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COMMENT: Beware the trap of prioritizing money over happiness when you work in finance

Do you work in finance? Are you successful and rewarded well for your hard work? For a lot of you the answer will be yes. Are you also enjoying the high life? And has your lifestyle grown in parallel with your income and your success? Are you able to treat both yourself and your family to a luxurious lifestyle? Do you drive luxury cars that you upgrade every 3 years, have a nice big house which costs a fortune to decorate and maintain? Enjoy several 5-star holidays each year? Wear designer clothes and eat at the finest restaurants? Of course!

For many people in finance, the retort is always, "Why not?" - What's the harm in splashing cash on stuff you enjoy and which makes you look and feel good? - After all, you can't take it with you, and spending often feels great. But what happened to all those big dreams you had of running your own business, or doing something totally different when you had enough money in the bank? Was this really what you had planned?

Less than ten years into a finance career, many people find themselves trapped by golden handcuffs which squeeze tighter and tighter as time goes on. Their wiggle room is taken by their spending habits and they have to do whatever is necessary to keep generating that six figure (or maybe even seven figure) income each year.

The telling moment is usually when you're out with friends and they ask how it's going at work. You say something like, “I would love to do something else, but no other job pays this well and my job isn’t really that bad.”

Deep down though, plenty of people are hoping that this isn’t it until they retire.Is this really living? The more this question looms large, the more that people become unhappy and anxious at work. Anxiety and unhappiness becomes anger and resentment and this starts to effect your performance and ultimately the much-needed bonus.

You start to bring your emotions home and your family notice and worry.

What else can you do? Is this really the life you want? How long are you going to pretend to everyone you are happy?

Maybe it’s time to stop making excuses and to start prioritizing money over happiness. How? There are three things you can do right now.

Firstly, give yourself a break. You're successful at what you do and you have a well-paid job. This gives you time to figure out your next steps, time to plan and time to take action in a low risk way.

Secondly, tell your family what you're really thinking. Talk to your partner and children and tell them how you feel. From experience, it will take a large weight of your shoulders and together you can work out a way forward that will help you loosen the lifestyle handcuffs.

Thirdly, work towards clarity on what you really want next. Knowing that you want to do something different is not the same as knowing what that thing is. You might think you want to run your own company, but is this really the best moment for that? Do you want to it now or in 10 years' time? Maybe, it’s just a change you need? How about swapping jobs internally?

Most of all, you need to take action. Action is what makes all the difference. Don't just take the easy road and try continuing as you are. It will become a harder road as time goes on. Step up, take action and prioritize your happiness. You honestly deserve it.

Nick Foster is a former director at an investment bank and leadership & life coach who specializes in helping leaders in banking and finance thrive, not just survive in both their life and their career. For more info, visit -

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AUTHORNicholas Foster Insider Comment

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