How Money Talks in Career Management

Personal Wealth Assists Career Management

Have more money, get more respect at work.
George Diebold/The Image Bank/Getty Images

How Money Talks in Career Management: In the realm of career development, having significant savings, and (just as importantly) having this known to your superiors, offers these crucial career benefits:

  • Increased flexibility in deciding which job offers or work assignments to accept
  • Added respect from your superiors
  • Insurance against pay cuts or unemployment

This is an interesting aspect of corporate culture, as discussed in more detail below.

Increased Flexibility: Regarding job offers and work assignments, money talks by giving you the ability to say no. With a large pool of savings, you can afford to decline opportunities that do not appeal to you, however, lucrative the pay may be. In the words of financial writer Randall Lane (as interviewed in The Pennsylvania Gazette, the alumni magazine of the University of Pennsylvania, November/December 2010), "Money, to me, is just the freedom to do what you want."

On the other hand, if you do not have an ample cushion of savings, your options are more limited. It will be much harder to turn down a high-paying position, no matter what the downsides. It also will be exceptionally risky to resist demands from your superiors that you seem unappealing or unreasonable.

Added Respect: Money talks also in the sense that, almost invariably, an employee who reputedly has significant wealth earns considerably more respect from his or her superiors, all else equal, than someone who does not.

Why? This is an interesting lesson in management psychology.

The employee who appears to need a job, especially if he or she may be thrust into financial crisis by losing it, is an easy mark for unreasonable or excessive demands if management is so disposed. An employee in this position cannot afford to push back, and thus risk a poor performance review or even dismissal.

This sort of person, too often, is taken for granted by management.

On the other hand, money talks in the case of an employee who is reputed to have ample financial assets. This sort of person does indeed have the capability to say no and to push back against unreasonable orders. Management, meanwhile, normally anticipates that such an employee is not a captive to the job, or to the firm. The financial cushion provided by a large pool of savings allows such a person to walk away from an undesirable situation, with few qualms. Accordingly, management is less likely to push hard against the reputedly wealthy employee than against the one who is not.

Career Insurance: Given the danger of falling victim to a layoff, a bonus cut or a stealth pay cut (such as when producers are suddenly hit with new chargebacks for their use of company infrastructure), having an adequate cushion of savings provides insurance against the personal financial stress that otherwise might result.

Many long-time corporate employees become self-employed entrepreneurs as a result of layoffs or hitting career impasses among their current employers, and finding that because of age they have limited opportunities for suitable re-employment elsewhere.

Having ample savings can smooth such transitions and provide seed capital for new ventures, where needed.

Be Careful, However: Accumulating significant financial wealth, and advertising this fact (subtly, but clearly) to management, does not give you carte blanche to become a slacker. Your money talks only if you continue to perform at a high level and thus make your employers particularly concerned about losing your services if they do not treat you appropriately.

Meanwhile, take note of the career rationale for changing jobs periodically. A similar effect can be achieved, in some circumstances, by regularly being on the lookout for new and better opportunities elsewhere.

Career Strategy: One of the principal reasons for embarking on a career in the financial services industry is because of the above-average pay rates relative to most other employers.

Money talks when you make saving, rather than spending, that additional pay your top priority. Also tap the investment expertise within your firm to deploy those savings in the most advantageous fashion, and, just as importantly, to become well-versed in the details of investing and financial planning (if you are not in these career tracks yourself).

Unfortunately, too many high earners within the financial services industry fail to internalize these lessons. A number let their spending expand to meet their income, resulting in paltry savings and expensive tastes that are hard to shake, even in extreme circumstances. Ironically, they have mismanaged their careers into letting their high-paying jobs imprison them rather than giving them financial freedom. Do not fall into this trap. Remember that income is not wealth (see our discussion of financial assets), and is constantly at risk of termination with the job itself.

Defense Against Credit Checks: A large and growing concern for job seekers today is that some employers utilize credit checks in making hiring decisions. Because of this, getting your financial house in order by reducing debt and increasing savings can mean the difference between getting or not getting a position. The basic theory is that job candidates with high credit scores generally are more reliable and trustworthy than those with low scores. The validity of this theory is widely disputed, yet many employers still insist on using credit checks, where allowed by law.

Note, however, that having large savings and low indebtedness does not necessarily translate into a high credit score. Among the many flaws in the FICO credit scoring methodology is that it tends to underrate people with little or no history of indebtedness.