The Escape Manifesto – Discussion #5: The Money Question. What do you think? What’s your advice?

We are writing a book.

It’s called The Escape Manifesto.

(Quit your corporate job – life is too short to do work that doesn’t matter to you. Start a business, find a new job, go on a big adventure… you get the picture).

We are on deadline for October 15th. We’d love your help, thoughts and inputs.

Last Friday we posted Discussion #4: Please help us with our book introduction and objectives which received some great comments and suggestions. Thank you!

This week we’d like to explore one of the main reasons why people stay in corporate jobs that they don’t enjoy…

The Money Question

This week’s discussion was inspired by Simon’s comment on last week’s thread:

“You get out of University saddled with debt after doing a course that you were badly advised upon that has left you no more employable than you were before you started – you don’t make provisions for later in life early on in your working career when it’s all about trying to get on a housing ladder and paying off what you owe & getting to pay day.”

“Then one day you decide that the rat race has you and you want to free the shackles and go live in the sun to see if it works out – easier to do if you don’t have debt, mortgage, dependents & no financial security.”

“If you get the advice early in life to live within your means & keep your mind open & get out and travel to see what’s really out there – make connections – learn as you go – push yourself – then 10 years down the line you will be in a better position to jump off the rock towards the blue waters I guess.” 

One of the principle reasons why people stay in jobs that make them miserable is money. This is a very good reason. When you have debts to pay, mortgages to service, and a whole variety of other monthly outgoings it is hard to consider taking any form of career risk at all.

You could write a book itself on The Money Question. Here are some common thoughts…

  • I don’t have lots of savings so I can’t risk escaping
  • I can’t possibly ever earn less than what I earn today

What do you think?

What do you think people should do to address this challenge? Would we all be living the life of our dreams if it wasn’t for money concerns?

If building a fulfilling career on your own terms AND earning pots of cash were easy then everyone would be doing it. What practical financial advice do you think people need pre and post escape?

Is it about reframing the way we perceive money? They way we spend and save? Is it about reassessing your values in order to take a pay-cut? Or is it about creating opportunities where you don’t have to sacrifice money for happiness / fulfilment?

What can people do to address this important issue? How have you managed your own finances through big career transitions? Are you currently saving for an escape? How is it going?

Please share your stories, personal experiences, advice and ideas. All comments and ideas gratefully received.

Have a great weekend and thank you in advance!


  • Andrew


    I’m sorry but money does matter. The only people I know who do not worry about money are the people who have made a LOT of it and can manage their obligations or people who are fortunate enough to inherit a lot of it.

    How about I take out all the money in your bank account, will it still not matter to you? I really dislike this assertion that you do not need money to be happy/enjoy life. You do not need as much as you think (read 4hour work week for insighs into why) but many studies and empirical evidence point to an exceptionally sh!t lifestyle and crummy sense of self if it is very low. Think of the hierarchy of needs, safety/survival/shelter need to be satisfied or you just WON’T be happy.

    Turning to your question why people stay in jobs they hate. I believe this is purely down to status/identity. Many friends I have well salaried/bonus jobs after graduating and many end up hating the quality of life/work/no time to themselves because of it. However, it is also very comfortable esp since a 20 something earning over £50,000 per year isn’t going to really jump off and write a book, start a company or what have you unless the alternative option offers them something MUCH MUCH MUCH better in exchange. Also, the fact that being seen as a banker, lawyer, accountant etc is respectable to ones family (incredibly important in asian families as an example) is a big reason people end up loathing what they do and this is obviously unhealthy from a mental point of view.

    The last point I wish to make is consideration. People on strong incomes tend to ramp up their lifestyles. Most sane/rational people would ‘I can afford to enjoy certain things my income allows it’. It is very hard to trade a £70,000 a year lifestyle for a £20-30k lifestyle especially if you ever get a taste for the former. It also affords you certain options that many cannot ever have.

    In short, the point of life is not oxygen, that only helps you to breathe. In the same way the point of money isn’t to spend, that is meaningless, the point is it a) enables freedom and b) enables choice. So everyone should try to create a situation where they can exercise control over their freedom or choices.

    I’m done.

  • Pete

    If you’re earning good money, save and live as though you’re earning decent money. Don’t spend to buy into the lifestyle of the City if you don’t enjoy it. Spend it on things that have meaning to you. Don’t rush to buy a house and have loads of possessions. They become burdens that stop you doing what you want to do in the future. If you don’t have them, then you’ll find it’s easier to move and easier to live on less.

