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Friday, August 22, 2008

Benefits of a frugal salary. . . .

Or, more appropriately, the drawbacks of a large paycheck. On Wednesday, I wrote about the constant battle I wage within myself, trying to decide whether it would be better for me to seek a higher-paying job, or whether I should continue to pursue a frugal lifestyle that will eventually allow me to pay off my debt and live more simply (with the added benefit of having more flexibility and leisure time). It's a tough call, and one that I think many of us struggle with.

Often, when I write a blog post about some question I'm grappling with, I come across the perfect article within a few days, which helps me to see things in a different light. This is exactly what happened today!

While perusing the CNN website (reading about the awful plane crash in Spain), I came across a piece from CareerBuilder.com that discusses the drawbacks of having a larger-than-average salary! If I ever needed to know that making a lot of money isn't all butterflies and sunbeams, it's now. Here's what Rachel Zupek, the author of this particular article, thinks:

  • Having a higher salary than your peers may make you target #1 when it comes to layoffs. I've never thought about this, but my relatively small salary makes me fairly 'cheap' when it comes to economizing and gaining value on the university's dollar. My higher paid colleagues do the same job, and I think a cynical manager might zero in on them first (unless the union has anything to say about it) rather than sending a pink slip in my direction.
  • Higher salaries also make you an IRS target. It's possible (although not in my world) that a substantial raise might elevate you to the next tax level. Which means, of course, that the hefty raise you just received might be diminished by several hundred dollars a month anyway. I receive a refund every year---primarily because I pay so much in mortgage interest---but it feels good to know that I have a chunk of change coming back every spring, regardless of the penny-pinching and extreme budgeting I do throughout the rest of the year.
  • A high salary may doom you to staying put. In other words, if you're at the top of your salary rate in your chosen field, you may not be able to find another job that pays as well, for the same work. If you love your job, that's just fine. But if not, you may have to make a tough financial decision in order to find a position that is more fulfilling. In my case, for the position I hold, I think my current salary is higher than I would find as an entry-level employee at another university in this area. I'll either need to change careers entirely, stay where I'm at, or deal with a lower salary if I moved into a similar position at another institution.
  • Beware the glass ceiling. Again, this has never happened to me or to anyone I know, but it's possible that you could hit the top of your salary scale in your particular company---where there's no more room to move upward in terms of salary. So you either stay put, or move into another position at another company to try to get around the glass 'salary ceiling'. What do I think about this one? I should BE so lucky! With miniscule raises in the field of education, I'd have to be here for 30 years to hit the salary ceiling.
  • A higher salary doesn't equal more happiness. This is what I've read over and over again. Once you hit a certain level where your basic needs (shelter, food, clothing, etc) are met and you feel comfortable, additional money adds zero benefit to your sense of well-being. Of course, extra money placed into the appropriate retirement fund would definitely benefit you in the future, but as far as present-moment happiness, there's not much difference between a $60,000 and a $100,000 salary (again, I should BE so lucky!)

So there you have it. More money might bring more trouble than it's worth. Has this article helped me solve my dilemma? No. But I definitely have some additional ideas about salaries, money, and career choices, which are now percolating through my head as I attempt to create my September frugal budget. . . .

3 comments:

Debbie M said...

Some of these drawbacks are suspect: if you're making too much money you might not get a raise--well, you don't need a raise! You might not be able to switch jobs without getting a lower salary--well, a salary that's lower than a high salary doesn't sound bad to me! Paying more taxes is also not a problem--you're still getting to spend more money.

The increased risk of layoff is a good point. And an increased risk of being audited by the IRS could be a real drawback.

To me, the biggest problem with a high salary is that it usually comes with more stress and more work hours. If you take such a job with the notion of saving all your extra money (minus a small amount for stress reduction!) so you can quit for good after a short period, that's a lot different than dooming yourself to a high-stress no-life job until you die of a heart attack in middle age.

Finally Frugal said...

I have to agree; some of these 'drawbacks' could be suspect. While I was reading this article, I kept thinking "gee, I wish I had that problem"!

marci357 said...

The most important thing, I think, is to reach a point where you are happy with the situation/$$, and where you feel your life is in balance... Or at least as balanced as you can feel and still be working.

If you are happy with where you are and with what you make, then why go for more $$. It's only $$ - it can't buy you time. And I prefer the time to spend with my family, grandkids especially, and my friends. And in my own personal happy pursuits :)

I can understand wanting more $$ to get the debt paid down faster tho.... but once you are debt free, see if the $$ is really making you happier than having the time to enjoy would.

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