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When you reach 6-figures, if you're not careful, your lifestyle will adapt to having more money coming in and your cost of living will rise. That can trap you into a job, career, or industry you really don't like because now you need at least a certain income to pay the mortgage, car note, and other bills. According to an article by Jullien Gordon, this is especially true for lawyers.
“When you make $100,000+ you may even get caught in the ironic overpaid trap. The overpaid trap happens when your employer pays you more than you think you're really worth. Even if that relationship is abusive, you don't feel empowered to leave because you don't feel anyone else will value you as much as they do, hence you are stuck. The justification to leave would be greater if you felt underpaid,” Jullien wrote.
So, what to do? To avoid this trap Jullien offers 6 things attorneys need to figure out when they hit 6-figures, but these tips aren’t pertinent for those who only command a 6-figure salary. They are pertinent for anyone at any stage of their career.
1. Is this really my passion or problem?
The pendulum has swung too far to the left with the rhetoric of follow your passion. Not everyone feels creative, but everyone can create value. Ask yourself, "If I was to leave this company today, what problem do I feel equipped to solve for other individuals or organizations?" Every job in the world was created to solve some problem, and your future income will be in direct proportion to the size of the problems you solve today. Oftentimes we have difficulty articulating what our problem is. Therein lies your true value.
Some people simply don't believe that they can make enough money doing what they love despite evidence of it all around. That's okay. To each is own. It's a function of their own their own limiting beliefs, not the economy.
2. Is this what I see myself doing for the rest of my career?
Perhaps you have an itch to try something else now. This may be the industry or profession where you started your career and have grown in, but it doesn't have to be your destination. Your career is at least a 40 year journey, unless you plan to retire early, and will take up a majority of your waking hours.
Many of your skills are likely transferable to completely different industries and professions, but you have to be open.
3. Am I married to this company? Am I happy here?
The 40-40 club is closed. The idea of working for one company for 40 years, 40 hours per week is dead. Nobody is forcing you to stay and it's likely that you won't stay. So rather than leave on bad terms, leave on your own terms. Don't think of it as quitting—think of it as transitioning.
4. Am I inspired by the lives of those above me? Will more money really make me happier?
While the higher rungs of the corporate ladder command more money, the company also commands more time. At that point, the company is your life. So you have to make a choice if that's what you want. At the end of the day, it's not the money that we want. Nobody wants to swim in coins like Scrooge McDuck. We want the life we think the money will buy us, but so many people have financial freedom without feeling like they have any time freedom to really enjoy it. That's why my focus is on living "more happy hours."
5. What's next?
Earning 6-figures isn't the end game. Once you get to your goal of 6-figures, you have to figure out what's next. What will your new challenge, project, job, industry, company, or goals be professionally? Is the next goal 7-figures? Is it more international projects? Is it leading more people? Is it taking on more responsibility or less? Is it having a more flexible work arrangement? Is it working on a product rather than being in a service-based industry? Is it building something from the ground up or making something that's already good into great? Is it working for a great boss or on a great team? Is it moving back home to be near family?
If you're not married to your employer or industry, you're essentially dating. I encourage young professionals to date employers until age 30 and then commit after having a variety of professional experiences that help them understand what they love, hate, and are great at doing.
6. Do I want to start my own thing?
If you choose this road, your current job becomes a bridge job. A bridge job means that you are using that job to position yourself for what's next by developing skills and relationships and establishing a savings goal or a quit date.
Most people think that they are worth the money they are being paid! The best way to rectify this thought is by asking yourself, that if I leave this company, how much will it affect the company and how will I fare in the employment market! Be sure to have a realistic answer.