Is It Really So Bad to Choose a Career Just for Money?

by Thursday Bram · 9 comments

Money is useful. If you have a steady supply of money, a lot of other parts of your life will usually be easier. But should money alone justify a career choice?

What Are You Willing to Put Up With?

If I had to, I know that I could do pretty much anything for eight hours a day, at least for a couple of years. I don’t know if I could hold out indefinitely, but I’ve had some particularly awful gigs that lasted months, without flat out quitting. I’m sure most people have found that getting through a painful job every day is possible, no matter how draining it really is.

But a job and a career are two very different things. While most people will wind up with multiple careers over the course of their lives, we’re still talking about years of doing the same thing day in and day out. No one wants to dread going to their job for years on end. On the other hand, if we’re talking about a fairly lucrative career, it seems like it should be possible to enjoy enough of your time away from work to make things balance out.

From there, it becomes a something of a question of priorities. There seems to be a growing sense that we, as people, shouldn’t have to work jobs that make us miserable — not a sentiment that peasant farmers in the Middle Ages probably could have even understood. We do have a lot more options than a farmer born a thousand years ago, of course, but it’s worth considering what our own priorities are. There are certain goals that are simply difficult to achieve unless you’re bringing home plenty of money from work. But those aren’t necessarily universal goals.

What Your Career Choices Really Mean to You

Whether or not there’s something wrong with picking out a career just on the basis of how well it will pad your bank account turns out to be something surprisingly personal. You’ll get a variety of answers if you ask different people, both if you ask if they would personally take a particular path just for the money and if you ask if they think it’s okay for other people to do it.

The ideal, of course, is to find a career that not only makes you happy but brings in plenty of money. When that’s not possible, though, you’ve got to set clear guidelines for yourself of exactly what your priorities are and how far you’re willing to go for money. It’s worth thinking about exactly what you expect from other people when they make the same decisions.

This is a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately. My husband has a great job — one that most people would be jealous of — that he generally enjoys. But an opportunity has come up that he would enjoy more, but would earn him less money. It’s a tough choice and it’s one that I won’t tell him how to make. Depending on how he makes it, though, that decision will certainly impact both our finances and our happiness. I know how I would prefer him to make that decision, but at the same time, I want him to be able to choose his own priorities in terms of happiness at work and money earned. There’s no easy answer.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Choose Financial Freedom September 7, 2011 at 5:51 am

I think you have to ask yourself how much its worth. Some jobs are high paying but are high stressful. You may end up paying more in medical bills due to the added stress. Maybe your time with your family is cut short too.

In the end, we should ask ourselves if we are happy. Does the extra money add to my life and suck more away from it.

Besides, if one doesn’t know how to correctly handle that extra money, that may be an additional issue. Sometimes it’s not about making more money…it’s about keeping what you have.

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Monica Clark September 7, 2011 at 10:25 am

Its a difficult choice between the two, because we live so much longer than people in the Middle Ages, and the age of retirement gets pushed back more and more. It really does come down to what you want to achieve and what your priorities are: financial security and a comfortable lifestyle, or significant wealth but with the possible trade offs of less family/vacation time, higher stress levels, etc. Perhaps the best solution is to reach the financial goal first, and the personal goal second but within a time frame that allows you to enjoy life and work while you are young?

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retirebyforty September 7, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Sure, you can be a mercenary for a few years but don’t get addicted to the big paychecks. If you can get in and make a lot of money and leave, then I don’t see a problem with that. :)

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MoneyPerk September 7, 2011 at 8:47 pm

I agree that it should depend on your personal preference and goals in mind. Because money isn’t everything. If getting the bigger pay check, and not being able to see your kids and wife as often as you should is worth it, then by all means take the job! I think you need to enjoy the little things in life though. Having the bigger paycheck, often leads to more problems in my opinion. Because more money gives you more leniency to spend that money, when it should be to save and invest.

This isn’t to say that I would never take a higher paying career. If I couldn’t survive and support a family with a little paycheck, I would take a higher salary, even if it means sacrificing the little things in life.

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Rick September 12, 2011 at 3:49 am

I guess it all comes down to your need for money. If you have a young family dependent on you, you will have to choose the career with more money over the one you want because you can’t afford to take a risk on your family’s future. But if you are young, single and have a real passion for a particular career, you will want to choose that career no matter how little the earnings are from it, atleast initially.

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Jean September 12, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Its definitely a tough decision for sure, and I believe you are doing the right thing by allowing your husband to make the decision on his own. Would be interesting to hear more details about it, but I can certainly understand if you would rather not say as the matter is rather personal. I am currently in my mid 20s, and I do wonder from time to time, if I am going in the right direction, sometimes I really feel like I cant pursue my true passions due to the large financial gap/risk between the passion and the job.

-Jean

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Chris September 17, 2011 at 7:47 pm

If the ideal is to find a career that makes you happy and brings in great income, then that should be the goal. In my view, one of the beautiful things about the ‘information age’ is that there are numerous avenues open to us for making money over and above what our ‘jobs’ pay. Without going into a long dissertation, consider the paradigm that you are operating from. Recognize what you are buying into, and then ask yourself if it really has to be the way that you are suggesting it does. Just a suggestion. Good luck.

Chris

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William Lee - Earn Money From Blog 2.0 October 7, 2011 at 3:28 am

I think I will choose career that can make me happy. Well, for the money part, as long as the money is not so less, then it should be good enough. I am not working as a full time blogger and my daily income is near to zero. I really hope my blog and passion can make me money sooner. Do visit my blog and give me some comments if can. Thanks a lot for your great post. :)

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Nick January 18, 2012 at 2:22 pm

People need to do whatever they can to make money whether they are studying or not. Priorities need to be taken into consideration.. but if a person is dedicated to make money they can take their own approach. This post is very beneficial for anyone trying to find a career. However it is important to do what you like. Check out http://www.drizzl.co to see the new college entrepreneur thoughts

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