Career Choices: $297,490 a year Salary?

I missed my flight to Hawaii and checked into the closest hotel to the LA airport. It wasn't intentional and kind of just bad luck. In retrospect I could have woken up at 5am to take an even earlier flight, or skipped my trip to Las Vegas all together. But part of what I love about being a location independent Entrepreneur is the freedom of choice we have. Being a successful digital nomad gives you the financial freedom to fix issues as they happen. So even though I'd much rather that Southwest didn't have a flight delay which caused me to miss my connection, it's okay because everything happens for a reason and it if wasn't for being stranded at LAX for a night, I never would have met Simon, a Director for Deloitte & Touche that makes over $300,000 a year after benefits.

If I had met this guy a few years ago, I would have been shocked and amazed that anyone could make over a quarter million dollars a year. I would have been envious and jealous that he got to fly business class everywhere, and stay in $200 a night hotel rooms. But after sitting in a hot tub with him for the past couple of hours comparing lives, it really opened my eyes on what the "ideal career" choice really is. Here is the inside scoop on what it's like to make $297,490 a year and how it compares to being location independent.

Traveling for Business

So even though I'm technically traveling for business as I'm headed to the dropshipping retreat in Hawaii, it's really my choice whether or not I go or not. When I worked for a corporation, I was sent places like St. Paul, Minnesota in the middle of the winter as it was the headquarters of Honeywell, the company I worked for after graduating college. I was super excited to have access to a corporate credit card which I could expense my meals with, and being able to travel and see new places. I still remember the free cookie I got when checking in the Double Tree Hotel and thinking, "wow, I can't believe all of this is free!"

The problem is, when you have to travel for business, it sucks. Running into people in the elevator and speaking to Simon, they are often waking up at 5:30am to catch a flight just to sit in a meeting all day, and only to get back to their hotel room at 9pm. The next day, they do the same thing in a different city, and in Simon's case, he does it every week, Monday - Friday. The biggest problem with traveling for business is the fact that you almost never get to actually relax, enjoy the destination and sightsee. Every single person I've ever spoken to who has done it for more than a few months ends up hating it after the initial novelty wears off.

Here's a video that I filmed while at the airport Sheraton Hotel in LAX explaining why I missed my flight and why I opted to spend $200 out of pocket to stay at a 4 star hotel.

But the Money is Great

Even though it's awesome being able to buy your way out of problems like what happened above, being in a job just for the money is a dangerous thing. A lot of you may still be thinking, you'd still like to climb the corporate ladder and become a director of a big company like Deloitte and make the big bucks. Honestly, while sitting in the hot tub with Simon, I briefly thought the same. His job actually sounds super fun as I love marketing and love cars, which is what he does as a consultant for big brands like Toyota, Nissan and Saab.  He makes way more money than I do, and if you factor in all of the benefits he gets, his total pay is well over $300,000 a year.

As someone who thought anything over six figures was amazing, by him having over 3X that amount I was envious! I asked him what car he drove (a brand new Mercedes SUV), what hobbies he has (a lot of expensive ones) and if he owned a house (he does and it's a big one).

But then digging a bit more, I realized that even though he makes over six times what would be considered a decent salary, it's not enough, its never enough. He's still paying a mortgage every month and doesn't actually own his home yet. His car is leased, and when asking him about investments and savings, it's barely there aside from what his company gives him.

What really shocked me is when I found out that not only does it take a million dollars to become a partner with Deloitte but the fact that everyone takes out personal loans to cover it. Even though the potential earnings during good years are enough to pay them off relatively quickly, it's also insane to me that even people making $400,000 a year are in debt. So if you're just out of college or still making less than six figures realize that making more money won't necessarily make you any more wealthy.

If these starting salaries look good, $300,000 should be amazing right?

What is Wealth?

So if making $300,000 isn't enough, what the heck is? The scary truth is that it's never enough. It's a fact that people will always spend more as they make more. When you're making $50,000 a year you might be content driving a $20,000 car and living in a $400,000 house, but as soon as you start making six figures, you'll naturally want to drive a nicer car and live in a bigger house.

You'll use you excellent credit line to obtain it and forever be chasing the next big thing. But what's the cost and is that really wealth?

According to Investopedia Wealth is determined by taking the total market value of all physical and intangible assets owned, then subtracting all debts. This means that even though he has a big house, nice car, and even a bit of money in the bank, if you subtract his liabilities including his mortgage, he's not actually very wealthy at all, he and most people in the world just look it. If you don't believe me or want to know more, just read The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets to America's Wealthy.  


