Thursday, December 17, 2009

#28 Cold Hard Cash

December 17th 2009

Cold Hard Cash

It’s interesting what many of us think we would do for cold hard cash. Cash seems to make so many of our problems go away. We imagine how much bigger our house would be, what kind of car we would drive, and the new clothes we would wear. However, I think that many of us overestimate just exactly what we would do for cold hard cash.

I was faced with this situation very early on in my career, my first real job in fact. I was lucky to get a job at the time and the first job I did get was working as a junior trader for one of the big equity traders at an investment bank in Los Angeles. I had never wanted to work in finance before, but trading seemed like an exciting and adrenalin filled world. Oh how wrong I was. Now don’t get me wrong. There are numerous types of trading that are adrenalin filled, just not the kind I was doing. We traded on behalf of large fund managers, so basically all we did was execute the trades, which came to us in the quantities of hundreds of thousands, and took commission off the back of that.

I had to be at the office at 2:30 AM everyday as we were trading on New York hours. Looking around the office, it was difficult not to notice that I was one of 2 females and the youngest by a few years. It was an opportunity that many would give a lot for. A good 80% of the guys had been there their entire careers and were now in the 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s. They took home anywhere from $1m to $3m upwards each year in salary and while those are no hedge fund numbers, that is still serious cash. The more junior guys in the office still did well and made well into the 6 figures. I knew at 22 that by 30 I would be in a position where I could be making millions each year. Maybe because I was so young, the figures didn’t seem real. But I also knew that I would be trading in my 20’s for money. Also, my 30’s and part of my 40’s. That was when I first discovered that I am not that motivated just by cold hard cash.

It’s an interesting discovery as I had always thought I was money motivated and do think I am to a certain extent. But there I was, 6 months into a job that I hated, working hours that gave me zits for the first time in my life and I was miserable. My roommate was coming in from a night out as I was leaving for work. I remember making the decision based on the weight of my unhappiness and knowing that no amount of money was worth it. I was 22, the world was supposed to be my oyster, I would figure out other ways to make money and I did.
I remember telling my parents, who were not happy. There were very proud that I had got a good job with the prospects of a successful career and they felt that 6 months was not enough time for me to make a decision. But sometimes you know you are right and that is it. I thought, how many more months do I have to be unhappy to know that I am unhappy? Turned out, 0 more months. But the reason I bring this up is that I don’t know many people who would trade in their happiness, sanity and the most precious thing of all; their health for money. (Did I mention I had taken to crying at the drop of a hat?) Many people may think they would, but that is just their greed talking. Of course, many people do trade these things in every day for money, but to what is extent? I always remain very grateful I got to experience that very early on in my career as it forced me to learn that there is a lot I won’t do for money. I want the cold hard cash to be the by product, not the main gig.

Perhaps I think this way because I have always lived in relative comfort but I don’t think so. I was told from a young age that I could do anything I wanted if I put my mind to it and even with 30 knocking at the door, I still truly believe that. That is why I don’t think, even if I grew up impoverished, that I would sacrifice all that is important to me for money. Somehow cold hard cash is just not enough.


  1. Nice post CM

    I would like to agree with you but there are plenty of people out there who will do pretty much anything for money... I know plenty of people who are doing a job they hate and will continue to do so for another 30 years just because it "pays the bills". Its like a slow, constant beat-down and sooner or later they just believe that its "normal" to do a job that you don't enjoy, especially when a little family comes along and the financial responsiblities get bigger.

    I am of the impression that it comes down to a matter of how people view money. If they are lucky enough to know that Health is the number one factor and money "comes and goes", thats great but if they have never had money and believe it to be EVERYTHING, then they will do anything to gain it.

  2. mmmmm interesting post but in the real world lots of people have to do jobs that they do not like as they have to survive keeping a roof over their heads, paying bills and food!!! Any thing left over is a bonus but in reality this does not happen even more so as we are in the worst recession in memory!! But there are one or two people in this world that do not have the above problems as they have been born into a certain life style which to the un trainned eye seems to be a wonderful thing so they get to play house or career person then they have the luxury of
    saying no to a certain way of life. Please do not think that I am bitter or jealous in any way as I would not change any thing in my life for as I am concerned I am the wealthiest and healthiest person on this planet.

  3. hi corre

    i think that the last paragraph is the most important - if you spend time in impoverished, developing countries, people really will do absoltely anyhting for money as there is just no alternative. i think the point is that you had the choice whether or not to do it, which is, as you say, fortunate. glad you got out of it!

    sarah xxx