to meet their long-term money goals. Still others would trade a fair amount of money for more time with their family, friends, or a worthy cause.
In many cases, their time at work has made them anxious, exhausted, or even manifested physical pain. What are the costs associated with poor health—in real dollars and lost time?
Fast forward 5, 10, 20 years from now. What do you want to say about the time-money ratio in your career and life? For some, the dollars gained might be well worth the time spent at a job you dislike. Others might consider their free time outside of the office invaluable. The key is to know the right answer for yourself.
4. Ditch Binary Thinking and Focus On the Upside
I often hear comments like, “I can be creative, or I can make money,” or “I'd love to follow my passion, but I have a mortgage.”
Making money and finding work you enjoy are not mutually exclusive.
Similarly, remember what you could gain by leaving a job you hate—financially and otherwise.
Don’t worry…your brain will constantly remind you of what you have to lose. The challenge is to remember the upside, including the myriad opportunities to earn the same or increased income in a role where you’re valued for your contributions.
For those of you rolling your eyes at the quality of life stuff, I’m also talking about earning potential in cold, hard cash. Your corporate income will ultimately be capped…while the financial upside for side hustles and entrepreneurial endeavors is limitless.
5. What Does Money Represent For You?
Unless you’re planning to sleep on your pile of money (I prefer pillow-tops), recognize your paycheck is not about having money for money’s sake.
Money is a way to measure value. Beyond affording us basic necessities, money is often a stand-in for something much deeper.
Even luxuries of experience—like travel, early retirement, and college education—fulfill a greater need.
For some, money represents safety. For others, it’s power and status. Still others associate it with freedom, peace, love, or acceptance.
Understand what money means for you to unlock its real power. Then use it as a tool to help you achieve your goals.
Your money choices reflect your priorities. Are they aligned with what you want?
You Always Have a Choice
I don’t want you to settle for anything less than what you’re worth. Ever.
That’s why I struggle when people languish in jobs that pay them hefty salaries but disrespect their time, dignity, and/or personal development. What does that say about the value you place on yourself?
When you’re locked into a paycheck, it can feel like you don’t have a choice.
The truth is that every day you choose whether to stay or leave. You’re in charge.
Take it from someone who chose to live in a less than 300-square foot studio for 7 years to live below her means. You want to talk about transformative money-goal-moments, imagine climbing this ladder to your twin bed (not even a pillow-top) well into your 30s.
I’ve also stayed in jobs I hated to meet important money goals, so I’m not advocating a grass-is-always-greener-quit-your-job-today approach here.
I’m simply asking you to think through the true costs and benefits of your current paycheck and decide for yourself.
I’ll support you, whatever you choose.
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.
Money is one of my favorite topics, so if you have any questions about these books or other resources to continue your financial education, email me. If money is getting in the way of your career goals, let's talk.
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