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Why "Golden Handcuffs" Create Negativity By: Nathan Winnie

Golden handcuffs:

A collection of financial incentives that are intended to encourage employees to remain with a company for a stipulated period of time.

“Financial Incentives” is a fancy word for being paid. Golden Handcuffs are typically found in industries where people move from company to company at a more frequent rate. Think: advertising, high-tech, information technology, etc.. These handcuffs are created by the senior management in order to retain high-performing/talented employees.

But I’m going to take this down a different route. I believe that the majority of millennials create golden handcuffs for themselves, their employer/company isn’t involved at all. You can be a barista at Starbucks and create a pair of Golden Handcuffs for yourself. This article will dive into this a bit more.


Most of the time you do it subconsciously. It’s called Income Delusion, a term I just made up. When the majority of us take our first “big boy job” we begin making money at a much higher rate than before. In college, many of us scraped by and lived off Ramen 5 days/week but now we’re getting a direct deposit every 2 weeks. It feels GOOD.

This is where Income Delusion begins. This radical change in income creates an illusion of our financial situation. All of a sudden that $25 lunch doesn’t seem like a luxury. “It’s only $25 and I get paid this Friday”. We begin to treat our money like a water faucet… guaranteed to continue flowing. This is the beginning of the slippery slope that are Golden Handcuffs.


1. Building up a lifestyle too quickly

2. Living outside of your means

3. Creating debt

4. Forcing yourself to play catch up with finances

5. Taking monthly payment plans (usually with interest) to offset high dollar amount purchases


Making money is a game. You’re given an arbitrary amount of it in exchange for your time and effort. With that money you can buy things like cars, food, houses, vacations, coffee, etc…

The dangerous part is when you over-extend beyond your means. When you become reliant on the paycheck to pay for the bills you’ve accumulated you’re playing with fire. It’s dangerous but it’s fun too. Buying that new watch, that new car, the fancy apartment, that $18 cocktail. It all feels good but who’s in control?

Letting your money be in control of you isn’t just dangerous it can toxic. Your behavior changes, even your outlook on life can change. You begin to be beaten down by the fact that you’re stuck in an endless loop.

Buy things I like. Pay for those things with Credit Cards. Work for 40+ hours/week. Get paid for my work. Pay my credit card balance down. Rinse and Repeat.

What is the alternative? What else can I do? Everyone else seems to be travelling and having fun, why can’t I? It’s only $15. It’s only $50. It’s only…. See how toxic this can become?


Everyone has a pair of golden handcuffs, I don’t care if you’re the stingiest/cheapest person on this planet you still have a pair.

Breaking your golden handcuffs starts with one simple word: sacrifice.

You have to be willing to give up the lifestyle, the Instagram posts, the vacation, and the brand-new model. You have to be quiet for an extended period of time, grinding away and storing cash. You need to hibernate.

Tell yourself, “Just because I made this money doesn’t mean I have to spend it”.

It’s going to be quiet. Your friends will continue to take their trips and buy their cars. You’ll continue to work. It won’t be fun.

But when you wake up from your hibernation they’ll all see. It’s all part of a plan. You’ll be able to leap when they’ll only be able to crawl.

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