What Makes You Happy?

It’s funny.  I went to a birthday party last night and saw a ton of people I worked with ten years or so ago.  It was great to see everyone and catch up and be reminded how I’d really liked that job and the people I worked with for a certain period of time.  (Until the manager from hell made all our lives miserable to the point that I, at least, moved to a new job, but that’s another story for another day.)

Most everyone there was either still with our old employer or in a similar/related job at a new employer.  I think I was the only one who had moved away from it, first with the consulting and now with the writing.

I can understand why.  Our employer had great benefits and steady and rewarding work that made us feel like we were making a difference in the world.

But I also realized that I don’t regret for a moment the choices I made.

Reason I’m talking about this today is that one of the articles I bookmarked to share is about how much money a person needs to make before earning more money doesn’t make them any happier.  Here it is.

I think the numbers are absolutely true.  At least they were for me.  I know in my former job I hit a level where that next bonus or next promotion were more a source of confusion than satisfaction.  Like, what the hell do I do with this money?

(Answer that I never seemed to actually reach: pay off any and all debt you have.  For some reason, it never occurred to me to eliminate my student loan debt back then.  But I digress.)

I never came from a family that accumulated wealth, so the concept of trying to do so is still completely foreign to me.  Even with fifteen years of exposure to financial services, I just don’t naturally believe in holding onto money.  Six months in reserve?  Sure, okay.  Especially now that I’m self-employed.  But years’ worth?  Uh, nope.  Not something I can do well.

So, for me, once my basic needs were met, I really lost interest in making more.  I needed something else to motivate me to keep going, to stay engaged.  (And I had it for a bit.  But when it went away, I decided to leave.)

I know when I say things like this a lot of people look at me like I’m nuts.  And fifteen years ago I would’ve probably had the same reaction.  When I was just starting out, I thought the more money the better.

Yes, please, make me a millionaire.  That’d be awesome.

(Now?  I’d be happy with a decent little income, working from home, and a small house on a big plot of land.)

If you look at the numbers in the article and compare them to the census numbers you’ll see that most people don’t ever reach the numbers in that article, so most people spend their entire lives striving to make more never realizing that plateau even exists.  That’s probably a good thing.  Keeps them going and striving.

And for some, once they reach that level they find themselves in this little bubble world where everyone else makes what they do and they feel this need to compete and keep up.  If all your friends have cars that are only two or three years old, then you feel you should, too.  Or houses with six bathrooms.  Or take vacations to Europe every year.  Or, whatever.

It can be a deadly trap, but not one that brings happiness.

Stepping off that path is probably the best thing I ever did for myself.  Now, granted, in a year or so when I realize I’ve failed and have to go back to it, I’ll think it was the stupidest thing I ever did.  But right now?

I don’t regret for a moment walking away from making more money so I could instead spend time with my family, my friends, my puppy, and my writing.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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