Updated: Mar 14, 2019
And how it's making people live less than their best lives.
My husband and I went cold turkey in January. Together.
We both went without a paycheck for the entire month.
Nearly our entire adult lives, we have both made a steady salary. For me, I was always working at the same corporation with zero interruptions in pay. For him, a few job changes, but with limited gaps.
And what I never realized was ... it was kind of an addiction.
So, in January, we completely detoxed. Now, it wasn't entirely planned to go this way. I had made the first move, voluntarily, to leave my corporate job to pursue entrepreneurship.
His detox was less voluntary. My husband works for the U.S. federal government, which decided to put us on their own salary detox plan – a government shutdown.
Honestly, the first thing I had to do was laugh. What are the chances that at literally the same exact time I make this terrifying leap away from a really comfortable salary, my husband's employer "shuts down"? (I say that in quotes since my husband is considered an essential employee, so he actually worked during the shutdown)
And guess what happened? We survived.
For many, this isn't a funny situation. Going without a paycheck for five weeks is a scary circumstance.
In an article by CNBC, they talk about what you need to think about to determine if you can afford to quit your job. The standard rule is that you should have 3-6 months of your salary in savings (isn't that also the guideline for engagement ring budget?!). NerdWallet also has a calculator you can use if you want to drill down into more detail.
Luckily, we had saved enough to provide us with this important safety net, which helped us weather the U.S. government shutdown storm.
Over the past several years, we have had many things we could have spent our money on. Renovations to our house. Fancy clothes and jewelry. A new car (I have had the same car now for almost seven years). But we didn't spend beyond our means. We lived life well and made sure we saved for the future.
And you know what – I am so happy our dual detox happened. Not only did we test what it felt like to lose my salary, we tested what it felt like to go completely paycheckless!
What it felt like. That is such an important distinction.
When I was thinking about leaving the corporate world, there is no doubt the only thing that gave me any sort of concern was – "What will it FEEL like to not get my paycheck?"
What will I need to give up? How will I now feel about going out for dinner? Will I feel guilty if we spend our savings on a vacation? Will I feel like lesser of a person?
You see, we all can get out spreadsheets and do math to determine if we can do it or not. For many people, it is completely possible. For some, they can handle it based on their savings on hand that moment. For others, there are tangible things they can give up to start saving instead of spending it as soon as they get it. And look, I completely understand there are many others who don't have this luxury.
What I am saying is something we all know. It's not a new concept. But we really don't stop, think and talk about it.
We are addicted to money. And that addiction is preventing many people from taking even the smallest of risks to explore what they might be missing.
I was emailing with a woman I've been cheering along. She reached out after seeing a few of my blogs and Instagram posts. She has been in sales her entire life. Yet, her dream is really to be a writer, and she had been paralyzed for some time, hovering over this dream with a toxic mix of trepidation and excitement.
I recommended a book to her ("You Are a Badass," one of my faves). I asked her to read several chapters and then report back to me what she learned and how she was feeling from the book.
One of the things she wrote was poignant.
She said, "I’ve spent 20-plus years in an industry that has afforded me an exceptional financial means, but has literally sucked the life dry from me. I've likened myself to a whore because the money is the ONLY reason I’ve stayed all of these 20-plus years."
She then apologized for being so rough. I told her not to apologize. These are the epiphanies that are so important. (And, of course, she's not really a money whore ... but it helped her process what was holding her back)
Do you ever wonder, "What is it that makes some people brave enough to chase their dreams and others not?"
I truly don't think that "failure" is the number one reason. Instead, I think we have been in a somewhat unhealthy relationship – and even addiction to –money. Much like an alcoholic or a drug addict, we are scared to know what it will feel like to go for a day, a week, a month without that drug.
I know way too many people who are working themselves to the bone. They are 24x7 attached to a job they don't truly enjoy. They are watching each day go by, one less that they could be using to do something they love.
I am here to tell anyone who feels like a salary addict (AKA money whore or whatever flippant yet needed smack across the face works for you) that the detox is really not that bad. It is less painful than you might think.
It is actually a beautiful detox, because what you get to see and feel is actually a totally new addiction that fills the space of that salary like water to a hole.
You get to replace that addiction with a new one. A healthier one. An addiction to following your dreams. Addiction to doing work that you LOVE. Addiction to yoga pants (OK, maybe that one's just me).
"Money won't create success, the freedom to make it will." ~Nelson Mandela
When you ask yourself this question – "What would my optimal day look like?" – and it doesn't come close to what you're doing, then ask yourself the next question – "What is the number one barrier getting in my way?"
If that barrier is your bi-weekly love affair, you can quit it.
Start thinking about what you can give up in order to set money aside. When you think about your budget, consider if you should start setting aside money to spend toward taking a step to your fantasy job. Would you be better off buying that new business dress? Or should you invest it instead in a seminar that helps you explore something new?
You know the most successful companies strategically invest in their future. Start doing the same for yourself.
If you get to the place where you decide to make bolder steps, where you decide to take a break from the addition, it may not last forever. But know you can replace it with a healthier, more lovely addiction if you just have a little bit of guts to start the detox.