Would You Take a Better Job for a Lower Salary?

September 3, 2008

If you had the chance to take a job that you would enjoy more than your current position but paid about 4% less than your current salary would you take it?

Earn More or Enjoy More?
I’ve been on the job hunt recently and had a really interesting opportunity come up that pays less than I earn now.  Is it worth it to me to take a job that I’ll probably enjoy more even though I’ll earn less money?

Job Comparison Tool
Luckily, I have the job comparison tool to help me make my decision. I plugged in scores for 16 different criteria, including salary, and the tool suggests I should go for the new job.  Even though I gave salary the highest weight in the model there were enough other benefits of the new job that the final score suggests the new job would be a good move.

Document Job Details
One of the things I didn’t mention in my coverage of the job comparison tool was that you should create another set of columns off to the side of your spreadsheet where you provide the data behind the score for each criterion.

For example, if you rate one job as a 2 for salary and another job as a 1, you should put the salary for each job in the columns off to the side of the model.  This will remind you of the reason why you scored each job feature the way you did. 

What’s More Important than Money?
There are several reasons the new job is appealing to me:

Less Stress
To start with I’d have less responsibility, fewer tight deadlines, little client interaction, and no pager.

Flexible Work Schedule
They also offer a flexible work schedule, you can work 4 ten hour days, 9 nine hour days with every other Friday off, or 9 hour days Monday – Friday, then work from home for 4 hours on Friday.

Career Development
Another benefit is that I’d be working with a much broader range of technologies in the new job.  About 60% of the job would involve web application development and the other 40% would be composed of technolgoy research and development for the company.  This exposure to new technologies is not only interesting but also makes my resume more versatile.

Paid for Your Effort
To top it off, you get paid for every hour you work!  Although it is a salaried position, it also pays overtime. Due to the type of work the company does and the way it bills clients, the company pays employees overtime for every hour they work over 40. 

The company tries to avoid paying overtime so I probably wouldn’t make much extra money but what it does mean is that I wouldn’t typically have to work over 40 hours in a week.  Not that I’m opposed to hard work, I just like to get paid for the work that I do.  Contrast this with my current job where I could work a 60 hour week and still get paid the same.

Decisions, Decisions
Of course, the downside is that I’d earn less money, about 4% less than I do now.  I’d also lose a week of vacation since I’d be starting fresh at a new company.  Even so, when I put all the features of the two jobs into my job comparison tool it suggests I go for the new one.  They’ve made me an offer so I have to decide soon whether to accept it or not.  I’m heavily leaning towards the new job….

What do you think? Would you take a better job for a lower salary?


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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31 Responses to Would You Take a Better Job for a Lower Salary?

  • Jennie

    I want to quit my stressful and long hour work job. I keep looking for the new career, but the problem is I don’t know what new job or career I want to do. I need money to take care of my kid. It’s really hard for me to make decision about changing the career and make less money

  • Tommy D

    Thank you for this site and information. I am in the same boat. I hate my job, but make a very good salary. My goals and future is in a job that pays half of what I make. Yes, 50% less. I am still considering it because I am quite sick of this job and believe the other job has a career path for me. Am I crazy?

    • lily

      i am doing the same thing. my current job is not challenging me to the level i expect from my job, so i am considering a job which pays 50% less from my current salary.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much, the article was very helpful because I am going through the same situation right now.

  • Cathy

    BTW, thanks Ben for a great article. I also referred to the article on the weighted job comparison tool. It clearly pointed to the new job as meeting more of my needs. I’m grateful I found these articles at the right time. They really helped me make my decision!

    • Ben

      Cathy, awesome! I’m really glad the job comparison tool was useful. I used it when I switched jobs and it helped me the realize that the new job was a better option.

      It’s kind of weird because it didn’t give me any new information, just made it easy to compare all the data I had in a straightforward way. Turns out that was just what I needed!

  • Ben

    Congrats Cathy! I’m sure you’ll enjoy your reduced stress job.

  • Cathy

    …making $10K (base only) a year less than my current job. Including bonus, the difference soars to about $14K. I didn’t sleep for about a week as I weighed the pros and cons. My job was extremely stressful but paid extremely well. The new job is more junior (which was another sticking point) but would surely be less stressful and it’s at a much larger corporations where the long-term opportunities for advancement are greater. I ultimately accepted the lower paying position and start in 2 weeks. I’m still nervous about it but happy with my decision. My current employer made an exceptional counter-offer which I briefly considered but decided that a fresh start was what I needed, even if it meant a short-term financial sacrifice. I hope this move will open doors for me!

  • Cathy

    I also just accepted an offer

  • Gary

    I just signed an offer letter making $15K less than my current job. I think in the long run I will make more money, better health, more time with kids, etc. It is stressfull to make that leap of faith, but I am going to go for it and not look back.

  • Nina

    I have a very stressful job. I want to go back to my old job but it would be 300.00 less a month. My house and car are paid for and I have a comfortable nest egg. What do you think?

