I love my job, but hate the money

A reader writes:

I’m very torn. I love my job — it’s what I want to do with my career, but I’m in a position with a title I’m overqualified for and don’t make enough money. While I have several years of direct experience and a master’s degree in my field, I was forced into a job title with the word “assistant” in it (went from temp to perm), when my skills are beyond an assistant level.

I’m also drowning in student debt from getting my education — at least two-thirds of my paycheck goes to student loans and bills! I’m hesitant to start job searching because I like the job and my coworkers, but my money problems are a constant stress. When does it get to the point where I need to pull the plug?

There’s no formula that answers that for everyone, but I think you’ll be better equipped to figure it out if you  weigh having a job and coworkers that you like against more specifics about the money you’re forfeiting by not moving on. And to do that, you need to get a really solid idea of how much money that is, which means that it would be smart to start job searching just so you can get a better sense of that. Interviewing doesn’t commit you to accepting a job if you’d ultimately prefer to stay where you are — but it will give you a much better idea of how much money you can command in your market, and it will give you real data to compare your current situation against.

You might find out that you could be earning $X more than you’re making now, and then you can decide if your current job is worth forgoing $X or not. Or you might find out that you don’t get offered jobs for significantly more than you’re making right now, which would tell you that you’re actually in line with the market currently. (There’s at least somewhat of a chance that that’s how it’ll play out, since it sounds like that’s how it played out last time — assuming that when you say you were forced into the job, you mean that you didn’t have other offers. It’s possible that that was the market at work, giving you info about what salary can currently command.)

You should also look at what your salary growth is likely to be over the next, say, five years. If people progress pretty quickly in your field, and pretty significant salary growth comes along with it, it might make sense to keeping sticking it out for now, knowing that things will change. On the other hand, if your field is generally a low-paying one, even as you move up, and/or if very few people manage to succeed in it, you’d factor that into your thinking as well. (At that point, the question for you would be whether you want to stay in the field, knowing that you may always struggle financially. Some people are okay with that. Some people aren’t. If you’re in the latter group, then you’d want to be thinking about contingency plans — like whether there’s better paying work that’s field-adjacent, or whether you’re up for doing something else entirely.)

Basically, you need to get a really good sense of what your options are, so that you can compare your current situation against them. Right now, you’re thinking “job that I love and no money versus hypothetical job I don’t love and hypothetically more money” — but this will get a lot easier to sort through when you’re able to look at actual jobs and actual salaries.

{ 159 comments… read them below }

  1. Batshua*

    Also, although this isn’t job-related answer, do you qualify for income-based repayment? That might make things not so difficult while you’re figuring out what you want to do jobwise.

    1. Collie*

      +1 Came here to say just that. I’m doing IBR now and it comes out to about $150/month. I’m hoping to enter the public service loan forgiveness program soon (just waiting on that full time public service job to fall into my lap, y’know), too — that won’t really make a difference until 120 payments later, but it might also be worth looking into, depending on your field.

      1. LadyKelvin*

        Just a word of caution though, if you do end up having your loans forgiven after 10 years, the amount forgiven is counted as income for that year and can really screw up your taxes. If for example you make $50k a year and get $50k of loans forgiven, then your taxable income for that year is $100k, which can be quite the tax bill you weren’t expecting. I just want to caution anyone hoping to have their loans forgiven to start thinking about the tax implications now and potentially start saving for that tax bill.

        1. De Minimis*

          This is not the case with Public Service Loan Forgiveness, but I think it may occur with some of the ones.

      2. Anxa*

        Omg, yes!!

        I have worked in public service on and off for 7 years since graduation, but it was all volunteer, intern, or part-time.

        I guess I can kind of understand how you have to be ‘fully’ devoted to part-time work, but it really stinks that when you’re part-time not-by-choice that you also miss out on PSLF, when you likely need it far more than someone with a full-time job.

        1. Dazed and Confused*

          Multiple part time jobs do count as long as they total 30 or more. That’s my current situation and I’ve enrolled in the PSLF program. However, volunteering doesn’t count towards PSLF.

          1. Anxa*

            Sadly I’ll have 1 part time job at a time*, and if I can schedule a second one, it’s not in a non-profit.

            *I don’t have a car and lived in areas with extremely limited transit.

    2. Alexis*

      I could actually get part of my loans forgiven because I work for a non profit, but I consolidated them into my private grad school loan! Unfortunately I missed the boat on that.

        1. kab*

          Specific nonprofits are eligible. I volunteer for the Legal Aid Society, and unfortunately it isn’t.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I don’t think that’s true for the Legal Aid Society—you certainly can’t count volunteer hours under the program, but I have dozens of friends in legal aid, and all of their organizations are qualifying employers under PSLF.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          PSLF covers public interest and public service work, including work for 501(c)(3) organizations and educational institutions. But there are parameters over things like your minimum number of hours, employer certification, etc., that can impact whether you’re in “qualifying employment” when you make your loan payments.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Oh, but I should note that it only covers/forgives your federal debt (i.e., loans taken from Department of Ed)—it won’t cover private debt.

    3. Melissa*

      Bingo. It’s awful how many people don’t realize the options they have for repayment of student loans

    4. Stellaaaaa*

      It’s my impression (someone correct me if I’m wrong) that once you opt into IBR, you can’t ever go back to flat payments. I did a bunch of “test applications” a while back and for me IBR only makes sense if I intend to make under $40k for the next 20 years. If I ever started making $60k (which is realistic growth in my field and region) my payments would rise above the rate for my current 10-year condensed payment plan, and I’d be stuck with that high number for the remainder of the 20 years instead of just sticking with what I’m currently paying for the rest of my 10-year payment term.

      It also depends on where her grad school loans came from. Sometimes private lenders are your only option if you’re not a full-time undergrad, and my private lenders don’t offer IBR or anything like it.

      1. Dan*

        Yeah, private loans muck everything up. The feds don’t even count them as part of your balance for federal IBR. That is, if you owe say $60k in federal loans and $30k in private loans, as far as IBR is concerned, you only owe $60k. Sucks, but that’s how it is right now.

        There are other options besides IBR — it’s much easier to get a payment plan that is “interest only” for several years (like 4) before it kicks in to full repayment. Both my federal and private lenders offer that, I put all my eligible loans on that plan when I graduated.

      2. Natalie*

        That’s not correct – if your income increases to above the qualification level, you payments will rise, but only up to whatever your standard 10-year payment amount is. The term might be longer due to capitalized interest, though.

        1. Natalie*

          I should add, even in the plans where you can end up making payments higher than your standard repayment, you wouldn’t be stuck making those higher payments for 20 years. It works just like any other loan – higher payments cover more principal and shorten the loan term.

        2. Stellaaaaa*

          I’m only going by what my servicer’s payment calculator spat out. The number was definitely higher than what I’m paying now.

          1. Ktelzbeth*

            When I looked into it, I got the same information as Natalie about payments being capped at the standard 10 year level, though it was somewhere in the fine print, not in the calculator. But that was a while ago and I don’t know if we have the same types of loans.

