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.