Is Money All There Is? Why Chasing the Big Dollars Isn’t the Answer for Everyone

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happiness by 'shana on Flickr!Carlos left an interesting comment in yesterday’s article on finding a career:

The “do what you love, and the money will follow” mantra is getting very old. My loser brother (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) has a Master’s Degree in social work from a well-known and prestigious university. He’s 39, and earns $8.50/hour counseling troubled teens. He could earn more/hour working at a convenience store, and probably have less stress in his life. His ‘passion’ doesn’t provide him with enough income to contribute to a 403(b) or Roth IRA. His ‘passion’ is blinding his attention to his own future and long-term financial well-being.

Perhaps you’ll remember that several weeks ago, I posted an interview with one of my closest friends, Rachel. Rachel had the brains and the opportunity to follow pretty much any career she wanted, but she chose to do just what Carlos’ brother did – she’s a social worker.

I asked her point blank in that interview why she chose to make little money doing social work when she could easily be earning more doing something else. Here’s what she said:

I think the easy answer to is say, “Because I want to help people.” But really, how cliche is that! Also, it might have been an answer that could have gotten me to this point, but it certainly wouldn’t have been enough to keep me here. What keeps me here, simply put, are the people, both the ones I work with and the ones I “care for”. There’s just something very human about this work. Sometimes I think about looking for a job that pays better, but then I think about how much I’d be losing just so I could be “financially secure”.

In other words, Rachel finds an incredible amount of value from the non-financial aspects of her career, so much so that these other aspects make the financial aspects pale in comparison. She has the tools and skills to earn a lot more – trust me, Rachel is one of the most intelligent people I know and if you get into an area where she has some expertise, you’d be shocked at how deep the rabbit hole of her intellect goes. But Rachel finds enough non-financial value in her career choice that, for her, it more than replaces the financial losses of her career choice.

When you’re in the process of defining your career, you have a spectrum of choices available to you. You can look entirely at the choices available to you based on your natural skills and choose the one that simply earns the most, regardless of your actual passions. You can follow your passions and choose a career that fills you with intrinsic joy every single day, but doesn’t earn much at all. Or you can do something in the middle.

I’m a strong advocate of something in the middle. That’s why yesterday, I suggested using both skills and passions to find a career, because a job for which you have absolutely no passion is a job that will make life miserable, no matter how much you make.

SP, another commenter on the thread, was criticizing the concept, but actually agreed with this entire idea:

I like math, I’m good at it. I like problem solving so engineering is a good fit for me. But is math/engineering my passion? Well, no (unless this is a job interview). But it is something I enjoy that people will pay me a considerable amount of money to do.

He likes math and problem solving (passion) and is good at it (skill). Mathematics might not be his biggest passion, but it’s one he was able to transform into a pretty lucrative career (engineering). His job clearly doesn’t depress him, though it’s perhaps not the maximum fun use of his time. That’s exactly what I’m talking about.

I took a significant pay cut to do what I’m passionate about – writing. Because of the path I chose, I get to spend 90% of my workday researching, writing, and creating content. That’s the part of the job I’m passionate about, and that’s why at the end of almost every work day, I don’t stumble downstairs depressed and empty, the way I would sometimes feel after my old job. Instead, I bound down the stairs and run out in the yard to play with my son, almost as if I’m going from one fun thing to the next. Again, there is some skill-passion balance here, but I found that I was far more happy earning a little less and moving that slider far closer to the passion end of the scale.

Frugality is all about finding the maximum value in everything, from your purchases to how you spend your time. I get far more value out of spending an hour earning $15 doing something I dearly love versus earning $30 doing something that I enjoyed every once in a while but mostly filled me with frustration. I may be earning less per hour, but those hours are filled with a degree of happiness that was unreachable before, and I’m actually in better financial shape for it – lower taxes, no commuting costs, no eating out all the time, no quick stops at the bookstore or electronics store to buy something to be a balm for the way I felt.