          2. Natalie*

            It could be that you were looking at REPAYE or income contingent, which don’t have caps, or it could be that your servicers calculator was crap. (Student loan servicers are, in my opinion, generally crap so that wouldn’t surprise me one bit.)

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Natalie is definitely correct on this, although she’s also right that if you’re in REPAYE/ICR, then you cannot transfer back to standard. It’s relatively easy to transfer between the standard repayment plan and IBR (and vice-versa), and as others noted, your IBR payment is capped even when your salary rises. That said, the interest compounds, and loan calculators seem to really suck at properly adjusting the term, which gives you an artificially high 10-year-standard repayment level.

            You can also “save” money by simply changing your amortization schedule. The standard repayment plan is offered at 10- or 20-year terms. If you’re cross-enrolled in PSLF, then it’s often worth taking the 20-year schedule to maximize your benefit under PSLF while decreasing your monthly loan payment. But of course, if IBR payments are still lower than a 20-year-standard payment, it may be worth doing a deeper comparison.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I’m sorry I didn’t mean to say you can’t transfer. I meant to say REPAYE/ICR don’t have caps on your monthly payments.

          4. Honeybee*

            I transferred from IBR back to the standard repayment plan a year ago. I agree with the assessment that your servicer’s estimator might be…wrong.

      3. The Rat-Catcher*

        You can leave any Income-Driven Repayment plan at any time, and depending on which one you’re in, some have caps that mean that you won’t ever pay above what you would with a standard repayment plan. (REPAYE and ICR do NOT have this stipulation, but PAYE and IBR do.) But once you leave such a plan, you can’t re-enter unless you meet the income requirements again.

        Studentaid.ed.gov has extremely helpful fact sheets regarding the different payment plans.

      4. Not Karen*

        You have to renew IBR every year and it recalculates based on your most up to date income. If you don’t renew it’s supposed to automatically go back to regular payments. You can still make overpayments while on IBR too.

    5. Medium of Ballpoint*

      That’s assuming repayment programs will still be around for the coming years. I honestly don’t know much about their longevity but it does worry me, particularly given our current administration.

      Also, sidenote for anyone with co-signed student loans: Make sure you have life insurance sufficient to cover your loan amount to protect to your co-signer in the event of your death.

      1. Cheese Sticks and Pretzels*

        Oh yes I got a life insurance policy a few years ago just for this purpose.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Individuals who are PSLF-eligible should enroll ASAP. Doing so vests your interest in the program, which makes it difficult for any legislative/administrative change to apply to you retroactively; i.e., you are more likely to get the benefit of the original program as it existed when you enrolled. But those due process protections are not as rigorous if you intend to enroll in the program but fail to do so before any legislation changing the program enters into force.

    6. Cheese Sticks and Pretzels*

      Off topic a bit but thank you for this suggestion. I just explored this option as I may way under market and owe a ton in Federal student loans. Looking at the new plan I applied for, I will be saving a few hundred per month which is HUGE! and very much needed. :)

    7. phedre*

      Yup! I was going to suggest that as well. I owe SO MUCH money, but I’m doing IBR and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (just 4 years to go!). IBR has made it so I could continue working in my field. I’m finally making a good salary so of course my payments are up, but when I was broke and working 2 jobs to pay bills, IBR was a lifesaver.

    8. Z*

      Yes, this. The loan companies think I can afford nearly $700/month. IBR says, Nah, she’ll pay $220/month. Much more affordable.

    9. DrAtos*

      PSLF is a great program that I hope will continue long term. It’s one of the few breaks offered to young people who are straddled with debt, maybe the only chance for some to not be burdened with debt for the rest of their lives. IBR is okay but many will be met with tax bomb at the end of 25 years. It’s a short-term solution that I hope the government addresses some time in the future when more people near the end of the 25 year mark and need assistance with their tax payment. I do believe that PSLF is a huge incentive for those with a large amount of federal student loan debt to remain at a public interest job if that is what they enjoy. I have a government job that qualifies for PSLF, and I am much happier than I was at my previous job. If I had a private sector job, I’d probably be paying $12,000+ more in student loan payments annually, so for me it balances out. I was making more at my previous non-PSLF qualified job and I disliked it and my colleagues. It is hard to find a balance between money and doing what you enjoy, but I feel like PSLF really helped me find that balance with the huge incentive of knowing that my federal student loans will be forgiven in ten years.

        1. DrAtos*

          Yes, I just saw that. It’s awful. I hope these people who were approved and later denied win their lawsuits against FedLoan Servicing and the Education Department. This is so wrong on so many levels. I believe that it would be unlikely that my position with the government would be denied down the road. Practically everyone my age at my office has been qualified for PSLF. There is more of a grey area for those who work with non-profits. If you aren’t sure you might want to double check with FedLoan and/or a lawyer now.

      1. Honeybee*

        I feel like the real long-term solution legislators need to work on is reinvesting in public university education so they can bring the costs of public four-year colleges back down to reasonable levels, so the average middle-class family could pay for them out of pocket or with small, easily repaid loans.

  2. Jen S. 2.0*

    Also, bear in mind that there generally are nice people at most jobs. You likely will have great coworkers at another job someday. Working with people you love simply because you love them is not always a reason to stay in a job and hurt your financial future. You can stay in touch with these wonderful people, and go find other equally wonderful people at a job that pays more.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      This. Most coworkers most places are generally fine and pleasant people. You might miss individuals, but rarely does one find themselves in an office full of Ferguses.

      But when they do, they write in here, so we win either way. :D

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I was having the same conflict as the letter writer, money vs great company, and then a friend asked why I thought I would never find another job with all the same perks I have now. Every other job I had was for a terrible company with awful co-workers and I’ve been thinking that my current employer was rare. But it isn’t! And as Alison suggested, you can interview, get a feel for the prospective company, and then make a decision. That’s what I’ve been doing. I still haven’t found the right match, but I know there is one out there.

    3. Princess Carolyn*

      This is wise advice. There are a few places that have really good people and really good culture, and some that have terrible people and terrible culture. But, in most cases, you’ll make just as many friends at your next job. So I wouldn’t factor that into a decision unless you sense your coworkers/company are remarkable.

    4. Alexis*

      That’s a worry for me as well. I went into this job out of grad school but before that I was in the job from hell where I would come home crying–that’s why environment is important to me. It seems that it’s always a risk, but then again there’s a chance in finding a great working environment too?

      1. Christian Troy*

        I think your prior experience is probably what is making this difficult. I know it’s hard in the beginning of your career to “know what you don’t know”, but I think that you’re probably in a better spot to know what to look for in a workplace and what questions to ask during an interview.

        My own personal opinion is that sometimes in life you have to take risks. It seems like you’re itching to see what else is out there and maybe ready for some new professional challenges and the only way to get that is by applying and interviewing for other positions. You may not have the same close coworkers at another place, but maybe you can be okay with that knowing you’re making more money and getting more seniority.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m very sympathetic. I worked someplace awful, and it took me a long time before I reached equilibrium and trusted my own judgment, again, re: finding a place with nice/normal/non-dysfunctional people. That said, once I did, I realized that most workplaces are functional. The places that are hell are in the minority, but they have a such an awful impact on us that they seem more common than they really are.

