For some people, working is a means to an end — they go to work every day for the simple fact that they need a paycheck. But money really isn’t everything, and there are some occasions when it’s worth it to quit a job with a high salary to find a job you love.
GOBankingRates spoke to career experts, as well as people who made a transition from a higher-paying job to a lower-paying job they enjoyed more, to find the best reasons for leaving a job with a lofty paycheck for a lower-paying job you’ll love.
You Can Afford to Take the Risk
There are two times in your life when you can afford to take a chance on a new career that might pay less, said Laurence Stybel, one of the founders of the executive outplacement firm Stybel, Peabody & Associates, Inc.
“Before you have children, you may have an opening in your life where you can afford to take a risk and you can afford to fail,” he said. “That’s what happened for my partner and I when we started Stybel, Peabody & Associates, Inc. 40 years ago. Then, once the children have left the nest and are no longer financially dependent upon you, [there’s another opening] for you to focus on your heart versus your paycheck.”
The Higher Paycheck Doesn't Equate to a Higher Standard of Living
Taking a pay cut doesn’t always mean that you have to lower your living standards.
“Workers should consider things like commute time, the relative cost of living and social factors when considering a change,” said Tim Toterhi, a TEDx speaker, ICF-certified coach and the founder of Plotline Leadership. “Sure, a project manager in NYC will usually make more than one in a more rural location, but once you factor in taxes, commute time and cost of daily goods, it might be even money. If the job is just inching closer to your dream gig, it might be worth the move.”
Your Job is Negatively Affecting Your Mental Health
Kelan Kline, the co-founder of The Savvy Couple finance blog, hated his job but loved the money, but eventually, he left his higher-paying job as a jail deputy for a job as an office manager that paid significantly less.
“When your job starts to really impact your mental state, it’s time to consider giving up your paycheck,” he said. “My job as a jail deputy put me into a deep and dark depression. It was impacting my entire world around me. The only choice I had was to give up the paycheck and career to get my life back.”
Your Job is Negatively Affecting Your Physical Health
Many physical symptoms can actually be traced to chronic stress, including headaches, muscle tension, trouble breathing, heart disease and nausea, according to the American Psychological Association. If your job is stressing you out so much that it’s taking a toll on your physical well being, that’s a good reason for leaving a job — regardless of how much it pays.
The Lower-Paying Job Still Pays You Enough to Live Happily
A 2010 Princeton University study found that money actually can buy you happiness — to a point. The study found that $75,000 was the magic number for satisfaction: The lower a person’s annual income was compared with that number, the less happy they were; but once their salary reached $75,000, their happiness didn’t increase with a higher salary. Accounting for inflation, if the lower-paying job still pays you at least $87,000, taking the pay cut won’t affect your happiness.
You've Done the Financial Planning Necessary to Make Sure You'll Still Thrive on a Lower Salary
“You may have to take some time and stay at your job while you plan and save so that you can make the financial jump,” said Goli Kalkhoran, host of the Lessons From a Quitter podcast and a former lawyer who left her job because it was making her miserable. “Jumping without planning the finances can add unneeded stress. It is absolutely a good idea when you can make it work financially to take a pay cut.“
The Lower-Paying Job Gets You Closer to Your Career Goals
When you’re thinking of leaving one job for another, you should ask yourself, “Which job option is going to get me closer to my career goals?” said Brett Ellis of Brett Ellis Career Marketing Services. “Maybe the lower-paying job is more closely related to their desired future position.”
If, when looking long-term, the lower-paying job will take you one step closer to getting your dream job, it could be worth it to take the plunge.
The Lower-Paying Job Is at a Company That's More in Line With Your Values
Another thing to consider is the company itself, said Ellis. He recommends asking yourself, “Is one a ‘better’ company in your opinion? Do your values align with the company mission?” If the answer to both questions is “yes,” it could be worth going for it.
Your Work-Life Balance Is Out of Wack
If you’re working around the clock, your personal relationships can suffer.
“Balance, happiness and self-actualization matter,” said Eli Howayeck, a career coach and founder and CEO of Crafted Career Concepts. “When you’re out of alignment in your career, every other aspect of your life can suffer — your relationships, your health and your spirit.”
Your Job Isn't Making You Feel Fulfilled
“A fantastic salary may not necessarily be sufficient to address your deeper need of doing something that brings you fulfillment and satisfaction,” said Cheryl Palmer, career coach and owner of Call to Career. “If you are not working within your strengths, you could feel very empty even though you are making a lot of money.”
Choosing a job you love will help you feel more fulfilled.
You Spend Your Days Counting Down Until 5 p.m.
“Some of the strongest signals that say it’s time for a new job are when you constantly find yourself counting the hours to leave, or when you always find yourself procrastinating,” said Jordan Wan, founder and CEO of recruitment firm CloserIQ. “It shows an obvious lack of passion and commitment to your job. No one wants to spend 40-plus hours a week trying to distract themselves, so if that’s happening to you, it probably means you’ll be happier somewhere else and it’s time to move on. A high-paying job is nice, but it won’t mean anything if you’re not happy and satisfied in what you do.”
Your Job No Longer Fits Your Lifestyle
As you advance in your career, your priorities might shift, and making the most money possible might not be your ultimate goal anymore.
“This might be because of something like becoming a parent, or wanting to spend more time with an aging parent,” said Suzanne Brown, speaker, strategist and author of “The Mompowerment Guide to Work-Life Balance.” “It could also be because your own inner-life needs change. Maybe you simply want more balance. Sometimes your needs change, and changing jobs is the only way you can match your needs.”
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About the Author
Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert.