I was texting with my childhood friend. She lives across the country in a house that her now-husband bought. She is pregnant and due in a few months. She has a stable job in a public-service role that she loves, and she spends her free time with friends and traveling the world. I’m sure she’s not happy all the time– she had quite the traumatic childhood and has overcome a lot– but she seems content with life and stable enough to enjoy it.
Her and her husband are jointly making probably $60k-$70k a year, but they make it work. They can make it work because they live somewhere more affordable than here. Explaining to her that my concern du jour was that I have a job offer that pays $70k less than my current role just didn’t compute. It probably doesn’t with most of my readers too…
Together, my husband and I today make about $250k. We have yet to do our 2016 taxes, but I imagine after taxes we take home around $12k-$13k a month. That should be well enough to live a good life, even here, but it handcuffs me into earning the chunk of that income, and makes it even more difficult to consider a job where I’d earn $70k less. If that reduces my income by $4k a month, that reduces our income to $8k a month after taxes, and that’s not sustainable here if we want to live the life we want.
I am open to a lower-paid job, but if I’m going to be doing practically the same role, even if the company seems like a better fit, I just am not sure it makes sense to take such a substantial pay cut. Sure, I can negotiate them up a bit, but they aren’t going to meet what I’m at today. Am I overpaid today? Yes and no. I did receive another job offer when I took this one that was paid even more — but the company was larger and the role was different. As my role gets smaller and smaller, I’m most certainly overpaid for what I do today, and this means that my company sees no value in keeping me or investing in me since it would be better for them and cheaper for them for me to walk (or, eventually, for them to lay me off.)
If I were to take a job that paid under $130k, I’d want it to be something completely different. The problem is there really aren’t a lot of jobs out there like that — either they’re $60k-$80k for still-stressful but less senior roles where you manage a particular task or program over and over, and your objective theoretically is still to move up to better-paid management (with all the stress that comes with it), or they’re $100-$130k and basically the same job I have for a lot less salary. And, although money isn’t everything, I haven’t been paid that low in years, and cost of living has gone up. Even though I am able to save a good $6k per month right now, I can’t live in a 1 bedroom apartment forever. (Well, I can, but I don’t want to.)
My loose plan all rests around making as money as possible and putting away as much money as possible for as long as I can. If that’s really my goal, then I should stay in my current job until they ask me to leave. If I stay until June, I will have saved an additional $15k or more. That’s not a downpayment here (that would be $300k), but it’s also not nothing. If I keep my head down, really do my best work and try my hardest to the point where I’m adding a lot of value, maybe I can stay through the end of the year–saving $55,000, and putting me over my $500k goal.
Even though my ego is shot, having gone from running a department to running a tiny sliver of it, constantly being on the chopping block with everyone who knows my income clearly looking at me like someone overpaid enough to not be worth their time, I still have a job. I still do work, I still do some good work, and I’m learning how to be better at other elements of my job, at least to the point where I communicate well with other teams and showcase my successes. I really thought I’d be fired by now, but so far removing me is more of a risk than keeping me around. It won’t be that case forever, but in the short term I have high visibility in the business, so it’s hard to just show me the door without a major failure.
That said, the second we have a bad quarter or two and there is a mass layoff I’m 99% sure i’ll be on the top of the list. But that wouldn’t be so bad either — typically layoffs like that come with some severance and a reasonable story to take to future employers, especially if you’ve been with the business for a while before you are let go.
I just often look around at my 800-square foot 1 bedroom in a nice but basic apartment complex and think that no matter what I do here, I’ll never be stable enough with the amount of income needed to afford a house or to have the life I want for my family. Can we survive here? Probably. But I don’t want to just be surviving. As my friend pointed out, with our salary we could live like kings in her neck of the woods. We probably wouldn’t make that much there, but still, a dollar goes a lot further in most parts of the country.
So why don’t we just move? Sometimes, I think we should. But, for now, the jobs are here for me, and family is here for him. It would be hard for him to move away from his family, and I’ve gotten so used to living away from mine it would be hard to live closer to them. And, after traveling all across the country, I can say for certain that there is no other place that makes me this happy – with the right blend of urban, semi-urban, suburban and the great outdoors. This is such as special place (and that’s why it costs so damn much to live here.)
I really don’t know what to do right now. I’ve made a pact with myself that I can leave my role starting in April, as I’m pretty sure unless my performance skyrockets and the company is doing so well they don’t care about my current salary, I am out the door no later than this July. Still, staying to July has its benefits, especially over going to a company that will pay me much less for the same role, or even, quite frankly, a more stressful role with less resources. It might be a good move, however, because I think I’m a really good fit for the company culture, the subject material, and it’s somewhere I can see myself staying for a fairly long time. And it’s 15 minutes from where I live, which would add a huge increase in my work-life balance, especially at the end of the day where I’d like to have time to come home, enjoy a relaxing dinner with my husband, maybe even read a few chapters of a book or clean this mess of a house.