        Have you tried Alison’s columns on how to do “due diligence” about organizational culture? I’ve found them extremely helpful, especially because I felt really lost on how to determine if a place was not hell. But her advice offers great, specific strategies to help build your ability to assess whether a workplace will be miserable from get.

    5. TootsNYC*

      Also, remember this: You colleagues will probably leave themselves at somepoint. This is not a permanent group of people

      You may not want to sacrifice your own long-term benefit for a set of short-term relationships.

      1. Just Jess*

        Phenomenal point that we so often overlook.

        Also, the relationships don’t have to be short-term just because people are leaving the organization. Maintain your network.

        1. Kyrielle*

          And, if some of them leave before you do, watch where they go. If it looks like a possible for you (not jumping into a place your skills aren’t suited for), reach out after a bit and ask them how it’s going. You may find out it’s better than the current place, or about the same, or whatever – all data to factor in as you look for possibilities.

      2. Jen S. 2.0*

        Agreed!!! I made a similar point below. Most of us are not in our last job. The odds that everyone in the place will still be sitting in the exact same chairs doing the exact same work 30 years from now? Are nil.

    6. KR*

      Seconding this. I was staying in my job mostly because my boss was AMAZING. I had complete flexibility which is hard to find at this stage in a career, he was willing to invest in me and train me, and we got along really well. After a long job search after moving across the country and being forced to switch jobs, I was surprised to find a great job paying extremely well with an equally awesome boss – this job gives me more marketable skills, full time hours, and benefits though where the other one didn’t! Not everyone will be nice, but don’t be scared to take a chance.

  3. Anonymousaurus Rex*

    I was in this position at the beginning of last year. I loved my job (the first I’d gotten in the applied field of my PhD), but I was being paid significantly under market for my skills, education, and experience. It was a really hard decision, but I ended up leaving for a job that pays almost 35% more. I miss my old job an coworkers a lot, but it was the right move for my career (and my ability to have a decent lifestyle while keeping up with student debt!). I’d recommend at least seeing what else is out there so you get a better understanding of how much money you might be leaving on the table by staying. My old company knew they were under-paying me, but didn’t have the resources to pay me any more. My new company is much larger, and there’s a stronger expectation that they’ll pay appropriate to the market.

    1. Alexis (OP)*

      I see what you’re saying. And I know my company has much more in the coffers to pay me a decent salary, but the C-Level executives like to keep a lean-working, low pay model… it gets the managers bigger bonuses, which is a whole separate issue entirely.

      1. Jadelyn*

        If they are using a “lean-working, low pay model” in order to give managers bigger bonuses, then they don’t “like to keep a lean-working, low pay model” – they like to exploit their workforce, is what they actually like to do. The word they mean isn’t “lean”, it’s “cheap”, as in “we’re a bunch of cheap jerks”.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          YES, this. As nice as your coworkers may be, the compensation model you’re describing, Alexis, is a massive red flag. Functional organizations that respect their employees do not exploit or underpay them in order to reward themselves (which is not to say that what your managers are doing is rare—it is sadly common in many sectors).

      2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        “lean-working, low pay model” – is that Dilbertese for “we’re cheapjack punks who stiff the poors because papa’s new boat ain’t gonna pay for itself?”

        1. Alexis (OP)*

          totally – and my position is actually a union job and i stepped up a steward to try to make a difference, but ultimately i have to think about me and m paycheck. while i’m there though, it would be great to help other people too.

      3. Treecat*

        …Yeah, no matter how good your coworkers are, this is a shit place to work. I get that you love your job, but it does a number on your morale over the years to know you work somewhere that the bosses don’t want to pay their employees what they’re worth. Is your direct manager one of the people who benefit from your low salary by getting a bigger bonus? If so, how long do you think you could work for someone who’s content to watch you struggle and be grossly underpaid for your qualification? I know that, for me, no matter how much I loved my coworkers, I would resent the heck out of a manager like that.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          Yeah, no matter how safe and how nice the coworkers, it takes a toll on you to have your dignity needled constantly.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I’ve been struggling with this myself – I adore my team and I love working at a nonprofit whose work I really believe in, but I’m really damn sick of being lowballed and delayed and put off at every turn. I had to all but threaten to walk in order to get them to even establish a salary range for my position, when I was the only person in the org without a salary range set for my job. And they promptly brought me in just above the bottom of the range, and have been extremely resistant to attempts to move toward the middle of the range even though I’ve got a few years of experience, a new degree, and a new certification since I started here.

            And it really does just kind of chip away at your sense of self-worth, no matter how much you love your job and your coworkers and your company, to feel like they don’t value you enough to bother paying you appropriately. No amount of overt love and appreciation can take the place of that nagging sense of being devalued which comes from the lack of appropriate compensation.

            My grandboss has a plan that would get my position and one other drastically changed and establish a whole new salary range for it – long overdue and mostly just acknowledging that what I’m actually doing bears little resemblance to what I was originally hired to do – and I literally researched the local pay ranges for that kind of job, saw that they were in the $65-70k range, and joked to my boyfriend that I might be able to get a whole $50k/yr for that job at this company. Maybe. Which would still be better than the $35k I’m making now for a job that locally pays $45-50k on average.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              That is awful, Jadelyn, and you shouldn’t have to threaten to leave for them to make a change. I’m sure you already know this from your wise insight and everyone’s comments on other threads, but what your employer is doing is not right. It is not ok to low-ball your employees this way simply because you can. If you jumped to another nonprofit in the same field, would it reset your salary to the market rate you mentioned?

              1. Jadelyn*

                Thank you so much for your sympathy, PCBH – I have to say the commenters here have been beyond helpful in allowing me to recalibrate my thinking on this, since this is my first long-term professional career job; I came from retail and some temp admin work to this place, so for a long time I figured it was just how things worked. The commentariat here has been great in helping me realize that it’s not actually okay and just “something to expect and put up with”!

                Moving to a different nonprofit to do a similar job would almost certainly bring me to a more market-competitive salary, and I was actually gearing up to make that move when the grandboss unveiled his plan. Since it’s basically him engineering me a “dream job” – taking away all the admin work I am sick of doing and allowing me to focus purely on the analysis and systems work I’m best at and enjoy doing, plus a new title and the aforementioned salary bump – I’ve decided to let this play out through the end of this year. If it hasn’t happened by then, I hit my 401k vesting in November and will be ready to scoot on out of here to an org that’s willing to pay me appropriately. I love the org, and I love my team, but I live in the San Francisco Bay Area – you can’t swing a cat without hitting a few nonprofits around here. So at that point, if it comes to it, I’ll be actively looking and will be 100% transparent with the management and senior management that the pay is the main factor. Our CEO is fond of claiming that anyone who leaves “for the money” – ie, for a job that pays market wages – is clearly not “mission-aligned”, but that’s an easy thing to say from the top of the ladder. The mission doesn’t pay my bills.

        2. Alexis (OP)*

          Interestingly enough, my boss is considered “generous” in her budgets and employee salaries and bonuses. however, you are right when the whole company culture is off!

