Happy holidays! Many law firms are now paying out bonuses to its hard working associates. It’s an interesting time right now. BigLaw had a pretty good year, but many firms saw signs of weakening in Q4. As a result, associates expect bigger bonuses yet managing partners are afraid of a further slow down in business. That means firms like Cravath will keep paying the same bonuses we’ve seen for a few years now ($10K-$60K depending on class year) and most everyone else will fall in line.
With a big bonus comes great responsibility. Not everyone handles it well. The most common thing I’ve seen after bonus season is associates rolling into the office in new cars. If I remember correctly, last year we had an Acura SUV and an Audi A5; the year before we had an Audi A8 and a BMW 3-series. (Not related to this person’s choice of car, but the associate who rolled in with the A8 didn’t last very long…must be tough to pay off a $75K car without any income.)
Anyways, that’s all a bit besides the point. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not the type to blow a bonus on a luxury car. I struggle with smaller expenditures. This year I was particularly proud that I talked myself off a ledge not once, but on two occasions. First, I thought it might make sense to buy an iPad Air. I could use it while traveling or even in court. But then I’ve owned a tablet before and rarely used it. Now my FIL uses it to play Angry Birds and Candy Crush. Around the same time, it occurred to me that I should buy a nice camera that could take pretty pictures because the one I currently use doesn’t focus well or handle low-light environments. But I only use that camera for selling stuff on eBay. I usually trust my wife or others to take pictures at social gatherings.
So what was really behind my urge to splurge on those two particular items? After some deep thought, I realized that those two things fit perfectly with my dream of traveling around the world with minimal possessions. But you know what, owning those two things wouldn’t all of a sudden put me in a financial situation where I could quit and get on a plane to Bali. In fact, it would do the opposite — make me spend more money and force me to work longer to get to FI. This is exactly what all the marketing and advertising is designed to do — convince you to buy something by creating an emotional connection to that thing. But rarely will a purchase provide the soul with what it seeks. You simply can’t buy that.