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March 06, 2007

How Much Do We Sacrifice For More Income?

Update: My apologies to Tom Collins of More Partner Income as I worded this comment on his illness in a way that gave the impression I drew a correlation between his failing to get necessary procedures at the expense of chasing false gods.  However, my goal was to use his original post as a springboard for the larger discussion of what do we neglect, like health, family and more, in the pursuit of things that ultimately mean very little in the end.  While this conversation may not pertain to him, as he responds in a recent post, it is very relevant to those who can and/or have lost sight of their priorities. 

Is health the price we pay for More Partner Income?  In this sobering, reflective and honest post by Tom Collins of the blog "More Partner Income," he makes this entry entitled "Lawyers Can Get Sick, Too":

"It is March 6th and I'm on my way into the operating room at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. These folks are the experts when it comes to colon rectal surgery and Dr. Ian Lavery is going to try today to put me back together after cancer surgery in 2004 rerouted my plumbing. Here is a warning for those of you addicted to work. Don't neglect your own health. Don't skip annual physicals. And whatever you do, don't forgo those periodic tests that none of us like. More Partner Income isn't worth much if you aren’t around to enjoy the wealth it helped you accumulate.   If you have ever had one, you know that preparing for a colonoscopy test isn’t much fun.  So I skipped them.  That cost me a lot and almost cost me my life.  In fact, my original surgeon thought it had.  The diagnosis was stage four colon cancer and his prognosis was that I would not be around to write this blog entry. "

Life is about perspective.  While Tom writes about not taking necessary tests, what else do we sacrifice along the way in pursuit of the almighty dollar?

Whether I was wise or lazy, I don't know, but I've never chased the golden calf.  My husband and I did something unheard of in the land of 'keeping up with the Jones'.  When we got married we made a conscious decision to create a lifestyle off of one income.  Since his was stable, not mega-millions, but stable, we chose his income so that if one of us ever became disabled (which he could very easily given he is one of our country's heros, a firefighter) we didn't want to have our lifestyle jeopardized.  One of us would always be able to support our chosen lifestyle. It also freed us up to enjoy life on our terms.

Are there choices?  Of course. We don't trade in our car every three years.  We didn't renovate every room in our house the minute we bought it because we didn't want the stress of feeding the debt monster each month. We do it as we have the cash to do it. (How 1950's is that!) We stuck to our guns while those around us built bigger, better, more expensive....borrowed for all the newest and best toys. 

But unlike them, we actually get to raise our child when others just keeping working harder and longer to accumulate "stuff" rather than raise their kids (you know what I'm talking about, 'the trophy kids' who wouldn't know their parents if they fell over them because of the parade of international au pairs coming through their lives.) Now, there are many who have to utilize day care because they have to work to keep a roof over their heads and they are very fortunate they have that option and their kids are happy and well-adjusted. I'm not talking about these families.

So when I read about Tom Collins who neglected his health while chasing more partner income, it struck a chord. How many of us are neglecting our health, our families, our emotional well-being, our dreams while chasing 'more money' to buy or have 'things' that truly don't matter in the end it?

My home needs a face lift.  My wardrobe is circa 1998, but on a Wednesday if my husband says 'let's go to the Aquarium' or I get the itch to hop on a plane to see my parents in Florida, there is nothing that stops us.  A new bathroom can wait. Time with my family cannot.  It's all about choices. Someone once said, "I can afford anything.  I just can't afford everything.' Choices.

My thoughts and good wishes go out to you, Tom, and I'll watch for the blog post telling us of your speedy recovery and how you continue to use your life-altering experience to encourage others to review their priorities.


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Erik Mazzone

Great post, Susan!

My wife and I are both lawyers, and have organized our financial lives so that we can live off 1 income. It means older cars and less house than we could "afford", but it also made it possible for me to walk away from my job as managing partner of a divorce law firm to open my own solo business coaching lawyers on work/life balance.

It's not just health we sacrifice for money; it's autonomy and freedom, too.

Great blog!

Sandy Slaga

Thank you for this post, Susan!

Seven years ago I left the small firm I was with for health and personal reasons. I was able to care for my late dad during the last nineteen months of his life. I then chose to remain at home with my two school-age children. They are now a senior and junior in high school.

My husband and I have had to make the corresponding adjustments with houses, cars and toys, as you say. But for me, and for our family, it was the right choice. And I'd do it all over again.


My two year old daughter gave me a big hug this morning and said, "I love you, Mommy. You're my best friend."

And that feeling that I had when I heard it? It, more or less, sums up why I don't practice in a big firm anymore. My husband and I both practiced in bigger Center City (he for two top AmLaw firms at one time or another) when we got out of law school. We both quit (!) seven years ago to start our own firm. We wanted our lives back.

Now, three happy children and one goofy dog later, we don't have a huge house or a fancy car. But we have things that are much more valuable: a little sanity (as much as one can have with three children), control over our own lives, great friends with whom we can actually socialize instead of promising to "some day" and time to spend with our children.

Great post.

Lawyer Mama

"Now, there are many who have to utilize day care because they have to work to keep a roof over their heads and they are very fortunate they have that option and their kids are happy and well-adjusted. I'm not talking about these families."

But what about families who *choose* to have 2 working parents? Are we bad parents? Have we lost perspective? I work, not to put a roof over our heads or in pursuit of more "stuff," but because I love what I do and I'm a better person because I do it. Funnily enough, my children are just as well adjusted as those of the families who *have* to use daycare.

I don't work 60 hours a week. I left a big firm and a big city for a smaller one and more balance. It works well for us. Neglecting your health and your family in pursuit of money is a huge loss of perspective. But not everyone who chooses to work has lost perspective. Perhaps I've taken this post out of context in some way, but I would never criticize the choice of someone who has chosen to stay home with their children, so I'm disappointed when people feel free to criticize mine.

Susan Cartier Liebel

It's inevitable in any blog post which is subjective that it can be misread. If I have inadvertently offended some parents who enjoy working and utilize day care and who's children are happy and well-adjusted then I apologize. My intention was to point out those parents who have in fact lost perspective, not those who have perspective, priorities and are multi-talented, loving parents. And the only reason I did point it out was in the larger context of how people can lose sight of the 'priceless' gifts in life in pursuit of those things with a price tag.

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