Where Logic Meets Love

Loving My Job vs. Making More Money: Round 2

Friday, October 19, 2012

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Loving My Job vs. Making More Money: Round 2 | Faith Permeating Life

Two years ago, I was faced with a real-life choice between work I enjoy and making more money.

I chose to stick with the work I enjoyed doing. Shortly thereafter, a new position was created for me so I could keep doing that work, plus get a more appropriate title and a significant raise.

Then two years later found me in a new city, searching for a new job.

A few weeks ago, I went to interview for an evaluator position with a small consulting firm in Whoville. I knew the least about this company than anywhere else I'd applied, but even from the little I knew I was incredibly excited and nervous about this interview. I made Mike practice with me for over an hour, which I taped, watched, and then re-recorded.

It was the best interview I'd ever had. Not simply because I felt confident about my answers, but because I felt so comfortable with this team. They clearly loved working together -- they teased each other, laughed a lot, made me laugh, and talked about their work with genuine enthusiasm. I asked my would-be supervisor about her management style, and it sounded so much like my amazing boss at my previous job that I could practically hear the "Hallelujah" chorus singing in my head.

When I got out to my car, I texted Mike: "I WANT THIS JOB SO MUCH."

At this point, the only thing I didn't know about the job was the salary. (*cue dramatic music*)

At the same time, I was under consideration for a 30 hr/wk position at a college that paid more than my previous job (which tells you how underpaid I was, which I knew already), as well as a half-time position with an hourly wage that also well exceeded my previous job.

Long story short, I got multiple offers at once. The place I most wanted to work was the last -- they sped things up as soon as I told them I'd gotten another offer. When the firm's president called to make me an offer, everything sounded fantastic.

Until he told me the salary.

It was quite a pay cut. And I told him so. We discussed it, and he finally raised it several thousand, but it was still below my last job, and well below what I was hoping to make at my next job. I told him I needed time to look over everything and I'd get back to him.

You guys, I really, really, really wanted this job. Just like when I met Mike and it was as if God designed a husband just for me, I felt like this job was made exactly for me. But was that enough reason to take a salary well below what I knew I was capable of making?

My Christian/career struggle came back full force. Should I simply be grateful and humbled to find a job so clearly made for me? Or did I have a responsibility to women everywhere to earn a salary on par with my abilities?

I'll tell you my thought process, and then what decision I made.

There's an interesting relationship between happiness and income. The majority of articles and studies I've read about this come to the same conclusion, which is that money does improve happiness up to a point. If you're having trouble meeting your basic needs, then having more money is likely to make you a lot happier. But past a certain level, it's hard to find any consistent differences in happiness between people bringing in different incomes or spending different amounts of money.

On the other hand, life goals are important to happiness. I have very few big life goals, but as you know, they're quite expensive. Could I be happy with a salary that put our child-adopting and land-owning and house-building dreams that much farther into the future?

One of the most helpful models I've found for thinking about money is Ramit Sethi's material about being rich. (See my recommendation of his book here.) He reminded me that money is simply a tool. Having money in and of itself doesn't create the kind of life you want. It's what you do with it. You have to decide what's most important to you, and then focus your money on those aspects of your life and stop spending it on things that aren't important to you.

So I went back and reflected on what's most important to me. I've written about the motivations that drive everything I do and what larger purpose I work toward. I thought about all the time I was bored at work and when I was overwhelmed by meaningless tasks.

And I realized that happiness, for me, is largely tied to how I spend my time.

There are 168 hours in a week. When you take out the time sleeping, eating, commuting, chores, and all the other necessary parts of life, I'm going to be spending at least as much (if not more) time at work as I am on any voluntary activities I might be doing outside of work. Work is a significant part of my life.

I don't want work to be the thing I do just to make the rest of my life what I want it to be. That's not a recipe for wholeness. If I'm spending 40+ hours a week doing meaningful, fulfilling, challenging work, then I'm already creating the life I want right there.

And then on top of that, I can focus on channeling the money I do make toward the things most important to me outside of work.

So yes, I accepted the job. And I couldn't be happier. (I start November 1st.)

There are other considerations related to income and career, of course. Many aspects of this job are new to me, and I'm planning to throw myself into learning as much as I possibly can as quickly as possible. In a few years I'll either have a higher salary here or be well-equipped to find another job I love. In the meantime, we should be able to continue living on Mike's salary, so most of mine can go into savings and investments until we're able to adopt and he leaves his job.

God has provided well for us thus far, so I have faith that everything will work out just as it's supposed to.

What would you have done in my situation? ...Are you sure?


  1. Congratulations on the new job!!! I would definitely take the job doing what I loved over the job that paid more. I've been in the situation of having a job that pays quite well (given what the job required), and I hated every second of it. I worked with great people, the job had certain perks to it, and the money was good. But I was SO. FREAKING. BORED.

