Movin’ Out

It seems such a waste of time
If that’s what it’s all about
Mama if that’s movin’ up
Then I’m movin’ out

Almost every person out there between the ages of 18 and 70 is working for something.

They’re working to keep food on the table, sure, but that can be done with very little effort. An awful lot of people are driven to work harder and earn more than that.

Why? What are they working for?

Some people seem to be working for little perks in life. I find that these are the people who answer such questions with an “I don’t know” response. They’re working to have cable television and fast internet at home. They’re working to drive a fairly nice car around town.

Others work for some form of the American dream: a beautiful house in the suburbs with a beautiful family that’s depicted on the holiday letter they send out each year talking about the things that their family is doing.

Others work for freedom. They want the ability to spend their time in whatever way they’d like without the need to earn money from that time.

Still others have simply found that thing that they love to do and somehow they make money from it.

Anthony works in the grocery store
Savin’ his pennies for someday
Mama Leone left a note on the door
She said, Sonny, move out to the country
Workin’ too hard can give you
A heart attack
You oughta know by now
Who needs a house out in Hackensack?
Is that what you get with your money?

The thing is, it’s really easy to get lost in the journey. We’re surrounded by temptations and distractions, ways to spend our money on little pleasures and conveniences that fade away and are forgotten very quickly.

Is that what you get with your money?

Or we might get lost in someone else’s journey, saving to buy a house to impress parents that we’ll never be able to please or to buy a shiny new car that everyone will ooh and aah over for about a minute before moving on to other things and completely forgetting about it.

Is that what you get for your money?

Or we might lose ourselves in an outsized sense of responsibility, believing that our children have to have some kind of perfect childhood with every single thing they could possibly ever want and need… except that those children sit at home wanting the one thing that they don’t have: their mom, or their dad.

Is that what you get for your money?

The thing is, when it comes to the end of your days, you won’t think back positively on all of the hours you spent working for other people. You won’t think of the stops at Starbucks or the little treats. You won’t think about a shiny new car or a big perfect house.

You’ll instead think about the experiences. You’ll think about the time spent with people. You’ll think about the relationships you had with people. You’ll think about the people that you’ve loved and the people that loved you.

Those are the things that define your life and, really, you don’t need a whole lot of extra money to have those things in spades. Those are the things that are worth working for.

Work for experiences you want to have. Work to give yourself time and freedom to build and savor those relationships. Work to live, don’t live to work.

What do I work for?

I work so I can have time with my children. I make a decent income, but I would be making a lot more if I hadn’t organized my life so that I could be sitting there waiting when the kids get off the bus to give them a snack, go through their backpacks, help them with their homework, and so on.

I work so that in a few years, I can retire with my wife and we can spend decades of healthy life together exploring the world, but I also don’t work so much that I sacrifice my relationship with her along the way.

I work, not so that I can have lots of little treats that I completely forget about, but so that I can have life-changing things that might take a little longer but that really have an impact.

I work, not so that I can have lots of stuff, but so that I can have lots of experiences.

Sergeant O’Leary is walkin’ the beat
At night he becomes a bartender
He works at Mister Cacciatore’s down
On Sullivan Street
Across from the medical center
He’s tradin’ in his Chevy for a Cadillac
You oughta know by now
And if he can’t drive
With a broken back
At least he can polish the fenders

Figure out what it is that you want out of your life, then work for that. Work for that thing with a single-minded focus.

Don’t waste your dollars on anything that doesn’t help you achieve that thing you truly want. Every time you use your dollars for something else, all you do is ensure that you don’t achieve that thing you most want; you’re trading it for something forgettable.

Don’t waste your spare time on things that don’t help you achieve your big dreams, either. Every time you spend your spare time on something that isn’t in line with your core goals, all you do is ensure that it becomes even harder to have those things.

Don’t work so hard that you lose those things that you rely on, though. Don’t sacrifice your relationships. Don’t sacrifice your body. Don’t sacrifice your mind. Without those, no goal is really worth having.

It’s a balancing act, but it’s a balance that’s much easier to achieve when you throw the junk off of the balance. Stop with the wasted spending. Stop with the wasted time.

You should never argue with a crazy mind
You oughta know by now
You can pay Uncle Sam with the overtime
Is that all you get for your money
If that’s what you have in mind
If that’s what you’re all about
Good luck movin’ up
‘Cause I’m moving out
I’m moving out

Whatever it is that you’re working for in life, make sure that you’re working for something you want. Don’t work for something to impress others. Don’t sacrifice your family. Don’t sacrifice your other relationships. Don’t sacrifice your health. Don’t sacrifice your sanity, either.

Different people will want different things, and that’s completely fine. Just make sure that the thing you’re working for is your thing and that you’re keeping track of the pieces of your life that you and your dreams rely on.

If you find yourself working for what someone else wants or that you’re losing yourself in the process, stop. It’s time to move out.

Infinite credit to Billy Joel for a beautiful, thoughtful, and inspirational song. It’s part of his wonderful 1977 album The Stranger.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

Loading Disqus Comments ...