About the Author

Honey's main interests are online dating, long distance dating, and long term relationships. She met her boyfriend on MySpace and they have been exclusive since their first date over three years ago. Currently they live in Tempe, Arizona. Honey graduated with her PhD in Composition and Rhetoric in May 2009. You can contact Honey via email here or online here.

Success: Trappings v. Substance

Lance’s fantastic blog post about how accomplishment makes you more attractive really got me thinking.  I feel like what he says is relevant to the negative effect of the BF’s job on his health and decision-making, which has really got the BF and I revisiting a lot of things.

See, he went to grad school for a terminal degree in his field because he knew that he could become very wealthy working in private practice in that industry.  What he didn’t bank on was:

He won’t even be on the road to wealthy until he’s paid off the debt he accumulated earning that degree.  He earns over $90K per year and has the same standard of living that he did when he was a student – two years later.  And his credit card debt won’t be paid off for 3 more years.  Then there’s the loan for his new car.  And although he doesn’t have any plans to pay it off aggressively, there’s the $100K in student loans.  Now he’s in a job he hates, but he can’t leave at least until his credit cards are paid off, because he needs that level of salary just to make the payments.

He also didn’t anticipate the toll that the hours and stress of his job would take, not only on his health, but on the quality of his relationship with me.  Cheating concerns from his recent actions aside, the earliest I can ever expect him home is 7:30 p.m.  Frequently it’s 9 p.m., and he often goes in on at least one weekend day (he put in over 20 hours last weekend, and he’s going to California this weekend for some work that can only be completed on-location).  This means that even if he did have oodles of money to spend on things like creative, expensive dates and vacations – guess what?  He wouldn’t be able to get the time off to go.

So what’s left?  The main reasons people want to be wealthy are to give their kids a better life and to own a nice home, car, and all those trappings.  Well, we’re not having kids and we don’t ever plan on owning a home.  So, really, he’s working himself to death so that he can own a huge HD television set and an assault rifle, and eat lunch out every day?  Sadly, there aren’t going to be any huge changes regarding his work/life balance anytime soon (3 years from now, minimum).  But we’re working on reprioritizing our long-term goals to reflect the things we really want.  

The fellows Lance encountered at the 21 Convention were focused on gaming chicks as an end-goal rather than as the byproduct of a life richly led.  Similarly, the BF is discovering that his past focus on wealth as an end-goal doesn’t really get him the time and health necessary to do and enjoy all the things that he had planned on using that money to buy in the first place.  That’s what happens when you focus on the trappings of success rather than the substance.

Although I’ve never cared about being wealthy (my mom was a quadriplegic and so my dad was the only one working - they raised my sister and me on $35K per year), I haven’t done as good of a job avoiding the trappings as I’d like.  It’ll take me at least a year and a half, maybe two, to pay off the credit card debt I accrued in grad school, and I’ll be making payments on my own $100K in student loan debt for a long, long time.  But I didn’t want to move out of my tiny Flagstaff apartment, I drive a car I paid off years ago, I brown bag it to lunch except for maybe once a month, and I don’t care if we own a bigger TV (though I’m not giving up Direct TV anytime soon). 

I measure my success by having a 40-hour workweek and a 3-mile commute that lets me pay all my bills while still letting me sleep in until 7 a.m. and get home at 5:45 p.m.  This means that I have time to spend with our (rescued) pets, write this blog, and cook delicious homemade vegetarian meals from scratch on an almost daily basis.  I can take freelance work on the side and travel to visit friends.  And while I am taking that freelance work to improve my own financial situation, my immediate goal is to free up enough funds in my budget to join a yoga gym again.  After all, how can the BF and I find our center again if I haven’t even found mine?

How do you measure your success?  Let us know in the comments below.  Then, you might also enjoy these fine posts:

  • Dan

    Excellent post!

    I really enjoy Tim Ferris’s philosophy on this. It’s not only how much money you make, but also how much free time you have to enjoy the money you make! What’s the point of having a job where you work 15 hour days and have very few vacation days but make 200k per year? Similarly with your boyfriend, I don’t see the point of accumulating all of the car and school debt to have the same standard of living he did before he went back to school. And he also has the added ‘bonus’ of working harder/more for, again, the same standard of living.

    This is one of the major reasons I chose my major (Education). You don’t make much money at all (locally they start at about 35k per year), but you also only work half the year (basically). I definitely plan to spend my summers visiting other countries and hopefully finding cheap ways to do that (couchsurfing.org is awesome!).

  • http://hammer86blog.com Hammer

    Many people work so that down the road they can buy their own freedom, i.e. quit their jobs and live off of savings without concern. Also, I don’t think that you’re putting enough value on a man’s need for a purpose to his life and the innate desire to constantly improve oneself.
    .-= Hammer´s last blog …Two Paths – My Thoughts =-.

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    Hammer, thanks for the comment! You’re right on – I agree with you completely about why people work and that men need purpose and improvement to be happy (so do women, after all).

