The Secret to Happiness: Value Time Over Money

Money. We need it to pay for our basis needs and all the other things we want. But can money buy happiness? It can’t, at least according to a recent survey of 4600 participants.

New research that was collected over a year and a half and published by the Society of Personality and Social Psychology suggests valuing your time rather than pursuing money may be linked to greater happiness.

Time is highly valuable, yet hard to put a figure on. Adults who are employed full time work on average 47 hours per week, according to Gallup. That’s an hour and a half more than a decade ago. Americans also tended to take fewer vacation days than their international peers, according to a 2014 Expedia.com survey.

In fact, American’s work more hours than anyone in the industrialized world. And we take less vacation, work longer days and retire later.Like any American child who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I was told that America was the best country in the world. I just accepted that. Sure, Europe had some really exciting history and culture, and other countries had some beautiful untouched landscapes, but America was far and beyond the best place to live. I won the lottery in terms of being born in the land of the free and home of the brave. I lived in the greatest place on earth, likely during the greatest time on earth. How lucky I was!

Many economics and futurists had dreamed up a world when, filled with wealth and technology, we wouldn’t have to work so much. Meanwhile, some studies claim the typical modern workday should start around 7am and end at 7pm — a 12 hour workday.

Of course, these are American companies — Sweden, on the other hand, just introduced the concept of a 6 hour workday.We’ve become such a work-focused culture that we leave little time to actually live our lives. For those earning minimum wage, this isn’t at all a choice. In many parts of the country, it’s necessary to work an 86-Hour work week to afford basic rent for a one-bedroom apartment. And for those earning higher salaries, working less hours means risking those jobs. Workers are expected to be on call at all times, many cases including weekends, holidays and evenings, and have golden handcuffs where they’re worked to poor health in order to maintain their jobs and support their families.

What if we were able to opt for time as part of pay, and this was acceptable. To ask for three months off a year as part of a compensation package, to be spread across the year, to be able to experience life — to take three-week vacations to see the world — to spend time with our families and loved ones before it’s too late. What if we were able to negotiate time just as we negotiate money, and not be seen as lazy or a poor worker. If time has a dollar value, what would that be?

How Much Did I Spend on Beauty in 2015?

Inspired by last week’s Wall Street Journal article “The High Price of Beauty: 4 Women Reveal Their Annual Costs,” I wanted to add up my 2015 so-called beauty costs to see if I’m as ridiculous as these women who spend around $20k average of their looks every year (and that isn’t even counting clothing!)

Even though that amount sounds crazy, beauty-related costs do add up. Some of them can be avoided (no one “needs” to visit an expensive salon to have their hair done every month), but some are just part of what it costs to be a woman with a successful career. As the resident hot mess who tries to play dress up as an executive, I feel at this stage of my life/career/et al, I should be investing more in looking the part. For better or worse I look rather young for my age, which means less respect from anyone who is older – or younger – but more hope that I’ll age gracefully. There’s that.

The women interviewed in the WSJ are certainly well enough to do that these expenses are just part of their lives. They’re all New York City women, and NY is an expensive place to fit in. Ranging from mid 30s to late 40s, these women shell out hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for facial treatments, intravenous vitamin therapy, regular blow drys, yoga, hair styles, skin-friendly juices, serums, energy healing (not sure how this is beauty related, but it’s in their calculations) — and for each of them the total annual cost ranges from $10k – $20k. That’s a lot of ca-ching for something so superficial (sans the yoga and health club memberships, which I don’t think should count towards “beauty” but whatever, to be fair I’ll include my health stuff as well so the numbers match up.)

My 2015 Beauty Costs ($5,672)

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$6000 a year is too much to spend on beauty, but at least it’s not $20,000. My total amount is a little wonky as I’m including these diet bets I’m doing – where I’m betting on my weight loss, and theoretically a chunk of that can be earned back if I drop 20lbs in the next 4 months, so that isn’t real spending. It also includes the second payment for my braces, and about $212 spent on personal training towards the end of the year.

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Really, my worst spending comes in the form of food and shopping (I put makeup into the ‘personal care’ category. I’m going to whip up another post on my 2015 spending because I’m ashamed of it, and maybe that shame will make me not spend as much this year (spoiler: my annual spending was ~ $50k last year.)

Who Reads this Blog?

On May 29, 2007, I wrote my first entry on HerEveryCentCounts — I titled it “Diversification?” I had about $27k in networth (before the recession of 2008, when it went down significantly) and my income was $35,000 a year (which, incredibly, is less than I make in three months today.)

