The term “golden handcuffs” typically means some lucrative financial incentive to keep an executive or manager from leaving a company. Financial compensation is arranged in such a way to “handcuff” them to their particular job or company. I want to expand this idea to anyone who has a traditional job. Whether we like to admit it or not, most people in traditional jobs are also locked tight by the golden handcuffs. We have, by our own behavior, handcuffed ourselves to our jobs.
In my experience the #1 reason why people just don’t leave the jobs they are fed up with, is due to the fact that they believe they simply cannot survive, or are not willing to pay the price, to be without their job for any length of time. It is a frightening thing for long-time prisoner to be let loose from his cell. The pressure of responsibility feels like it is going to crush him.
The main underlying cause for this problem is that most of us are simply living at, nearly at, or often even above our means. I exclude those who through no fault of their own can barely feed themselves, but I suspect there are very few people in that category reading this blog.
When someone at a buffet line piles their plate with more food than they can eat, we say “their eyes were bigger than their stomach”. We could also say that most people’s eyes are bigger than their paycheck. We go into debt to buy homes, cars, clothes, electronics, and all sorts of other stuff that we do not need to live well or to be happy. We get used to living at our means and buying all kinds of material things. We do not need these large homes, expensive cars, electronic toys, closets full of clothes, or the myriad of other things we get used to living with.
What we are doing is guaranteeing that we will be locked to the rat race by the golden handcuffs for many years to come. Traditional retirement plans, restricted stock options, vesting of savings plans, health insurance and many other benefits provided to employees by many companies lock the golden cuffs even tighter.
Locking yourself into your job is very easy to do. Almost everyone does it. It often occurs gradually. You get married and buy a big house. You have kids and the mother might choose to stay home to raise them. You need to save for your children’s college funds, your family needs insurance, private schools, the best clothes, all the activities, etc. Without even realizing it you have locked yourself into the rat race of your job with a massive pair of golden handcuffs.
If you want freedom from the rat race, you need to think very carefully about how you live. The freedom you lose by snapping on the cuffs may seem insignificant and worth it when that sexy new car is calling your name, but that sexiness will wear off just as fast as the satisfaction with your job.
Beware of the golden handcuffs. They sure look good at first, but they lock tight and are very difficult to remove.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.
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