Job happiness and financial discipline

We can be hapy in our job, or we can work because we need money. The choice is ours. Job happiness and financial discipline are interconnected. More about it here, here, here, here, and here.

Parkinson’s law

Peter’s principle claims, an employee is promoted based on their success in previous jobs until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent, as skills in one job do not necessarily translate to another. To this I would add Parkinson’s law: work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. These two laws explain pretty much why 27.8% of Americans experience burnout. They feel they cannot handle the stress, because they are not sufficiently qualified and because the work takes all of their time.

Now, there are several alternatives. One could choose not to take this next job, especially if the job looks hard. It is possible to predict the next career move and learn the things we need to know before it happens. Maybe, one can even grow to the occasion and learn uppon getting a new position. In any case, we will need to work harder for a while and earn less. This may contradict the reason we take jobs.

Why do we take jobs?

A company is there to make money. It is a part of corporate governance. A person is not a corporation. We have other deeper needs.

As human beings, we want to contribute to something we find important, work with people whose company we enjoy, face complex but manageable challenges and be respected for our achievements. If we get all of these or some other portfolio of perks we will be happy in our job.

Unless we have debts or our self-esteem is so low that we need a job to feel worthy… Then we will take jobs that we may hate.

Most people hate their jobs

This is a common belief in many countries. I do not have statistics. Some people hate their jobs, others love them. It is normal to have a complex relationship with our jobs. People dream about retirement, then once they retire they are totally miserable. The depression of retirement is actually significant and scientifically measurable.

Our job is connected to our happiness in many ways. People who for some reason do not have a job for several months will often work simply to get out of their houses. Yet, once we have a toxic boss, unreasonable expectations to meet or a job that requires something we do not like, we will probably hate it.

If the thought inside your head is “I work to make money”, you will likely eventually become unhappy. Certain sleazy jobs tend to generate higher incomes. I remember a documentary about train robber in 19th century who got clean and started to work in real estate. He said as I remember, “I never knew what robbery is until I started to sell this damn houses for the boatloads of money”.

Practice financial discipline

People whom I know and who seem to be very happy with their jobs do not work for the money. They get a fairly good salary, and they practice financial discipline not to need any more. We can live quite well with fewer liabilities. A medium-sized hybrid car will need cheaper maintenance and less fuel. A small apartment is easier to maintain than a huge villa. The vacations do not need to be huge for us to enjoy a different culture. We probably will do better without cigars and alcohol. Maybe the children’s education is something most smart people will pay for. And then again, if you are not an American, education is a reasonable expense.

In most cases in most locations, a family income of 100 thousand USD per year is enough to be happy. Possibly 20% of this can be invested in something like ETFs with reasonable growth potential. If you happen to have a good education, this is a situation you can reasonably expect without doing anything you do not like. Granted, large families living in expensive locations need a bit more, but not much more.

No money will buy happiness

Having too much money will probably result in irresponsible financial behavior and attempts to buy happiness with money. At the same time, highly profitable jobs may require questionable moral decisions. Most financial managers will minimize the taxes as long as their strategy is legal. Marketing managers and highly paid salesmen do not really care what they sell, they are more interested in how well they sell it. One of my friends used to manage an advertisement company, and then he quit his job. He told me he could not look at himself in the mirror anymore.

Doctors do good things, but the personal cost is very high. Those long and stressful hours in the hospital eat up a lot of personal energy. The stress we pay for the jobs we truly love might be very high, and the comfortable existence the doctors have after repaying their student’s loan simply is not enough to justify it. Certain jobs are not chosen for money, because the personal costs are too high. These jobs are life missions. They are beyond the domain of happiness in the domain of self-realization.

Money can buy comfort, the best courses to control stress, and the best travels to renew your energy. So it definitely makes sense to make money, just not at all costs.

Pay for job happiness

Once I was in a lecture of a businessman, who could sell his company for a boatload of money, and eventually after 20 years of running the company sold it for 10% of what he was offered. His claim was interesting. He told everybody that people are actually willing to pay simply to buy job happiness. He lost money and he lost time, but he had the life he really loved. The lecture was 12 years ago, and then I did not fully understand what he meant. Now I think I had enough jobs to understand better.

There is a reason why people contribute to a charity and work as volunteers. Making the world a better place is an award, and it makes us feel needed. Seeing people who suffer changes our viewpoint and make us appreciate deeper what we have.

Maybe the right move to take is not a better job, but a job that gives more time for other things: family, charity and entrepreneurship. With some financial discipline, we do not need much to be happy, as long as we feel that our lives are meaningful.


Due to some issues with this site’s software upgrade, this is the second time I write the article. This time it is very different from the first option. Each person finds his own tradeoffs and only a donkey does not change his mind.

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