      4. Anonymousaurus Rex*

        Wow, yeah, what everyone else said. It sounds like you’re not only underpaid, you’re also undervalued if the goal is to keep pay low and bonuses high. That’s not a great pay structure.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I also wonder if there’s more flexibility than it appears. Although this certainly can be true for OP’s employer, “assistant” doesn’t automatically relegate you to lower pay or prevent you from receiving raises, etc. So it might be helpful to get a sense of what’s feasible within the organization—and out in the general market—as well. But I’ve found that being able to put actual dollar amounts to what you’re foregoing (and to what feels limiting, like your debt) can help make an abstract and overwhelming problem feel really concrete.

    1. Just Jess*

      Building on that, network internally OP. Promote your work, get to know coworkers inside and outside of the office, prepare for the jobs that you’d like to have at the organization, etc. Do all the networking stuff that people don’t talk about often enough. You may even end up friending colleagues and mentors who move on and set you up in a new organization, but at least start laying the groundwork to move within your organization. Chances are it’s easier than trying to start over elsewhere and you already know that you love your current org.

      Side note – I’ve been wanting to get back into a specific industry but the salaries just don’t seem to match me right now. Sometimes (probably rarely though) organizations really don’t have the money to meet your needs.

      1. Alexis (OP)*

        That a good point… I could see how I can network in my own company–it’s a huge place.

  5. AnonAcademic*

    I’m an academic with decent technical skills living in Silicon Valley, so this letter is basically my life every day. Even more on the days when I DON’T love my job. I have done 10 years time in the cult of academia, and while it is so cool that my job is to understand the brain, it’s also a high effort/low reward career trajectory. My lofty goals to cure disease have also yet to convince my landlord to give me a break on rent, and the interpersonal dysfunction of academia has me convinced many people succeed despite themselves. I’m currently prepping a job application for an industry role and I honestly don’t know if I hope or dread them offering me lots more money to do a job that is much simpler and more focused than what I currently do, but I feel like I have to find out for all the reasons Alison listed.

    1. Honeybee*

      Come to the dark side! We have cookies, better pay and no requirement to write journal articles in most cases.

      In seriousness – I left academia two years ago for a job as an industry scientist and I don’t think I’ve ever made a better choice. I still get to do great science but without most of the things I really hated about academia.

  6. Anon for this*

    Are you me? Your first paragraph especially is exactly the situation I am in.

    I’ve made the decision to leave. As much as I love my job and truly feel I have found my vocation, I have had to put my so much else on hold because of the unreasonably low pay. There are things I want out of life that I simply cannot have if I stay here. I’m worried I won’t love my next job as much as I love working here, but I can’t let that fear paralyze me anymore.

    Think about what you want out of life, decide if you can or can’t have those things where you are, and act accordingly. And remember that even though change can be scary, it doesn’t have to be bad.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      And you might not love your job as much, but if so….is there a way you can work the vocation back in as a hobby or volunteer activity?

      1. Anon for this*

        Exactly. Right now I’m happy at work but unfulfilled at home. I’m afraid to move on because change is scary and I may not like my new job, but in the end I decided the risk is worth it because making market value for my experience and education would mean I finally get to start a family and stop worrying about every cent. The risk of an unfulfilling work life is worth it for the possibility of a more fulfilling home life.

  7. LBK*

    A few thoughts:

    1) Remember that just like your paycheck, happiness has a budget. If you bank a lot of happiness at work and then spend it all on stress at home over financial responsibilities, you’re coming out a wash. And maybe thinking of it in those terms – that you’re working somewhere with a high enough happiness salary to pay your at-home stress bills – is enough to reframe it and make it work long term. But also consider that you could maybe work somewhere that doesn’t contribute as much happiness, but lowers your level of financial anxiety so that you can bank more happiness at home, too, and you’ll ultimately end up with more happiness left over.

    2) As others have said, there’s not only one good workplace in the whole world. I totally get this because I, too, am currently hanging on to a job I’m probably overqualified for at this point because I don’t want to give up great bosses who love me and risk ending up somewhere worse. But like I said above, even if your next job is a step down, as long as it’s not absolutely terrible and abusive, consider that a job that’s just okay with a better paycheck might be better for you overall if you’re not freaking out about paying your bills 24/7.

    3) This might get me burned at the stake on this site, but the amount of energy you decide to put into a job search is scalable relative to how badly you want to leave. If you haven’t reached the “I must get out of this place TODAY” point, maybe you just casually skim listings once a week, submit a good-but-not-agonized-over cover letter and resume to anything that looks interesting and see what happens. Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised if you get some bites and if not, well, you weren’t really trying that hard.

    4) Any chance you have the free time to swing a second job? I did double duty at my 9-5 and Starbucks for a while when I was entry level and my salary alone wasn’t cutting it. Something to consider if you want an extra bump to your paycheck without quitting your current job.

    1. Alexis (OP)*

      This is all really great thoughts and I like especially what you have to say in #1.. my bankable happiness is important to me because it affects relationships and health. Currently, I am looking for a couple of freelancing gigs to make a little more $$ in the short term, but I’m hoping in the long term I can get more buck for my bang in 40 hours per week. Thank you for these thoughts.

      1. LBK*

        Oh yeah, the relationship impact is huge. I was an absolutely miserable boyfriend when I was stressing about money 24/7. The old “money can’t buy happiness” adage seems to only apply to people who have enough money to buy everything they want/need; when all you can think about is bills and budgets, you have zero emotional energy for anything else, and it usually makes you not so pleasant to be around.

        The freelancing is a great idea and I hope that works out for you! I did ultimately quit my side job once I got a raise at my 9-5 that was roughly the same amount as I was bringing in at my second job so I could get my free time back, but having that extra paycheck in the interim took a huge amount of pressure off me.

        1. LadyKelvin*

          Money can’t buy happiness but there is clear research that shows that it does make you happier until you make around $70k a year, beyond which an increase in money does not increase happiness. This is of course the national average, in some places this value is lower/higher depending on COL. Basically, once your basic necessities are met and you have some “play” money anything more than that doesn’t make you happier.

          1. Colette*

            Actually, while this is true, I’ve read that you can buy happiness – you just have to spend your money on other people.

          2. Stellaaaaa*

            I’ve had a similar thought. My sister got a $10k raise that came along with a shift from a 40-hour week to a 60-hour one. In addition to a schedule she hates, she’s now spending more money on takeout and late-night cabs (she’s in NYC) because she doesn’t have the time or energy to cook and endure a long subway commute. Her raise is basically a wash after all that.

            In my industry, you only have to hit the $45k threshold before you’re doing wayyyyyyy more work and logging wayyyyyyyyy more hours than the people who are making $2-3k less than you. I decided a long time ago that I’d rather make a livable wage and not be stressed out than make as much as possible if I can’t enjoy it.

        2. Alexis (OP)*

          I like to think of it as “money can;t buy happiness but it sure does help”. I see what you’re saying in that if you’re stressing about paying for bills and being able to treat yourself to a Starbucks once in awhile–that’s not happiness! Great point.

