Dollars and Dissonance

Dollars and dissonance

I was 22 years old – not even a full year into my professional working career – when I had a candid and personal conversation with my co-worker Danielle.  Like me, Danielle was working long hours in a high-stress job, under pressure from clients and leadership in our company.  When our conversation eventually turned to money, she told me that she and her husband were under major financial stress.

“Some months, I’m not sure how we’re going to make ends meet,” she confessed.

This might have been understandable had Danielle been pulling in minimum wage, or even my entry-level paycheck with some extenuating circumstances, like major health problems or enormous student loan debt.  But Danielle wasn’t my entry-level peer.  Danielle was an associate partner in our firm, probably raking in $300,000 or more per year – not to mention her husband’s full-time salary.

HOOOO-LY SHIT.

Two years later, I had left that job with enough savings in the bank to take some entrepreneurial career risks.  I caught up with a former colleague, Jason, who had recently quit and moved cross-country.  Jason was back from an incredible month-long trek across the world, from the canals of Venice to the beaches of Tanzania.  “Wow!” I told him, “I hope you didn’t break the bank!”

“Actually,” he laughed, “I had to borrow some money to cover my rent this month.”

Are you kidding me?

Later that summer, I spent a weekend in San Francisco with my friend Heather, a successful software developer a couple years my senior.  Heather let me use her pricey downtown apartment for the weekend since she normally stayed across town with her boyfriend anyway.  Riding into town from the airport, she told me she was thinking of getting the new Audi S4 she really wanted – but only once she paid off her current car next year.  Over dinner that night, she shared that she was financially panicked and still paying off credit card debt from a decade ago.

“I don’t know what to do.  I should have been out of debt years ago.”

Is this a joke?

These examples are ridiculous.  Outrageous.  Absurd.  Yet I could give a dozen more from my friends and colleagues alone.  This is the current state of the financial world for many people – even my privileged, highly educated, affluent friends making high five figures or more.  Trapped in a cycle of unsustainable spending, high-interest consumer debt, and lifelong dependence on a regular paycheck.

Thankfully, there’s another way.

6 Comments

  1. Yeah, it’s pretty amazing what people get themselves into. I got comfortable with ignoring these folks financial obliviousness and just nodded along when they complained about paying bills in spite of earning sometimes 2-3x what I was earning. You really want to put them in a friendly headlock and ask just what the hell do they think they are doing, but then you realize that HR frowns on that kind of contact between coworkers.

    Good start on the blog, by the way!

    • Indeed, I find myself frequently just nodding along as coworkers tell me all about their new leased vehicles, giant suburban houses, and 90-minute commutes. Better to not rock the boat, and I wouldn’t want them to get the sense that I’m going to peace out in a few months anyway!

      Thanks for the kind words!

  2. Reminds me of the title to the Thomas Stanley book “Stop Acting Rich”. We are just a little more than 4 months from early retirement (before our 50th birthdays) and amazed that we have friends that have basically saved nothing. Where did all the money go?

  3. Some people get so accustomed to having the freedom to spend to excess and then they don’t know what to do when that is taken away. I think sometimes people need to learn that even with your finances, sometimes enough is enough.

    Great post!

  4. It boggles my mind. I’m so thankful that many of my coworkers are financially savvy and we help to educate some of the fresh college hires!

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