The Price We Pay For Money

I’m at a crossroads. I’m at the point where I am trying to figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life. The last few days reality has been knocking at the door. I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it is the realization that our second baby is coming in a few weeks. Or maybe it is the fact that finishing my PhD is in sight and I’m starting the process for prospecting employment and casually interviewing different companies around town. Either way, for some reason, it has started to sink in that my life will look a lot different in the next two years and it is time to start planning for the change.

hard workI remember when I decided that I wanted to get married. Ms. SE and I had been dating for several years and I remember thinking that she might be the ‘the one’. While I wasn’t ready to get married, I knew that she would need plenty of time to prepare for the wedding and we would likely get married the summer after we both graduated. Counting backwards from our possible wedding plans, it didn’t take long for me to figure out I needed to start looking for a ring and begin the process. That is when it hit home. The reality of what was about to happen started well before the actual life changing event. And that is pretty close to where I sit today. Trying to plan the rest of my life.

Your Life or Your Money
My dad made some hard choices. He went to college, went to a top MBA school, then worked in a mid sized town the majority of his productive career. I’m sure he had plenty of opportunities to do different (and possibly more ambitious) things, but I was always aware of his presence and prioritization of our family. My mother worked too. She had a great job with lots of flexibility and enjoyed both work and the people she worked with. But she was always available. I really liked the way they prioritized our family.

The hardest part about landing at a crossroads in our life is that it forces us to spend time weighing all of our options. Lists upon lists are pieced together to try and determine all the relevant information so we can make a completely informed decision. My priorities have evolved over the last few years and I’m trying to integrate a new perspective into my future choices. Especially when they are trajectory determining choices. And one of the hardest parts is integrating money into the equations.

I still have plenty of questions to answer for myself: Do I want to work for a local firm, move to a big city, or change industries? What if it requires more travel than expected? Do I want to keep my same job? Start a new one? Do I want to travel the world? Do I want to stay in academia or move into the private industry? What about our plans of moving overseas and seeing the world? If the perfect job comes along, am I going to jump? Am I still going to retire in the next ten years? I think I have more questions than answers.

Letting Money Drive Our Choices
Money talks louder than I expected. I’ve worked in an awesome, relatively low paying job (based on my skill set) for everything but the money for the last few years. My job is pretty incredible. I’ve got plenty of flexibility, a great working environment, the ability to take new classes, and the opportunity to travel around the state and speak to business leaders about economic issues. It is a great place to be. However, once I finish my degree and credentialing, I will suddenly have plenty more opportunities with a few more green soldiers in the mix.

Of course, the ideals I’ve set fourth of what I want my life to be are coming into contact (and maybe contrast) with the types of opportunities that appear to be available in the coming year. I could take a job that pays the most money with a probable tradeoff affecting family time, stress levels, and nights away from home. Or I could take a relaxing, decently well paying position, but it would require moving away from all of our family for many years to come. Or I could find something close by that puts me somewhere in the middle of money, time, and stress. Lastly, I’ve planned for years to travel overseas upon graduation so that my family could see the world, but it looks like most employees want to hire you as soon as possible. It would certainly be nice to have some time to travel but how do you pass up an offered job with a great company for the right compensation package? How important was that travel again?

The issue I’m having is balancing our current situation with all future options. Some part of my brain says take the money and build it up quickly so in just a few short years complete financial freedom will be in reach. The other part of my brain says take it easy. Go low stress, spend more time with your family, and make enough to cover expenses but early retirement is just not that important. Maybe somewhere in the middle is best. But trying to balance all the choices can be difficult.

Counting The Costs
The biggest question is, what is the cost? What am I willing to give up for a paycheck? What am I going to give up to take a new job? Am I going to give up the nine weeks of paid vacation I currently enjoy? Am I going to give up the flexibility to do or travel where I want? Do I want to give up getting off every day by 5:00 and never working weekends? What about the fact that I never have work after hours- can I even put a price tag on that? I’ve even realized that my ‘dream job’ will probably come with some unintentional consequences and responsibility. I want to make a difference in people’s lives, but I still want my family to come first. I want to have plenty of opportunities and become financially independent in a few years- but I don’t want to kill myself doing it. Life is pretty good right now. All the choices ahead are going to be fun. It will be a crazy two years and I hope you will follow me as I complete the journey.

Have you made peace with the tradeoffs between life and money? Is your current job or career path taking you to the place you want to be? Any tips for someone like me in the middle of life’s crossroad? I think this post leaves more questions than answers.

4 thoughts on “The Price We Pay For Money

  1. I’m with you, Stephen. I also have a decent paying job which is flexible, has great people, and is relaxed. I very rarely work weekends, I got here early and almost always leave by 4 or earlier. I’m not sure I can put a price on this flexibility that allows me more family time. I also can’t put a price on great bosses who don’t micromanage and who know I’m going to get my work done without them having to be there babysitting me. It’s a great feeling working for people and a place that trusts you. Can’t put pricetags on all those things!

  2. One of the least discussed aspects of Financial Independence is being completely overwhelmed with the choices available to you. I think most people ignore or forget this because they are marching down a single self centered path, which leads to limited choices that make sense. Not to be a discouragement in anyway but I felt like I was stuck in a similar place for about 2 years.

    The answer for me, came through health trials for my family, and some humbling challenges that have have forced me to give up self, and focus on becoming more like Christ through obedience to God through loving and serving others. This has freed me from the tyranny of self, my self imposed timelines, and freed me to not worry about the “absolute” outcome of my choices (timeline/money/etc), to be content where I am while still seeking to be financially independent. Effectively the shift was to focus not on what/where I wanted to be, but on to shift my focus to who I wanted to be.

    Practically speaking I still have some similar major choice options that would require some short term time of “added” stress to produce either greater location or financial freedom within 5 years. Staying where I am is least stressful at the moment, but is never a guaranteed that i wouldn’t be forced to move or find a new job. So focusing primarily on becoming the person I am called to be is freeing in that I am fine staying where we are, or switching to a new opportunity as neither can affect my primary goal for my self or my family unless I refuse to learn through it.

    Anyway hope that was helpful.

    • Thanks for the encouragement. I think it is an interesting, exciting, but also challenging place to be when we have unlimited choices. I think faith is a huge driver for me as well. I think I’ve mentally moved past the anxious part and now I’ve moved more toward the excited part. I’m just trying to figure out which options will be the best. And the great news is they all sound pretty good. It will be an excited adventure and the best part is that being financially secure limits the downside risk if we want to make a change.