There comes a time when you hit a crossroads in life. One path leads you to a better-paying job, and the other opens up to more free time. In this situation, you may feel paralyzed by a fear of making the wrong choice.
Bigger paychecks are always welcome; so is a balanced quality of life. Yet it often feels that we’re forced to choose one or the other. If you have found yourself weighing the cost of a low-stress job with lower pay and a high-stress job with higher pay, you are not alone.
Take a look at these important factors to help you choose between quality of life or quality of paycheck. Review the checklist below and make a mental “yes” or “no” next to each factor to determine which path makes the most sense to you.
What is a Paycheck Really Worth to You?
Suppose you have an offer that would significantly increase your income. While it’s exciting to anticipate a bigger paycheck, not knowing what to do with the extra funds can be confusing. Are you supposed to pay down debt, build up cash in a savings account, or increase your lifestyle?
If you find yourself in this position, make a checklist of important factors to consider:
You like the company benefits. Does the position include benefits? Factor in things like health insurance, retirement contributions, and paid time off. These benefits can impact your quality of life as well as your bottom line.
The commute time is reasonable. The average one-way commute time is 26 minutes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Even if you have a long trek to the office, you can still get reps in on the self-improvement front with helpful podcasts or audiobooks.
You really do need more income. The additional cash could help you pay down existing debt, build up a down payment, or increase your savings. Try to be honest about the difference between financial “needs”, which tend to be long-term, and “wants”, which often pay out quickly but briefly.
The job fulfills you. If you love what you do, that positivity should be honored and cultivated. High job satisfaction—which is NOT the same as workaholism—makes it much easier to face challenges in other areas of your life with optimism.
Signs You Should Prioritize Quality of Life
Choosing a low-stress job or even working from home has its upsides. If you have children or pets, it makes it easier for you to manage them. You can also be more available to be home when the repairman comes over which can help you maintain your home effectively.
If you are considering the back seat on climbing the income ladder, make a checklist of factors to consider:
Your relationships need a little TLC. If you find that you’re spending far more hours on work than on being present—truly present—at home, you might need to examine how your family feels about the situation. Time isn’t money: money later is (almost) as good as money now, but a missed date or game or recital is gone forever.
You have been itching to start a side hustle. Taking a low-stress job could free up time to start a new business venture or blog. This could be an opportunity to bring in additional income, too.
You want to own your schedule. Whether it’s taking every Friday off or starting your workday at 5 a.m., flexibility means you call the shots. You aren’t married to the 8-to-5 grind, which makes it easy to schedule things on your own.
It’s time for a mental break. Approximately 1 in 5 Americans experience mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It could be useful to explore other issues so you can increase your well-being and productivity.
Mental Health and Building Wealth
There can be a healthy balance of wealth and life fulfillment. Research shows that there is no further progress on your emotional well-being beyond an annual income of $75,000. If that’s the case, why do we all chase a bigger paycheck? Perhaps it’s the easy assumption that more money equals more happiness.
I was faced with this very situation. I had a great job offer, but the position would demand a lot of my attention. I was expected to work late hours and the paid time off was lackluster. My time at home would suffer and I would see less of my spouse.
It was then that I started to outline what I really wanted as part of my life and my career. In this case, flexibility meant more to me than extra income, and my lukewarm attitude towards the work itself just made the decision that much easier.
There are two questions you can ask yourself when you are staring at a fork in the road. How would you use the extra time in a low-stress job? How would you use the extra money in a high-stress job? If you can answer those questions, you tap into what matters most to you.