Location and Time Freedom

The conversation so far actually didn't make me think concretely if his job was great or horrible as a lot of people could argue that it still sounds good to be able to buy whatever you want and work for a big company with a lot of benefit, especially when you enjoy the work like this guy does.

However, what he told me next really made me realize how little I wanted his life. 

He told me that since he travels monday through friday every single week, he hardly has time to spend with his wife or his two children. He gave himself some excuses about the fact that even if he was at home, it'd really only be an hour a day he'd seem them with school and activities and all, but what really made me feel bad for him is the fact that when he's physically home on weekends...he's still working. He told me it was a million times harder to tell your child to their face that daddy's busy with work, than it is just to not be there. 

But what really broke my heart is when he told me that his daughter didn't want him to come to her piano recitals as since he was never there to hear her practice, she'd feel too much pressure preforming.  I'm sure his kids like having the latest toys and cool stuff, but I'm willing to bet, they'd trade that all just to have him around more often. 

Final Thoughts

Even though it kind of sucked missing my flight and having to stay at an airport hotel for a night, meeting Simon, which isn't his real name by the way, and all of the other business travelers I met at that hotel that day, made it worth it. They reminded me why it's so important to be your own boss and be location independent. 

Seeing their lives made me grateful that I can work from anywhere, travel because I want to and not because I have to, and have the freedom and flexibility to stay for as long as I wish. I'm writing this from Kona, Hawaii after spending the last five days here hanging out at the Drop Ship Lifestyle Retreat, with over a hundred other small business owners. Even the taxi driver mentioned that everyone he had picked up from the retreat was so much more laid back and happy than the normal business travelers he gets. The best thing about owning your own business and being an entrepreneur really is freedom.

Even if some of us are making less money than a director at a big company like Deloitte, we all have a million times more freedom, and if we ever wanted to work 70 hours a week, I have no doubt we can grow our businesses to the same income levels. I'm glad I came on this path, and stopped working for Honeywell back in 2007 because even if I crawled my way up the corporate ladder to where this guy got, I still wouldn't be as happy as I am today.

Warm Regards and Aloha,

Johnny FD

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  1. Hi Johnny. Thanks for sharing, great take on that lifestyle. Coincidentally I have a friend that works for Deloitte making $300k+ in salary alone, his life sounds parallel to the guy you've described above. He's got the $650k+ house, two $40k cars, all the nice new shit in the house....and a wife with two kids, young kids. He lives in Austin but works in Chicago, he wakes up at 3:30AM every Monday morning to fly to Chicago and then returns late Friday night.

    Sadly he moved back to Austin to be around friends but we never see him anymore because he's needs that family time for 48hrs before he heads back to Chicago. Not time for himself, no casual family time, no time with friends, etc. It reminds me at least once per month that more money is not the solution.

    1. Wow that's crazy how your friend is pretty much in the exact same situation as the guy I met. I'm willing to bet a lot of people are in similar situations.

  2. Freedom is worth so much more than money to me. I have only been an employee in short term employment situations over the past 30 some years and I always felt like I was doing time in jail. Even a low paying self-employment situation is better than working for some company as far as I'm concerned. I love FREEDOM Now that my self-employment is all digital the freedom level is better yet.

    1. Nice Dan! I'm glad you broke yourself out of short term employment prison!

  3. Hi Johnny,

    My post might be out of place. However, I am planning to visit Chiang Mai in February and would like to attend the Nomad Summit on the 4th. My email is some advise on the best way to obtain a ticket would be really appreciated assuming there is still a spot. I do not use FaceBook, is there any other way to signup?

    1. Hi Leo, join the email list at tickets wil go on sale in the next 2 weeks.

  4. Tbh, guys like that are selfish pigs. Sure they are all wa wa I never have time to spend with my kids but they know that's the case before they ever even get married. Why bring kids into this world knowing you'll have time to spend with them? It's more so you can check "wife and kids" off your life list which is really unfair on the kids.

  5. Johnny,

    Level of salary has nothing to do with the lifestyle you're living. Or should I say "should have nothing to do...". "Simon" is an idiot of living above his mean. Unfortunately, that's often the reality for many people.

    My wife and I make close to $300 000/yr, live in a $1.3 million house and have roughly $1.5 million saved up in our bank accounts. Yes, we could buy a bigger house, nicer cars, etc but we chose to live below our means and retire early instead.

    Again, Simon like many other Americans is an idiot.

    "The man who advised you to invest in Index fund such as VTI."

    1. Hey LP really glad to hear your perspective! Congrats on being smart with your money and not living above your means!

  6. Hi Johnny,

    This goes to show that earning high income does not necessarily means that one will achieve FIRE. I am not sure whether "Simon" likes this type of life given that he has less time spending time with his family. It is to each of one's own.



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