Salary vs. Job Happiness: The 3 Pros and Cons
It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.
You’re working at a job you love. You don’t make a whole lot of money now, but you’re able to get by. One day, a man approaches you. He tells you that he was impressed by your friendliness and he wants to offer you a job at his business. He works in another city, but the potential with this position is astronomical. Suddenly you could be making double your current salary, and there’s a lot more room for growth at this new job.
Do you take it?
Although not all situations will be as black and white as the one painted above, almost everyone will face a similar “fork in the road” in the career path. Take the road that leads to more money, or continue down the path to happiness; even if it means you struggle financially a bit along the way?
Happiness may be subjective, but psychologists dived into this question to find us an answer. Here is what they have to say.

Salary vs. Job Happiness: The 3 Pros and Cons

1. The Price of Happiness

We often tie happiness and money closely together, but that’s only true to a certain extent. Research collected by the National Academy of Sciences was able to break down where the connection ended between income and overall life satisfaction. They concluded: “Emotional well-being also rises with log income, but there is no further progress beyond an annual income of ~$75,000.” So, about what we consider an average “middle-class” income.
But researchers also found something interesting: having no money (or a very low income) makes people miserable. “Low income exacerbates the emotional pain associated with such misfortunes as divorce, ill health, and being alone. We conclude that high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional well-being.”
Although high income might not bring on eternal happiness, it can buy a certain threshold of happiness. However, this information is only a part of the decision process. There are other factors to consider before you can choose.
[RELATED: 5 Money Mindsets You Need For Career Success]

2. The Options and the Consequences

As remarked on many messaging forums there are many factors to consider when presented with the opportunity to choose income over happiness.
For one, do you have a family? Choosing a higher paying job might mean less time spent with your kids, but more money to save up for their future. Or are you a post-college graduate with no ties to your current city? Then choosing the higher paying job might be the opportunity you need to start paying off those debts faster, for now.
Of course, personal situations are not the only limitation to consider. Your personal desires in life are also important. A study by the National Academy of Sciences, and furthered in an article by The New York Times, noted that personal desire to succeed or be happy is also vital to the decision process.
To gain some perspective on this issue, the NYT interviewed Professor Kaufman, a Nobel laureate in economics. He says: “Wanting money is not a recipe for disaster, but wanting money and not getting it — that’s a good recipe for disaster.” He continued by pointing out: “People who want to become performing artists are likely to be unhappy because most will fail […] Becoming a wealthy rock star is a common dream when you are young, but when you are in college, you should try to take a longer-term view.”
For millennials, this is an all too common reality. Doing what you enjoy in terms of a degree might set you up for a slow start. On average, people that earn a bachelor of arts or humanity’s degrees are less likely to move out of their parent’s home after college. Many of them struggle to find work in an economy that favors mathematicians and business majors. However, once they find their footing in a market that embraces their talents and interests, many of them can far exceed expectations.
And this is where the twist lies: often times doing what you love means you will be more successful down the road.

3. The Tortoise and the Hare

Psychologists have come to find that liking your job will help you succeed. Although that might seem obvious, it should be the final question to answer in your decision. Do you love what you’re doing?
The University of Southern California’s Applied Psychology program highlights the importance of liking your job and what it does for your overall success: “being able to enjoy your work is the main factor in getting into a state of flow. Flow [is the] experience you have when you are “in the zone”. […] This means that every time you view a task negatively, this mindset is already making it harder for you to complete your work. Doing work you love is energizing and creates a positive feedback loop that fuels productivity. Your passion for the work energizes you and vice versa, giving you more fuel to put towards success.”
For some people, it might be easier to trick their brain into enjoying their work; especially if they’re keeping their eye on the prize (aka paycheck).
However, if you don’t have a genuine interest in the work you’re doing, then it may be impossible to actually do any of your work. In which case, climbing the ladder, getting raises, and building your knowledge might be increasingly more difficult the longer you stay with that job.
In this way, it would be best to continue doing what you love. Over time, you will eventually be able to make your way up to a leadership position or are more likely to receive raises and bonuses. It’s almost the same story as the tortoise and the hare: slow work and determination will help you reach the finish line faster. Over time, you will succeed.
Author David Pink seconds this idea. In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth of What Motivates Us, he builds on the importance of succeeding through job happiness. “[T]he secret to high performance and satisfaction-at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.”
People tend to flourish when they are doing things they enjoy or jobs they feel build on their strengths. This reflects in the business world, as well, where happy employees lead to more profitable and faster-growing businesses.
If this is the case for you, and you truly enjoy your work, then your best option might be the road more fraught with financial difficulty; at least in the present. Although you might not be making that six figure salary now, you will be happier and more successful as time goes on.
If you’re ever presented with the opportunity to pursue a higher paycheck or continue working for a company you love, let this information help inform your decision. Although there’s no right way to ensure happiness, choosing to work for the job you love might just be the surest path to take.

Hi, I'm Anna!

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