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Friday, 30 August, 2002, 07:59 GMT 08:59 UK
Financial success 'demands sacrifice'
family having a drink in pub garden
Accumulating wealth may require sacrificing leisure
The need to maintain a healthy work-leisure balance is continually stressed by both doctors and lifestyle advisers.

But one of Britain's most senior MEPs this week said he was forced to resign because of the 'unbearable' pressures on his family life.

And a new survey suggests that the UK's highest earners were forced to make sacrifices in order to achieve financial success.

BBC News Online asked readers whether they thought it was possible to maintain a balanced lifestyle while rising to the top at work (see "Your comments" below).

High earners are sacrificing time with their families in a bid for financial success, according to a new survey from Lloyds TSB.

The pursuit of personal wealth has an impact on high-flyers' health and can lead to marriage break-up, the report said.

Five hundred people with annual incomes of between £60,000 and £250,000 were asked what their wealth meant to them.

Although two-thirds of those surveyed declared that having money made them happier, nearly 7 out of 10 said they would trade wealth for good health.

Few felt that their wealth or possessions defined them as people - only 3% said that they thought personal success was having the ability to buy anything they wanted.


On a less spiritual level, a third said that they sacrificed time with their families to get to the top, while the same number said that the pursuit of wealth meant they did not have time for leisure.

Men are the more likely to sacrifice time with family and friends in order to be a financial success, the report suggests.

Half the women surveyed said that while they were not prepared to sacrifice personal relationships they would cut down on leisure activities.

Leisure activities are seen by many occupational health experts as key to achieving a healthy work life balance.

It seems, the report concludes, that wealth brings the benefits of choice but comes at a cost.

Your comments:

Why bother? After the first million, what are you getting in terms of real life? The pressure of life "at the top" is not just a cause of mental illness; the need to get to the top is probably a symptom of it.
Simon Richardson, UK

My Husband was financial director for a telecoms company a year ago. My daughter and I never saw him and he was under such pressure and stress the happy go lucky man I married was no where to be seen. When he was home he would sit like a zombie in front of the TV and be too drained to do much more than grunt at me! He quit his job and is now just contracting when we need the money. we have never been happier. My little girl has a Dad again.
Fay , UK

Nobody ever died wishing they had spent more time in the office

Dinyar, UK

I am a woman working in the IT sector and constantly find myself giving up my evenings and weekends so as to demonstrate my drive, determination, devotion to my work, so that maybe one day I'll get rewarded financially.
Waterlily, UK

Nobody ever died wishing they had spent more time in the office
Dinyar, UK

I'm a woman near the bottom rung of a career ladder that goes pretty high, and I'm already feeling the pressure of long hours and high stress. My leisure activities are down to virtually nil because I refuse to sacrifice personal relationships. The only way to remedy this is to leave to somewhere with lower stress and lower pay, but I don't have time to update my CV...
Elizabeth, UK

I have been working in a US investment bank for nearly 3 years. As a 24 year old I drive a BMW convertible and have a flat in London. Now that I've achieved this level of materialism I have decided that any more is pure greed and so I will be applying to teacher training school and enjoy the rest of my career.
Julian, UK

My father worked all the hours for money. He was wealthy and had all the trappings of success. The unfortunate fact is though that he sold out his family for his bank balance.
Simon Doderer, England

I am a manager and constantly seek extra work from my subordinates

Steve Talbot, UK

It depends very much on the work and lifestyle you would like. Our company offers flexible hours and an increasing income as your work progresses allowing you take control of your leisure and home life. And unsurprisingly we are still growing and looking for people who want this lifestyle.
Michael Rust, England

What about those who make those same sacrifices just to pay the rent!
Gordon, UK

I am a manager and constantly seek extra work from my subordinates. You dangle a carrot in front of them and they work real hard. I get the praise for their success and the rewards. However I was once in their position and only a few can get out of it .
Steve Talbot, UK

