Do you ever get that feeling that you’d rather scoop ice cream for the rest of your life than spend one more waking hour at your current job?
Are you feeling so burnt out, frustrated, and like you can’t even try to focus on finding a new job because you are at work. All. The. Time?!
If you are like I was during my Wall Street years, I had these same urges. I was constantly tied to my Blackberry, my life revolved around work, and I was a fraction of myself. When I had time, I would read books like A Year with Eleanor or Eat, Pray, Love and just hope that I would have the guts to get myself out of my situation.
But then in the same moment I was planning my exit, I would panic and think… “Omg, I’m crazy. This is a terrible idea!!! Will I be ruining everything I’ve ever worked for in the name of work-life balance? Is the balance I’m craving even possible?”
Ultimately, I was asking: “Is it worth it to take a pay cut for better work-life balance?”
Now, your exit strategy may not be as drastic as mine was, but you may be thinking about a job that will pay you less, but that will offer you more flexibility. I have a lot of clients who choose this route and many clients who keep escalating up the ladder. Neither are inherently wrong, it just depends on your value system.
So while I wish I could say a hard YES or a hard NO, it just completely depends on who you are, your financial situation, and your season of life.
Instead of giving you a directive, I’ve included 3 reasons it’s better to take a pay cut and 3 reasons the pay is more important.
3 Reasons It’s Better to Take the Pay Cut
If you’re physically ill
When I was in investment banking, my body started to shut down. In combination with a nasty eating disorder, the stress was wreaking havoc on my body. I honestly was not capable of physically handling the job. The long hours, the amount of stress, the bad food and inactivity - it was all contributing to me being physically – and then mentally and emotionally – ill. If your job is having this much of an impact on your life, it is time to find another route…even if it means you have to take a pay cut.
What’s the point of a job making you a ton of money if you don’t have the time or health to spend with people you love?
When I moved from investment banking to the NYSE, I was technically taking a pay cut. The salary was around the same, but the bonus structure was much lower. At that point, I didn’t even care. I needed out so badly that I left banking before I could snag my bonus and ended up paying them back my signing bonus...that’s how bad it was.
Needless to say, if you’re having physical reactions to your job that are hindering other parts of your life, you probably won’t ultimately care if you leave for less pay if it means you can have your life back.
Heck, you might even pay your employer to let you leave like I did.
If you’re making a career pivot
You may realize that in order to get better work-life balance, you will have to switch industries completely. This happens to a lot of people. It happened to me.
So, if you are a career changer, you should expect to take a bit of a pay cut from your current role into your next role. It’s not a given, but it’s definitely normal and makes sense.
We get paid based on the value we can give to an organization. If we have zero experience, we can’t expect to make what we were making in an old role where we have loads of experience. Here’s where you have to reframe how you’re thinking about the work.
Don’t think about it from a short-term perspective.
I want you to think about this as a long-term strategic career move.
For instance, when I left Wall Street altogether, I knew I wanted to work for a startup. Startups often don’t have the same funds as a big financial institution – plus I was pivoting into sales. Let me tell ya something, this girl never even had a retail job (listen to my full career story on my podcast here), let alone a B2B sales position. I got the job, but I was making about half of my base salary from my NYSE position.
However, I knew that with this type of role, I had the potential to make commission and the upward monetary possibility was endless. THAT was incredibly appealing to me. Plus, I would have added flexibility. It was a strategic career move that would equip me for long-term gains.
So, if you are looking to make a career pivot and the balance works for you and you can see it as a strategic career move, take a pay cut!
Your work doesn’t align with your value system
At the end of the day, taking a job with less pay really comes down to “What is most important to you?” I recently had a conversation with a client of mine who has money in her work value system, but it is LOW on the totem pole. It’s not as important. Rather, she more heavily weights creativity, flexibility, and the opportunity to work on projects that create impact long-term for end users. Take some time and journal through the questions I give my clients:
Why do I work?
What does work mean to me?
What are my top three non-negotiables in my next job?
What do I want people to say about me at my retirement party?
If you aren’t journaling through those questions, you may not know what your core value system is as it relates to your vocation. Once you know that information, it takes a LOT of the guesswork out of whether you should or should not take a pay cut for better work-life balance.
For me in my career, it was worth it. Yet, I have clients who think completely differently. They realized that their lifestyle and the related salary was more important. That’s great! There is NO shame in that. It’s just important to know what’s most important to you so you can stop oscillating back and forth, wondering if you should take a pay cut or not.
Which is more important to you? Work-life balance or a bigger salary?*
*Note: Just because a company gives great work-life balance benefits doesn’t mean you always have to cut your salary. More and more companies are realizing that in order to attract and retain top talent, they need to offer both hefty salaries and better work-life balance. Just wanted to make the note so you don’t think that if you want work-life balance, you can never make money. That’s just not true anymore!
3 Reasons It’s Not Better to Take the Pay Cut
You are aggressively paying off debt
A reason to NOT take the pay cut is if you are trying to slash your debt ASAP. If you have financial goals in mind that require you to keep your current salary, it’s probably not wise to ignore those plans and take a job that isn’t going to pay you what you need. Pay off the debt first, then take the lower salary. Plus, by being in a season of watching your financial behavior, you’ll be more prepared to continue to live below your means and a lesser paying job will be more feasible.
One of the ways I was able to freely take a job that was half my salary was because I paid off all my debt early on in my career. I didn’t have a jumbo payment each month to tend to, so it gave me a lot more flexibility and security when taking riskier financial moves in my career.
So, if you have a ton of debt that you are trying to get rid of, now would probably not be the best time to take a job with a paycut. (Want help on how to payoff debt, I HIGHLY recommend Dave Ramsey’s programs).
Your lifestyle doesn’t support a pay cut
Piggybacking off the last point, take stock of your current financial commitments. Is it possible for you to live the lifestyle that you’ve been living and take a paycut. The worst thing you could do is take a job where you can’t afford to pay your bills. Or get into a ton of consumer debt. I see it happen all the time - a person takes a job that they actually can’t afford. They get stressed out and don’t perform as well in their job because all they are thinking about is getting by.
Ask yourself, “Am I able to cut things out that will allow me to take a cut in pay?”
If the answer is no or if it’s “no, I don’t want to” - then you have your answer. It’s best to stay put than to get into a bunch of debt or into a dicey financial situation.
You’re not 100% sure it’s a better situation
Gosh, I see this ALL the time. Person interviews with a company and thinks the company is amazing. On their website they advertise “Health Benefits! Ping Pong Tables! Free Lunch! Oh my!”
And then they start working…and it’s basically the same hours, just packaged better. They are working just as much and have a crazy micromanaging boss. What happened to the work-life balance promise?! And they’re not even getting paid enough for this!!!
Here’s the thing: You have GOT to do your due diligence on the what the culture is REALLY like before you accept an offer. Make sure you know what you’re signing up for. Is it really a better situation?
You may not know this, but there are whole teams at companies dedicated to employer branding.
That’s right. These teams brand companies so that they are attractive to rockstar candidates like YOU. They pay thousands - sometimes even millions - to convince you that their company is the best. While you can read reviews on Glassdoor and check to see if a company is on The Muse – the best way to find out if a company is right for you is in the interview process. Ask thoughtful questions to get to the bottom of what life is actually like once you sign on that dotted line!
Is it worth it to take a pay cut for better work-life balance? Yes and no. It totally depends on what you value most in your career, what’s up ahead for you on your trajectory and if it makes financial sense for you. Get honest with yourself and you’ll be able to make a sound, rational decision that works for you and your life.
Is It Worth It to Take a Pay Cut for Better Work-Life Balance?
November 11, 2019