Over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself in several conversations about money.
From online discussions in a community that I’m a member of, The Content Marketing Academy (CMA) to family and friends who are aware of my impending leave date from full-time employment. However, it was the online discussion with the CMA community that really made me think.
The discussion itself started out as a conversation about accountants fees and what’s a reasonable price for year end accounts. However given the rules around personal tax payments in advance, this quickly turned to a discussion about money and budgeting in general. From our own attempts to budgeting and personal views re money, I couldn’t escape the fact that this is something that’s taken up a lot of my own headspace recently. Whilst in the middle of planning and making several changes to my personal and work life, at the risk of sounding like a very well know Jessie J song, the changes I’m making are not all about the money.
It Started With A Loan From My Grandparents
In September 2001, my mum and I picked up a hire van and made my way down to the big smoke, London. I’d secured a job on BT’s Finance Graduate Scheme.
I was lucky.
I was one of 15 to secure a job on the scheme and whilst I hadn’t set my heart on London, I knew I wanted to experience life outside of Scotland.
I was also lucky that my gran and grandad kindly agree to loan me my removal costs and also my first month of living costs and the initial deposit on a room to rent. My grandparents were far from well off but were able to help me out. Thankfully BT offered us all a relocation package and I was able to quickly repay them but without that support, I’m not sure how it would have happened.
As I’d paid my way through uni working several jobs and utilising student grants, I was used to earning and spending my own money. So, I quickly settled into budgeting in London even though it was tough!
With high rental costs, even when sharing a house, travel, food and everything costing a London rate was tough. On a salary of just over £1,100 each month in my pocket and most of that gone on rent, bills and travel, I got used to finding ways to save money or reprioritise. Who needs a gym membership when you can walk home from work in an hour. It also helped me save spending money on the tube fare and freed up some funds for a bottle of wine at end of the week! The sacrifices we make to find a way to socialise with wine.
2011: The Step Change – This One Was About Money!
I spent another 3 years fully qualifying as an accountant post moving to London. This involved more weekend and evening studying along with a full-time job where you were expected to learn quickly and add value to a large organisation going through its own struggles. However I’m good at working hard and when I reflect back, I can see how much I just loved learning! Those efforts were spotted and I received good pay rises along with my annual review each year. Phew – monthly tube pass was now allowed.
I’ve made some good and bad decisions with my job choices in those15 years since moving to London. However, it was one decision in 2011 to move jobs that sticks out as being a decision entirely based on money.
I’d found out that a colleague doing a similar job was being paid 50% more than myself. He, of course, was male and was only a few years older thus no real difference in experience.
I then found out he was also being paid a sales bonus rate rather than a corporate bonus rate – another 20% extra to their salary. To say I was annoyed was an understatement.
This hadn’t been the first time in my corporate career that I had to deal with the well-knew gender pay gap. But the gap was too extreme to ignore and just 3 months later, I left to take up a job that offered me a matched salary, closing that gap that I’d uncovered.
A 50% salary pay rise in one job change, completely changed how I lived with a much-increased disposable income.
But it also meant walking away from a job that I actually loved. I really felt like I added so much value to the teams I was working with. Despite travelling continuously across the UK, I will always remember our Gin & Tonic and Sancerre evenings fondly with lots of laughter.
On the upside, I could complete the work on my newly purchased house (that I’d purchased just before the property collapse) and furnish it in a way I wanted too. The money battle had won in my head on this decision.
It Came At A Price
If the hours I worked before were tough – it got tougher.
It’s only now that I can see a circle of treating myself with a spa day or holiday to compensate for work, then working hard to earn enough to do those things.
There was one particular holiday where I worked to about 4am pre a holiday, then got in a car to drive to the airport. You can imagine how awake I was for the first couple of days post running myself into the ground to leave for a holiday.
I was always wiped out on holiday and spent most of them sleeping on a sunlounger and I often found myself feeling unwell for the first few days. It was rare for me not to take a laptop on holiday too.
At the same time, my satisfaction with the work I have been doing has gradually declined.
I can’t put my finger on how much of this has been driven by the fact I now work in the NHS and the seniority of the job I do. Whilst I’ve always preached to my teams about relating their work to patient care and improving people’s lives, its’ something I’ve also had to battle with. Do I really add enough value to patient care to justify my salary?