    In our specific circumstance what I’m saying is that the BF will be at least 35 before he can start to save for retirement, so he’ll miss out on about 15 years’ of compounding interest in his retirement accounts, and will have to scrimp a lot more to save a lot less in the end.

    Also, his current job doesn’t give him purpose or self-improvement. It gives him binge drinking, kidney stones, and a circadian rhythm disorder. I don’t think a big-screen TV counts as “self-improvement.”
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Success: Trappings v. Substance =-.

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    It’s also cost him his ability to participate in every single hobby that he cares about.
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Success: Trappings v. Substance =-.

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    Thanks, Dan! I read that book and *loved* it. I need to go back and be a little more strategic about what I can actually implement in my life as it is now. We’re looking to relocate to another city in a year or so, and since we’ll be moving for his job, I’ll be “unemployed” and think that I can definitely find something to fill in that gap.
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Success: Trappings v. Substance =-.

  • http://www.beforewisdom.com beforewisdom

    I enjoyed reading this post, it was thoughtful and well written.

    Many people make significant sacrifices for big choices in life without ever considering first if they would like living the daily life that goes with those choices.
    .-= beforewisdom´s last blog … =-.

  • http://www.beforewisdom.com beforewisdom

    Both of you have probably already heard of this book, but just in case not, you might enjoy “Your Money Or Your Life”.

    It is old enough to be read for free from many libraries.
    .-= beforewisdom´s last blog … =-.

  • http://www.beforewisdom.com beforewisdom

    Honey, this thread is really giving me a different perspective on my life and career.
    This last reply of yours in particular.

    Part of me is always blaming myself that I didn’t get myself together earlier in life so that I could have gotten an earlier start in my career and be more advanced in it than I am.

    However, I was able to start saving for my retirement ( albeit just a little via a 401K ) at about the same age your BF will be able to start. I was also debt free 2 years after that age. Like you I don’t have to get up to 7am. I am home or at the gym by 6:30pm on weeknights and I have my weekends off.

    The time I spent f**ing around in my twenties I will always regret for reasons other than financial success, but I spent my time reading books, seeing movies and having thoughts most people will never have time for.

    This thread has made me realize is that even though I have genuine dissatisfactions that I should work at I have blessings to count that other people would love to have.
    .-= beforewisdom´s last blog … =-.

  • http://casualencounters.com/blog/ Janak

    Right. The money AND the time to enjoy it. Don’t focus on one goal to the exclusion of the other.

    And Honey, obviously this is over-the-top, but thought you might get a laugh out of it:

    http://www.writewords.org.uk/archive/9571.asp
    .-= Janak´s last blog …Weekly Roundup – Top 10 Casual Sex Links from Around the Web =-.

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    Eep! That’s serious stuff, Janak :-)
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Success: Trappings v. Substance =-.

  • http://20-forty.com/ lisaq

    As Dan said above, I didn’t choose education because I would make a shit ton of money. I choose it because I love it. Summers off don’t hurt either. ;) I find ways to supplement, but am more about living a happy, centered life than anything else. Whatever else comes is a bonus.
    .-= lisaq´s last blog …Why Men Don’t Love Women Who Love Cats =-.

  • http://casualencounters.com/blog/ Janak

    Well that or borderline-amusing juvenile venting. :)
    .-= Janak´s last blog …PlentyOfFish review =-.

  • http://dadshouseblog.com dadshouse

    I worked my ass off in Silicon Valley for nearly two decades, including insane hours at a startup. I finally came to realize spending time with my kids was far more important than making tons of money and buying them crap they don’t need. We’re less well off, and far happier now.
    .-= dadshouse´s last blog …Where do Jon and Kate Gosselin Live? In Denial =-.

  • http://www.singlemomseeking.com/blog Single Mom Seeking

    Great post — and I think you’ve summed up a dilemma for most Americans.

    My one little Q: Why is the BF putting in so many extra long hours? Is he getting paid overtime? Does he need better boundaries around work… so that he can really go home at 6 and have dinner with you?
    .-= Single Mom Seeking´s last blog …Hiding in my kid’s suitcase =-.

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    I think people who enjoy their jobs are lucky, Lisaq – I love mine! The BF has never enjoyed a single job he’s had and can’t imagine any job he’d ever enjoy, so he decided to pick something that made a shit-ton of money because then he could afford some of the other things. At least that was the idea…

    I’m glad you found balance, dadshouse! Personally I’d be fine if the BF took a lower paying job.

    SMS – No, the BF works in an industry with billable hours, and believe it or not 1) he barely meets the “goal” each month for people at his level, and 2) the office that he works for actually has a MUCH lower “goal” than any other such office in the private sector that we’re aware of.

    And as far as better work boundaries – his best friend at work has GREAT boundaries. Yeah, he’s getting fired this week.
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Seducing A Sagittarius Is A Big Pain In My Ass =-.