Is It Worth It To Take A Pay Cut For Happiness?

take a pay cut for happiness
take a pay cut for happiness
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I have been in my new position now for nearly three months. It’s strange to think about, but part of me is beginning to feel like a veteran on the team. Besides the newest hire on the team who is still going through a long and extensive training program, I would be the newest. But I also feel skilled enough to the point where I am able to do my work with confidence and not questioning my every decision. 

Just in case you are wondering what it is that I do for a living, I am an Enrollment Counselor for a local university. It’s not what you might think, though. My job isn’t necessarily to enroll as many students as I possibly can. My job is to enroll the right students. If somebody isn’t a good fit for the university that I work for, then I try my best to help them find one that is going to be a good fit, even if that means talking with other competitors. 

From a business standpoint, it both makes sense and it doesn’t make sense. You may think that any business would try to get as many sales as they possibly could, right? That’s what I assumed as well. At least, that’s how I was trained to think in my previous job. But the university that I work for genuinely wants to help people achieve their individual goals, and I get to be a part of making that happen. We want to help individuals succeed, not to set them up for failure.

As a result, I get to talk with many individuals who are wanting to take their lives to the next level on a daily basis. They are wanting to go back to school, get an education, to obtain a master’s degree, and to follow their dreams thereafter. The best part is, they are relying on me to help get them there.

I honestly can’t tell you how meaningful and amazing it feels for me to be able to help others pursue their dreams. It’s my WHY in life. My WHY for life is to help individuals succeed to the best of their ability by helping to inspire them to take action towards accomplishing their dreams. The fact that I am getting paid to do so is just an added bonus. 

Taking a $10,000 Pay Cut

With this new job, however, came a pay cut. Not just a small pay cut, but a $10,000 pay cut. For somebody who is in their twenties and is making decent money but nothing over the top, $10,000 is a lot of money. It’s a lot of money for 99% of us. Taking a pay cut of that size has caused some stressed and it has caused some adjusting. 

You may be asking yourself “Why would anybody in their right mind take a $10,000 pay cut?” Good question. A year ago, I probably would have asked the same thing. But the simple answer is because I was no longer happy at my previous job. I had accomplished all that I could. I was losing interest and the drive to compete. And overall, I was just simply no longer feeling fulfilled. 

Getting up to go to work on a daily basis had become a struggle. It almost felt like a nightmare if I am going to be really honest. I would wake up, go to work Monday through Friday, talk to the same people, have the same tiresome conversations, and began to despise the work that I was doing. I am a person who has a tendency to overthink things, and when I had a bad day at work, I would take it home with me even though I never had to work at home.

My negative attitude towards work was starting to consume my mind and creep into my overall attitude towards life. It was becoming difficult to find motivation, and unfortunately, I saw myself starting to revert back into a depressed state of mind. I was no longer happy, and I knew that if I wanted to be happy, then I need to change. So… I decided to start looking for another job – one that was not only going to make me happier but one that was going to provide meaning and value in my life. 

The good news is, so far it seems that I have found that fit.

Is It Worth It To Take A Pay Cut For Happiness?

For me, it’s a no-brainer. Granted we are all different, are at different stages of life, and have different obligations, it has been 100 percent worth it to take a pay cut. I am so much happier with the work that I am doing, and I’d like to think that this happiness has translated over into my personal life as well. 

Imagine waking up every single day and getting to live out your purpose and meaning in life. Well, as amazing as that sounds, I will say that’s how I feel right now. It’s not to say that I don’t have bad days, but I feel an incredible sense of fulfillment in doing the work that I do.

While I highly doubt that I will be doing this job for the rest of my life, the line of work is exactly what I want to be doing. Waking up and going to work no longer feels like a chore to me. I do not become upset when I have to stay at the office a few minutes late to catch up on work. Most importantly, I can once again take pride in both myself and in the work that I am doing. It’s an incredible feeling for me to be following my dreams while simultaneously helping others to follow theirs. 

It’s helped to instill in me the fact that money really doesn’t buy happiness. I used to be a person who always assumed that one had to have a lot of money in order to be happy with their life. But after being in this position for nearly three months, I will say that I am happier now than I have been in a very long time, and that’s with taking a $10,000 pay cut. While I enjoyed making more money, I have found that having a more meaningful job and being happier is far more enjoyable. 

What I Wish I Would Have Done Differently

There are always going to be questions and hesitations with any major change in your life. Honestly, though, the one and only thing that I wish I would have done differently, I wish I would have taken a pay cut a lot sooner. I wish I wouldn’t have been so hesitant to take a pay cut for happiness, because right now, life for me is more enjoyable than it’s been in a while.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t have good times at my other job and won’t cherish the memories and relationships that I made. But I was not nearly as happy with the work that I was doing on a daily basis. And since work consumes nearly a third of my days, I thought that it would be pretty important to have a job that makes me happy if I wanted to live a happier life.

It’s also important to factor in professional growth as well. Where I was before, I had hit the ceiling for growth. In my new position, I am just scratching the surface. I am truly fortunate that I found my new career at an early stage in my life, because not only is it in a field that is quickly rising, but there is also a tremendous amount of potential to grow with the university that I am working for. Sometimes you have to be willing to take one step backward in order to move two steps forward.  


What I am trying to get at is that it’s not all about money. Over the last few months, I have been forced to not only learn this lesson, but to embrace it as well. While money is nice to have and while it can be fun to make money, it’s not everything. It’s not worth jeopardizing our individual happiness just for the sake of having more of. 

As somebody who has always had an overly obsessive love for money and for doing everything I can to make more money, I will tell you that I would make the same decision again in a heartbeat. Having seen both sides of it, being happy with your work is far more important than making a few extra dollars, or even $10,000. But that’s just me.

Michael Bonnell

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