  • Anonymous

    I’ve done it before and it ended up being a much better deal in the long-run. Short term, it was definitely a pay cut, but I’ve made up for that now, plus I have a lot of other benefits I didn’t have at my previous job.

    Would I do it again? I’d consider it, but it would take a lot for me to leave my current job. It would depend on our current financial state at the time, the hours, the benefits, and how it fit with our current life plans. You know, the usual stuff 🙂

  • Marcia

    Yep. I start in two weeks. Mostly, the new job is with people I like, it’s part-time. It has more room for advancement. I hope it all works out for the best.

    It’s a small annual pay cut ($900) for a full-time position. The benefits aren’t as good (including vacation). The biggest pay cut comes from the fact that I am currently paid hourly, and the new job will be salary. So I get paid for 30 hours, even if I work 32. (More incentive to work efficiently.)

    The old job told me I had to go back to 40+. I said no thanks.

  • Shadox

    4% is not that much of a pay cut. To get a job with better long term prospects, more interest or less stress that is a price well worth paying!

  • Curmudgeon

    Four percent is a small price to pay to lose the pager!

  • MITBeta @ Don't Feed The Alligators

    I have gone one step further: I left a highly paying job with no other work lined up or on the horizon precisely because it was an awful work environment and too stressful. I now have a job that pays decently, but not nearly as well as my former job, but it’s a job I love.

  • Jen

    A few years back I took a better job for less money, $10K less to be exact. And you know what? Being in a better enviornment and a more interesting position I exceled at my job and was promoted and ended up making $26K MORE then my old job in less then two years. So I’d say that as long as the pay cut will not put you and your family into financial jepordy, take the better job.

  • Ben

    Eric, thanks for the well wishes!

    Right on weakonomist, that’s part of my plan. Free up some time for projects of my own.

    ToughMoneyLove, my career plan is still under construction 🙂

    Clever Dude, wow 30 miles is a long way. Hope you have some good audio books!

    Early Retirement, the new job is about equi-distant from the current one so unfortunately I wouldn’t save much on the commute. However, if I did the four 10 hour days I would save some on gas.

    Wow marci, sounds like you made the right choice. Hope mine works out as well…

  • marci

    I did. 15% less money – but I got to move ‘back home’ and closer to family – and that was what was important to me. The current job is lots less stressful, which is better for my health, some flexibility in the hours if the grandkids need a chaperone on a field trip. And the health insurance was equitable, which I would give a higher priority than the money. While the job started off at 5 days/week, after 6 months I asked for my hours to be reduced to 4 days a week, which was done. Even less money, but more precious time! Love it!

    As I am debt free, I had that freedom to move where I wanted even tho the job was less money. I’ve been back 1.5 years, and it is the best move I ever made – regardless of the money 🙂 Having the time for the family is worth more than anything!

  • Clever Dude

    Heck yeah, mainly because of my current job. I resolved in my mind I would accept up to a $10k drop in salary if this one job ever opens up. And that job is almost 30 miles from home (driving). But my current one is 30 miles away too (via metro). I’ve learned that enjoying yourself and having good coworkers is more important than the paycheck (marginally).

  • Early Retirement Extreme

    I would. I would even work for gas money.

  • Mr. ToughMoneyLove

    Yes I would IF it also fit into my long term career plan. In other words, if your current and next jobs are resume builder jobs, then they had better enhance that resume regardless of the salary.

  • the weakonomist

    For the right job I would. Though I’ve never had a job that truly bothered me and stressed me out, so it will always be situation dependent.

    If the job was more to my liking and the pay within whatever lifestyle suits me, I’d be all over it. Especially since my dream jobs give me more time to work on other projects that could also make money.

  • Twenties Money

    I would, happiness is more important to me than the money. I actually do a lot of consulting which usually offsets my income anyway. I’ve been fortunate enough to land jobs that I enjoy and that pay well. I am however, just now realizing some of the things I traded off for my current position. I got a 28% pay increase but I lost 4 hours of PTO per pay period, or roughly 1 week a year. My current employer doesn’t provide any paternity leave if my wife has another child. My tuition reimbursement is only 2/3’s of what it used to be.

    These are just some of the trade offs. I’m happier with the work, just not the new people.

    Good luck – Eric

  • Ben

    I’m glad it’s working out for you Money Grubber! It’s encouraging to hear from others that made a similar decision and are happy with it. I agree, money isn’t everything… which is why this job sounds so appealing!

  • MoneyGrubbingLawyer

    I would and I did!

    I was recently faced with a very similar dilemma- the job I had been in for a few years, which paid well and offered excellent long-term financial rewards but was slowly killing me with stress and long hours, or a job with a lower long-term earning capacity but less work, less stress, and benefits such as a pension plan and vacation time. I took the latter, and haven’t regretted it once.

    The reason we all work is to make money, but money isn’t everything.


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