I think both Rachel and Carlos’s brother have found a passion-income balance that works for them. It’s far farther down the passion end of the spectrum than I would choose, but I respect their choice. They did not put their “seeking income” blinders on when making a career choice. Instead, they found something that brings an incredible amount of value into not just their careers, but their lives as a whole – their work and their life choices are intrinsically tied to their core values. I can’t speak for Carlos’s brother, but Rachel has found a lot of creative ways to become very financially stable even while earning a pittance – she gets a lot of free meals, virtually free housing, and is actually funding her own Roth IRA. She sacrifices a ton of material stuff in exchange for other values.

The best career for you is the one with the maximum value for you – and that’s not measured in just dollars and cents. Yes, income is one big piece of the puzzle, but if you lead with just that piece, you’ll likely find yourself doing something that earns well, but something that results in you feeling very empty and tired at the end of the day. And if you find yourself burning that extra money sitting in Starbucks, buying flat panel televisions, and doing activities in the evening and on weekends that are simply there to take some of the edge off the dull pain of the job you hate (except for that paycheck you love), you’d be far better off in a career with a little less paycheck and a little more passion.

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40 thoughts on “Is Money All There Is? Why Chasing the Big Dollars Isn’t the Answer for Everyone

  1. Extremely important point well made in the post above: the distinction between value (subjective and varies by person) and cost/remuneration (objective measure in money). The two can be independent, as you point out.

  2. Another thing to consider is that if a person is so absorbed with maximizing their time now, to the detriment of planning for his future, are the later years of his life going to be disproportionately painful because they are broke?

    If a person chooses a career in a low paying but satisfying field, its wise to choose an education plan accordingly (ie- don’t rack up a few hundred thousand dollars in student loans) and also make sure that they are prepared to live and save accordingly. Its so painful to watch noble young people start out without counting the cost of their full-time volunteer work. They’re setting themselves up to be on the receiving end later on, and a burden to family and society.

    I’m not saying don’t have a job as a social worker, i’m just saying, if you’re going to do it, do it right.

  3. When I’m lying on my deathbed, I want happy memories, not a huge bank account. They don’t make pockets in shrouds.

  4. Hear Hear!

    It drives me nuts to see people force their own choice along that spectrum (good analogy BTW!) to others. Especially to the point of calling his brother a loser. Trent, I think you’ve done an admirable job of explaining it, and I hope Carlos’ mind was opened by this post.

    Personally, I’m lucky… I’m leaving the middle of that spectrum (a well paying job that I was good at but that frustrated me most days – accounting) to go back to school & become a doctor – which will put me at pretty much the highest end of both aspects. Yay for financial freedom!

  5. The key to financial security is, “make more or spend less.” The lesson I have taught my children is: they should do what they find interesting and fulfilling but they have to pay their bills which may mean having to save more, having to wait longer to buy things they want, etc… My oldest wants to be an artist. We’ve talked about being an art teacher, working as a curator, selling free lance art, doing interior decorating, etc… There are different choices she can make that will allow her to do the thing she loves but also protect her financially.

  6. Just as you wouldn’t spend money just to get a tax deduction, you shouldn’t take a pay cut just to pay less in taxes. I realize that isn’t the focal point of the article, but I wanted to bring it up because I disagree with your “benefit” of lower taxes.

    All other points are spot on, I strongly believe in finding the midway point as well. Infact, that is what I am doing with my career right now too.

  7. I agree that people need to do what they love and find value in that. But they should definitely make some money doing it, too.

    As a future social worker myself, I won’t be one of the ones working for $8 an hour. At least not as my main job, as I could imagine working in a job I REALLY love on a part time basis for that amount. But I know my worth and will pursue it. Too many of my fellow social workers get stuck in the mindset that there’s no money to be made, and if you do make it, it takes away from your work. It’s a silly attitude.

    In all reality, I know social workers all over the pay scale, from $11 an hour up to a six figure annual income. Just so all of you who think you might want to get into social work know: Social Work is NOT just a low paying, stressful job. There are many routes you can take in this career and some are quite lucrative AND rewarding. Sadly, however, the profession on the whole is not all that valued by society.

