Why it’s important to have a purpose in life beyond the next pay cheque

Many people cannot live a life in accordance with their values because of a shortage of financial resources

A few years ago, I was an Uber driver in Nashville, Tennessee. As a side hustle, I quite liked the job. I got to learn the city, there were no essays to grade and when I was done, I didn’t have to think about the job, unlike teaching where you’re never really done.

Another thing I liked was meeting different people and learning a bit about them. Sometimes, though, people got in my car that worried me. They would look a little haunted, gaunt and soulless. No, they weren’t ghosts. They were alive, but they were suffering.

They were suffering because they had high-paying but soul-destroying jobs. I would pick them up from very fancy houses and during the course of our journey, they would tell me about the moral sacrifices they had to make every day at work.

One was a public relations expert helping politicians with votes. Another was a lawyer who often used shady and unethical means to help clients. The list could go on, but that was the general pattern.

Jobs might pay great, but often that money comes at the expense of your conscience. And our sense of morality doesn’t just go away, it’s always there, niggling and poking at you.

I think they stayed in such jobs because they could never determine what “enough” was. Even if they made Dh1 million ($272,000) a year, they always had increasing expenses, which made them feel trapped in these jobs.

Two years ago, I was on Dubai Eye talking about personal finances. The channel had the results of an audience survey, which polled users on what they would do if they didn’t need to work for a pay cheque. The results shocked me.

When I feel abundant, when I know I’m hitting my financial targets, that I don’t need the next pay cheque or even the next 12, I feel more generous
Zach Holz

I expected a lot of people to say they would lie on the beach and laze around. To be fair, there were a couple of people who said that.

But what was shocking was that the vast majority, about 90 per cent, said they would work a job to give back to others, help the planet and do good in the world. They were aching for a job that gave them a positive purpose.

This sounded very promising to me. But it was also sad because people felt their need for survival prevented them from giving back. Again, these people didn’t feel like they had “enough” to be kind and philanthropic in their daily lives.

This issue of having “enough” ran through both these incidents. For far too many people, what prevents them from living a life in accordance with their values is the daily compromises their work imposes on them. They do this because they feel a shortage of financial resources.

I understand, I really do. When I feel abundant, when I know I’m hitting my financial targets, that I don’t need the next pay cheque or even the next 12, I feel more generous. I give more to charity and to others in my circle who need it. I don’t have to take moral shortcuts to get ahead because I’m already ahead.

I can do it because I have thought deeply about what I need to be happy and realised that it’s not expensive stuff.

I can do it because I know how much money I need per month, because I track my spending and saving and that data gives me confidence.

I can do it because I’ve been disciplined with my investing over the past five years and have enough to live on for a while, even if my job ends or starts asking me to do things that go against my set of morals.

I can do it because I know what is enough for me, and I know I have it.

That is what I want for everyone. I want you to know what “enough” is for you and how to get there in an ethical manner.

I want you to have enough so you can give to the people and causes you care about, to have that purpose in your life beyond the next pay cheque.

I don’t want you to have the haunted eyes of my rich Uber passengers. I want you to thrive and help the world do so as well.

Schoolteacher Zach Holz (@HappiestTeach) documents his journey towards financial independence on his personal finance blog The Happiest Teacher

Updated: July 16th 2021, 4:00 AM