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How To Get Your Next Salary Cut

Looking around me, I see a whole lot of information on how to make more money, get a bigger job title, kill it in real estate, and just be an all around awesome and rich person. Making more money was one of those elephant-in-the-room goals during most of my twenties.

And I did pretty well. I quickly got to a six-figure income, bought my first condo at age 24 (flawlessly timed at the height of the real estate bubble) and started a company at age 27, which turned out to be a total failure. The great thing about business models that are based on get-rich-quick schemes is that you get-to-fail-real-quick as well.

Regardless of some of my investment and business hiccups, my twenties were totally awesome when you look at it from a “money made” and “titles earned” perspective.

Unfortunately, the more money I made, the more I recognized that it really doesn’t make you that happy. Or at least, it didn’t make me happy.

While there is a certain amount of money that you need to make in order to be happy and feel safe – enough money to pay your rent, buy healthy food, cover your insurance, provide reliable transportation and support some hobbies, and maybe an extra bit to go on a date with a moderately attractive woman from time to time. (Or, just be really good-looking so your date pays for you.) The latter obviously didn’t work for me. Money you spend on a super nice car, designer jeans, super expensive hotel rooms – that’s all money you don’t need to be happy.

For me, I probably need to make around $65,000 to be comfortable. Anything above that is money that doesn’t contribute to my happiness. It was money that contributed to growing my ego.

When I looked at my life, I recognized it wasn’t money I was lacking. It was meaning. It was passion. It was functioning relationships. It was time to exercise. It was time to figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life. Time to recognize that my life was a lot more interesting when I was 19 than when I turned 29.

So, what did I do?

I asked my boss for a pay cut, in exchange for working a couple days less every week. Goodbye fat salary. Hello permanent four-day weekends. I still make enough money to get by and even save a bit. My career ascent might have slowed down a bit, but I am not even sure about that.

What I am sure about is that I am happier now. Happier about the time I have to pursue my passions, happier about the time I can invest in my relationships, happier about the time I spend cooking rather than eating out and happier about the time I spend exercising.

So, the next time you think you need to make more money, maybe ask yourself, what would it take to make less money? A smaller mortgage? A slower car? A different label on the back of your jeans? Every pay raise I have ever gotten felt great for a moment or two. I have only taken one pay cut, but that has felt great for a while now.

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4 Responses to How To Get Your Next Salary Cut

  1. Daniel Zolnikov says:

    Hey,
    This was a great article and thanks for posting it on your LinkedIn. Next time you present to the U, I’d suggest you bring in this idea as all we are presented to do is take opportunity, increase salaries and go “up” from there, as if it is only a one directino world. In the 4-5 years at school, we dissolve our true goals and hopes that kept us alive and brilliant at 19 and convince ourselves that titles are more important anyway. Congrats on the paycut, and earning extra time for yourself, which in the end is priceless.

  2. Mario says:

    Daniel, thank you very much for your comment. It can be a tricky situation, as I believe that no matter what, one should work hard. That allows you to ultimately make choices (and hopefully the choice) to pursue a career that you’re passionate about and makes you happy. But it doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t come from watching TV.

    That being said, one always needs to take time for themselves. To be with their family, to exercise and to be happy. That comes before work because without health (mental or physical), all the money in the world does you no good.

    I’ll be up in Montana in April. Say hi when I am there.

  3. JLakes says:

    Well said Mario.

  4. Mizz Moyle says:

    You nailed it. Time waits for no one, no matter if you’re filthy rich or filthy poor. It passes, all the same; it’s the one constant that does not discriminate. Kudos to you for realizing what’s truly meaningful!

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