There’s an old saying that one should, “Make hay when the sun is shining.” When I was in my 20s I had two modes of work ethic: 1) Work hard and 2) Work harder. I’d wake up around 4:30am every morning in NYC from 1999-2001 to read the Wall St. Journal before walking over to 1 New York Plaza for work at 5:30am. I knew knowledge was power and I had neither.
After the 10 year mark, I began to burn out. Perhaps all the traveling, stress to perform, ridiculous market cycles and business school classes while working started taking its toll. I did everything I could to increase financial returns when the times were good because times would eventually turn sour. When times were bad, I felt I needed to work harder so as not to fall too far behind. People were getting fired left and right back in 2001-2003 and 2008-2012.
Ask anybody who has worked on Wall St. since the late 90s and they’ll tell you that 2007 was the last great compensation year. It’s been downhill ever since. There was no longer hay to be made, even if we are reaching new highs in the stock market. I woke up to the realization in 2010 that the outsized returns in finance were over, at least for the foreseeable future. So instead of complaining about working harder and getting paid less each year, I got out in 2012.
A CHANGE OF HEART TO WORKING HARD
At 36 my work ethic has changed to: 1) Work hard for the things that truly matter and 2) Make sure your money is working for me so I don’t have to. There’s no more “work until you drop dead” type of mentality.
Probably the biggest conundrum I encounter on a regular basis are complaints from people who are unhappy with their existing financial situation, but who aren’t doing everything possible to improve. There are actually people out there who only work 40 hours a week or less who complain about their financial situation! Why not just try harder to get ahead? Why attack someone who has what you have instead of working on yourself? We are only owed what we deserve.
Working at a job you don’t enjoy to make money to survive is very depressing. You’re a slave to your needs and wants. The hope for my book is to empower people to stop being too afraid to run out the door even when their kidnapper leaves for weeks at a time. Waking up 12 years later filled with regret about time wasted is horrible.
The key is to build a big enough financial nut that matters. There will be an inflection point where you start making enough money from your financial nut that you no longer need to work as hard or work at all. We are talking about principal gains to your portfolio and not passive income streams. Just imagine if you had $2 million invested in the S&P500 index on Jan 1, 2013. You would be up around $500,000! The same goes with holding similar amounts of real estate in markets such as Vegas, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Of course it’s much easier said than done to amass a large financial nut, and actually have the guts to invest the money. But the point is that if you are a hard worker who can’t ever seem to relax beyond the normal vacation periods, your mindset will eventually change the more you accumulate. The value of time begins to trump the value of money as you no longer feel good chasing the all-mighty dollar. Do not kid yourself. If you are working at a job you don’t enjoy, even if you don’t make a lot of money, you are a dollar chaser.
YOU NEED LESS THAN YOU THINK
The biggest discomfort for those who decide to relax when times are good is the fear of losing ground. Why not make lots of money in your investments AND at work? There’s really no limit to how much money you can make. We’ve just got to decide for ourselves how much is enough to be happy and stick to that figure.
Now that I’ve been out of the work force for almost two years, I’m becoming more enlightened to the fact that it’s absolutely crazy to work so hard at a job for money if you aren’t happy at least 70% of the time. If you’re making at least the median income level for your area, you need much less than you think to enjoy life. I promise you will be much happier working at a job that pays less, but provides more satisfaction than at a job that pays 50% more but makes you dread coming to work.
The “one more year syndrome” is so difficult to break. But when you do, you’ll wonder what took you so long.
Readers, do you work harder or relax more in good times? How do you get rid of the feeling of getting left behind? Do you think you’ll ever stop working hard? If so, when do you think that will be? Any small businesses owners out there have some perspective?