  8. Ah, I get where you’re coming from, but I want to tell you and everyone, if you’re passionate about one thing, then that’s great. But if you’re passionate about TWO things, then you’re DOUBLY motivated — and that’s twice as great!

    Let one of your passions, one of your goals, one of your non-negotiables, be that you WILL be well-off, materially, while doing what you love.

    My passion is acting and writing, and I can tell you firmly, absolutely, I have no intention what so ever of being a starving artist. I am going to become a professional (i.e., paid) actor and I am going to write about everything I love, and somehow, I KNOW, that I’m going to have all the money I need — in fact, more than what I need because I really like supporting charities and non-profit organizations I believe in, and I want to have a family, children. No way am I going to be “poor” while doing what I need to do. It makes no sense — it’s not how life works. Period.

    OK — while there are no guarantees or certainties in life (OK — death & taxes, but beyond that . . .), one thing is certain: if you accept/believe that you’ll go broke and be poor while following your passion, then that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

    Money “problems,” not having enough, just barely getting by, is unacceptable (over the long run) because it is the one thing that’s almost guaranteed to kill your passion.

    Now, Mother Teresa was not rich, not materially well-off, by our middle class standards, but — she was NOT in want of what she needed, and that’s the point. Your life, your needs will determine how much you need, and not to just survive — but to grow and thrive.

    We live in an increasingly wealthy world, and that wealth is not concentrated at the “top.” It has never been easier today to follow your passion and meet your needs, materially, and — going forward, it’s going to get easier (because the world is getting wealthier).

    So — make up your mind about this, and then start going after what you need and want.

    I have an online journal (i.e., “blog”) that started out — and continues to be — a personal acting journal, but it’s evolved into a place where I get very clear about what I want, when I want it, and I write down my goals and find ways to keep myself focused and motivated. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way to go. Here’s a couple of posts your readers may find interesting and — I hope — motivating:

    Attitude Is Everything: “Failure Is Not An Option”
    http://www.thesecretoftheatricalspace.dramaticimagination.com/archives/2007/06/attitude-is-eve.html

    Economic Freedom, Art, and Acting for Money. Why It’s Important:
    http://www.thesecretoftheatricalspace.dramaticimagination.com/archives/2008/02/economic-freedo.html

    My mindset as an Actor and Business person:
    http://www.thesecretoftheatricalspace.dramaticimagination.com/archives/2008/03/my-mindset-as-a.html

  9. The thing with doing something you love is that it also entertains you. When you hate or dislike your job, one of the most time consuming thing in your life, you always need to entertain yourself through expensive hobbies, activities, etc.
    Therefore, if you do what you love, you need less money!

  10. I think what Trent was thinking about, JM, is the marginal tax rate. That is, at certain defined thresholds in your income, the amount of tax you pay for every further dollar goes up. Your “per capita” return on your further effort becomes less at each of these points. And then there’s the point where you become eligible for the AMT and your return becomes even less.

    You’re still better off financially earning (let’s say) $10K and paying 10% taxes on it than earning $100K and paying 20% taxes on it, obviously, but there is a point of diminishing returns–your earnings “per hour” do drop off, so the question becomes whether the time you are putting in is worth it at each threshold.

  11. A quote I heard on a children’s cartoon this morning:
    “Mother said to become a baker. Everyone needs a bread, everyday. They need a lawyer once a month, maybe. But no. I had to be a lawyer, and here I am all alone.”

    (Cartoon was set pre-industrial revolution.)

    It’s good to be needed, and it’s human to want to be useful.

    Find something you like to do, and other people need, and you’ll do fine.

  12. well, let’s hope this works for me because i am going into counseling/social work also. i’ll have my associate’s degree in human services in may of 2009 and my bachelor’s by may of 2011. (feels like i’ve been in college forever, my god. already have an associate’s in accounting and was only 6 classes away from a bachelor’s when i decided that i hated accounting, although i loved numbers.) happiness in a career means a lot more to me than the financial gain. or at least that’s how i feel now. i’ll let you know in a few years lol.

