Sometimes, getting ahead means falling behind in your relationship. Steven Lake examines the choice between Lifestyle and Money. Or is it a choice?
I wonder if this is false dichotomy – Money vs Lifestyle. Can’t you have money and a lifestyle? And can you have a lifestyle without money?
Monks would tell you that a lifestyle without money is eminently possible, as would many indigenous people’s around the world. Indeed, they might argue that money (or the pursuit of money) gets in the way of enjoying life.
Recent surveys indicate that after the basic necessities of life are taken care of (around $70,000.00) making more money does not make any difference to personal happiness.
On the other side of the argument are people with money who definitely have a lifestyle. I know a few of them. From very successful business people to rock stars, money has enabled their lifestyle. It has not made them happier as far as I can tell, especially in regard to their intimate relationships.
The average person, if they have a job, works five days a week. They may or may not take work home to be done over the weekend (happens more frequently than twenty years ago), maybe they work from home (though companies are reversing their policies on this practice), or maybe they are self-employed contract workers with no benefits (welcome to the modern world).
The idea that one could choose a lifestyle is a recent phenomenon in the workplace with millennials seriously challenging the status quo, especially if they are computer savvy and have figured out how to make money from their laptop.
This is the newest dream being pandered by internet gurus and writers like Tim Ferris and The 4-Hr Workweek. The subtitle sums it up if you missed the point in the title, Escape the 9-5, Live anywhere and join the new rich.
Interesting, not only will you be essentially free from work (what’s 4 hours?) but you will also be rich. The inherent belief is that wealth is what makes this a great thing. Indeed, it is the wealth that allows you to have a lifestyle.
I can categorically state from personal experience that you do not have to have wealth to have an interesting lifestyle and a good relationship. I like money and what it can do for me. However, I see many more people controlled by money rather than controlling money.
It is an interesting dance that I have been engaged in for a long time. My first career as a stage actor was like taking a vow of poverty. I was OK with that and so were the women in my life, be they actors, dancers or creative artists in their own right. Money was not the goal.
Living out our creative urge was all – it was the lifestyle. At least until there came a point where poverty wore thin and there came a need for the security money offered. It happened to me the first time I got married.
I lived in a world where making a living was a challenge and having other sources on income was a necessity. As an actor you either wait tables or do carpentry (that was Harrison Ford’s choice) and I chose carpentry.
Lifestyle sometimes involves sacrifice. I don’t hear much about that in all the books out there.
Likewise, lifestyle also involves choices – lots of them. If you really want to live a lifestyle you will need to decide how much money is enough, discover if your partner is willing to play the same game, give up past ways of living, live with uncertainty (this is one of the biggest challenges for human beings – we like certainty and that is what a 9-5 job gives), and decide if you can hack being the master of your own fate without a safety net.
Lifestyle is a bit like investing. You must first determine your risk tolerance. Furthermore, your choices affect not only your partner, but children if you have them. Are you willing to possibly make their lives very different from the ones their peers have?
I was into lifestyle right from the get-go and so were my intimate partners. That was not a guarantee for relationship success. Hell no!
People are people no matter what work or lifestyle choices they make. One could even make the argument that people who break from the commonly accepted societal norms are unstable.
I would offer a counter-argument. The so called stable choices drive people to alcohol, drugs, depression, and anxiety disorders. It’s like, whatever choice you make, you are still living in a world with all the challenges of being human, being in a relationship, handling the daily grind of living, and putting food on the table. These issues are the same whichever choice you make. So why not make a choice that makes you happy.
We’ve all heard the old saying, life is what you make of it. It is only recently that I would say I am finally crafting my life in a way that satisfies both my Lifestyle and financial needs.
When money was plentiful I was working my ass off and free time was an apparition. When time was plentiful money was scare. These two items were inversely proportional to one another.
Another thing I noticed; when I was making money and time was scare, my relationships suffered. When there was time, the relationships still suffered. It wasn’t the time or the money that made the relationship work.
It was the commitment and the effort put into the relationship and the personalities involved that made it work or not.
My current relationship of 17 years works. Both of us are more interested in Lifestyle over money, though I seem more concerned with money than she is.
My partner works about five hours a day for three days. Not bad in my mind. The rest of the time she writes, studies, and looks after pretty much all the household chores including cooking (at least another 15 hours per week).
I teach one evening a week and see clients three days a week. If I wanted I could see clients every day of the week and make a lot more money. Not interested.
If we want we can take four days off. We rarely do, but we can. And that feels good. We are not rich, far from it, but we have more freedom than people who make much more money than we do.
Fortunately, I love the work I do and that makes my work day rewarding. Likewise, days off are filled with activities I love (tennis, hiking, eating out and being with my partner).
Ultimately, it comes down to what you believe is important in life. This can change over time. Many of my clients in their late forties and fifties question all they have worked for and what they have lost in the process (their souls, their relationships with wife and children).
My younger clients feel they are in a rut. Work all week and go crazy on the weekend, feel like crap early in the week, start to feel half decent by the end of the week, and then repeat.
After a while, this Lifestyle choice becomes unappetizing and they wonder how to have more meaning in their lives. They also want a relationship that works.
I don’t know what the answer is for you. I do know it has taken me a while to begin to get a grasp on it. What has made it work, for me, is making my relationship with my wife of paramount importance.
Then, I try to make everything else support this Lifestyle choice.