Happiness vs Money???

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-10-2003
Happiness vs Money???
Mon, 03-18-2013 - 8:53am

Hi team DSG,

This may sound like I'm babbling, but here goes.

At what point does being happy trump a big income? As you may remember I was recently promoted and am the youngest director at my company. Even though I was kind of doing the job before, I'm not sure that I was fully prepared for the pressure. The job pays incredibly well (I am making 6 figures with a potential 20% bonus - not bad for 31) but its killing me.

Last night I was in tears thinking about coming into the office today. I love the job about 20% of the time, but the hours and travel I have to work to do it are taking a toll on my health and wellbeing. I had a knot in my stomach all weekend and today it almost killed me to get in here.  Now I am 31 and the thought of doing this for 30 more years is overwhelming. I like interacting with and helping people and I don't get a lot of that now.

I know what I want to do. I've known for probably about 3 years now. I want to be a registered dietitian. I've never pursued it because 1) I am in a great job and am making well above the average (my father would lose his marbles if he thought that I was honestly considering this - this is the man that thinks money is the be all end all and when I told him I was appointed director, his comment was - "when are you going to be VP?") and 2) it would require going back to school.

Well last night after having my breakdown, BF challenged me. He knows I'm not happy. I helped my mom create her diet plan just through my own research and she has lost almost 100lbs and is off her diabetes medication. I helped my aunt and uncle and both of them were able to control their diabetes through diet. I love it. I'm just not sure what to do. I look back over the past 5 years at how I've been bouncing around trying this and trying that and never committing to anything (but work). Ultimately I think deep down I've known this isn't the right path but I am terrified of walking away from it.

I looked into it and I could take most of the courses through distance education. There are several that are also offered in-class at night. Ultimately I would be able to complete 12 of the 20 courses while working full time (assuming 2 per semester three semesters a year). It would take two years. I would then have to go back full time for a year and a half to complete the final courses and do the internship. This is where the idea scares the pants off me.

Part of me thinks its crazy ... investing time and money to come out with a degree that will have me earning $40K LESS than what I do now! But when I think about the benefits and how I could really help someone, I love the idea. When I think about the possibilities of creating a business and putting all my energies into something that is mine that I truly believe in, I love it.

IDK. I did the quick math on it, and it woudl cost me abotu $700 per course. If I did nothing else but stopped paying my cleaning lady, that would cover a good chunk of it.  I'm going to call the college today to see if there is any downside to doing it part time, and then call the university to see what they think.

This one would require a lot of thought . . .

Bex -


iVillage Member
Registered: 11-14-2008
Mon, 03-18-2013 - 10:50am


I  know you aren't quite happy doing what you are doing.  You need to think about this a lot more though. And....why not pay off the first student loan with the good income...then re evaluate. 

This is not a vacation, or a new hobby. This is no time to jump around but requires a lot of thought. More thought here is required while paying down the debt you do have. And think about your house too. Could you downsize, I know you don't talk about hanging onto it for very long either. You need to have that nailed down while going to school if that is what you decide. 

Dad's are great but they don't have to do your job for you either. Still, more though required.

Avatar for turtleemom
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-25-2007
Mon, 03-18-2013 - 11:31am

I can share our experience.  My husband left a job he loved at a company with co-wokers he really liked to go to a similar job with more advancement opportunites and a higher pay.  After 2 years he was miserable.  At first he thought it was just the transition, but it was the place.  He was doing the same work, but the environment was very different.  He was wooed for his current postion which meant taking a large paycut and having a big chunk of that be commission.  Despite the lower income (about $2000 less a month), he is happy and loving what he does (again).  At work he is valued and sought out for projects.  His mental health was more important than the money.  I didn't want him working every day being miserable, it made for unhappy family life and an unhappy marriage.  While we will never be rich, we have a nice life.        

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-01-2008
Mon, 03-18-2013 - 12:21pm

I agree with Karen.  Set a time of 3 months, go back and think about this again.  Would a vacation help?  Could you shorten your hours to include some more ME time?  Stop, take a deep breath, and think really really hard about changing your career and going back to school for more student loans.  Take your time and THINK!

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-10-2003
Mon, 03-18-2013 - 12:35pm
Thanks! ITA. I should have clarified, this is not an immediate decision by ANY stretch of the imagination. I am planning on sticking with my debt reduction journey. If I do decide to move on this, it would likely be NEXT fall which is over a year away. I need to give A LOT more thought to this. I would be comitting to a lot!!! I don't know what got me thinking about the future this week, but like I said, the thought of doing this for 30 more years is overwhelming. BF had a good point . .. its not like its going to get any less stressful as I move up the ladder either.

Bex -

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-10-2003
Mon, 03-18-2013 - 12:37pm
Thanks for the comment! You know its funny, when I was speaking about it last night, BF asked what my favourite job that I had so far was . . . and it was answering phone calls for a product help line (in the healthcare field). I loved it. I loved talking to people and feeling like I was actually helping. I left it when I got my masters but sometimes I wonder what would have happened had I stayed . .. .

Bex -

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-10-2003
Mon, 03-18-2013 - 12:40pm
Totally agree. If I were to move on this it wouldn't be for over a year. I want enough time to pay everything off and save. There will be no more student loans. If I do this I'm funding it with cash (hence the need to go part time . .. I can come up with $1400 every 4 months . . . especially if I pick up the pace on debt repayment). At the end of the day, this may have an added benefit. It is driviing me to get things paid off so that I have more freedom to make these decisions. Debt surely does make us all slaves, doesn't it . ..?