  13. Perhaps I missed the point of your previous article. I tire of the voices that advocate doing what you love and forget about the money. It may follow, it may not, and “somewhere in the middle” is a good place to start for most people.

    Thanks for highlighting my comment, but please note: I am female! :)

  14. I appreciate the idea of a spectrum; it’s definitely not a black and white situation.

    I’d also encourage that regardless of where you’re aiming on the spectrum, to choose a job with enough of a challenge to keep you engaged.

    It’s my opinion that even passion and purpose can’t sustain us if we don’t have goals and challenges to reach for.

  15. I was happy to see this series on your site as I am contemplating a big career shift. I’ve been self-employed in the healing arts for 14 years and I am very, very good at what I do…(I get paid a hefty hourly fee but it’s still feast or famine)

    Now with children and financial demands that are growing, I am ready to move to something more secure.

    I’m sick of not having enough money (and I’m not extravagant when spending) and though I was once passionate about my work, I have grown weary and depressed at the thought of never being able to get ahead.

    I’m making a plan which includes more education. It’s a gamble and I have no real assurance that what I’m moving to will feel passionate.

    Honestly, I’m starting to think passion is over-rated. I want stability, structure a new challenge and a place to go UP UP UP.

    I feel like most people my age are trying to go the other way…develop their own businesses. Not me…I’m ready to be a corporate cog…

  16. I think the answer is NOT for people to give up their passions, but, for those “helping people” jobs to pay more. We constantly undervalue the most important contributions in this society.

  17. The US has a problem with understanding balance. It is sort of like cane sugar. Really white processed sugar tastes good but is not good for you. We strip it down to the good stuff but in my view it is too sweet and not good for you.
    Americas religion is money. People think that if they have tons of money all their problems will go away but balance is the key. Money is important but many other things are too. Look at it like a wheel with spokes. For me the spokes are Spiritual, Education, Health, Money, Family, Friends, Adventure, Entertainment or Fun. If any of the spokes get more attention than the others then you will suffer. Balance my friend, balance.

    Robyn
    Rectitique.com

  18. i knew 2 things from an early age; i would never get rich, but i vowed to never be poor.
    it’s not about how much you make, but how much you keep.
    i always paid myself first.
    hating college, i took a test & became a firefighter. my friends at Carpenter Steel laughed at how much less i made than them. less than 10 years later they were out of a job(plant closure).
    i loved my career; the action, brotherhood, 3 days on-3 days off; allowed me time to watch my son grow up.average pay, but good benefits.retired after 24 years at age 49.
    i never have to work again.

  19. For the record, my wife is a social worker earning considerably more than $8.50/hour. I’m all about following your dreams, but, it’s important to earn enough to fully fund one’s Roth IRA (or other savings vehicle), every year, without fail. No excuses. No exceptions.

    If your so-called career (and lifestyle) make that an impossibility, it’s time to re-evaluate your ‘career’ choice.

  20. I think you also need to look at how much your skills will let you earn even if that isn’t your passion.

    I happen to be lucky that I do love my highly paid profession, but I know a lot of people who did this for 10 years or so, stashed away a lot of money and then went on to do something that they loved, without needing to concern themselves so mush with what it pay check.

    Just because you start off your work life doing something does not mean you have to keep doing it for 45 years until you drop dead. Changing careers, especially when you’re financially comfortable, is always an option to think about.

  21. Great post, Trent, I love your idea of maximizing value in your career, too many people are only focused on one extreme or another.

    It seems to me that the most content people in life are those that don’t really think of wealth in terms of acquiring assets. Their ultimate goal is prosperity. Instead of just wealth, they’re striving for an overall state of abundance, security, and happiness. Hopefully that’s true for many people today, there sure is a lot more enjoyment in wealth if your are able to share that abundance with your friends and loved ones.

