Why our health and well-being can be more important than a pay cheque

Building a financial safety net can give you peace of mind and freedom to decide if you want to stay in a stressful job

Serious group of businesspeople having problems at work. (iStockphoto.com)
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This week we marked World Mental Health Day. Recently, there has been a focus on mental health and job dissatisfaction. Money is inherently stitched into the seams of those conversations. We work to earn money. And, because of that, we sometimes stay in jobs that make us unhappy because we need the money.

Money is the number one cause of stress worldwide. How many decisions do you make every day that are not influenced by money? I think you’ll find it’s few.

Have you ever stayed in a job that made you unhappy because you felt you needed the money or feared you wouldn’t get the same package elsewhere?

At what point does your mental health become more important than your financial health? The two can be very interlinked.

When we leave jobs, we almost always refer to it as quitting. But is it quitting or is it the opposite? Isn’t staying in a toxic job akin to quitting on yourself and your mental well-being?

Surely quitting your job is choosing you, your self-worth and your mental and often physical health. But, of course, it’s not that simple. What about the money?

I stayed too long in a company that, in hindsight, I should have quit years earlier. Most of my colleagues were good people; people who I admired. I made lifelong friends who I am very grateful for. I was promoted regularly and was more senior and had more responsibility than I’d ever envisaged by that age. I was pushed outside my comfort zone and learnt many life skills that will help me forever. And the salary was beyond what I ever dared to dream.

But the toxicity came from the demands of the job. The directive from HQ to meet deadlines, no excuses. Evenings, nights, weekends, they all belonged to the company. I recall being six months' pregnant and working until past 2am so I could meet my deadlines. The pressure to deliver and perform was suffocating.

The salary may not be the same in your next role but what is more important: your paycheque or your mental health?
Carol Glynn

Yet I stayed. I reflect on that time now and wonder what I was thinking. Yes, it was a distorted sense of responsibility and an unhealthy work ethic, but it was also about money. It was the highest paid job I’d ever had. This was an amazing career opportunity for me. I felt unworthy of it and unconsciously felt the need to prove my worth. I could not let my guard down for any reason. I was toxic to myself.

The stress and long hours took their toll on my life in many ways but, thankfully, not on my pregnancies. My babies were born healthy and I was physically OK. Mentally, however, I am still dealing with the aftermath.

No salary or career is worth that. I didn’t have the drive to be rich, it was about financial security. I had a scarcity mindset and lived in fear of my ability to earn disappearing. How could I walk away from a company where I was so well paid and being promoted regularly? I would fight to protect it, no matter what the cost. And the cost was high.

In hindsight, I could have walked away from that company. There would be other jobs. I know that now.

But I kept telling myself it would get better. I convinced myself this was normal and I would be OK. But I was in denial. I wasn’t putting myself first, I wasn’t putting my money behind my values and I was sinking deeper and deeper into a depression that no amount of money or career success was going to get me out of. It was years after I finally left that all of this became obvious to me.

I am not advocating you should stand up and quit your job. Take time to figure out your next step. This is one of the many reasons to manage your money consciously and have an emergency fund in place. It can give you the sense of freedom to leave jobs.

If you are in a toxic workplace, my advice would be to accept that your current role is not for you and that is OK. No shame. Take what positives you can from it, learn from it and then put your energy into finding something better.

Start saving so that you have three to six months of living costs as a safety net. The salary may not be the same in your next role but what is more important: your pay cheque or your mental health?

Carol Glynn is the founder of Conscious Finance Coaching

Updated: October 15, 2021, 4:00 AM