Nobody ever died wishing they had spent more time in the office.
Dinyar, UK

The key is learning to say "no". People are their own worst enemy in always assuming that they will miss out if they perform do every last task that may come their way. Most managers are NOT spending their time assessing how many tasks someone is doing. What they are assessing is how effective someone is in the tasks they own.
Tony, UK

It is not just the wealthy element of society that has to sacrifice time with their families because of work commitments. There are many workers who have to give up their time to work overtime just to pay their bills.
David Brady, UK

I know a few self-made people who still act as if they were less well-off although they like the freedom from financial worries. Their children, on the other hand, are appalling and its clear that any benefit through the hard work of one generation will be squandered by the next. Seems a waste of life to strive too hard to make your children into sponges.

Trina, UK

It seems to me that the country is becoming increasingly unwilling to put the hours in to earn the wages people think they deserve - at the end of the day there is no such thing as a free lunch. It is a basic choice - more money or more leisure time - I know what I choose - leisure!
John, UK

No. It is not possible to maintain a healthy work-life balance whilst performing at the highest level. Companies need to recognize this now - or they will begin to lose their best and most valuable people.

Ashley Wheaton, USA

There is no doubt that success in business comes at a price - long hours, insufficient exercise, lack of leisure and family time, stress, spiritual famine. Why do we do it?!
Ian Reid, England

Show me the Money!!!!

I once did a job that involved getting up at 5:30am, spending 4 hours a day commuting and being utterly exhausted and depressed most of the time. Luckily, for me this was early in my professional life and I learnt that there is always a pay: stress ratio to be balanced. Now I may earn less then my friends, but I never have to work weekends, stay till 10pm, cancel my evening plans or be constantly under pressure. Neither am I blindly climbing the career ladder, taking on roles that make me miserable just for more status and money, and, frankly, I'm richer for it.

You don't need money to make you miserable. My ex-wife took all mine and now I'm broke and miserable. And I work long hours. Surely some mistake.
Pete, England

When I was working I had to work a lot of overtime to obtain an income that I and my family could live on. If we wanted a few luxuries, such as a TV or new furniture, it was a case of either saving up for many months or obtaining second user items. I was fortunate in my hobby of electrics & electronics as I could usually find a TV that had been thrown out that was repairable, the same for any other item such as washing machine, dishwasher etc. If not for that, we would have been very badly off. Unfortunately, there are very many companies who do not appreciate the expertise of their employees and add more and more to the workload without increasing the wages to go with it, so more and more people are being deprived of contact with their families in the evenings and at weekends when the children are at home. This sort of situation is becoming all too common.
B K Tyler, United Kingdom

Congratulations to the MEP for being able to recognise what is most important in life, it took me two years and a serious illness to do the same..
E., UK

Thanks to Thatcher's legacy, we really do not have a choice anymore. The old adage that money doesn't make you happy might be true, but it makes life a LOT easier. We need to earn a LOT more, to buy a house, to buy a car, to pay for basic health, to pay for services which would have been free before, to pay for the latest gadgets and equipment. British society and government policy is geared towards those who earn 70k+ the rest of us have to suffer under the strain of having to make ends meet. At the end of the day we are all still serfs working 12-16 hour days to make the CEO's of companies such as Enron happy
Vish, UK

I receive a sizeable paycheque from my employers for what I do. However, it means that my employers consider me to be available 24 hours a day to sort things out. Such is life in the technical sector :( I now have an office in the house, a phone system, and premature grey hair...
Joel Rowbottom, UK

To Waterlily above, I'd say that unfortunately it is that sort of attitude that only leads to disillusionment within your career. Working all hours is never a guarantee to achieving more money. You need to manage your career, make good contacts, and branch out on your own if you want to succeed.
Anon, UK

Too many people spend their lives chasing after a target they will never reach. Don't seek to be happy through wealth. Richness should be measured by the quality of your relationships with other people. First, learn to be content with less wealth, stop making comparisons, and happiness will follow.
James, UK

