High income jobs are not easy. As a matter of fact, they are typically insanely stressful and can sometimes have all kinds of financially unsound repercussions like overspending, under-saving and a healthy fantasy life that includes day dreaming about moving to Jamaica to bartend and put beads in your hair. Additionally, you may worry about losing your job, or dying from your job, or being broke when you do leave your job. In the short term, it’s hard not to curb this stress with spending on your home, a nice piece of art, or that vacation that you will go on then work the entire time you’re there. We. Get. It.
But here’s what you may not realize. It takes a lot to replace that lifestyle, and for as much as you tell yourself you don’t spend “that much” or you won’t spend that much when you quit the job because you will have less stress, let us tell you, you will. Or at least most people sure do. Because after they quit they want to finally enjoy spending on lifestyle choices they couldn’t enjoy when they were working. And here is another bitter pill- as you get older, it may get harder structurally to earn (say if the rules for compensation change at your law firm) or personally to earn (because you are just burnt the heck out).
But no worries! We have solutions- although you may or may not like them as none require only the swinging of a magic wand or the Jamaican bead experience.
First, you need to sock away BIG bucks. We’re not talking about your 401k and a thousand a month after that. We’re talking as large a percentage of your income as you can as soon as you can. This brings you way more choices later. Let’s say later you choose to work longer – great – worst case you get a much nicer lifestyle then, when you know you are rock solid, instead of counting on future you to make up your slack. Ideally, you will do this each month with automatic contributions. We have found this is the easiest way to create wealth over time. For whatever reason, even successful savers tend not to build up money in their savings accounts. But man, they won’t take on credit card debt either. So, funnel this out of your monthly cash flow and watch the automatic savings begin.
Second, you need to plan your career with all the gusto of that last ridiculously large vacation you took. You need to have a back-up employment plan and ideally, multiple options for earning should you really be on the verge of the one-way ticket to Marley Land. We think the best way to do this is to identify the other industries in which you would like to work, and get on the networking and learning path. This is especially helpful if you can make your worlds collide. Who are your besties? Can you find some additional ones you respect in careers you can transition to within a decade? Are you corporate? How about some mentors to prepare you for future board work (they pay good money for that, you know)! A Lawyer? Do you have multiple connections at multiple other firms? How about contacts that could lead to in-house council in the future?
Third, consider right sizing your life right now, or soon. Seriously, how insane is your life? Are you in a position where you can cut out things you really don’t value? Are you a slave to the lifestyle you have purchased for yourself? You can’t put the small children back – they won’t fit if you tried. However, a few days off to really look at what you have versus what you really want could do a world of good. If you are married, is one of you in a position to cut back for a while, and then you can take turns later? That requires 1) a lot of trust and 2) for both partners to stay gainfully employable. We don’t recommend becoming a gym baby for either partner.
And speaking of partners, assuming you have one, make some time to plan together. Our clients in this life stage have told us one of the biggest benefits they receive from our relationship is time to get together and get on the same page a few times a year. Focus is great, but when it’s both of you together supporting and reminding each other, it’s priceless.
Like we said, no magic wand here. But let us ask you this- if you do nothing, what changes for you for the better next year at this time? How about in ten years? Make yourself a priority- you deserve it, or you wouldn’t be the raging success you already are.