Have you ever dreaded a certain lifestyle, for example, one that imposes unpredictably harsh work hours and little free time? Because I certainly did before I started as a corporate lawyer.*
Recently though, I’ve wondered if it’s possible to get used to this job. The pay surely isn’t bad, and I have a spectacular view from my office (located right by the edge of Times Square). Plus, I don’t quite remember what it was like to work a normal nine-to-five. So I guess you can say that I’ve hedonically adapted to this job. Is that a bad thing?
When it comes to building wealth, hedonic adaptation is our worst enemy. It’s what causes us to get used to certain levels of luxury, and it’s what makes it difficult to give them up. And if we spend close to what we earn on such luxuries, we’ll forever depend on our jobs to make ends meet. That of course means that retirement is out of the picture.
But wait! If we could hedonically adapt to our job, then doesn’t that solve our problem? After all, by working forever, we’ll never have to worry about cutting back. But, we’ll be working forever.
I miss the days when I could look at my friends who worked horrible hours and firmly say that that was not what I wanted. I would even ask my friends why they didn’t just quit. They said they wanted to, but it wasn’t easy; they never felt like they had enough. I thought to myself, that’s illogical. If I had anywhere near as big of a salary as they did, I would quit as soon as I had some savings and do something more enjoyable with my time.
That’s why I eventually decided to get one of those bloodsucking, high-paying jobs myself. But what I’ve found is that even without hedonically adapting to buying things with the increased income, I’ve hedonically adapted to not buying things and saving most of my income. This is good though right? The savings are what’s going to allow me to retire early. But this just means that it’ll become harder to switch to a more fulfilling, lower paying job that allows me to save less income. This means that I’ll be used to working up to 16 hours a day and being constantly available for new assignments. What’s more, this means that I’ll be used to thinking that working like this is the proper way to be a responsible adult.
And that’s a scary thought, because I’ll have essentially forgotten the vast possibilities that are waiting for me in financial independence. My biggest fear is that once I have enough, I’ll be too comfortable with the status quo (and social norm) of working to take the final leap.
So I’m declaring on this blog today, that once I reach my goal, I will pull the trigger and embrace financial independence, and I expect you all to keep me accountable!
Update: Recently I’ve been going through my older posts, and when I came across this one I realized that my views have slightly changed. While financial independence is still a top priority, it doesn’t necessarily conflict with my ability to enjoy and care about my work. In other words, I now believe that true happiness can be achieved long before we ever reach financial independence. As a starting point, check out The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
*If you’re interested, this is what I think about lawyers and law school.