It was in 2007 when I opened my first retirement account – a Roth IRA and a mid-cap Vanguard fund. My job didn’t offer a 401k, so I was limited to $5000 a year in retirement investment. I knew nothing about investing and finance – I just read another 20-something women’s blog about her investing a small inheritance, and suddenly felt inspired to sort out my future. I was spending 50% of my income on a studio apartment that cost $905 a month (the same apartment now costs over $1600 – that’s how much rent has gone up here in the last 9 years.) I was 23 years old.

Admittedly, this blog has gone months without any content, followed by weeks where I’ll post three or more times a week. I never intended this to be a regular publication — I started writing because I wanted to hold myself accountable for my future. And, since I didn’t have a lot of money for financial advice, I figured some folks out there on the internet would tell me if I was completely messing it up.

Nearly nine years since starting this blog, it seems to get some fairly regular visitors. I don’t get a lot of comments — and I’m not sure if that’s because my comment system is broken or if what I write isn’t the ideal content to start a conversation. By far, my most popular posts are the ones I wrote about getting a DUI. That was the lowest point of my life, but financially probably the most interesting from a blogging perspective. I still get tons of traffic to my DUI posts, which rank very highly on random search terms like “dui depression” and “how to get your life back after a DUI.”

What’s been most rewarding, though, has been the number of people who have commented or emailed me about their DUI stories. There are lots of intelligent and otherwise law-abiding people who made a mistake and are struggling with deep depression after getting arrested for driving under the influence. Many tell me that my story has made them be able to get through the darkest time in their lives. Although I didn’t expect that to be the result of my blogging about my DUI (which was now four years ago), and I get my fair share of hate mail from people who were injured in drunk driving accidents or knew someone who was hurt in one, I do feel good when I receive comments from strangers letting me know how I’ve helped them. Helping people is the only thing in this world the makes me feel happy, so this has been a strange positive side effect of dealing with my own mistakes.

The rest of this blog is typically me just cycling through the same series of complaints, so I’m not sure how entertaining it is, or how many people out there are repeat readers. I’m sure there are plenty of anonymous readers who occasionally find their way back here. I’m curious, if you read this blog, how long have you been reading it? How did you find me? Do any posts from the past nine years stand out in your mind? Would you like me to write about anything else?

If you read this blog, please leave a comment here – and if you’re having trouble leaving a comment, email me at hereverycentcounts@gmail.com. Looking forward to hearing from you and learning more about my readers!

 

 

What’s Making Successful American Women Feel Sick?

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Lean In. You can have it all. We’ve come so far in our society to tell ourselves this lie. Yet according to a new survey of super-successful women at Fortune 500 companies, women who are wealthy and highly educated reported to feel less healthy than those who were less successful. Despite the fact that these women were actually less likely to be overweight  and more likely to get six hours of sleep a night, they seem to judge themselves against an unattainable ideal, which makes them feel less healthy.

The Title of the Harvard Business Review Article “The More Women Earn, The Less Healthy They Feel.” It’s not that these women are actually unhealthy, just that they fail to find time to dedicate to their health, especially when it comes to finding time to see a doctor – 48% said they could not see a doctor due to workload. And women who are in high-powered roles find it challenging to find time to exercise – 25% had not participated in any kind of physical exercise in the last month.

As I’ve moved up in the work world to have more responsibility, I find it much more challenging to make time for health. I’ve never been a healthy person, so I’m not the ideal sample, but to perform my job well I should wake up at 6am or earlier and be on a 7:30 train to arrive at work, stay at work until 7 and – I should – attend after work networking events, to return home late in the evening. This is overwhelming to me and I don’t even have children or other responsibilities. I’m trying now to get exercise in by having a personal trainer come to my apartment at 6am three days a week, to make me work out for an hour. But that doesn’t work well when I’m falling asleep at midnight and I need eight hours of sleep a night to function. And my diet, albeit an improvement over what I ate in my 20s, is still hit or miss. Sometimes I’ll go to bed having not eaten enough calories for the day which leads to binge eating the next day. It’s a horrible cycle.

I would assume this is just as hard for men, so the study of women only is an interesting one. There are other reports which show that men often do less housework, especially which children, so women are often more busy due to managing both household responsibilities and work. That may be why this study about women’s health is worth an HBR article.