    Great post!
    Odd Lot
    http://blog.Money-and-investing.com

  22. Hi,

    I am a 23 years old belgian man and I am currently looking for a job. I can tell I am in the trouble of working for the big Euro to get a house and buy a car or doing something I like.
    I read the article and found ‘doing something in the middle’ interesting. But I now need to find which of my passion can be turned into a job that would earn correctly. But I took a step forward reading this article.

    It is a very good blog. I got a lot of advices here.

    Denis

  23. This is something that none of my wife and I’s family even remotely grasp.

    Everything is about the money.

    I recently quit a very well paying job to take spot at the local Walgreen’s so that I can go back to school and further my education.

    My family was thrilled that I’m going back to school. A little less about the quitting of the good job.

    But the good job was draining me dry. Even though it was something I loved (photography), it was a very stressful work environment. And there were many times that I’d head to work thinking: “I don’t know if I can handle another day of this.”

    So now I’m stocking shelves and printing other people’s photos. But all that stress is gone.

    There is so much more to life than money.

  24. It’s important to remember that knowing someone’s income does not mean we know anything about their standard of living, savings, or investment. A friend of mine worked at a coffee shop for $8 an hour about 20 hours a week through college. She had a scholarship that covered books and tuition, but she had to pay for everything else (and there was no on campus housing, just apartments owned by an outside group that were built on campus, so you’re looking at rent and all utilities plus food because their was no meal plan since there were no dorms). At the end of 4 years of living in a one bedroom apartment she had 0 debt and thousands of dollars in savings. She did a number of things that many college students (and people in general) would not do. She has never had a car. She walked if it was within 3 miles. She prefers to wear jeans and t-shirts, and has maybe 4 of the former and 10 of the latter. She cuts and dyes her own hair, clips coupons, and cooks at home. She also is health conscious, so she doesn’t waste money on junk food, and she takes advantage of the on campus gym and library for entertainment, as well as the myriad concerts and events they have. Many of you may say “oh, that’s easier, she’s in college”. But the point is many people could forego/cut down cars, they could make it a point not to eat out, they could go to free events, they could use the Y instead of the fancy gym, etc. etc.

    I just wish that the automatic reaction to “shockingly” low wages wasn’t “they’re irresponsible and we’ll have to take care of them later”. Not many people say that when someone making $60K a year buys a $500,000 home on a 30 year note, but isn’t it 6 the same as half a dozen?

  25. About ten years ago when I was at High School I loved riding my bike, when I started my college I got my first job – bike courier – then after few months I just cannot watch at my bike – I quit that job and almost did not ride my bike for a five years.

    Also when I was at High School or even earlier I loved classical music (I played piano etc.) – so I made my bachelor in musicology and started to work in mayor opera house. Now after seven years (working there on different posts) I almost cannot listen to classical music, opera especially, and looking for some other job…

    I am not criticizing passion element of carieer development – but sometimes we love something just because it is not our whole life, when it start’s to be – we may not enjoy it so much – or maybe it’s different case (mentioned by someone in commnets in yesterday post) – that our life is all the time fluctuating, so should be our carieer approach.

  26. Something else to ask yourself is this: Is it your job that’s making you unhappy or is it the place where you work that’s making you unhappy? Maybe you don’t need a career change so much as a change of employer.

    I find myself in the same situation. I love the job that I do now. It’s the place I work at that’s stressing me out and making me unhappy. It’s the knowledge that my experience and skills in a highly technical field are worth as much as someone bagging groceries or delivering pizzas, or at least that’s how my employer values them (and I probably make more than other people in my same job, too). And I mean no disrespect to people who do those others jobs, either. (Been there, worked those jobs myself.) My point is the high degree of technical knowledge and skill required to do my job is worth the same in the eyes of my employer as a type of job where no experience is required. I got the position I am currently in based just on experience and skill. However, in order for me to find the same type of job somewhere else, I lack the right piece of paper to acquire one. This is what started my soul searching on a possible career change and led to my decision to go back to school.

    I think it’s also a sad commentary on our society that something like social work or child care pay so little.

