Skip to main content

Which is the key to happiness: High salary or job satisfaction?

Written by: Georgina Bloomfield
Published on: 21 Apr 2021

I don’t know one person who doesn’t want or need more money. Whether it’s for a new car, a holiday or just to pay off those credit cards – people would always appreciate some extra pennies in their pockets. However, is having a job that pays really well but offers not much else really the key to long term overall happiness?

It’s an age old question, and everyone is different. The term ‘happiness’ is defined many different ways to various people. To some, happiness is simply having a roof over your head and food on your table. To others (and probably many others) happiness comes with having nice things such as technology, nice clothes, cars etc. To afford the finer things in life, we usually want a high salary – but at what point does job satisfaction take a back seat to accommodate for a mammoth salary? And is it possible to have the best of both worlds?

Various factors come in to the debate of job satisfaction vs high salary. At first, the answer to overall happiness seems to be fairly obvious: Get a job that you love and work your way up to earning a lot. However, there are other factors to consider. For example, what stage are you at currently in your life? If you don’t have responsibilities back at home such as children then you might be more open to working long hours for a high earning job. If you’ve just moved in with your partner you’re going to want to spend more time at home considering how much you’ll be spending on bills and rent/mortgage. Another factor to consider is where you work. In cities like London, Paris and New York, a five to six-figure salary will be enough to cover the cost of living. After putting away savings, paying bills and other costs – how much do you have left over to spend on yourself? And is this an amount you’d be happy with?

We spend approximately a third of our lives at work. We want to be happy while we’re there. If you can’t seem to get yourself out of bed in the morning because you dread the job so much, generally speaking it’s not going to get much better further down the road. Everyone has both ups and downs in their jobs – but if you’re having more downs than ups, is the higher salary actually worth it? As Jim Blasingame says on Forbes, “If you can’t be happy without money and [material] stuff, you aren’t likely to be happy with it”. This is speaking with the assumption that a higher paying salary means misery – it really doesn’t. A lot of people who have higher salaries can’t get enough of their jobs.

Age is another element of the job satisfaction vs. high salary debate. Stereotypically speaking, if you’re younger then you’re more likely to tolerate working more hours for slightly less money (with the hope of career advancement on the cards and general job satisfaction). If you have a job with a good amount of accountability then you deserve the higher wage. What actually is ‘job satisfaction’? Things such as progression and career advancement, good training, great colleagues, decent perks and job security all come under that ‘satisfaction’ umbrella.

Another thing you should think about if you’re doing some self-evaluation right now is why you applied for the job you currently have in the first place. Was it because of the wage or the role/responsibilities? If it was both, have those stances changed now if you’ve been in your job for a while?

Happiness tends to be achieved depending on the attitude of the person seeking it. If you can go to work and laugh, have fun and find joy in the work you do, then you have basic career happiness right there. If you’re emotionally suffering at your job every day, then no amount of money in the world will ever make you content. Maybe it’s time for you to break up with your job for good – here are the signs that you should.