Work Less Or Make More?

I’m knee deep in the trenches of job interviews.

The past week has been an overwhelming whirlwind. So many recruiting calls that I am starting to really believe those plunging unemployment numbers.

After starting this process, there are a lot of directions I can see myself going. One of the metrics I’ve been considering is whether I want to work more or make less at my next job. This is an exclusive or, mind you. I think I’m likely to see an offer this week that will mean more money (and potentially a lot more money within a few years), but will potentially require a lot more work than I’m currently used to. On the other hand, I could also try to off-ramp, find something less stressful in a different industry, but correspondingly make quite a bit less money.

Financial independence plans skew a lot of these decisions. It’s hard for me to think of anything I do as a career, mostly because I’m thinking “Can I handle doing this over 5 years?” not the rest of my working life. I’m treating paid work like an endurance game and I can see the finish line in the distance.

But there are other ways to go about it. You can, and people often do, make the choice to take work that is less demanding of your time now in exchange for less money. There’s a balance at play. Time versus money. Or, as I think of it from a FIRE perspective, your time now versus your time later.

And sometimes you have to work with real numbers to know where your line is. For instance, I wouldn’t work 25% more hours for a 10% increase in pay. Heck, I probably wouldn’t even do it for a 25% increase. If my comp increased 50%, I’d do it, maybe? I don’t know, I really value my time.

On the other side of the coin, I’d take a 50% pay cut if it meant I could work half as many hours. That would be a perfectly sustainable way for me to live in the long term. Now I just need to find a professional job that’ll salary me to work half-time.

Which would you prefer: working less or making more? How much of a pay cut would you be willing to take to work half as much as you do now? How much of a raise would you need to work 25% more?


10 thoughts on “Work Less Or Make More?

  1. Probably, making less. I’ve not had a super intense job, only some intense periods at mostly normal hours jobs. But I find it hard to balance – I need enough intensity for a job to be mentally engaging, but not so much that it takes over my entire personal life.

    My goal, if/when we have kids, would be to find a very engaging part time job. I think this is extremely rare, though.


  2. I’ve taken a job because of money once, and it was a terrible decision. The company was terrible, and I hated every day I worked there. To me, a pay cut is perfectly viable for mental health reasons.

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that non-monetary factors start to weigh more and more: cultural fit (do I like the people?), work load, benefits, how well my boss gets me, etc.

    But then again, your job might be more of the same no matter the company. Mine greatly varies!


    1. Cultural fit (both for team and company) is so important. I’m lucky in that I really like my current coworkers, or at least those I work with on a daily basis. It’s something that I really worry about losing as I make the jump to somewhere new.


  3. I’d go for making less as well. I currently don’t work 40 hours a week and love my work/life balance. It kinda makes the wait to FI less painful because you get to experience a little bit of that freedom every day 🙂


  4. I think I am probably a lot older than the rest of you at almost 58. I think working with people you like is very important. I would think, if I did not have kids, that working at a job that pays great, short term, to put on my resume would be fine. Short term, as in two years max. You could really push for FI, and then have many options. At that point you could work for less hours in something you love and not worry as much about the financial aspect. At that point I would vote for less stress.


  5. There’s so many factors that go into job quality, I can’t say just work less vs. work more. Higher paying jobs in my field are also likely to be more rewarding than lower paying jobs with better perks and less of the parts of jobs that I dislike (pointless meetings, busy work). There are some jobs I would happily work more hours at and some I’d hate working even 10 hours/week.

    So I guess I’m saying it’s non-linear. I’d take more hours and more money for “good” jobs and fewer hours and less hours (so long as I was making my baseline expenses) for a a “bad” job.

    Also, some jobs get to be more relaxed after promotions (see: law partners), whereas others seem to get more busy with promotions. So the job path is also important.


    1. I agree, hours of work aren’t the only factor to consider for jobs. And you raise a good point about promotions possibly leading toward less work. Starting in a career, there is certainly some level of “paying your dues.” I wouldn’t want to be a junior analyst again, for instance.


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