I used to think I would work into my early 30s, save up around half a million dollars, and finally be free of my cubicle.
Unfortunately, that’s a good 7-8 years from now. And I don’t think my health would hold up for me to stick around that long. Of late, I’ve discovered a few little ways in which my job is killing my health. (Which is why I’m planning to quit at most 2 years from now.)
Perhaps, the same is for you. If you fall into any of the categories mentioned below, I’d strongly advise planning your exit route. ASAP.
1. You Hate Your Job
You hate beating the rush hour crowd. You hate the mad rush at the office. You hate the constant bitching and politics caused by people trying to stab each other in the back. You hate the fact that you’ve only got an hour of lunch, which you probably spend at your desk trying to clear work. You hate the unfulfilling work you’re doing.
Most of all, you hate the fact that you’re stuck at a desk for 8 or more hours a day, 5 or more days a week, 52 weeks a year, doing the same meaningless work day in and day out.
But all this hate isn’t doing you or your body any good.
Hate is a destructive emotion that eats you up from the inside. When you spend around 50% of your waking hours commuting to work, sitting at your desk, and then commuting back home, harbouring such an emotion can take a huge toll on your mental well-being.
And that’s not all. Hate is an emotion so toxic that it could even impair your immune system. Before I started working, I had a pretty healthy body. Two weeks into my first job, however, and I knew that sitting at a desk wasn’t right for me. Resentment started to build in me, and I found myself nursing high fevers at a much higher frequency than before.
I get it, most corporate jobs are pretty crappy. But sometimes, we just need to do it in the short-term for the money.
My advice? Make peace with whatever you can, and save as much money as possible. In a few short years, you’d have enough to quit your job and chase your dreams.
So, save money as if your life depends on it.
Because frankly, it really does.
2. Your Job is Crazy Stressful
You’re constantly stressed out at work. You try to churn out papers, spreadsheets. You rush to meetings. You’re hard-pressed to meet deadlines. Your bosses are breathing down your neck. Your colleagues are trying to find some way to throw you under the bus.
When you’re suffocated by all the stress you encounter at work, your mental health will suffer. Emotional turmoil and financial stress is something I’ve been through. I can relate to it. I know how exhausting it is to go through a full day without a wink of sleep. I understand the desperation that comes with an anxiety attack. I’ve been to the deepest, darkest parts of depression where I just didn’t want to live.
Here’s the thing. Most high-income jobs require 24/7 dedication to the work, which comes with a lot of stress and sleepless nights. Lower-income jobs, on the other hand, give you adequate work-life balance with a significantly lower stress level.
I fall into the latter category. Instead of having a higher-income job where I would be able to afford more luxurious things, I’d rather give up these things and save aggressively. Because I don’t see the sense in letting my health be completely sacrificed for a corporate job that I don’t find much meaning in.
If you’re not a big fan of your job, and if it’s extremely high-stress, think about finding a lower-stress job, despite the smaller paycheck. Remember, health is wealth.
3. You’re Desk-Bound
Maybe you love your job. Maybe you even love the stress.
Unfortunately, when you’re stuck at your desk for about 8 or more hours a day, 5 or more days a week, 52 weeks a year, your desk job will still take a massive toll on your physical health.
It could be because you don’t get enough sleep.
It could be because you don’t have time to exercise.
It could be because you only eat take-out.
It could be because you simply sit at your desk all day.
Your risk of a whole host of illnesses, including diabetes and cardiovascular problems, drastically increases.
Yeah, even just sitting down all day will eventually kill you.
Perhaps, it may be time to start slowing down. Spend more time with your loved ones. Spend more time embracing nature. Spend more time pursuing passions outside of work.
A Defiant Personal Choice – Health over Money
Here’s a short story of my life, and how I chose my health over money.
I graduated from law school, passed my Bar exams, and got called to the Bar.
After all that work, I ditched an insanely lucrative career.
Many people have asked me why I chose to do so. They tell me that I made a wrong choice. That I should be slogging it out at a law firm 24 hours a day, every single day of the year. In a few years, I would become senior associate. Then, junior partner. Then, partner.
They tell me I’m wasting my life at a dead-end job in a small company, earning peanuts of a salary despite having a good work-life balance.
They tell me all these things that I’m supposed to do, to thrive in a materialistic world like ours.
But here’s the reality.
I hated law school. (I only did it to make my father happy, back in the day.) I hated my internships at law firms. I knew I would hate working at a law firm.
The stress is high, and the hours are incredibly long, too. It’s not uncommon for my peers to work 12 to 16-hour days. Sometimes, they would even pull multiple all-nighters.
I’ve known, for a long while now, that corporate jobs aren’t for me. I don’t want to be bound to my desk, and I don’t want to work for anybody. But right now, I’m doing it for a little extra financial security.