        3. Anxa*

          Oh yeah, the relationship impact is huge. I was an absolutely miserable boyfriend when I was stressing about money 24/7. The old “money can’t buy happiness” adage seems to only apply to people who have enough money to buy everything they want/need; when all you can think about is bills and budgets, you have zero emotional energy for anything else, and it usually makes you not so pleasant to be around.

          Yeah, money literally will make me a lot happier. Maybe it won’t cure all my sadness and it can’t get rid of any mental illness, but I bet a lot of people would be a lot happier if they had hope, faith, or security.

          Oh yeah. Money can literally buy therapy. No money, no therapy. No money, no good food. No money, less exercising. No money, less fun.

    2. Princess Carolyn*

      I really love the way you framed your first point! Money can’t directly buy happiness, but it can go a long way toward helping you set up a life you actually like. I would generally encourage anyone who’s struggling to make ends meet to lean toward the money. If it’s the difference between having a second yacht or just making do with only one yacht, then sure, go with happiness. But for most entry-level workers (and plenty of mid- and higher-level workers), a better salary can be life-changing.

    3. TCO*

      This is all really great advice. I switched fields slightly to make more money, and while there are some things I miss about my old tasks and office culture in the other field, the $22k raise has opened new doors in my personal life that bring a lot of fulfillment.

      1. Anxa*

        Plus, it lets you keep up! If you have money, you can keep your licenses or certs from lapsing. You can buy better work clothes. You can start think in terms of making yourself more and not trying to shrink your life into your budget. New food. Opportunities to go out and meet more people. Joining societies. Paying for volunteering. Upgrading to a smartphone or a replacing a computer or purchasing equipment commonly used in your field.

    4. Jen S. 2.0*

      Love your #1. Of course money can’t buy happiness, but … being broke is pretty unhappy, and having more money solves a *lot*of problems that DO lead to unhappiness. You can find the balance.

    5. KR*

      Agree with your points and the comments here. If you’re low-key unhappy but still enjoy the work, OP, it gives you less urgency to get a new job. You can apply to openings that sound good to YOU and you can walk away from terms you don’t like in an offer because you’re currently HAPPY. Also, the other offers may give you a good information to go to your company and tell them you know that you’re not being paid the industry average and need a raise.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is a really brilliant and clear framework, and I’m totally going to steal it. Thank you :)

  8. Dan*

    So… as others have pointed out, what makes you so sure that making more money means you’re going to hate your job and/or coworkers? That’s not necessarily a given.

    BTW, I was you at my previous job. It was a good gig, liked my coworkers, but time to move on. I was making $77k, with minimal raises, and it was a struggle. (I live in a high COL area, that doesn’t go that far with student loans and all of that.)

    They solved my problem for me by laying me off. I got a different job in the same field, except… it paid $99k and my coworkers are still pretty cool. Every day I go to work, I’m happy I got laid off from my old job.

    Also, Income Based Repayment on your student loans. If they’re federal and chewing up that much income, you should be getting some adjustments so you’re not swamped.

    Point being, you have to keep your eyes open and never assume anything.

    1. LBK*

      I had a not-so-similar situation but with a similar result: I loved my division and had been dead-set on getting into a certain role there. The manager of that role told me I really needed to get certain experience that I wouldn’t be able to get in our division. I got the job I needed for experience in another division anticipating that I’d just do it for a year or two, then go back to the old division with my new skills under my belt; within a few months I realized the new division was a million times better, with better managers, higher pay and more visibility. I’m coming up on the 2 year mark in the new division and have no plans to go back to the old one.

      Point being, jobs are often one case where the grass tends to look greener on your own side of the fence. Yeah, things could get worse, but they could also get better; don’t assume any other company will require a step down.

  9. OhNo*

    FWIW, OP, I am in your exact situation right now. Low-paying job, title not in line with the degree I hold, but a position that I really love. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple of months agonizing over whether I should stay or go. After some conversations with my therapist, it turns out I have some issues with change that are really throwing a wrench in my ability to consider making a big change like switching jobs.

    If you think that might be part of the problem, it might be worth meeting with a therapist once or twice to help you work through your concerns. It’s helped me loads just to realize there was something like that blocking me, and that I needed to take that into consideration when deciding whether to stay in my job or find a new one.

    1. Alexis (OP)*

      Honestly, from what things you’ve mentioned, my fear is more in having to approach my boss to quit than the change. I’m not sure if the drama I’ve stirred up in my head is based on what would actually happen…

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Your quitting will go just fine, unless your boss is a huge a-hole. And if your boss is a huge a-hole (which it doesn’t sound like), then all the more reason to quit.

        Normal bosses know that people move on from jobs. It’s normal. They may be momentarily disappointed, but it will be fine. It is very likely to be much less dramatic than whatever you’re picturing in your head. (It’s unlikely to be dramatic at all, in fact.)

        1. LBK*

          Agreed. Some may not process it that well in the moment when their first thought is “oh god, now I have to deal with being short-staffed and go through a hiring process,” but long-term almost no manager is going to hold it against you for leaving. Most will get over it as soon as they wrap their heads around the administrative annoyance of someone leaving.

        2. seejay*

          This this this.

          In my current company, we’ve had two people in the same role give their resignations in the past year to the same manager.

          One did it when the company was struggling. He did it in such a way that it was really sketchy, kicked us while we were down, left for a competitor, and was really sneaky about it. And there’s bad feelings about it. No one really has anything good to say him leaving, even though he didn’t leave us in too much of a lurch because there was still another engineer on the team who could pick up the slack. But he was really skeevy about how he did it.

          Last week though, the other engineer gave his resignation. Except he did it totally above board, gave lots of notice, told our manager where he’s going and why (even though he didn’t have to) and how this move is actually really good for his career and for society (he’s going into something that’s really specialized for people with disabilities and he has personal experience with that particular disability as well). We’re sad about losing him, especially since we’ll now be down to zero engineers (we didn’t replace the one that left under sketchy circumstances) but our manager is happy for him because of how he did it and because he knows it’s a good career move for him.

          In short, if your manager isn’t a jerkwad and you don’t behave like a jerkwad on your way out as well, there shouldn’t be any explosions or drama.

          1. Honeybee*

            I honestly don’t get what was wrong with Employee #1’s approach from the details giving, either. I’m in an industry where leaving for a competitor is pretty much a given, because the only people who hire for my kind of role are competitor companies (and I work at a giant company that has its hands in many pies, so any company in the same general sector is going to be a competitor in some way). There’s no way we’d expect a leaving employee to not go work for a competitor if they were staying in the same role.

            And I don’t think any reasonable manager expects an employee to prioritize the health of the company over their own personal development and health – if a company is struggling, who knows how long that state of being will be and how it will affect the employee? Does an employee have to stay indefinitely in order to not be sketchy about it?

            Perhaps there are other details you are leaving out that make this more sketchy.

        3. Alexis (OP)*

          I appreciate this added perspective–and definitely gives me a more reasonable sense of the process of moving on if I do choose to do so!

        4. Very anon for this, thanks. :)*

          Yes, this! I spent over a decade working in one company, much of it for the same man. He was generally a good guy, but he could be – abrasive – when frustrated or upset. My leaving was a big upset of the apple cart.

          When I resigned, he visibly bit back a few things and just said he was shocked, asked where I was going, congratulated me on the great job I’d found.

