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When to walk away from the money

It pays to be practical. What do you really need to walk away from your job? (Getty)

It pays to be practical. Have a clear idea of what you need to walk away from your job. (Getty)

Greed is one of life’s ultimate temptations, often winning out over a deeper sense of personal well-being. So perhaps it isn’t so unusual we sometimes find ourselves in a job we abhor because the pay is so darn good.

We turned to question-and-answer-site Quora to shed some light on what to do if you hate your job, but it pays a lot of money. Here’s what some respondents had to say about finding your career nirvana.

Phil Darnowsky offers a six-step program for not only walking away, but also finding your next passion. First, he said, build a war chest. He wrote:

  1. "Cut your expenses and start aggressively saving money. Suck it up at your current position until you have $X in the bank…
  2. Quit your job, break your lease, sell or give away everything that won't fit in a suitcase.
  3. Go someplace with sunny weather, nice people, and a low cost of living.
  4. Stay there, just farting around and not doing much, until you get bored.
  5. When you find yourself consistently fantasising about what you could be doing besides hanging out on the beach, go do that.”

Andy Johns agrees that savings are key to leaving your current position.

To help determine what those savings should be, “write down a list of things you would love to do if you didn't have a job and had enough money to do them (but be reasonable.... buying a yacht is not reasonable),” he wrote. After stashing the amount of money you’ll need to tackle your list, he said, “quit the job and go have the time of your life.”

With enough savings, you can ditch the job and have the life of your dreams (Getty)

With enough savings, you can ditch the job and have the life of your dreams (Getty)

Be realistic

Sometimes it’s not as simple as should I stay or should I go. What if you have a family to think about? Running to the next job isn’t always so straightforward.

“My wife and I have been debating this about her job for a long time,” said one Anonymous respondent, offering a reality check. “In our 20s, it was easy to ditch the money and pursue happiness without thoughts about the future. Now that we're a bit older and having had all our saving eviscerated by the meltdown four years ago, we're a bit more reticent about turning away from financial security even if it requires sacrifice of happiness over the short-term.  It becomes even tougher if you're married or have kids.”

“I don't know what the answer is,” the respondent continued, “but I don't think it's an easy question that can be answered with slogans or quips.”

Surround yourself with friends 

Darius Tan was in a very similar situation. “I was a professional poker player and played 80-to-100 hour weeks. At 21 years old, I was making a healthy six figure amount every year. However, I was extremely unsatisfied. Finally being fed up with being so miserable, I set out to figure out why … I wasn't happy. After all, I was making it rain!”

After reading a bunch of books and studies on happiness, Tan said he boiled happiness down to three things: finding a company with a great culture where you’ll be engaged, spending more time with friends and family to get the emotional support you need and realising you are awesome.

Tough it out

When the going gets tough, the tough dig in. Ashton Lee in Shanghai, says you should stick to your job.  “You [are] likely gaining skills and building upon your work ethic in ways that will help you in the future,” he wrote. “Maybe this will lead you to business school, maybe to another form of grad school, maybe you start or join a start-up or maybe you are just paying your dues now and your job gets a lot more interesting and fun higher up the ladder.”

Follow your passion

Amy Robinson  has a different perspective altogether.  “My job/life is spectacular but my bank account is empty,” she wrote. “I work 80 hours a week but only a small fraction are paid.  It isn't such a big deal because a) I live an extraordinary life and b) doing what you love eventually pays off.” Robinson wrote that her job brought her opportunities to travel and meet fascinating people. “Extraordinarily wonderful and surprising things will happen when you stop focusing on money and start focusing on living with passion. Re-evaluate why you value the ideas and things that matter to you.”

Her most heartfelt advice: “There is no substitute for living a life you love. Start now…it will only get harder to change.”

Are you trapped by golden handcuffs? Share your thoughts and experiences on BBC Capital's Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

Quora respondents are required to use their true names under the site’s Real Names policy. To help ensure legitimacy and quality, Quora asks some individuals, such as doctors and lawyers, to confirm their expertise.