Go big or go home
'Tis the season, folks! Black Friday and Christmas are just around the corner, and you know what that means… It’s time to kick off the ho-ho-holiday shopping season! As BigLaw lawyers flush with cash, we can pretty much afford anything, so now is the time to shower our friends, family and secretaries with lavish gifts to let everyone know just how well we’re doing! After all, nothing says ‘I’ve made it’ quite like a luxury Burberry jacket and a $6k Chanel purse! But before you’ve overstuffed those stockings, step away from the virtual shopping cart and consider this fool-proof holiday shopping guide—satisfaction guaranteed!
Don't shop; take a walk in the woods instead.
Don't shop; read a book instead.
Don't shop; find a quiet place to watch the sunset instead.
Don't shop; go for a run instead.
Don't shop; write a poem instead.
Don't shop; reach out to an old friend instead.
Don't shop; make a list of personal goals instead.
Don't shop; donate unwanted items from past shopping instead.
Don't shop; build a snowman instead.
Don't shop; invest your shopping money in low-cost index funds instead.
We get it: you’re overworked and you’re stressed. Why suffer all those back-to-back 250-hour months if you’re not going to treat yourself to some of life’s luxuries? Isn’t that the whole point of BigLaw, after all? You deserve it!
But have you ever paused to think about when during the day it is that you spend the most time scrolling through Zappos offerings and filling up the Amazon cart? We’re willing to bet that it’s not when you’re doing what you love most, but in that momentary reprieve between a series of stressful conference calls. Or maybe it’s when you realize you have so much on your plate that you don’t even know where to begin. How in the world are you going to deal with all this stress? By sad spending, of course!
Indeed, the combination of 24/7 obligations, crushing stress and astronomical compensation is the perfect sad-spending storm. For many in BigLaw, life is a relentless string of fire drills and nervous breakdowns—the sum total of missed birthdays, vacations and special moments with loved ones. Unable to disconnect from the incessant demands on their time, too many BigLaw attorneys seek short-term reprieve in consumer spending. Lacking the luxury of time, many find that they only have time for luxuries.
The sad truth is that, for all their riches, most BigLaw attorneys—from first-year associate all the way up to senior equity partner—are time poor. Time broke, honestly. But when time is unavailable, your response need not be to sad-spend on meaningless things. A better option is to buy back your time!
But how do you use money to buy time, you might ask? It’s actually quite simple: by saving and investing. No matter what you do with it, your money is always buying something. Spend $1,000 in a department store, and you’ve bought a fancy coat or a new suit. Make it rain at the bar and you’ve bought a memory, even if it’s one you’d rather forget. Deposit it in an emergency fund, and you’ve bought insurance against life’s inevitable curveballs. Purchase shares of a low-cost index fund that you’ll hold for decades, and you’ve bought back some of your time.
As we’ve written about before, you don’t need to be a multimillionaire to start regaining control of your time. With enough savings to cover even a year’s worth of living expenses, you find the courage to say ‘no’ to the nightmare weekend project that others feel the pressure to take on. With an investment portfolio valued at 2 or 3 years’ worth of living expenses, you realize that it’s just not that big a deal if you go on a 2-week vacation. With 5 years of living expenses banked, you’re spending the winter months working remotely from Hawaii. And at 10 years’ worth of living expenses saved, you’re really learning to take charge of your life and time, because at that point you start to realize that it won’t be long before you hit 25 times your annual expenses, which is (roughly speaking) the point at which you never need to work another day in your life if you don’t want to.
The lesson here is that you don’t have to spend your money for it to have value. Indeed, money not spent may be the most valuable of all. Happy holidays, folks.