A number that has been thrown around in recent years as the ideal salary to aim for is $75,000. Economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahneman performed a study in 2010 where they determined that it doesn’t matter now much more than this magic salary number you earn—your happiness and satisfaction levels won’t noticeably increase.
Why wouldn’t earning in the six figures make life absolutely fulfilling? Well, it turns out: money isn’t everything. There are plenty of other factors that affect your life satisfaction in any given job.
Here are a few reasons why salary doesn’t necessarily correlate with happiness.
Career success doesn’t always mean more money.
Very often what makes a person happy is the ability to do what they do well and to gain influence, recognition, and job security. Success can mean rising to manage teams or organizations, making an impact, feeling valued in a crucial role for a company, or just knowing that the future is stable. None of these happiness factors necessarily require a high salary.
It’s not all about earning and spending, either. Sometimes job satisfaction results from meeting daily challenges head on, or simply trying and learning new things. Jobs that are not satisfying beyond pay day will leave people who crave these more elusive factors feeling empty. Though money can help you buy things in your free time, you won’t be able to enjoy those things without any free time. A career with a punishing schedule certainly won’t allow you the time for many of the experiences outside of the office that constitute a fulfilling life.
People often make the job.
If you thrive on collaborative environments, client-based work, or sales teams, then a job that lacks human interaction can leave you feeling isolated no matter how much it pays. Interacting with other humans is one of those crucial things that help us to feel human, though some people require this more than others.
You have to do what suits you.
Similarly, if you’re a traditional person, you won’t be happy in a well paying gig that thrives on innovation and busting up the status quo. If you’re into science, tech, or data—hard facts and numbers—you won’t do well in a creative gig. If you require the freedom to be creative, you should not languish in a job that requires stifling your most genius ideas.
You might thrive on doing good, not making more.
If you’re an altruistic sort who really needs to make a positive difference in the world, you’d probably hate a high-power, high-paying job that doesn’t serve anything but a few corporate interests and your bank account. A job that allows you to make the world a better place will be infinitely more fulfilling than one that simply earns you a higher salary.
Oversatisfaction isn’t all that great.
If you deny yourself nothing and give yourself all the best of everything all the time—the best food, the finest clothes, the biggest house, the nicest travel perks, the fanciest car—then you’ll lose touch with the simpler pleasures in life. Stuff, especially nice stuff, can be a powerful addiction. But it won’t necessarily make your life a happier one. Being realistic about what is really valuable to you will help you choose the career that best suits you.
Constant chasing isn’t fun.
On a similar note, if your days are just spent trying to make more to be able to afford this or that, chances are you will feel empty in the long run. Ask yourself this tough question: When will you be done and able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor? If the answer is something close to “never,” it might be time to consider a career change, even if you haven’t reached your goal yet. After all, pie-in-the-sky goals will never improve your life if you are miserable during the long process of fulfilling them. Be happy now in a career that truly satisfies you.
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