Campus Life, Current Affairs, Studying Medicine

The Passion Deception: It’s Not About The Money, Money, Money

With a seventeen-year-old in the house (my talented younger brother), the atmosphere alternates between hopeful idealism and gloom and doom for the future. It is hard to be on the cusp of making decisions about your life when you have the greatest desire to do something beautiful for the world, and no real experience with finances.

not about the money

The common refrain in our house (and others, I’m sure) has become, “But work isn’t just about money!” I remember saying those same words as I was planning my future; and I recognise them as true. Or at least, partially true.

But you see: work is about money.

Notice how I haven’t said that work is about earning a lot of money – but one cannot hope to make sustainable decisions about your life’s work without considering whatever income you may be looking at.

In contrast, many high school kids – and even career guidance counselors – are AVERSE to discussing the financial implications of a career choice: as if that dirties the entire exercise.

Quite the contrary: it can help direct you away from a potentially disastrous decision, or it can solidify your decision.

For example, if one wanted to be a teacher in South Africa (I use this because it is what I am knowledgeable about), it would be important to know that you will earn much less than you deserve for the hours and importance of work you put in. You would earn a lot more if you used that South African qualification to teach abroad (South African teachers are well-loved in South Korea and Taiwan, for example), but perhaps you don’t want to be part of the “brain drain”.

If one wanted to be a doctor, it would be important to know that you would have a good starting salary, but that the potential for a raise remains low until you specialise and/or enter private practice.

If one were to study accounting, it would be important to know that you will be in virtual slave labour during the years of your articles and boards.

This is not to say that this knowledge must turn one away from a decision: simply that it must PREPARE you. Still want to be a teacher? FANTASTIC! At least now you can say that it is an INFORMED decision.

Long into my third year of medical school, I was still convinced that I would spend my life volunteering. How would I eat? Where would I live? Oh, I didn’t know, things would fall in place, I was sure. But in my mind’s eye I still imagined my future home with a large fireplace and a personal library, and it took me a while to realise that these things were not easily compatible with a life of roughing it.

This year I traveled twice: to Zambia and to New York City. The trip to Zambia was financed completely by myself. For the first time, I bought my own plane tickets! Previously they had always been sponsored or paid by scholarships.

It was a wonderful feeling.

I could buy myself some nice running shoes. And I could buy books!!!! (Which is probably why I have so few books on my wishlist this year.)

I mean, the best things of my year were priceless, but it was so nice not having to ask parents or my boyfriend for things: I could get them myself. And I could also decide: I want it, I can afford it, but I’m not gonna get it.

So here is my advice for high schoolers, and anyone contemplating a career-change: recognise that money matters. Just admit it to yourself. You can decide how it matters, and to what extent, but understand that you cannot live on hopes and aspirations alone.

Research the income of your potential career, and research the costs related to the lifestyle you envision for yourself (kids or no kids? Nice car or economy car? Fancy house or apartment? New York City or somewhere more affordable?).

Via Good Housekeeping, click for link.

Also remember that if you end up taking out loans to go to college/university, you will need to start paying back those loans when you start working. Remember to add that as a future expense, too.

Then decide if they are compatible. And if they are not compatible, is there something you can do to make them so?

You don’t have to plan your life based entirely on finances.

But it would be unwise to disregard it entirely.

 * * *

Passion Deception Part 1: Why Passion is Not Enough

Passion Deception Part 2: Beyond What You “Like”


3 thoughts on “The Passion Deception: It’s Not About The Money, Money, Money”

  1. It is a lovely feeling to be able to purchase or decline a purchase at your own expense. You are more than correct regarding considering and accepting the reality of career choices and the fact that money matters-not that you must be a slave to the salary but informed decisions never hurt 🙂

  2. Yes yes yes and YES! In South Africa, of all places, you can see with your own eyes, every day, what happens to people without financial security; they live in shacks.

    You have to be able to afford food, rent (in a safe area), reliable transport and health insurance. Can’t do without any of those. On top of that, you have build up a nest egg for rainy days and retirement. If, after all these non-negotiables, you still want to do some enjoyable stuff like travelling, attending concerts and shows, sometimes owning something pretty and surrouding yourself with some beauty – you are going to need money.

    By all means one can’t choose a career that you absolutely hate just because it pays well, but one could try to find something that at least agrees with your natural talents and passions while providing a solid income.

    In any case, so often one finds that what may be a passion as a hobby looses its sparkle when done under the pressure of deadlines and office politics. Often a well paying job enables you to spend your free time, enencumbered, on what you really love.

    Like reading blogs at almost-midnight 😉

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