I don't think you can still stay with your feet on the ground at home whilst you are rising above everyone else at your work place. It causes that much stress and tension between people family life starts to drop.
Claire, England

I work to live, not live to work. If I had to do excessive overtime, I would tell my boss where to go. So I am not going to be a high flyer, but you would be amazed what you can do on a low income. What is the point of earning lots of money if you don't have any time to spend or enjoy it?
Jon Dittman, UK

I work long hours because I need to pay the mortgage - the only difference for these high earners is that they are paid more. My sympathy is strictly limited.
Guy Chapman, UK

Does the report take into account that some people actually like work?

Andrew, British ex-pat

Oh please! This is so indulgent - 'high earners' are people who have a relatively high level of control over their work. The people who are truly stressed are those who are poorly paid, have little control and little prospect of gaining it.
Dave Taylor, England

I am lucky I can work from home whenever I like. This means that I can get little things like Washing & Drying out of the way whilst working, spend longer with my cats, and think how much extra time I have now I am not doing a 3 hour daily commute. The pay isn't as good as the city, but I don't have to jam myself into the daily rush hour. And I get more work done!
Clare , UK

The main benefit of a six figure salary for my family has been the fact that my wife can concentrate her time on our three young children instead of going out to work. Domestic help is another bonus. The 90 hour weeks are long gone and I rarely do more than 30 now. The strange thing is that I was HAPPIER and felt more useful whilst desperately holding a dying company (and 2500 jobs) together than lazing around all morning and shouting at the kids in the afternoon. Does the report take into account that some people actually like work?
Andrew , British Ex-pat

What's the point in earning 60k plus, when it could mean dying of a heart attack at 45? Your health and family are way more important. Infinitely more. Money helps, sure, but it's not everything in life.
Christopher Teague, Wales

The wealth of a person cannot be measured in monetary terms. Although its nice to be able to buy the things you like, you should not have to pay for it with your soul.
Christine, UK

The key to working long hours with the least amount of stress is doing something you enjoy. If you're going to spend the majority of your waking life at work, then you better enjoy it.
Foz, UK

Sadly homo sapiens will always worship the almighty dollar given half an opportunity

Nigel.H, New Zealand

So yes you can achieve what you want and have a good balance in life, as long as your goals are realistic. The proviso here is, that the people around you and you personally, must be prepared to compromise and sacrifice somethings for the benefit of all.

The problem is that most people do not know what they want they want or why they are doing it. So wake up, smell the coffee, communicate, evaluate, understand and achieve your goals / family goals for the common good of all.
Mark, Taiwan

After working in finance for several years at the ripe old age of 28 I have decided I can't do this much longer. I am sick of spending the whole of my leisure time not looking forward to work the next day. Health, peace of mind and happiness are much more important to me now.
Bob, UK

My father worked his guts out for 43 years, with WWII in between. Retired at 60, and got 7 years of retirement before he died. Work hard - if you must, but retire early.
Simon, Hong Kong

One of the best ways to smash the harmful stress cycle is to work for yourself. It is still stressful (the British are the meanest and worst payers in the world!) but at least you have some control over the stress and a greater reward if you succeed.
Richard Hough, UK

You'd be surprised what you can actually live without.
Ric Ellis, Middle of Nowhere, Australia

I missed a lot of my first two children's formative years whilst pursuing my career in IT, I'm not missing out on the third and fourth!
Nick, England

I don't understand people who will risk stress related mental and physical ailments or those who will voluntarily detach themselves from their loved ones just for a bigger TV, a faster car, or a more luxurious home. Where is the sense in it ?
Tony Brooks, UK

Wealth in itself doesn't actually do anything. It just sits in the bank earning more money. It doesn't have a round of golf with you, play 5 a side football, buy you a pint, make you laugh, play Squash, do the gardening, walk the dog