I’ve made my peace with working 9 hours a day, 5 days a week. Even so, some days, it can be a little trying for me to make it through the day. Just thinking about 16-hour work days, while being in a constant state of stress, is absolutely terrifying.
And for what, really? A bigger paycheck so I can buy myself a real fancy house after 20 years on the job?
So, I made my little defiant choice, against what everybody else told me.
I took a significantly smaller paycheck. I don’t even bother trying to climb the corporate ladder.
In exchange, I leave my job on time, almost every single day. I don’t work on weekends. I don’t have crazy stressful deadlines that I need to pull all-nighters for.
I have free time to work out, take a walk, write blog posts, and learn cool stuff.
I did that because I refuse to let my health be sacrificed for a silly cubicle job that I don’t love.
Just a little food for thought.
I choose to work for a large corporation that has a fairly laid back atmosphere for the same reasons that you chose a less stressful job: I don’t work weekends, rarely ever stay past 5, and the dress code is casual. I know that I could make a higher salary working for a financial company on Wall Street, but I enjoy the balance that comes with the job I have. I have plenty of time outside of work to blog, lift weights, play basketball, hang out with friends, etc. Life is all about tradeoffs and money is only one of the variables we should optimize for. Great article, Liz 🙂
Hey Zach, great to hear that we’re on the same page! You’re right; while money is important, it isn’t the only thing that we should strive for. I truly believe that happiness, passion, and fulfilment are all equally significant, if not more! I always read your blog posts and I know that you aren’t a big fan of the whole corporate 9-to-5 culture too. (Well, who is, right?) I’m really happy that you have lots of time to do the things that are truly meaningful to you. Thanks so much for the encouragement Zach, and I’m glad you enjoyed the article 🙂
After I wrote this article, I felt inspired to write another one specifically about why I left the legal profession behind. Here it is: Why I Refused an Insanely Lucrative Legal Career. Ramblings about health, money, and life. Maybe you’d be interested in it 🙂
I think you made the absolute right choice. I can’t believe people have told you differently. I call society the ‘herd of cows’ , everyone follows everyone else. If you dare to go against the grain and follow your own path you’re a weirdo or not ‘normal’. I certainly dont follow the herd of cows I followed what I wanted for me, which was work part time hours from home doing something I love, I don’t shop like most do, I’m the same as you. And by making these drastic changes over time I have the Privelege to work my own hours and work part time hours earning full time wage for past 12 years. How did I manage this?? Finding Minimalism – By cutting the crap from my life, stop living for each moment on auto-pilot , being intentional with everyday choices, stop spending on shit you don’t need just to impress people you don’t even like, Downsizing my home, declutterung and selling / donating the excess, living authentically, cut your food bill, cut your utilities, learn to budget and keep it on track as much as possible, learning that real happiness is internal, not external, and spend only on things that bring you joy & make memories , holidays, or free things picnics, playing board games with your kids., dinner st home with family & friends It also helped that I’m an Introvert , so I don’t need to go out often and blow all my money with friends every weekend or go shopping as a form of ‘entertainment’..
Some of my friends however, don’t live my low key lifestyle, they love shopping and blowing their money and have closets full of clothing & shoes, have high mortgages, expensive cars, but the difference between them and me is, they all work full-time jobs 5-6 days a week to afford their lifestyle. So it’s all about what’s more important to each individual person.
I think that’s because society places more of an emphasis on material success than happiness. Which is why people have told me I’m making the wrong choice. You’re right about the ‘herd of cows’. I’m glad that we have had the insight to do otherwise.
That’s a lot of incredible, helpful tips, Karena! I think I’ve become proficient at most of them 🙂 Like you, I’m an introvert as well. I’m very, very introverted. So I get a lot of happiness from doing things on my own, like writing, reading, working out, taking a walk. Stuff like that. Like you, I don’t need to visit friends every weekend for entertainment as well. Thanks for sharing, Karena! It feels nice to connect with other introverted people 🙂
Agreed. A lot of people would rather spend money than be free of their soul-sucking corporate jobs. For us, it’s the other way around. So yeah, it’s definitely about what people prioritise. If someone desperately wanted to leave their corporate job, they would save up like crazy and quit their jobs. But if someone doesn’t prioritise quitting their jobs, they’d just stick around and continue blowing their cash.
It’s so true that office life is NOT healthy. I have a similar post on my blog about the ways your health is impacted by office life. Sitting all day, the obligatory office sugary sweets. Ready to leave pretty soon. The moment I realized I should consider compression socks is the moment I realized I gotta get out asap.
Wow I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m considering compression socks, but I think that time will eventually come. I’m glad we realised that we have to get out of the office, it’s certainly not the most healthy – both physically and emotionally!
I’ll check out the post on your blog as well, thanks Rob!