          (I’m pretty sure what he bit back was of the “oh s—” variety, nothing aggressive, too, from his body language.)

          I had built it up into this big thing that had me shaky. It totally wasn’t.

          It’s a normal part of doing business – and at a company that pays people the way yours does, it’s probably *even more usual* than at places that pay well (where it’s still totally normal). Unless your boss is a loon-in-hiding, he may not be happy, but he won’t blame you. (It’s totally possible that he will be disappointed and sad. He’s going to miss you when you move on, it sounds like! But it’s very unlikely that he would express much if any of that reaction to you, and it’s *totally not your problem to solve*. If he wants to keep really good people longer, he should get a new job with a company that will let him treat them the way good employees deserve.)

      2. fposte*

        I don’t like the sound of a life decision being made because you’re afraid of drama from somebody you’d be leaving behind. Leaving can be good and okay even if your boss kicks up a fuss–in fact, that’s an indicator that leaving might well be a wise thing.

      3. Government Worker*

        See #6 here, and the comment thread of the post it was based on: https://www.askamanager.org/2017/03/the-things-you-dont-know-about-work-when-youre-early-in-your-career.html. It’s so, so normal for quitting to be a big deal emotionally for the one doing the quitting, but that high degree of emotion isn’t usually reciprocated.

        It’s a very common thing to struggle with earlier in a career – this job is all you’ve known, or maybe you just haven’t made enough job changes to know how they usually go. Even when you’re beloved and an integral part of the team and everyone makes a big fuss over how they can never do without you, everyone gets over it, the business hires someone else, and the world moves on much more easily than we often expect it will.

        Or your boss is actually one of those relatively rare jerks who will cause drama, in which case you should be wanting to leave anyway.

      4. AnotherAlison*

        My women’s business book club is reading a book about Impostor Syndrome, and one of the things in the chapter discussed yesterday was looking at whether you were staying in a position you had outgrown because you didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. OP, I think you totally are!

        In our discussion, we all laughed at that because we know that once you’re gone, it takes about 2 weeks for everyone here to forget you. (I’m still friends with some former coworkers from years back, so it’s not completely true, but overall, your position will be filled, people will get used to the new person doing the job. NBD.)

        1. Natalie*

          Also, *you* will forget. The first couple of weeks at the new job will be odd, and then before you know it you won’t even remember how long you’ve been there. And you will completely stop caring about what happens at your old job.

        2. Cafe au Lait*

          Which book? I’d love to read it.

          I’m struggling with the feeling that I have to master my job and be flawless in my execution before I can move on. I end up being stuck in jobs I don’t like and miserable because I haven’t “mastered” the work yet. It’s a hard mindset to overcome, and while I’m working on it, it rears its ugly head way too often.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            It’s The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women.

            It’s a rough read, because one minute I am all, “Naw, that’s not me” but then the next section will be like reading my diary.

        3. Alexis (OP)*

          This is a really interesting comment–I’m glad you mentioned imposter syndrome because it’s something that’s in the mix of my whole question/situation. It seems a lot of people feel this way, especially women!

      5. KR*

        OhNo has a really good point. I wanted so badly to try something new from my old job but I was scared of the change. I was scared my boss would think I was letting him down after he invested so much in me and mentored me. It took moving in with my husband across the country to make the switch and my boss was happy for me. Even now he’s been a source of support in my job search, encouraging me and telling me that any company would be lucky to have me. People moving on is a normal part of business. Hopefully he’ll be happy that you’re expanding your horizons and getting more experience.

      6. Mrs. Fenris*

        I can’t tell you guys how much I needed to read this thread. I’ve sensed strongly, for awhile, that I needed to leave my current job. But I am terrified to do so. I mean, scared to death. I’ve probably stayed at this job too long, and I definitely stayed at my previous job too long. Well, I’ve been interviewing with a really nice company and they’ve as good as offered me the job. I’m just waiting for their answer on salary. I have just about decided that the fact that I AM so scared of it is the exact reason I should make myself do it.

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      It also may help to realize that this is likely not your last job, almost by definition. Very few of us are in our last job, and that goes double if you are twenty-anything years old. Almost all of us will leave, resign, quit, be fired, be laid off, be reorganized, be promoted, be poached, move laterally, fit better in another department, start our own business, stay home with family, or what have you. You are *wildly*unlikely to be at this same desk, doing this exact work, for the next 45 years. It might not happen tomorrow, but you WILL someday leave this job. You’re not supposed to stay in one job forever. You might stay with a company for a long time, or in the same industry, but you *should* evolve out of an entry- or mid-level job. That’s the nature of work, and it’s the cost of doing business for employers. People leave.

  10. Bibliovore*

    or if possible. My first positions in my field were horribly paid and I did love my job, my co-workers etc. I started freelancing as there was absolutely no chance of promotion or increase in pay. My freelance/consulting about 10 hours a week grew to be more than a fourth of my regular pay.

  11. Hector*

    I was in the same situation late in 2015. I had a good job working as an IT Administrator for a University. I woke up Monday morning actually looking forward to work and I believed that the work I was doing was genuinely valuable to the team, the department, the organization, the university, etc. However, the pay sucked. It would’ve taken me a $20k jump to put me into the lowest of the normal range for the work I was doing.

    So I left. I left for a private company, doing what sounded like a fantastic opportunity and for double my pay at the university. I come in day 1 and the place is a mess in every sense of the word. It took me a few months to figure out but the team doesn’t like any change, they get a new manager, director or CIO annually and the culture runs on fear. Mistakes aren’t learning opportunities but rather opportunities to present a human sacrifice to the business. Even when there are no mistakes, whenever there’s a problem, a head must roll. I’m miserable.

    My point is that I know what you’re going through but it’s very hard to put a $ value to loving your job. On one hand, for your happiness, be very careful where you jump next. On the other hand, there’s a lot of experience gained at awful companies, so there’s that.

    1. Alexis (OP)*

      When you interviewed for the other job, did you get a real sense for the company culture or was it a shock on Day 1?

      1. Hector*

        There were flags but all of that went out the window when the offer came through. I jumped purely for money and that was my mistake. If I’d met with the entire team or more than 2 people, I could’ve figured how boned this place is and I’d have ran out of there.

        In the interview, I wasn’t given the entire story and the role was much less autonomous than I’d been told it was. When I normally would’ve been assigned areas A, B , & C and told to make those awesome, nothing was assigned and I realized that the only way to “get” responsibilities was to mark your territory around that item after the person who had it got fired.

        It took me a few months to put together how bad the culture was. It only took me a day to see how unorganized everything is.

        If you’ve worked for awful companies before than you already know the signs to look for. Overworked team? Management with unrealistic expectations for deadlines? How are mistakes handled? Ask probing questions and watch their body language. If they’re comfortable the entire time, they’re either psychopaths or they’re telling you the truth. If they start to cross their arms or fidget in their chair during questioning, whatever they’re telling you is probably not the whole story.

