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Considering a Career Change? Less May Be More.

One of the most popular articles on Living Richly on a Budget is about MTV’s documentary show, True Life: I Can No Longer Afford My Lifestyle. Having watched the show myself, I was interested in observing how each of the people featured struggled to adjust to a new lifestyle. It made me wonder how different things would be if they had made the choice to pursue a less extravagant lifestyle, instead of being forced into a minimalistic existence by job loss.

Of course, everyone wants to make enough money such that they can live a comfortable lifestyle, go shopping when they feel like it, and enjoy a rich social life with friends and loved ones. Especially when children are in the picture, parents want to provide their kids with as much support as possible, enabling them to go to the best area schools.

But one thing I’ve noticed among friends and family alike is that we often hold on to high-paying jobs for the express purpose of sustaining a certain lifestyle. I don’t know how many investment banker friends I’ve met who absolutely hate their work. The best-paid professionals I know, the ones who go out to expensive clubs, eat dinner out every day, and jet-set when they please, are also the ones who constantly complain to me about how miserable they are. When I ask them why they don’t look for something else to do, something more enjoyable, they stare at me with blank faces. How could I possibly suggest such a thing? We’re living the life, they tell me. The more honest among my friends will confess flat out that they would find it impossible adjusting to a new lifestyle.

In my own experience, I know that adapting to a new, less extravagant lifestyle for the sake of working a lower-paying but more enjoyable job is not an impossible adjustment. The move very well saved my life. Like many of my friends, when I worked a relatively high-paying job with a PR firm, I feared having to tightly budget my earnings if I were to leave. I feared not being able to go out every weekend, or having to forgo buy my daily lattes at those overpriced cafes. On the other hand, since beginning work with my then current job, my enjoyment of life in general had dramatically dropped. Sure, I was working hard, nearly sixty hours a week, but the tasks were repetitive, mechanical, completely devoid of any meaning. After almost three years, I had become seriously depressed.

When I finally decided to switch careers to a job that better matched my personality freelance writing–adjusting to a less extravagant lifestyle was the easiest part of the change. Of course, the most difficult part was taking that leap, having faith that earning less but enjoying what I did with the majority of my time more was the right decision. But once I committed to that decision, I cannot begin to describe to how the quality of my life was drastically enhanced.

So if you’re currently working a job that makes it difficult for you to get out of bed in the morning, don’t mistakenly think that you can’t give it up. Of course, money does play a large role in our satisfaction with life. But it’s only a fraction. When deciding on your career trajectory, consider the benefits of analyzing your decision using broader criteria. Make room for “enjoyment” on your list of priorities. Quality of life is so much more than just the numbers on your paycheck.

This guest post was written by Raine Parker, who writes on the topics of online accounting degree.  

Featured in Carnival of Money Stories #91 – The Guy de Maupassant Edition hosted by Miss Thrifty.

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