Bex -

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Mon, 03-18-2013 - 1:41pm

Oh Bex, my details are a bit different, but boy howdy, I can relate!  Most of my electives are health and nutrition related, to boot!

I didn't get burned out on my job until I was close to 40, after over 20 years at the same desk, etc. etc.  

I tried to make my direct selling my career, and did have some success, but luckily I kept my job because it didn't pan out as far as it being my only income.  I do it just for fun now.  I do make a little bit of money, it pays for my own product and I love my customers!  So I totally understand where you are coming from.  I loved my position as Director, loved the suit, loved the recognition, but there were minimum sales requirements; which is what ultimately led to the demise of my unit.  But I loved training and recogonizing all of the women I worked with.  Consultants and customers.


Right now I still have 6, 8 credit terms before I even have a transfer degree to get me into a university as a Junior.  Oh, an no loans.  So far there is just enough grant money to cover 7 credits and books.

Lastly, even though I don't make remotely close to what you make, I do make a good wage for what I do, benefits, etc.  I have done some homework on some fields I thought were interesting and many started signficantly lower, and even at its height, I may get lucky enough to make what I a make now.  Possibly more, eventually....So yes, that part can be discouraging.  

I don't that I was of any help, but just to say that I can relate.  I also have days where I tear up and get that same knot in my stomache and think "If I have to copy and punch one more report, I am going to throw up."  And I have a great job, a great boss, I am just burned out on being a secretary with no new responsibilites be added.

Enough rambling out of me!  Hang in there.  And remember: There are no mistakes.  You cannot make a wrong decision.  Innocent

Serenity CL- Making a Second Marriage Work

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-2001
Mon, 03-18-2013 - 1:43pm


This is something that I've given a lot of thought to myself.  I do feel like people sometimes forget to weigh their happiness against money and find a good balance.

So I really do completely understand where you are coming from.  I've consistently chosen a slower, calmer life over the potential to earn more money by adding more stress.  I know that when my work stress increased, so did my spending (buying little treats to help me cope with the stressload, feeling like I NEEDED vacations, etc . . .) to the point that a promotion became a financial wash for me (and truthfully still took a toll on my health). I understand that this isn't true for everyone, but it was true for me (and there was no reason to pretend it wasn't)

But obviously I still had to be responsible finanacially.  Very few people are in a situation where they can simply chase their career dreams without making compromises in order to support themselves and their families.

I know you know this . . . .

Like Karen already said, I think you should use your current high income to pay off the student loans you already have.  Personally I don't think I would pay for more school until I had paid off the debt for my last round of school.  

But you really are in a great situation here.  You can use your high income now to agressively pay down you debt, while also doing a practice run on how it feels to live on significantly less money than you currently make. So if you think you'd be making approx $45,000 lesss at your dream career, take $45,000 annually from your current job to pay down debt and build some saftey net . . . and you'll also get an idea of how you feel about living on less income.

I wish you much luck.  

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-08-2006
Tue, 03-19-2013 - 6:47pm
Bex, it is certainly an option to give up a high paying career you do not like for a lower paying career you love. And in life, people often have multiple careers, some by their own choice and some because the world changes around them. One of the benefits of financial freedom is that you have many more options to make changes. The job you have now should get easier with time. Younhave been promoted quickly, based on yourability, but time will bring you something only time can bring...experience. I think you might want to evaluate if you are making your. Job harder than it needs to be. Are you delegating enough? Are you holding yourself to a higher standard than the job requires? I think women can tend to be perfectionists and. Burn themselves put. Realizing when 'good enough' is good enough is an important skill. Money is very important to me..I grew up with very little, and knowing that I am financially OK really matters to me. But I know many people are comfortable with less financial certainty. I do not always love my job, but I know the activities that I enjoy - teaching, helping others - and I seek out committees and projects where I get the chance to do that. Sometimes I have to do things I don't enjoy, but I look for opportunities where I can pass those tasks either to people who enjoy them or who can benefit by learning to do them. I think the idea that ifyou would earn $45k less, that you pretend you do and put all of that against debt, and then Into savings, is a good way to see how that would feel to you. It is lays good to keep questioning your choices and thinking about options. In the early part of my career, I often said 'I was once a waitress, and I could do that again'. Knowing that it was my choice to have the high stress, high pay job made some crazy days manageable.
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-28-2009
Wed, 03-20-2013 - 9:36am

First, I just wanted to say that I think this is a very common struggle.....I know I think about it **every** day. I also know that my friends and I talk about it a lot.

I would echo what others have said. try living off the lesser income, see how that goes. Also, I would suggest maybe seeing if you could shadow someone that has your dream job. Maybe intern somewhere? Do you know what kind of environment you want to work in? I can see this job in a hospital setting and at a fitness center. Most likely two entirely different types of people, on different paths and find themselves with you for very different reasons - doctors orders vs. voluntary lifestyle change? I am just throwing things out there.......

I would also tell you what I tell my friends with any new job/position/adventure - give it at least 6 months to a year to settle in.

I think this is something you have to explore, if for nothing else, so you don't have any regrets.....

From a personal standpoint, I know I work in an (mentally) unhealthy environment and I do not want to be here longterm. I am working towards creating a situation for myself where in 3-5 years I will be able to do whatever I want. Somedays, I honestly don't know if I can wait that long. And then I focus and recharge and get back to my course........

Good luck, please keep us posted, I would love to hear what your plan is.