        1. Just Jess*

          “When I normally would’ve been assigned areas A, B , & C and told to make those awesome, nothing was assigned”

          Sounds familiar. I was already thinking about replying to your previous comment because working for a dysfunctional organization is a silver lining. You learn which types of questions to ask in the same way that experiencing infestations, burst pipes, and flooding help you learn what to ask about when looking for a place to rent.

          To be fair, there was ALL the nonsense during my interview and onboarding process at my current dysfunctional org. The money matched and it was an offer in my favorite city, so off I went. Whenever I complain to my aunt she always says that I knew what I was signing up for from the beginning.

          1. Just Jess*

            This blog is popular enough for us to do an AAM poll or survey of what makes an organization dysfunctional/toxic. Then there could be a follow up post on specific things to watch out for in the recruitment, selection, hiring, and onboarding phases.

            1. Gadfly*

              And define the types of dysfunction–I suspect functional will be balanced in between pairs of dysfunctions
              Too controlling versus no control sort of stuff

            2. Jumanji*

              This! I’ve worked my share of disorganized, toxic and also healthy and functioning organizations and departments. I am job hunting now and would love to see a poll/survey and follow up post on this!

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              That would be such a helpful post, actually. Like a typology of dysfunctional workplaces, grouped by the kinds of dysfunctional conduct/behavior.

    2. paul*

      But as crappy as your new job is, if you can do it for a few years, build up savings, pay down debt, etc, and get it on your resume, shouldn’t that help you out long term?

    3. Jumanji*

      Yup I am on the same boat. I left a decent job for a higher paying job with a prestigious nonprofit with lots of name recognition. The new org and the project I am in turned out to be a disorganized mess. I am being paid much more than I have ever been in my professional career but it is just so bad that I have been job hunting seriously on the side since month #3. And I’ve only been on the job for seven months!

  12. TotesMaGoats*

    What does interviewing hurt? Assuming you can job hunt without your boss finding out and damaging relationships, go look. Interview even. At this point, you are comparing the present with an imaginary future. However, the imaginary future isn’t realistic. So, do something to find a way to compare reality to reality. (Or at least as much of a reality as you can suss out in the interview process.)

  13. petpet*

    Are you in libraries? I’m in the exact same position, down to the assistant title, though getting a bump from Assistant 2 to Assistant 3 has helped with the budget crunch. I would strongly suggest looking into income-based repayment for your loans, and if you’re eligible, look into Public Service Loan Forgiveness as well.

    I was job-hunting DESPERATELY for a few years while I was doing I work I hated for a boss I disliked, but now that I’m in a position I enjoy, I search much more casually. In all that time (coming up on four years), I haven’t managed to land anything else. Openings here are few and far between. The one thing I take solace in is that nearly all of the librarians I work with also worked as assistants for years at our institution before they landed a librarian title.

    1. Alexis (OP)*

      I’m in PR at a non-profit, but I understand what you’re saying – while the job titles vary from company to company, but getting into PR roles is tough like your career in libraries.


    It never hurts to look and go on interviews. Don’t let a “safe” job hold you back. One of my professional regrets is staying too long at the first real place that hired me. I work in media and my long-term employer was very cheap, so much that their slow approach or even unwillingness to adapt to new technology (hello, Internet, voicemail, and Craigslist) and a changing environment would end up impacting them today. I also now realize how short-changed I was in terms of salary and even skillset. Plus, every place has nice (and sometimes not so nice ) people.

    1. Hector*

      I’m not saying that OP shouldn’t go out and look. I’m simply stating that s/he should be very selective in where they jump.

    2. KR*

      This! I have worked in a municipality. It was my first job and I was so stuck on it until I started reading AAM every day and realized that I had very little experience outside of the small town I worked for. Part of the reason I was excited to leave was because I could gain more experiences and skills.

    3. Alexis (OP)*

      I can totally relate since I’m in PR in the media industry, but I do also agree with Hector about perhaps being selective in moving to a new job. But, since reading Ask A Manager’s answer and all this great perspective in the comments, it’s starting to appeal to me to just do some casual job searching.

  15. Erin*

    “Interviewing doesn’t commit you to accepting a job if you’d ultimately prefer to stay where you are.”

    ^This. It doesn’t hurt to shop around, see what’s out there, brush up on your interviewing skills. You are not in any way obligated to accept an offer if you decide not to.

    Aside from that, I’d say if there’s the potential for growth at your company I’d stay where you are. If, like an admin position, you’re basically stuck, then I’d probably try to get out.

  16. Justin*

    You know, this was me last year. It was a bunch of really nice people (and the top execs weren’t hoarding money) but I got married and I wanted my wife and I to have a better experience in an expensive place, and I also wasn’t developing as much in my career etc etc but the real big thing was, nice people, little money, and someone else to think about.

    So I looked around, got a new job that paid a lot more that I definitely didn’t think of before I applied (it was job-adjacent but not precisely the same), and I was worried the team would be less nice. They’re not my age anymore (three of us are my age, 30, and the rest are older) and don’t do the happy hour thing like we used to, but they’re really interesting people and I am really enjoying learning a lot. You get to a certain point, it can be a bit of a gamble, but you can, as others have said, usually tell the vibe in interviews, and it’s been a great experience so far.

    Money isn’t the only way an org can value a person, but it’s one big way, and it does really feel nice to be, for lack of a better word, valued in this way that seems more according to my experience and credentials.

    So unless you live in a place with few choices, or you really don’t find anything when you put yourself out there, I’d make the move if you can find something better.

    Going from not enough money to enough is perhaps the biggest change I’ve made in my adult life (aside from the marriage thing). I might actually be able to retire someday!

  17. Emi.*

    Basically, you need to get a really good sense of what your options are, so that you can compare your current situation against them. Right now, you’re thinking “job that I love and no money versus hypothetical job I don’t love and hypothetically more money” — but this will get a lot easier to sort through when you’re able to look at actual jobs and actual salaries.


    OP, you mentioned upthread that you’re afraid of your boss getting upset if you leave. It sounds like you have a known fear versus an unknown fear (bad coworkers) and an unknown benefit ($$$), and you’re frozen because better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, right? But if you haven’t been looking at other companies, you don’t know that the devil you don’t know is even a devil to begin with! Maybe you’ll find a high-paying job with a great culture! Maybe you’ll decide to stay, who knows. But right now you’re trying to make an important decision without any information, which is one of the most stressful things a human can do. Definitely poke around, send out some resumes, and gather that information. Whatever you decide, you’ll feel much more at peace if it’s a high-information decision.

    1. Alexis (OP)*

      I absolutely agree with you now that the idea makes sense. It can be tough to move forward when you’ve been burned in the past, so you make a good point. Another commenter made another good point in that my job can’t be the only one with a great team to work with–that absolutely makes sense when someone else tells you that.

  18. MuseumChick*

    This happens a lot in my field. Also, in my specific field it’s often the case that the employer cannot give you a pay increase. Let me put it in away that I read on the internet that has always stuck with me: Money doesn’t buy happiness but it’s more comfortable to cry in a BMW than on a bike.

    1. paul*

      I’ve worked with homeless and at risk. I hate the “Doesn’t buy happiness” saying; every time someone says it I want to have them be homeless for 2-3 months.

