5 Reasons a Big Paycheck Is Not Worth Staying in a Job You Hate


Life is a journey filled with conundrums. An unwritten rule of thumb is that in order to gain something, you have to give up something. And the place this truism is experienced the most is in the area of finances.

One of the biggest dilemmas people face at some point in life is should you sacrifice quality of life and personal happiness for money? And if so, for how long?

Working a job you hate to gain financial independence is a sacrifice worth considering. However, before you sell your soul and doom yourself to a life of misery for the almighty dollar, here are a few reasons that choosing a paycheck over passion may not be worth it.

1.  Purpose trumps paper

Millennials are thought to be idealistic dream chasers. McGraw-Hill Education conducted a 2014 study called The Grad Gap, and found that 73 percent of graduating college students value finding a job that allows them to do what they love over a job that pays well. They also found that 45 percent of students prefer a job that benefits society over a job that pays a high salary.

And while millennials may be starry-eyed idealists, they may be onto something when it comes to living a fulfilled life. Having a purpose not steeped in materialism is the key to true prosperity. Financial independence is a noble goal, but the sum total of your life has to be about more than being able to retire comfortably. Who did you help? How did you make the world better? If you died penniless but profoundly impacted the lives of those around you, would you count your life a success or a failure? Financial independence is important, but is it the most important thing?

2.  Money can't buy happiness

"Money can't buy happiness." So cliché, yet so true. Meaningful work helps to motivate, challenge, and fulfill you more than money does. According to renowned psychologist Frederick Herzberg — author of The Motivation to Work — people seek gratification based on higher-level psychological needs such as achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement, and the nature of the work itself. Things such as pay raises, working conditions, and job security are secondary.

Once you have enough money and all of your needs and some of your wants are met, an incremental pay increase loses its motivational force. Loving what you do (or at least not hating it) is what makes you happy. Working a job you loathe and perpetually chasing the dollar will make you far unhappier than wearing secondhand clothes and driving a hooptie. (See also: 4 Money Lessons You Can Learn From the Joneses)

3.  Earning a high wage is not the only path to financial independence

A misconception connected to the dilemma of staying in or quitting a dreadful job is that you can't maintain financial freedom if you take a pay cut. That simply isn't true. Earning a high wage will get to your goal quicker, but at what cost?

Financial independence isn't gained or sustained by earning a good wage. What if you lose your job, encounter an expensive health crisis, or have to provide long-term care for a friend or family member? Your ability to become and remain financially independent is determined by your ability to use what you have wisely. It's linked to your capacity to live frugally, cut costs, and use creativity and ingenuity to solve financial challenges. Your financial independence lies in your aptitude for working smarter, not harder.

4.  Your mental health is affected

Going to a job you hate, day in and day out, slowly transforms you into a different person. Your mental health suffers. Countless studies show that workplace stress can lead to depression and anxiety. A 2011 BMJ Publishing Group study even found that being unemployed can be better for your mental health than having a job you hate.

Staying in a negative environment saps your strength, drive, and ambition. And all that negativity affects your relationships. It can lead you to lash out and mistreat your loved ones, or it can cause you to withdraw. You miss important moments and find yourself riddled with guilt because even when you are physically present, you are emotionally absent.

A bad job is akin to being in a toxic relationship. If your best friend were in a relationship where they were being taken advantage of, mistreated, and unappreciated, you would encourage them to value themselves and leave. That advice is apropos for you in a terrible job, too. (See also: 8 Signs You Should Quit Your Job)

5.  It can kill you

Staying in a job you hate drastically diminishes your health. Research shows that continuous amounts of stress can compromise your immune system and make you more susceptible to cancer, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. High-stress work environments also cause sleep deprivation, weight gain, brain fog, and can exacerbate mental illness.

In a 2015 study, a research team from Harvard Business School and Stanford University measured harmful workplace conditions' influence on life expectancy. The study found that stressful workplaces make it more likely for workers to die earlier than those in jobs they love. The study found that working a stressful job that you hate can shave years off your life. Let that sink in: Is higher pay worth a shorter life?

Develop an exit strategy and quit

If you hate your job, feel stressed, depressed, and grossly unhappy, it's time to act. Develop an exit plan. Set a date to quit and begin working toward that goal. Get more training, find an internship, and begin networking with people in the industry where you desire to work. As you begin your career search, you should also start scaling back financially and lower your cost of living.

Save as much money as possible while aggressively paying down any consumer debt you have. Be willing to accept less pay and work a side gig to help cover the loss. Be intentional about changing your work situation, and see it through. Your wellbeing depends on it.

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