My salary dropped by half and I couldn’t be happier
15 October, 2017: Published on Mamamia website
I recently changed jobs resulting in a salary drop of more than 50 per cent, and I couldn’t be happier.
It sounds like a stupid financial move and a backward career step, but it’s been one of the best lifestyle decisions I’ve ever made.
I was on a decent salary because I was working more than 70 hours a week away, 3000 kilometres away from family living in a remote area. I was a FIFO (fly in, fly out) worker on a remote construction site but my story is similar to anyone who works long hours for a decent salary.
After a while it started to wear thin. My body reacted. I started getting back pain, something I had never experienced. I was becoming increasingly sick and rundown. It was also very isolating as I felt that I was constantly missing out on key events in the lives of my family and friends.
But it was a choice. I had chosen the lifestyle and it wasn’t even the money that was the main drawcard. It was a chance to work and travel with my partner (also a FIFO worker), and do interesting work in places I would otherwise probably never visit.
But it was also a life that was hard to sustain. It was a lifestyle that eventually made me question what was more important to me – financial security or a more balanced lifestyle.
So I chose to turn my back on the big bucks and return to a ‘normal’ life on a ‘normal’ wage. And I’ve never regretted it for a day.
I believe you live within your means. I’ve been a single mother of two small children surviving on barely above minimum wage. When I was earning a decent corporate salary, I was also spending large portions of it on a mortgage, school fees, car loan, and feeding two teenage boys. Even if I’d had the salary of a banking CEO, I would still have lay awake at night worrying about the electricity bill.
I’ve been at both ends of the spectrum – from just scraping by financially to earning a good wage with the sacrifices that entailed. So where is the middle ground?
In an often-cited 2010 Princeton University study, researchers Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman found that earning any more than $75,000 per year doesn’t make you significantly happier.
Don’t get too hung up on the $75,000 figure – after all, the study was in 2010 and refers to US dollars. However, it does beg the question: ‘What magical figure would give you financial comfort, and what amount above that would simply be cream?’.
For those on a low wage – which I was when my kids were young – this would seem a good dilemma to face. However, there are lots of people slogging it out, working crazy long hours, missing out on the ever-elusive work/life balance who feel there are no other options.
Sheryl Sandberg encouraged us to lean in but there are also times in our careers, and our lives, where we need to lean out. Rising risks of burnout and work-related mental health issues are warning flags that sometimes we need to slow the work treadmill from the sprint setting to a walking pace.
Maybe slashing your salary in half is a bit extreme, but sometimes it is worth considering if less really is more.