    I've also been in the position of doing a job I loved for not very much money. And sure, the money side of things sucked. But I was still able to save about $1000 a month, and my job made me happy.

    Hopefully in the future I can find a balance of the two!

    1. That's great to hear that you were still able to save money while working at the job you loved. I think we will probably still be able to save plenty of money -- I just can't help but wish it were more so our long-term dreams will become a reality faster :)

      And yes, the ideal would be a wonderful job that also pays well! But what I've discovered from talking with other people is that "pays well" varies a lot by the person and the career field. Much of it really does come down to what you do with the money.

  2. YAY FOR THE NEW JOB!!!!!!! Congrats! It's such a hard balance. Picking a job (that you might love) with a smaller salary is MUCH harder than people realize. So glad you made a decision that you are happy with.

    1. Yes, thank you for acknowledging that it's not that easy! As a thought exercise, everyone says they'd pick the job they loved, but when you're actually faced with turning down more money it can be really difficult!

  3. Very cool- I like how you thought everything through and explained it and especially focused on what's important to you and why- instead of just some simple "money vs doing a job I love" dilemma, implying that wanting money is ALWAYS BAD AND EVIL and should never be a motivation for anything. The reality is much more complicated that, and is going to depend on the situation.

    I'm happy for you, finding a job you love! Good luck!

    1. Thanks! You got it: money's not always bad, but it's not always good either. It's about having enough to meet your needs and spending the rest in ways that bring you closer to the life you want -- while not relying on money to create your best life for you.

  4. First, congratulations!

    Second, oh do I hear you on the internal, cultural narrative of feeling responsible for The Sisterhood to not undervalue your work. So tricky and fraught.

    I was struggling with this money vs. career happiness question over the past two weeks as well, the only difference was I was seeking to replace my current job, so the stakes weren't quite as high. I'm content at my current place, just no longer mentally content with "being content", if that makes sense.

    The position I was considered for gave me more responsibility, a fancier title, bosses who clearly love what they do (something lacking at my current position), more ability to be creative, and the company itself affords will afford me a wider variety of advancement opportunities. I interviewed, I left all keyed up and excited. Then the compensation offer came--not dismally low, but low enough to make me pause, and there is no healthcare.

    I crunched the numbers, anxious and upset. In your immortal words "I WANT THIS JOB SO MUCH", but it just wasn't adding up. Alex and I had discussed the possibility of my taking a small pay cut in order to be happier and more upwardly mobile, but the added blow of not having a benefits package (which I do have at my current place, which Alex is covered under as well) was more or less a non-starter. Independent coverage just isn't the same, not at a price we can afford.

    I decided instead to sacrifice my free time and my 10-hours-a-night sleep schedule to try to have both. I've accepted the new Happier Job, but will keep on 25 hours a week at Old Job, to keep our healthcare. I haven't started my 65 hour weeks yet, so I don't know how I will handle it, or if it will be worth it, but I figured I need to at least try, you know?

    I've not yet figured out how much Job Happiness is tied to my Overall Happiness, or really even what entails being happy at a job. Do I need to enjoy my work, or just my coworkers and environment? Do I need to feel challenged, or like I'm making a difference? Do I live to work, or work to live?

    Right now, it's a mystery that I'm sure will become clear in the upcoming months. And, hopefully, the new company will get its act together to comply with the upcoming "Obamacare" mandate and offer me heath insurance.

    1. Wow! That sounds like an incredibly difficult decision to make. That's great to hear that you found a job you love that much, and I can't believe they don't provide healthcare benefits! Here I thought it was going to be tough to go to an 8-5 schedule (plus travel) instead of 9-5, but I will just think of you and your 65-hour weeks and know that I have it relatively easy. I hope this arrangement doesn't make you too stressed or sleep-deprived, and that it helps you answer those questions you have about what you need to be happy!

  5. Wow so much has been happening here! I feel so out of the loop since I used to comment pretty often.

    I would have taken the dream job to an extent. Meaning I would have taken it if I wasn't a mom already. Right now I am a stay at home mom and I would not work out of the home for anything. I love devoting time to be able to do things like be a class room mom and volunteer my time to helping out with mom groups. And handling majority of the house work. If I worked too I would be spreading myself way too thin.

    But I guess you could say I am working towards some sort of dream. Right now I try to sell paintings and I decorate for others completely out of my own pocket..well my husbands pocket. I have made a total of 40 dollars out of all the work I have done. And spent way more then that trying to build up an at home business. Luckily I have an amazing and supportive husband who wants me to do things that I love.

    I wouldn't trade what I am trying accomplish for a high paying job

    1. It sounds like you've already figured out the path that makes you happiest, which is being a stay-at-home mom! That's exactly how Mike is, although he does very much like his job right now. That's great that you've also found work you can do on the side that you enjoy. Good luck to you!


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