Golden handcuffs: the imaginary chains tying you to a well paying job. Have you ever said you’d love to do something else, but you can’t leave your job? You might unknowingly wear the cuffs.
The office cubicle that replaced your dorm room has now become your jail cell. You leave the cell at night, but you don’t feel you ever truly get away. You might not hate what you’re doing, but you definitely wouldn’t do it for free.
You’ve delayed the business you were going to start, the Peace Corp mission calling your name, and you’ve even abandoned the pledge to spend more time on yourself.
Watching the numbers on your paycheck climb is fulfilling, but is it enough? For now, it keeps you at your job; the golden handcuffs are tightening.
If you truly love what you’re doing, there is no such thing as the golden handcuffs. Your work is rewarding and your rewards reflect your efforts. However, if you’re unsatisfied at work but tied to it because of the money, you’re all too familiar with the cuffs and their powers.
You feel no other job can pay you more than or even as much as your current job. And quite frankly, you might need the money to pay for your current lifestyle. You know, the car, the condo, and the free furniture for 18 months… that you’ll soon have to pay for!
Larry Burkett says we spend the first 5-7 years of our marriage trying to attain the same standard of living as our parents – only it took them 35 years. I’m sure he meant it, but we start trying to match this lifestyle as soon as we have a decent job.
On top of your pursuit towards your parent’s standards, your success leads you to believe you deserve certain luxuries; your nice car, the new TAG watch, or designer clothes. Our family, friends, social networks and most of all advertising can reinforce these thoughts of entitlement.
So the question is: are the golden handcuffs tightening due to the amount of money you’re making or due to the increased standard of living you enjoy with the money?
In my opinion, it depends on the person, but it is probably a combination of both. Often times, as we’re moving closer to the corner office, we buy into society’s perceptions of our job status. Seeing the word attorney on your new business card makes you feel entitled to the new car.
Maybe your new co-workers all drive new cars and take a big vacation every year. Surely, if they can afford it, you can too. Plus, you don’t want to seem cheap around them.
It’s even worse for doctors, lawyers, and investment bankers whose status is somewhat determined by their total bling. What happens when you increase your standard of living?
You might get instant gratification when you move into your uptown apartment, cruise around in your new car, or take your boat out for the first time. However, if you’re financing your new lifestyle with debt, all it means is your monthly debt payments increase. You work hard, but you play hard. It’s great for your employer because you can’t quit; you’ll be too busy paying monthly for your new found happiness!
If your golden handcuffs don’t bind you because of an in debt lifestyle, the other reason may be you’re accustomed to seeing a satisfying amount on your check. You’re happy with it and your family, friends, and colleagues are proud of your success.
You’re afraid you’ll earn less following your dreams, and you’ll lose your social status.
I’m still trying to break free of the golden handcuffs, but I have taken some initial steps. To deal with the first reason for the cuffs, financing your lifestyle with loans, the answer is living debt free. You can learn how to do this by taking control of your money.
To deal with the second reason, the impact of a drop in salary or prestige, you must deal with it on more of a psychological level.
If you’re highly satisfied with your new work, you’re going to experience a level of fulfillment and happiness that you’re not currently getting, and it won’t be too hard to remove the golden handcuffs. Also, realize your fear could be unfounded, and you might be able to make even more money if you switch to another job or do something you love.
Fear springs from ignorance – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Maybe the best way to remove the golden handcuffs is to go out and learn and try something new. Are you wearing golden handcuffs? I’d like to hear about it in the comments section as we can all learn from your story!