We had some friends over tonight for a perfectly pleasant evening of pizza and wine, and the conversation moved to money, or the lack of it. Our friends, college educated like ourselves, make less money than many entry level business jobs for new graduates and are now well into their forties and fifties. Neither are we that much better paid. I will read of people in their forties sniffily complaining that they are having a hard time coping on salaries in excess of $70,000 - more than we have seen in our lifetimes, and indeed may never see.
Yet we are comfortably off, own our own home outright and have zero debt. I never feel short of money. I have every thing I need already, and I am already accumulating too much stuff!
This got me thinking about salaries, relative worth, and people's perceptions of money. It's obvious to me that there are well-educated intelligent and good people making pennies compared to others; education is no guarantee of earning power. Yet it's also clear that many people with giant paychecks have no idea what to do with money, while blithely assuming that the dollar figure on the monthly paycheck is a measure of their true worth.
Obviously it is not, but why are so many people caught up in this fiction? At work I get sent a number of IT magazines even though my involvement with IT is not deep, and along with them come requests for salary surveys. Clearly for some in the business, the salary comparison game is important.
Why it is important? Because the work itself is not so. The horrible, jarring and shuddering truth is that almost all 'white collar' work is crushingly dull, irrelevant and unfulfilling. So chasing a few more dollars is a short cut to feeling good. Except that it doesn't work; you are still shackled to the same monotony even if you can afford, or think you can afford, a few more toys.
So the years pass, and what do you have to look back upon? Decades of paper pushing or something equivalently soul-destroying.
The job industry, just like the retail industry, survives by selling fantasies. When those fantasies are inevitably exposed as fakes, it offers a bigger and more seductive fantasy. Another illusion, and yet how many of us are suckered yet again?
It takes guts and no small amount of willpower to give the finger to this game. The people I hold in highest regard have done precisely that. It costs, but only in terms of expectations. Throw those aside and you can take control of your life on your terms. With that done, the passing years are not thrown away. They are lived.
With only one lifetime, that is exactly what you want to do.