A couple of days ago my BFF told me that in a retirement planning class she took, she learned that people often worry about not having enough money to live when they retire and that working has a very huge cost.
Studies have shown that job related expenses (work clothing, gasoline, car maintenance, lunch/eating out, child care, etc.) can easily take out 30% of our paycheck. Some might say that the non-financial considerations, like job satisfaction and socialization balance it out. But what if you are in a situation where your work is not so stimulating and where you are not so fond of your colleagues? You then have to add to the financial cost what I call the “psychological cost” of work.
We tend to turn to materialism to forget the weight these costs have on our lives. It often takes the form of buying things we don’t need, maxing out our credit cards to take trips we can’t afford, and the list goes on.
The goal here is to numb the pain, drown it in as many quick fixes as we can find.
So the real cost of not doing work we love has to account for not only the psychological cost of the work but also the costs associated with how we cope with doing that work. This greatly reduces what we actually bring home. It then becomes clear how important it is for us to turn what we love doing into a lucrative business.
How to do more of what we love?
The good news is that you can reduce the cost of work and increase joy in your life right now by taking 4 simple steps.
Step #1: Knowing is enlightening (take the test).
You need to assess your current situation. The folks at Parents.com have developed this awesome test that allows you to calculate how much going to work costs you. The goal is not to make you feel bad. In fact, it will bring you much needed clarity about where you spend your money and how much you really bring home after taxes.
Step #2: Cut back where you can.
Now that you know where your money goes, where can you make cuts? Here are a few things you can do to reduce the financial cost of working:
- Prepare your own lunch: eating out costs a fortune and is not always the best choice. Making your own lunch will not only help you save, it will also improve your health.
- Spend less on clothes. Organize a swap party with your friends where everybody brings clothes they don’t want and exchange them. Become a second-hand fashionista. Shop on Ebay and at thrift stores for unique and cost-friendly swagger.
- Work from home as often as you can. A good way to make it easier for your boss to say “yes” is by showing him or her how much more productive you are when you don’t come into the office.
- Cycle to work or carpool. In the UK, there is a service called Liftshare, which enables organized car-sharing by connecting people traveling in the same direction so they can arrange to travel together and share the costs. Implement something similar in your area. It’s not only good for your pockets, it’s also great for the environment.
Step #3: Find what you really love.
When we have a lot of responsibilities, we often put aside our passion and focus on what will bring in money to pay the bills. The problem is that to be fulfilled, we need to do work related to our unique gift and to what we love. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to find what you really love:
- If money was not an issue and nobody would judge you, what would you really want to do? Close your eyes and let the answers come to you.
- What do you do better than everybody you know? What advice or help do you always get asked for? These are your strengths. Use them to guide you in your path to finding what you really love and how you can turn it into a lucrative business.
Step #4: Plan your re-creation.
Now that you have a clearer vision of what you love to do, create a plan to make it happen. Why? Because we all have a unique gift that the world needs and that we have a duty to invest in. It’s like having a billion dollars in the bank with millions of people around you in need and refusing to spend a dime.
You may be telling yourself this is all well and nice, but can I really live off of my passion for bird watching? Yes, it’s possible to make a living from doing work you care about, even bird watching. You just need a little guidance to make it happen. Here are a few things you can do to bring your dreams of freedom and happiness into reality:
- What products and services already exist related to the product/service you want to sell? Evaluate it by finding the 3 best sellers in the industry. How can you add your own gift and set of strengths to solve a problem that your potential customers still have?
This should be enough to get your brain going on the different shapes living off of your gift can look like. Not so far fetched, right?
As you have read, going to work has a price that increases when you are not doing what you love. The good news is that you can reduce not only the financial but also the psychological cost related to your current work situation. One key step to take in order to get there is to assess your expenses and figure out ways to reduce them. A second step is to find out what will give you the most satisfaction, and help people by using the special gift that only you have. If you take these steps, you will get more clarity on what you need to do to increase happiness and income in your life.