  27. Terrific.

    And when you’re old and can’t afford a can of catfood to feed yourself, where has all this passion gotten you?

    Get a real job, put your time in and then be able to re-invent yourself later in life when you can make it really count.

  28. Perhaps instead of referring to his brother as a “loser”, the above-mentioned could address his concerns in a POLITE way about his brother’s retirement along with the offer of some helpful ideas for it.

    HOWEVER (and I stress this strongly!!), just because you have the ability (or intelligence) to do great things doesn’t mean that you WANT to do them – it is NEVER a “waste” of life to contribute, even in small ways. If your passion doesn’t pay millions, but you’re comfortable with that lifestyle, who is to say that you’re wrong? Not everyone wants to live in a McMansion with 2.5 kids, a dog, and 2 humongous SUVs.

    I am currently at this situation, in a small way, where next year I will be able to go back to college as a non-trad student, and THIS time, *I* get to pick what I want to do, as my husband isn’t pressuring me to pick a major to “support myself”. You wouldn’t believe what a relief this is, to know that the choice I make doesn’t matter so much as my HAPPINESS with my choice – it’s quite liberating, and I can see now why some would choose to work for their passions instead of for the money.

  29. I tend to agree with Carlos above. Seems to me that there is a difference between following a passion and trashing your future and potentially your family to do it. There is a differnce between calculated risk in following a passion versus not wanting to go beyond your comfort zone and move on in your life. Look at some of the American Idol contestants who think they are the next great singer, but while not “horrible” how much would anyone honestly pay to see them perform (how much have we heard about the losing seventeen or so from each season, very few of them even go on to be able to make a living with their voices). At some point you have to get real about what you are doing and if it can really feed you or a family. To say money makes no impact, or should make no impact on a decision, is sadly the choice of the idiots who use it as an excuse to leech off of others. “I don’t want to work for the man, can you lend be a hundred this month? Can I crash at your house for a while? Can I eat your food, use your utilities, invite my loser friends over? What do you mean I have to get my own money for art supplies, I’m following my passion, you just don’t understand.”

    I’m all for the balance, I just think you have to guard against using the pursuit of a passion as an excuse for you other life commitments.

  30. I’ve been thinking about this topic lately. I chose a field that requires an incredible amount of skill, talent, work ethic, etc. to do. Unfortunately, the long hours for an hourly rate that works out to much less than minimum wage don’t correspond with the required skill level. It’s painful to think that I made more money hourly in high school than I do right now.

    But I have gotten mad about the money before and tried various other jobs in offices, in establishments where the pay is higher and the quality of product less but I am miserable all day and dread going to work.

    I would much rather do work that I enjoy doing for much less money than work I hate doing for a larger paycheck. I have the luxury of being able to do this now, if I had a family or other responsibilities this wouldn’t be possible.

  31. So what you’re saying, Trent, is that you’re using the word “passion” in the job interview sense, where everything you like to do is your “passion.” That seems a little weird to me.

  32. I’m a single mom with 2 kids to take care of but traded in my “big money” position for one I have “passion” for. I worked in Accounting for many years (and loved it) and when my employer sold the business I was transferred to a Sales position. I made great money (much more than the Accounting position) but really didn’t like my job at all. I quit after a year and a half and went back into Accounting. I LOVE my job, I actually look forward to going to work! It pays much less than the Sales position did, and it’s harder for me financially, but I’m happy doing the work I do. I think it’s true that you need to be happy with your job, even though you’re making less money. It’s worth it when you really like the work you do.

  33. This was a very good article for me at my point in life. I am the person that was good at math and problem solving, so I became and engineer. I am still an engineer because I like the paycheck, but more and more I do feel the emptiness build. Looking back, I wish that I chose to think more about my passion in life and not just something that I’d be good at. My husband is more of the artistic type and doesn’t know what he wants to be. He recently found a retail job that he absolutely loves. I kept pushing him for the longest time to go to school to make more money and he felt that was his duty too from our parents. We’ve recently discovered and accepted that he has a different path in life that he will pursue than what my path took me. Unfortunately that means that I’ll always be the breadwinner, but we’re ok with that. The next biggest struggle is to get our parents to be ok with that. The times are changing to where it’s not all about the money and the prestigious career. It’s taken us 8 years of our marriage to get here, but the journey has been worth it. This article helped to reinforce the latest turn in our lives. Thanks for the great article, it was exactly what I needed to read.