The other thing that isn’t mentioned, however, is that women generally have more medical concerns than men, and more medical visits required just to maintain their health. I don’t have any idea how a woman finds time to see a doctor over any fertility issues – though I guess I may have to figure that out over the next year or so. As a female executive, I think there is a larger fear that every moment out of the office, every doctor’s appointment, every hour not focused on the job, will be a huge ding against one’s record. Men don’t have to worry about that (typically.) And when the majority of senior leaders in a company are men, such topics don’t come up until you have to have awkward conversations — “I’m trying to get pregnant but I can’t get pregnant so I need to take some time to go to a doctor a few times every month.” Who wants to have that conversation with their boss?

But, beyond this, it’s sad that women in leadership roles feel so unhealthy. What is wealth and success if we don’t have our health?

 

 

Panic is My Default Mode: Life with Anxiety

Logically, I know 99% of my anxiety is completely unnecessary. But in 32 years of walking this earth, it’s just gotten worse. This crippling sense of constant panic keeps me from finishing projects and achieving sustainable success. I’m very concerned I will again let panic get the best of me and given time I will lose my job. I know I have a lot to contribute, and my contributions are valued, but the constant panic loop in my mind plays on and on and on…

You’re not doing it right.

You’re not doing it fast enough.

This is the best you can do and that’s not good enough.

You’re a fake.

You’re not going to be found out – you’ve already been found out. It’s too late.

Why do you bother trying? You’re just stupid. Stupid and not equipped to do this job.

It’s 6pm again? How’d it get to be 6pm? Where did the day go? Why am I so tired? Why am I looking at a long list of to-dos with everything 21% completed and nothing close to being done? Why can’t I just FINISH things?

… I’m feeling rather down right now. More, beaten down and hopeless by this redundant plot line. At 32, I should be able to do this better. I should be able to get my hair nice and straight in the morning so it doesn’t look like a gnarly broom with fringes poking out in all directions. I should be able to wear clothes that make me look professional and confident, not like a hot mess. I should be able to find shoes that are comfortable that I can wear to work that aren’t embarrassingly clunky and flat. I should be able to handle all this. I’m making the big bucks now and I have to be great. I’m far from it. I feel my world falling down around me yet again.

And, I know, so many of you told me – don’t take the small company job – take the bigger company job where there will be more support. Maybe you’re right. But, honestly, that isn’t the issue. I’d have the same challenges at the bigger company – in any leadership role. In any role where I don’t have someone constantly guiding me and telling me that I’m doing an ok job. It’s my upbringing by narcissistic parents. It’s giving in so quickly to this track of self-defeat no matter how hard I try to scream quietly to her to just shut up so I can get my work done in peace.

I want this to work. I really, really do. It has to. I can’t fail. I’m not afraid of failure or ashamed of it, but this time, I have to be great. Or, at least really good. I put so much pressure on myself and I don’t come close to achieving my goals. This is a job. A tried-and-true adult job. This isn’t a passion. This is work. This is work that I have to do and do well and I want to do well and I even want to do well because I like the people I work with and I want them to do well. Still, I’m nose diving and ready to soon go splat.

And who do you talk to about this – at 32? Who do you say, help me, I’m hopeless, I’ve managed to trick the world into thinking I can do something and maybe I can do some of it but really I can’t keep up. I can hire a therapist – I spend so much money on therapy and where has it gotten me? Alive, maybe. I’d probably still be alive. I’m not actually suicidal. I’m too scared of death. But it’s gotten me – an apartment, and a fiance, and perhaps the ability to stand up again when I fall. It’s a psychological loop as well. It doesn’t get me anywhere. It feels like a waste of money. I know I need help, but having someone talk me out of my head and shock some reality into it is only helpful as far as I believe it. And I can’t pay anyone any amount of money to make me believe it.

Here I am, staring down at the next five years of my life which may include having children – children(!) – who I will be responsible for and who I want more than anything and I’m so terrified to bring anyone into the world when I can’t even handle taking care of myself. Yea, sure, I’ve managed to save $350,000 in the last 10 years. That’s my one and only life accomplishment – one that I can’t even talk about with anyone, except for on this blog, because I’m as proud as I am ashamed of having accumulated a modest amount of wealth for my age, and horrified that $350k is nothing when it comes to being able to afford the life I want without having to work in this field until I’m old and grey.

I want to work. I like working. I like making and creating and doing. I like the feeling of getting things done. I don’t want to be a lazy ass and sit around and stare at a wall all day. But this anxiety is just unstoppable. I fear that it won’t be long until it gets me into trouble at this job. My fiancé won’t let me say the “f” word (fired) and he’s right, there’s no use in talking about how I’m going to get fired when I’ve only been employed for less than two months. I just want to make this work so badly. But I don’t know how to. I feel like no matter what I do, my panic will see to it I crumble yet again.