Dave Roberts, England

I used work in IT like "Water lily" totally mad hours- between travel and actually behind my desk between 70 and 80 hours a week. I've tossed in the towel, and have accepted a fairly large pay cut, in exchange for flexitime, no stress, respect from my co-workers, and to be quite honest, the first happiness I have experienced in my working career. My partner is a lot happier too!
Shane McCarrick, Ireland

Sadly homo sapiens will always worship the almighty dollar given half an opportunity. It's the proverbial carrot that tempts people to chose between family and the dollar, invariably the latter wins. M.D's and CEO's have a responsibility for not only the economic well being of the organisation, but also to the social and environmental well being of communities. This will never happen in a deregulated business environment where the dollar is god!!!
Nigel.H, New Zealand

I'm not a big earner (£30k p.a.) but two years ago I quit commuting and late nights for a regular local job. My salary went down by 25%, but it was well worth it. I can see my children to school, walk to work, and I'm home pretty much every evening. I have been present during my children's first five years and no money I might have earned would have been worth sacrificing that.
Michael, UK

Wealth in itself doesn't actually do anything. It just sits in the bank earning more money. It doesn't have a round of golf with you, play 5 a side football, buy you a pint, make you laugh, play Squash, do the gardening, walk the dog etc. Small amounts of money are needed for almost all activities, a lot of activities you require no money. So, bearing in mind the moral argument about hoarding cash when millions starve, can anyone explain how having loads of cash makes you happier ?
Dave Roberts, England

I work in the IT sector for long hours, odd shifts and weekend work for low pay, I suffer from stress and I barely scrape by. All these high earners should be grateful, I wish I had their kind of money.
Michelle, UK

Think the long term unemployed may die wishing they had an office to spend more time in.

Money is important yes, as we live in a very demanding society in the 21st century. But our health is even more important. You could have all the money in the world, however if one day you discover you have an incurable disease, then you realise that money is not the most important compared to time, life and a healthy body.
Susan, UK

I once worked as a senior manager for a telecoms organisation and had 12 hr days, calls over the weekends, bullies as directors, and a great salary. My daughter suffered over the years as I was crawling my way up the career ladder. She was left with either my sister or her father to take care of her. So many years lost, a wardrobe full of lovely clothes and a belly full of office politics and bad management, not to mention poor share prices!!!!
Meg, UK

I have a lot of sympathy for those who have to work all hours just to pay the rent, but no sympathy for those who work all hours to earn £100k instead of £50k: what is the point ?!
Nick, UK

Why are you sat there whinging when you could be making money. I love my work, I love the money and I call stress challenge. Why do we have to perpetuate this myth that work is not enjoyable. I prefer it to 'leisure' because leisure activities are typically disappointing and designed to make money for someone else.
James Coakes, UK

I don't want to die and think the only thing I developed in my life was my career.
Wendy, UK

What planet are the majority of you folks on?

Kat, UK

My boyfriend has a very well paid job for his age, but finds that he is paying for it due to the extra hours he is expected to do. He is allowed very little annual leave, and is expected to give up his weekends at the drop of a hat to work. Although he is trying to work his way up and make an impression on the company, he has little time to do anything else. He often says he feels listless and unhealthy and he is only 25.
Emma, UK

Many of these postings seem to think that high achievers only do it for the money or a new car or TV. That's just not true. Other reasons for working long hours, or forming your own company and earning higher salaries include enjoying working, providing security for the future, planning early retirement, achieving something concrete that you can be proud of. And don't forget, those who take the risk to form their own companies and who learn to cope with the stress that this brings are providing a valuable service for the rest of the working population, i.e. they are providing jobs to others. So lets not knock everyone who tries hard. We'd be worse off without them.

