Saturday, February 23, 2008

Reaching the Peak money making years

Yesterday, I received my merit raise for this past years performance. The first thought that ran through my head when I saw the amount was – how am I ever going to be able to walk away from this money?

I have been planning, saving, investing most of my working life so that one day I could retire early, pursue whatever whim came my way and never look back. I have lustfully daydreamed of those stress-free days!

What is stopping me? Is it greed? A love of money? I don’t need all of the income. I can live comfortably on much less. I am sure there is some element of greed in the mix, but I think it goes beyond that.

First and foremost, I have worked hard to get here. How can I throw it all away? It’s my base, my foundation that I started building over 20 years ago. I graduated from an engineering school – some say that electrical engineering is one of the most difficult degrees to obtain. I worked to achieve it in four years, many take five or more. I also worked to land my first job, it was not handed to me.

And I have suffered. I have traveled extensively on business when all I wanted was to stay in one spot for awhile. I have given presentations when I was not comfortable with the data/info. I have participated in numerous stressful as well as excruciatingly boring meetings. I have received my share of awards, but I have also experienced backstabbing and co-workers claiming credit for my work. I have worked several 100+ hour weeks and received pay for only 60 of the 100 hours. I have made the leap from engineering to management, successfully. And from that experience, I have learned that while most engineering problems can be solved by applying logic, that is rarely the case with personnel issues. But that's another story.

I have lived through all of this and succeeded. It took a long time to get here, to climb to a high point. After more than 20 years in the workforce, I am firmly rooted in the most profitable, money making years of my career. I have arrived, so how can I leave now, when I have given (suffered) so much and worked so hard to reach this peak?

To answer my own question - I believe that there needs to be another peak. Another goal to pursue. You have got to be willing to come down from the mountain to move on to the next big challenge. The key is to develop an outside interest, hobby or second career that stirs up enough passion that you can’t wait to leave and move on to the next phase of life. That all sounds just wonderful, rah, rah, sis, boom, bah!

But, it falls short when you realize that you have been focusing all of your energy and effort into your present career. I have other interests and hobbies, but are they enough? Do I have enough of a foundation to build something that I can become passionate about?

Many of you may think that's crazy. And you may be telling yourself that you would have no problem retiring. But, keep in mind many people fail retirement for various reasons and return to work within six months. After today, I know it’s going to take a lot to overcome the draw of that money. The force field that surrounds it has taken over 20 years to create.


  1. Golden handcuffs? I've been thinking about the same thing and I've only spent 4 years in the work force with a decent pay (considering the hours but lack of responsibility) and I've been at my "career" for almost a decade. I think we become institutionalized. Kinda like inmates are too scared to leave the prison so they immediately commit a crime to get back in, we can be too scared to leave the safe and predictable albeit stressful careers.

    I don't have a solution, but I have a proposal. I have begun to diversify my career to take on different part time jobs. Blogging is one of them and today I landed a job as a copy editor for bunch of mathematics journals. I think if all the eggs are spread over different baskets it is much easier to scale back.

  2. That's a great idea - diversifying. Congrats on the editing job. I have considered similar avenues like math tutor or maybe even teaching algebra part time. I have a somewhat thankless job now and would probably enjoy a more rewarding one helping others learn.

  3. Kristin - congrats on the nice raise. As a young engineer (only been out of school 2 years now), I'm really trying to listen to what you're saying here. I recently started training for a helicopter pilots license on the chance I wake up one day and want to walk away from it all. Keep the posts coming...I look forward to reading a new entry each morning.


  4. Dan,
    Thanks - it's always encouraging to receive comments.