  34. If someone with a Master’s degree is making only $8.50 an hour, he’s in the WRONG social work job. With a B.A. in English, I started out at $7.90 an hour at a St. Louis area AIDS agency back in 1992. By the time I left eight years later, I was making over $30,000 a year with decent benefits and living quite comfortably. No way, no how, would I do such emotionally taxing work for under $12.50 an hour/$25,000 a year. Charity begins at home, and if you can’t support yourself or family, it’s time to move on.

    On the other hand, I adopted a cat recently from a woman who said she works 60 hours a week as the UNPAID director of an animal shelter. Her wedding ring diamond was the size of a Monopoly house, so I assume she married rich or somehow acquired a nice chunk of change. But more dazzling than the rock was her smile and air of blissful serenity. She was “do what you love” personified and radiated contentment. Of course, it doesn’t matter whether “the money will follow” if you have plenty already. Striking a balance between satisfying work and a survivable salary is paramount.

  35. In terms of the previous post on how to find a job I did everything wrong. I felt obliged into my career by my family, I’m good at maths so I do it. But at the end of the day the family I come from means I also get a lot of support and I take an afternoon off a week to play golf … not what most junior staff would get in their jobs. There are parts of it I like the maths, not being cooped up in the office all day – I wouldn’t say I was very passionate about my job but looking at it in terms of the spectrum I don’t feel I’m that badly off either.

  36. Carlos treads heavily, but speaks the truth. It sounds like his brother’s noble intentions have blinded him to other, mutually beneficial options, like getting higher paying social work (as other commenters have noted exists). At 39 and near minimum wage, he’s virtually lost the ability to retire, which would have enabled him to volunteer his counseling experience at his discretion.

  37. Hey, I’m a social worker with a master’s and clinical license, -and- a personal finance blogger.

    Yes, social workers don’t get paid incredibly well, but there’s opportunities in everything and trust me, I am financially way better off than many who make far more than I… not because I make more, but because I waste less.

    I also look for ways to increase my income, including a part time job and my blog… I have other projects as well. All I’m saying is that doing something you love that might not be high earning doesn’t mean you’re financially doomed. Find ways to make it work.

  38. But truthfully your ‘loser’ brother could use his skills to start his our councelling service and earn a lot more money. He could also train people how to deal with certain situations that he is really good at dealing with and even run conferences in order to turn his passion into success. It may look a little different to what he is doing now but it is still his passion.
    Passion only equals success when you use smarter tactics. This is what I want to encourage people to do at my entrepreneurial blog http://www.smarterwealth.net
    I love your blog btw

  39. The issue is, how long can one work on dreams and good feeling about what they do alone. I happen to have married a wonderful woman who is a very talented Counselor that worked in social services for 10 years (community mental health- as a crisis counselor no less) and was heads and shoulders better than most of her contemporaries. After 10 years, continuing her education all the way to a Masters Degree, she left.
    Not because it wasn’t rewarding, but because the money never was going to get any better and I for one value her more at home than a measly $15 and hour she got working.
    Love of you job is one thing, but in the end you have to be able to get paid for your time and sacrifices (not being home to raise you kids, not being able to align schedules for vacations, not being home to make your home the showcase it can be) you make by working.
    Not saying you should do what you hate for the $$$, but if you are going to sell your time (which is what everyone does when they work, from prostitute to CEO) you should at least be able to make the sale ‘wash’ in your approximation of what your free time is worth.

  40. I work for a non-profit and struggle daily with the should I stay or should I go question. The rewards are high, the pay is low. Unfortunately, retirement cannot be funded adequately on what I make, so at some point it may be necessary to make a career move.

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