A number of years ago, I was managing the IT department for a large non-profit and I had an opportunity to interview for a well funded startup airline. The airline was just launching and they were going to fly me out to New York to interview for heading up their IT support services. Their plan was to go public within a few years, which at the time looked like it would be very financially rewarding for the early employees.
From a money perspective it looked like a great opportunity. However, the more my wife and I talked about it, the more we realized that we’d be trading a significant part of our life away for more money. While this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing–everyone does this to some extent–we decided it wasn’t how we wanted to spend our lives, so I cancelled the interview.
Thinking about the job had forced us to really discuss what we wanted to do in life and eventually led to:
- We sold our house.
- I quit my job and started our own company.
- We moved to Mexico for awhile and then back to rural Kansas.
- We had two kids.
I now spend my days working in my home office 20 seconds from my family. I’m right there as my kids grow up and we have the flexibility to go visit family pretty much whenever we feel like it. My wife and I were married over nine years ago, I haven’t spent a single night away from my lovely bride.
While other life choices might have put me in a position to have a larger paycheck right now, I’m much happier with the path I chose. Everything has trade-offs, but I see far to many people willing to give up a good happy life in exchange for more money. Having a large salary can’t make up for missing out on getting to really be present as your kids grow up.
The funny thing about large salaries is that they often come with greater expenses. It is easy to get blinded by the dollar amount that a job will provide and totally overlook the actual costs of a particular job. As a consultant, there is a lot more work available in a big city, but there are a lot more expenses when living in a big city. Our yearly expenses for a large house in the country are easily less than what a similar lifestyle would cost for a month in a big city. I would much rather work half as much and live below our means in our rural setting, than work twice as much and be living with less financial buffer in a big city.
A big bank account won’t provide the same amount of happiness you’ll get from spending time with the one person you decided you’d rather be with than anyone else. A bigger paycheck is poor compensation for missing out on raising your kids.