Money or Satisfaction? What’s More Important in a Job?
I want to kick this blog off with a fairly big topic, one that actually kick-started my own interest in the world of work all the way back to when I was in middle school yet. I was always one of those kids that couldn’t wait to grow up, and back then, I had dreams and ambitions for an illustrious and successful career. That I knew I wanted. However, I found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. My interests were in writing, the arts, music, video games, media, all fields known for poor employment prospects and terrible job stability. My family members were very against my desires to “follow my passions” and were quite adamant for me to pursue a more stable field where I could earn lots of money. “Be a Doctor, a Lawyer, an Engineer, an Accountant” they all urged, “you’re too smart to throw your life away on such poor fields like arts or music!”.
In hindsight, my family’s attitude sucked, but at the time it brought up a really important question that my teenage brain spent many sleepless nights pondering over. A question that I felt I would be forced to choose an answer to, and a question I think many people at some point may ask themselves as well, especially younger people preparing to go to college or deciding where to head in life.
“If I HAD to pick, would I rather a job that I loved, but it paid very little, or a job that I hated, but it paid me tons of money?”
In a perfect world, the obvious answer to this question is to find a job you both love and earn a respectable amount of money from, but in reality, the answer is not always that easy. If it were, I doubt our country would have such high rates of depression, poverty, and workplace disengagement.
The truth of the matter is that jobs most people generally consider fun or fulfilling are jobs in niche fields with lower pay or poor work stability, while jobs that most people generally consider high paying require years of education and/or work experience are generally high stress, and sometimes involve very dull and certainly unfulfilling work responsibilities (Exceptions obviously exist of course).
Finally, the jobs most people think of in that happy middle ground are your Hollywood celebrities, famous rock stars, and super successful entrepreneurs. These jobs of course often result merely from large strokes of luck or insane amounts of talent, and often a combination of both. But enough rambling on that…
Back to the question at hand… what do you choose? Some people may think this is a trick question and that there is no right answer, but I’m here to say I have an answer. See, I’ve actually had the opportunity to directly experience both extreme ends of this question a few times throughout my professional life. I’ve been working in jobs I absolutely loved while I could barely keep a roof above my head, and I’ve worked in jobs that I made excellent money from but I loathed the work on a daily basis. I’ve seen both sides in detail and I feel pretty confident to come out and tell you what I think is the right answer to this question and why.
It’s the money. Go for the money.
I hear the crowds rioting already. The pitchforks are coming out. “Mr. Happy Work, how can you forsake us!!!” “Isn’t this blog supposed to be about finding work that makes you happy??!!” In an age where it seems that almost everyone is spewing the advice to follow your dreams and chase your passions, I can feel their collective terror as I come out and say, “nope, just work for the money”. Calm down my fellow Happy Workers – I’ll explain myself.
First off, I still stand by the idealistic goal of this whole pursuit, that is to find something you both love and can earn a good living doing. We shouldn’t forget this and we should remain persistent towards achieving it. However, it is because of this very goal that I choose money over job satisfaction as the best choice. Whether we like it or not (and I know I don’t sometimes), money makes the world go around. Unless we somehow all have multi-million dollar trust funds sitting around for us, which most of us don’t, we all need to earn money to afford even the most basic necessities of life – food, shelter, healthcare, etc.
Can money buy happiness? Maybe. What I do know though is that having money makes life a lot easier, and it enables you find happiness in your life much more easily than you could without it. Money is essentially a super boost that gets you to your goals faster and better than you could without it. It opens doors that were always locked before.
Having money allows you to live comfortably and not stress out about being able to have the basic necessities of life, some of which can be quite expensive! This itself is a huge contributor to happiness in life. As I said earlier, I’ve been on both extreme sides of the topic we are discussing here. While I absolutely loved the work I made very little money in, and I pretty much hated the work I made lots of money in, I can say without a doubt that I was OVERALL much happier in the job I hated but made good money from.