I increasingly have found it hard to really make an impact at work. Something that I think was much easier in more junior roles. Previously I could always see the end impact of my job, giving me the satisfaction of helping others. However, within the NHS, I’ve found that I’ve spent months battling to make key changes to improve processes.
I also can’t ignore the fact there was one particular role in the NHS, that in some ways I have to thank for making me re-evaluate my whole approach to work. It was political, it was difficult and I can’t explain half of the myriad of unhealthy relationships with a culture of distrust and blame. It’s the first time I’ve ever encountered that type of environment and I knew it was no longer worth the paycheck.
I have a great boss to thank for the year after leaving that job, who really cared about patients. I know, a Finance Director in the NHS who made everything about quality and patient care. Surprised? I was and I was also inspired. Whilst we made a difference working together, I still felt that part of that empty hole that had been developing hadn’t gone away.
It also happened to be the year that I bought my first beach huts.
While I carried one for yet another year, with all of the above mulling around my mind, it wasn’t a huge surprise to many that I finally made the big leap earlier this year. I finally made the decision to leave my full-time permanent job and pursue being my boss!
Tomorrow, 14th October 2016, is on paper my official last day at work and whilst I plan to spend the day working on my future plans, I’m sure there will be some sadness mixed in with hope.
Some Would Say I’m Throwing It All Away – A Midlife Crisis Perhaps?
So yes, you could say that I’m throwing away 15 years of a career and 7 years studying to be a fully qualified accountant. Or you could say that I’m choosing a path that will allow me to balance the things I want from life. Even if that means less money (and maybe no money to start with!).
I continue to be amused by the different reactions:
“I heard you were leaving a high-powered job in London, why would you do that?”
” You must really regret wasting the last 15 years”
“Why don’t you just get an accountancy job in Scotland?”
“You ‘re not going to make millions working for yourself, why try?”
“That will never work in (insert various locations).”
All of these comments have jarred with me and they have also been behind a few ‘wobbles’ re whether I’m sure it’s the right decision for me. Yep, I may have confidence in what I’m doing, but those negative voices have been hard to keep at bay as the date has loomed.
So for those asking those still asking questions, here’s why:
- I hate thinking of my job as high powered. But yes it is highly paid. It’s something I always feel awkward telling people about and shouldn’t as I’ve worked very hard for it. Why am I leaving? Because I value being happy more. I know myself better than I ever have and choose to live a better life. You want me to do that, don’t you?
- No. I don’t regret one moment of the last 15 years. I wouldn’t have experienced the travelling I’ve done or met so many amazing people. More importantly, I’ve learnt the skills that will stand me in good stead for setting up my own business (hey technically I already have!). I also know that the work I’ve done has made a real difference to people, whether that be those individuals I’ve worked with or latterly when I’ve had the chance to directly impact NHS services. Not many people have had those opportunities to do that. I’m proud of them.
- Why don’t I just get another accountancy job? Well, in short – don’t you know me by now? That would be the easy way out. Remember that I want to be happy – well again, shouldn’t I try?
- And no, I’m not going to make millions. Not because I can’t but because I don’t want to. I want to work less and live a better quality of life. A quality of life to me doesn’t mean expensive cars, holidays and ‘stuff’. Though I’m sure I’ll still have my personal goals around money, they’ll be based on the quality of life that I want to lead.
My Future – It’s Not All About The Money
If you’ve made it this far, you will truly be fed up hearing me talk about me! So thank you for sticking with me to the end. I’m nearly there, I promise!
As you know by now, I always share my current thoughts and this one is taking up a lot of brain space. As the wonderful Kevin from the StoryEdge would say – it’s good to write and in some way writing it all out helps reinforce why I’m making such large changes and why.
But this blog is also for you.
If you are that person who has worked hard to create a great career but still being unfulfilled. Don’t be disheartened. It’s not just you and you’ll work it out.
If you are someone who has made that leap to pursue a dream or different way of life – you have my admiration and best wishes for its success.
If you’ve always done what you wanted to from a young age – even more kudos to you! Well done for working it out – many of us still are working out what you have done in such a short time. Tips please ;0)
I guess what I’m trying to say is – choose the path that is right for you at this very moment. Don’t worry about getting it wrong or your desires and aspirations being different to others or being worried that you are just falling into line.
I’ll be raising a small glass to you all after tomorrow as I start this new adventure. Just a small one, though – it’s strict budget time!!