I call it the money: golf index. Less money but more time to play golf. I recently gave up a 3 hour commute, loads of money and status to move to a smaller firm, less money and less status. I play golf twice a week, watch my team every other weekend (a mixed blessing as it's Sheffield Wednesday) and don't feel as though I miss out on anything materially as I have more time to plan and save.
Lesley, UK

I work in an IT network support role in Further Education. I am under continual pressure to work until late at night, work weekends, and work at home. I've had enough and I quit. Today is my last day. Hooray!!! I'll be doing part-time teaching, be a lot poorer, and start to be able to rebuild my health, life, and relationship. Hello life.
Anon, UK

Poverty is a known cause of ill health, high achievers create jobs and spend, providing the economy with the support it needs to provide for the lower paid. Yes I am well paid. Yes, I pay a nanny ( I am a single mother) a good wage, fully taxed and pensioned. Yes I use other supporting services such as a gardener, window cleaner, etc to compensate for the time I do not always have.....and no I am not unhappy or unhealthy....neither is my daughter. What planet are the majority of you folks on? Its all about choice....if you don't like it yourself, don't do it...........but it doesn't make those that do 'bad'!
Kat, UK

I recently took a more than 50% pay cut so I could move to Latvia with my wife and live here with 6 former Street kids as our "family". My wife now runs a charity working with deprived children here in Riga. I still work the same hours in a similar job but the walk to work, huge home for less money than the UK, low prices and, most of all, fulfilling family life make the idea of just chasing numerica; wealth seem pointless.
Steve, Latvia (Originally from UK)

I got made redundant from a £100k job over a month ago, I thought my world was going to end but six weeks on and I feel like a new man, I can recommend it to anybody. Things you hold dear like company cars, gold airline cards etc. mean absolutely nothing. I am starting a business with a friend, the commute will be 10 minutes instead of 2 hours which means an extra 2 hours with my kids and I won¿t have to spend weeks away from home.
Matthew, Scotland

I'm a manager and I'm constantly having to tell people to go home, rest, take some leave. If people spend too long in the office, I find the quality of their work deteriorates. I'd rather have 6 hours of excellent work than 12 hours of rubbish.
Alcuin, UK

To Michael above: Not a big earner on £30k ??? Try living on half that or less like some of our nurses or teachers!!! The only way I would accept a highly-paid, highly-stressed job would be to save enough money to retire very early, preferably to somewhere warm!!
Jeff, UK

Define high pay. £50,000 a year won't buy you so much as a hovel in most of the south east. Define successful. Our GDP figures may look good, but our productivity lags behind former Soviet block countries, and our GDP per capita is a joke. Define efficient. What British management is not. It's only route to growth has been to expand working hours. Define a way out. The massive rise in binge drinking that young people indulge in to cope. Is it a surprise that its not just the weather than makes this one of the most miserable places on Earth to live?
Anon, UK

Well there do appear to be some directors that are paid loads of money for just a few token hours of work a month so it is possible! However in general out of all the people I know personally it is those that put in the longest hours that also get the highest hourly rate of pay
John, UK

Until recently, I believed that wealth and commercial accomplishments were the only worthwhile indicators of success. However, since the birth of my son last summer, I now realise that happiness in one's family life is my greatest reward. I've left my job in financial services and have given up my plans to be a millionaire by my early forties. Instead, I'm blissfully happy as a father and am considering downsizing by moving from west London to the countryside.
Cliff, UK

I always felt tired, irritable, and generally felt unhappy (despite earning a high salary). About a year ago I turned this around - I eat a healthy diet, exercise 10 hours a week (and will soon be participating in my first triathlon!). How do I feel? I feel great!
Adam, Cambridge, UK

I earn more than £60k a year and I love it. I work long hours in a demanding and stressful environment and get home late to see my wife. The upside is that I get to live in a great house, go on fantastic holidays and enjoy going to the best restaurants. I'm building financial stability for my family and that requires hard work.
AlasdairCB, London

See also:

19 Aug 02 | Business
21 Jun 02 | England
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