  • http://iamabouttolosemymind.blogspot.com/ Fiona

    Based on personal experience the “how do I save money” question started earnestly with a simple cutting back on expenses (nights out, clothing, etc.) in an attempt to save money for actual experiences like concerts, outdoor activities, and travel. My brain shifted from spending money on the having of tangible items (including alcoholic beverages!) and instead on the experience of what I was doing at that very moment. Not to get too preachy but our First World is built not on the idea of money buying happiness but really on THINGS buying happiness. It is sometimes hard to fight this idea being that most of us live in the First World and we sometimes crumble to this prison of our things. There is nothing wrong with wanting money, but instead what we choose to spend our money on that makes an individual feel like a good person, a complete and happy person. Once I recognized this, things certainly changed for me. I am not saying that I am ready to give everything up completely, as most of us know, it is easier said than done. But making small changes definitely give way to big change, a different way of thinking and thought going to into everyday purchases. Also recognizing what is important to you will almost always upset someone else. You can NEVER make everyone happy so don’t spend your hard earned money trying to do so. Once you accept this thought, life will change. Think about what makes you happy, TRULY happy, an experience, not a thing or even a person, and others around you will follow suit.

  • http://oysterforbreakfast.com Adam

    Wow, this is a hard one! I was fortunate in that I had a well-paid job and that I’ve always been reasonably frugal. As my earnings increased, my spending didn’t increase much – so I saved a lot. With this money I bought a house several years ago, and last year I then made my escape. I never saw the house as a burden – I rent it out now and actually, as interest rates are so low, it provides a little income to help my travels.

    So I guess I have been lucky. But also I believe most people’s perspective on money doesn’t help them – most people I know spend what they have and more. Debt (except a mortgage) is clearly a burden and is going to limit your options. Our attachment to “things” is a problem. I’ve been through a cathartic experience over the past couple of years – first giving away many of my clothes and other processions that I never used, and secondly living out of a 40L backpack for the past 16 months. I’ve never been happier :-) I recommend this to anyone who wants to quit their attachment to possessions!

    I agree that quitting ones job with no money in the bank would be tough, too risky for many. However, I think many people working in the “First World” can save enough with careful planning and a change in attitude to make an escape. The tough question, I believe, is how does one change one’s attitude? I’m not sure, but if anyone wants to try some coaching I’d be happy to explore the idea and see if I can impart my attitude on you… maybe an interesting experiment?

  • Jen

    I had always been a low earner (£15 k or less in London pa) up until this year because I had always taken jobs that enabled me to do something that I feel will make me happy. However I can tell you that it’s stressful not having money, and lonely. It’s hard to be the one saying “I can’t come out and see you friends because I don’t have enough money on my oyster card for that and for getting to work tomorrow” or something similar but insert rent/bills/council tax. And believe me I don’t spend money on drinking or partying or going out or things! Money went on food shopping, travel, student loan repayments and bills. I didn’t have enough left over to save anything at the end of the month and the only other option was quit renting and move home.

    If life is supposed to be about experiencing great things and having fun, then I would say money is important, as Andrew says above, because it enables you to do things because that is the way our society is built. Unless you are going to change the whole way society works and abolish money, money will always be necessary to do the things you want to do.

    My advice for people planning to escape is maybe do do that high paying shitty job for five years, but ALWAYS remember why you are doing it. Act and live like you’re on a bad wage. Then you will quit, and you’ll be happy to, to do that thing you love with the money to do it.

  • K. Lee

    For me staying in jobs I hated was not about status, I could care less what people think because most people who think that way, well their opinion is worthless. I was fortunate, that when I was younger I was frugal and I didn’t have any obligations, so I made my escape. While friends were climbing the corporate ladder, I chose otherwise. Once I came back from my adventures, I wanted to buy a house. I was taught that it was a way to build financial stability (this was before the housing implosion). So I bought a very modest house which was my ONLY debt. First job wasn’t so bad, but subsequent ones have been miserable. Why do I stay? I was raised to be ethical, that you signed an agreement to pay the money, that you don’t just take the easy way out and declare bankruptcy like so many have done who bought a house they could not afford. If it weren’t for my house, I would have gone on another escape and maybe never stopped. No, the answer isn’t to rent it out. I tried that when I relocated overseas for a job and tenants nearly destroyed it.

    The irony is I was laid off my job this week, third time in 5 years. For those of you that can, escape. Don’t own anything and nothing will own you. I am glad that at least I managed an escape earlier in my life, nothing since has matched that.

  • http://www.freshairbtn.co.uk/ Karen Macmillan

    Yup, figure out what you really need to live on and get into the habit of being frugal before you give up the fat salary. Much of what you spend when you don’t need to think about it doesn’t add that much to the quality of your life so start living a less spendy lifetstyle ahead of time. Save yourself a cushion to allow some breathing space.