      1. MuseumChick*

        Not to get to off topic…..but this 100% accurate. I heard another quote once, don’t remember where, “The only people who don’t care about money are those who have it.”

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I mean, I really love Kanye’s take on this: “Having money’s not everything / not having it is.”

      1. Anxa*

        Kind of reminds me of Friends.

        “I just never think of money as an issue”
        ” That’s ’cause you have it.”

  19. Emily S.*

    A note about pay. It may be helpful to check a website like Payscale.com regarding average salaries where you live, for the work that you do and/or want to do. You can search by specific titles, so try several different ones and see what you find.

    This should help you get a better idea of what you could earn in a different position. Plus, what other people with titles like yours are earning, so you can compare your current pay to the averages.

  20. Fiennes*

    I left a great, fulfilling, low-paying job for a big corporate check. That job sucked in every way it possibly could…but when I left after five years, my student loans were paid off and I had a lot more liberty to choose the course of my life going forward.

    It was a hell of a trade off, and I’m sure it wouldn’t be the right choice for everyone. Ultimately, however, I’m glad I did it. OP, just keep in mind that there is an after–this choice doesn’t have to be your final career path.

  21. Chelle*

    This is great advice. I thought I loved my old job–in the field I went to school for, I had a lot of autonomy, housing was included–more than I could love a hypothetical “office job” that would pay “more”, but when my position’s continued existence was up in the air, I responded to a recruiter’s email and it turned out I could do a lot of the same kind of work (problem solving, troubleshooting, optimizing) for *four times* the salary. It suddenly became very easy math.

  22. Chriama*

    I, personally, am motivated by money first. Because once I have enough money, I can do whatever I want. My goal is to be financially independent in my 30s so I can take any job or pursue any cause and not have to care about how much it makes.

    Also, I think when people talk about loving their jobs despite the money, they’re thinking that retirement/financial independence is a 40 year journey. If they believed they could do something not super fulfilling but well paid for <20 years and it would give them the financial means to do anything they want for the rest of their lives, they'd be less devoted to corporations that are making money off the sweat on their brows.

    1. Alexis (OP)*

      You definitely speak to my goals – when I see that a manager at the company I work for makes 6 figures, but I’m making so much less, I think yeah, maybe I could get there. At the same time, I’m about to turn 30 and would like to buy a house, go on a trip, etc., not just have financial independence when I’m ready to retire. This is really a really motivating perspective!

  23. Keli*

    I would investigate other job options sooner rather than later. In some fields, if you stay at a lower level for too long (despite your education level), hiring managers could decide your skills aren’t up-to-date and competitive with other candidates.

    I’m in somewhat of the same boat–my salary is decent for my experience level, I love my bosses, the work I do gives me a vast array of experience, but I work for an organization that depends on the legislature and can’t always give raises and promotions. I gave myself a deadline of five years–if I’m not making over a certain amount– just $3,000 more than my starting salary– then I absolutely have to look for something else. (Actually, it should be more like three or four years, but I’ve had some issues with stress, so I’m taking it easy.)

  24. hayling*

    I worked at a nonprofit for years at a crappy pay because I liked the job and the mission. I moved to an area with a higher cost of living and moved to the for-profit world. Guess what? I still had great coworkers and enjoyed my job! And I had money to buy things and pay off debt. Do it!

  25. em2mb*

    This is so, so common in my industry. Salaries for entry-level positions are notoriously low (though mid-career salaries are decent, in my experience), and for people who graduate with a substantial amount of student debt, it’s just not feasible. I’m lucky that I came out of school debt-free, as it’s allowed me to take the jobs that would advance my career, not pad my bank account, and as a result, I’m where I want to be in terms of job AND pay.

    We also struggle to meet salary requirements when people come to us from other sectors. We have a contractor now who I just love, and I know my bosses want to make him an offer eventually, but we can’t pay him $80,000 a year when our most senior people make $60,000.

  26. Sugar of lead*

    Think of it like this and see what you come up with: If you leave your current job and coworkers for one that pays more, will you feel relieved, or will you regret it?

  27. MommyMD*

    Pull the plug and start a job search. You can’t live on 33 percent of a paycheck. You need to make more money.

  28. Leigh*

    One of the things I’ve struggled with since a job offer imploded in October is that the difference in pay could have wiped out my debt in a couple of years, barring any unforeseen catastrophic expenses (knock wood).

    That’s been a hard pill to swallow, so I’ve kept on with my job search, determined to make the bump up, but it hasn’t happened, and in the last month, I decided to put a pin it, and focus on what I do have, even if the debt and the general feelings of being taken for granted and underpaid and underappreciated still loom.

    I am allowed to work from home every day. As long as I can answer e-mail and the phone, I can be anywhere, and that affords me the flexibility to attend to family commitments for parents and pets, without it affecting my work output, something I would not be able to do if a significant bump in pay committed me to an office 40 hours a week and potentially traffic for another 10. The flip of that is that my days sometimes span 14 hours, but it’s not continuous.

    At this point, my “retirement plan” is a life insurance policy to cover my debts and pay off my home in the event of my death. I’m 46. In my current situation, there will be no retirement “income” from a 401K or IRA and I can’t panic about that.

    I’ve spent a solid two years looking for other work and it hasn’t happened. I got really, really close with a “dream job” that disintegrated in my hands, but the upside of that is that it revealed what type of employer I might have been dealing with if I’d jumped. It, too, was supposed to be a WFH opportunity that would ensure the same life/work balance, but I later doubted whether that promise was true, either.

    So, where I land, for me, and it’s a decision each person has to make for themselves, is this: I don’t want to gamble with what I do have, even if it wiped out my debt, because I most likely would never ever get back the personal freedoms I have now. I’m literally paying for that freedom in lost income, and I’ve decided it’s OK.

    I have a job that I’m really good at and that I like (most days), working for money that I hate, but I am living a life that I love. And I’m very, very grateful for that.

  29. Golden Handcuffs*

    This was interesting to read as I have the exact opposite problem. I get paid extremely well for my experience and have an amazing commute to a well known company. (My compensation is about 120k a year. Comparably, most of my peers are making 70-85k). BUT I hate this job with such a passion and feel more depressed each day I go in. My old manager reached out to me and asked me if I might come back in the next few months. Her company was the best place I ever worked and I loved the team. Plus there were great side benefits like partially subsidized food, fun employee/family events, and an amazing after work culture. I know I would be so happy there. But I would be looking at going from around 120k a year to 80k a year. I have no clue what to do as I’m also drowning in student loan debt (I have about 125k debt) and my fiance is out of work at the moment. I suppose this at least is a good problem to have – although I liked my days in minimum wage retail much more than my job now.

  30. Beth Anne Eretto*

    I am in the same boat. I LOVE my job it’s what i always wanted to do. The people are nice. I make my own hours and can easily get to dr appointments and other meetings/events. But man does the pay suck! I have done a little bit of job searching and most of the other jobs the pay also sucks or it’s maybe $5 more an hour but it’s 45 minutes away so the raise would go all towards gas/commuting. I’m getting married next month (YAY) so I haven’t wanted to make any big changes right now anyway but after the honeymoon i’m planning to look more seriously.

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