I speak from first-hand experience that not being able to afford basic things like utilities or decent food is a terrible experience. At one dire point after yet another layoff, I was at risk of losing my apartment and I nearly went homeless due to difficulty finding new work and little savings in the bank… not because I was a big or irresponsible spender, but because I only made a little money to begin with!
The financial stress led to bad health habits and lots of cheap junk food. It created a slew of both mental & physical health problems such as depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. Finally, the real kicker was that you couldn’t even afford healthcare to try to take care of these health problems. What did my great job matter with all this turmoil and chaos going on in my life at the most basic hierarchy of human needs!?
I’m not saying we should slave over a job we absolutely despise, and sometimes no job is worth taking or staying in if you REALLY hate it, but if we can mostly tolerate the job and roll with the punches, the extra money really is a godsend. My quality of life was vastly improved when I was making more money.
That aside though, the key thing about money is that it gives you options. It frees you up to pursue life in a more flexible manner and to truly make your dreams a reality. Having money in the bank means you can quit that job you dislike if you really want to and spend the next 6-12 months looking for a better job while you get some rest and relaxation at home doing whatever the heck you want. Money can allow you to start up a company or business for that idea you always dreamed about, something that would not have been possible without the capital you could now bring to the table. Having money allows you to pursue better physical and mental health, by being able to afford doctors, gym memberships, and healthier foods, which in turns leads to better work performance, clearer focus, and better jobs on the horizon. (After all, research shows that healthier people have better career prospects for a variety of reasons – but that’s a topic for another day!)
Money can also allow you to buy the training, knowledge, or equipment you need to pursue a dream. For example, you can hire a consultant or teacher, or buy that professional equipment or tools that allow you to do professional work. In short, money allows you to shape and mold your life into what you really want it to be. Sure, maybe you dislike your job, but if you earn good money, that money gives you the power to change that. Without the money, you may be stuck in that job just to afford rent, all the while never able to dedicate the time, energy, or resources to finding something better. You become chained to your job, living check to check just to get by, and no way to escape.
Now, maybe you have a job that you like and it doesn’t pay a lot, but you know what, it pays the bills and you’re happy. Great! I’m happy for you! Not everyone needs lots of money in life, and as long as you feel comfortable and you’re able to afford the basic necessities in life, I salute you on finding a job you enjoy and can earn a living from. For the rest of us though, money is going to help you pursue your dreams. It becomes a versatile tool you can use to your advantage in a variety of ways, and most importantly it can be used to buy yourself time. Don’t let anyone fool you – if there is one thing I know for certain that money can buy that will also help you, it’s time, and that is the most valuable resource of all. As the saying goes, once time is spent, you can never get it back.
I know some of you may disagree with me, especially because I have the unpopular opinion, but having been on both sides of the equation, I still stand firm with the choice to go for the money. It’s what has enabled me to finally pursue my own happy work and I’m thankful that I can provide the basic necessities of life to myself and my family. Maybe you’ll be fortunate and the work you’re truly excited about just happens to be high paying and stable work already (Not everyone becomes a doctor for the money after all!), or you’ll be one of the lucky ones that find those niche jobs out there that are fun and pay well. But for the rest of us, the solution may not be that easy, and we may find ourselves faced with making this decision on the path of life. All that being said… there is just one crucial thing I want to leave with you before ending this blog…
Don’t ever give up on your Dreams!
When you come to that fork in the road and you decide to go down the path of making better money even though it may not be the most fun or fulfilling choice at the time, keep your dreams and ambitions burning strong in your heart and use that fire to drive you through any tough times or struggles with the job or work. Know that deep down, this path will lead to a better future, by giving you the time, flexibility, and freedom to pursue what you really want to do, without having to sacrifice the basic necessities of life. Don’t give up on your dreams, just realize this is the stepping stone to your dreams. Keep your ambitions and spirit alive, put the increased finances to good use, and you will achieve your goals and find happiness!!!
– Mr. Happy Work