  • Toby

    Hmmm. Some very deep running sentiments here. Surely one of the most bitter topics to cover. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I’m sure all the pith and vitriol comes from regrets of jumping in to the muckpile too early and not having the experience to pack the ropes to haul yourself out.
    If someone comes up with an answer to this problem, they will never buy a beer in a bar again…
    I will humour you all with some musings! (P.S Jen: great words.)
    I went to uni, squandered my opportunity and threw down the pan the choices I had been given in life. Leaving the bitterness to one sentence, let’s get on with the important questions. What can we do to to chart a course when so much water is under the bridge?
    Everyone who said ‘ money gives you options ‘ is absolutely bang on. I went to an escape meetup and for the most part it was populated by young pups (I’m 28) from PWC and the like giving introductions involving ‘I’m in a tech start up’ or people with funds musing a change. The most interesting people I found (who I hope to repay with a glass of wine sometime) were those who challenged the crowd to bring an idea to fruition with the minimum money possible.
    You should never be ashamed of what you do or what you earn, at either end of the scale.
    Decide what is important to you.
    If the trappings of a good salary tie you down, you are not in the right place to escape.
    That sounds patronising, except I don’t take it to extremes, given my very average wage (25k at best and mortgaged to the hilt).
    Start small. Save enough to train yourself in another discipline (I’m not talking a degree, just for instance office or web dev skills if you don’t have them and think they might be useful). My opinion is even if it gets you nowhere now… there’s always chances! The broader the brush the bigger the painting…
    Enough of plans. If you have one, great. If you don’t, just prepare your mind for one. When you get an inkling, follow it no matter what.
    Also, WHAT IS THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN? If you take a chance. I know people in their early 20’s with £10k of credit card debt… If you have the desire to do something different and it only involves a pay cut, do it. You can always rejoin the treadmill if it goes awry…
    Enough ramblings, I thought I’d have a gem in there, but never mind.
    See you all next week if you’re there.

  • Lola

    Escaping when i was young and single was easier- save up, get fed up, quit and go travelling. Come back broke, repeat. Getting married and getting a mortgage changes things. Suddenly it’s all about long term saving and investment strategy and making the most of your money. My plan- save up as much as possible (married life is ideal for saving as you stop going out as much and have time to finally explore things like meal planning, best cashback cards and various money saving tips online), repay mortgage asap, bring it to the level where letting makes sense financially, and either let or sell- and escape! Either move to another industry or country. I found educating myself and my spouse on managing personal and family finance and saving very useful. Newsletters and forums like I Will Teach You to Be Rich, Moneysavingexpert, Thisismoney and Yahoo Finance/ Answers, Forbes Women, etc really helped. I am however escaping to another salaried job, not starting my business yet, so it’s a bit less of a risk.

  • http://www.buypositively.org Muffadal

    Money is great and it provides options. The biggest challenge with escaping is the ‘golden handcuffs’ – you stay in the corporate job for too long, it gets too good and you get too used to the lifestyle that comes with it. We do live in a consumer-centric world where our value in society is measured by how much and what kind of stuff we can afford to buy and this does suck, but that’s how it is.

    I was raised as a frugal spender and taught to avoid debt at all costs. I was lucky that I graduated with zero debt and a good job where I could save. I controlled my expenses because I knew I was probably going to do something crazy and quit my job at some point and didn’t indulge in the city lifestyle so much. I left PwC after two years and have been living on savings for the last year. When you leave, it lights a different kind of fire and you have no choice but to make it, you get creative and you have to figure out how to stretch each and ever dollar as much as possible. I’ve spent some time living with family to save more money and have been thinking about getting a part time job related to my startup field to continue financing my efforts if the bank account dries up. It is a difficult choice though. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect the same kind of lavish corporate lifestyle if you’re planning to do something different. Afterall, isn’t that the whole point of escaping?

  • http://www.boxerwatches.com Mustafa Khalifa

    I think a lot can be said for geoarbitrage – ‘the ability to earn in strong currencies while you live somewhere where the cost of living is low.’

    This is something I believe should be discussed in your book as it may be one of the solutions to the ‘money question’.

    I feel like people need to be constantly reminded that London isn’t the only place in the world they need to work and live. And for any entrepreneur or freelancer who’s bootstrapping, the ability to live overseas or go on extended travel will actually save them more money than staying and living in many major cities across the world.

    As long as you’re able to leverage the economics of geoarbitrage, money doesn’t have to be the issue it once was.

    • http://escapethecity.org/ Rob

      Really good point – thanks Mustafa.

  • http://thenextchallenge.org Tim Moss

    I think my two penny’s worth on this topic have probably been covered above but I’ll add them again for emphasis:

    1. Keep your earnings in perspective. Coming from a middle class background and a good university – as I’m sure many (most?) of your readers do – I think there’s a high risk of your perspective being skewed towards the upper end of the spectrum. There’s nothing wrong with that in itself but if money is an obstacle to you then some exposure to other end of the spectrum could do you some good.

    I believe the -average- salary in the UK is around £26k. That has been a really useful reminder to me.

    2. Second, the advice above on spending like you’re earning less is gold. I earned £16k when I started working in London. If saving is important to you then maintaining that low spending rate is surely your best tool.


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