The day I realized my obsessive saving habits we're keeping me from living...


2014 was coming to a close. I was just over 7 years into my corporate finance career, making more money than I thought possible at age 29. I was well into the 6-figures, by no means a millionaire, but my financial advisor projected I'd have a $20M net worth when it came time to retire at age 65. 

In other words, my savings habits + compounding interest would be WAY more than enough to live on and eventually make me a millionaire! 

There was a time in my life, when this news would have felt like my ultimate DREAM come true. I mean, really, who doesn't want this kind of financial future? But for some reason, in 2014, this realization felt completely insignificant. Why? I'll get there.

First, let's back up to childhood....

I was a very fortunate child in a lot of ways; my parents provided me with endless opportunities to learn, grow, see the world, and do some pretty darn cool things. They encouraged me to save my money, which, for my teenage and college years, was not of interest for a girl who loved  Abercrombie t-shirts, Frappuccino's, Claire's accessories, and Seven jeans. I decided to spend money any day over saving it!

However, despite all of the opportunities that came my way, I, like every other human, developed certain beliefs around money: 

  • Making money was difficult
  • Even though I bought a lot of things, it never seemed like enough. Everyone else always had more.
  • Spending money was stressful - especially when it came to things like homes, cars, vacations or college
  • Life is much easier and enjoyable when you have A LOT of money
  • Money equaled safety

I ended up internalizing a version of "having 'A LOT' of money was a pre-requisite for happiness."

And I started making decisions, mostly subconsciously, around this belief.

For instance, when it came time for college, I left home with a dream of becoming a broadcast journalist. When it came time to declare a major, reality set in. If I wanted to do this, I would realistically have to work my butt off for very little money, and the likelihood of me becoming the next Katie Couric was highly unlikely. 

Instead, I transferred to the business school and declared my major as finance, so I could get a high paying job that would afford me the lifestyle I wanted. 

Then, my savings habits shifted once I started working (yes, at my high paying finance job.) 

Everything appeared to be more expensive. Vacations, cars, apartments, taxes, all of it! This was probably pretty common for a lot of new college grads. But then everything about life started becoming scary and overwhelming. What if I lost my job? What if I can't pay for my future children's college tuition? What if I can never afford a house? I'll end up in a hole and never meet a partner? And have nothing! What if, what if, what if??? I seemed to be clinging to societal norms as a way to console something inside of me that was yearning to come out. 

In an attempt to quiet the "what if's," I started stashing away money, in as large of chunks as possible for the next 8 years. 

Fast forward to 2014, you would think this $20M future would be a dream, make me feel happy, safe, abundant, fulfilled, peaceful, etc... and the "what if's" would have been long gone.

Au contraire. My savings were compounding, but so were my stress levels. I was stressed AF and my "what if's" seemed more powerful than ever.

I had just come back from a 3-week work trip to India, which btw, was amazing, but I was tired. Exhaustion was my normal. And then my boss sent me to NYC for another 3 weeks. More exhaustion, frustration, hatred for the work I was doing, and disrespect for too many of the people I worked with. 

I remember rolling my bag through the revolving door at the Marriott Time's Square Hotel at 11PM, complaining to an innocent bystander about how rough my day was. And then an internal voice hit me: 

"What the heck is going on?? You hate complaining. You hate that this is your reality everyday. You are turning into THAT girl who is miserable and does NOTHING about it, all because she's scared to leave financial security behind. And... you HATE the word HATE!!! Ahhhh!!! Something has to change. You're about to turn 30 and this is not how you want to start your new decade."

After the project ended in mid-December, I had a few heart-to-hearts with myself (and my therapist). We decided that I indeed needed to leave my job and I was growing the courage to make it happen right after the New Year. 

So I faced my fears and put in my notice on January 5, 2015, so afraid of the unknown, but simultaneously realizing that I had never felt more alive (not to mention, excited for the rest of my life)! I knew I was doing what I needed to do to start really living my life, the way I wanted it! 

In hindsight, what I find super interesting about this whole journey is biggest lesson it taught me:

It wasn't my obsessive savings habits and financial security that were keeping me at my job at all - that was just the excuse to keep me from facing my fears of uncertainty.

Money served as my life boat - it kept me afloat and safe from the sea of the unknown. And I knew, deep down, I so badly wanted to dive in and see where the unknown would take me! 

I'm forever grateful to have jumped in, despite the fear I felt, because swimming through the unknown has been the greatest gift I could ever ask for. It's connected me to my purpose, helped me to develop faith & confidence, and to learn to trust and love the people in my life more than ever before. There's no turning back <3. 

Contemplating quitting your job? Or maybe you've already quit and trying to figure out what's next? Please get in touch by clicking here <3 and we can work together to make sure your next move is the right one, for you! 

Liz TrainesComment