Why more happiness at work may be better for your finances than more money

Published on: November 23rd, 2022

When it comes to your life plans and goals, there’s no denying that your income plays a significant part. So, in theory, it seems you should seek the highest possible salary option when making career moves. But in reality, it’s a little more complex.

It turns out that looking for a role that makes you happy might be the wiser move – for your life and your finances. In fact, many studies show a correlation between happiness at work and career advancement, and it makes sense on several levels.

Most of us can attest to this from personal experience: when we are happy in a role, we’re more likely to perform at our best, engaging with the work and achieving better results. And engaged and productive employees are the ones who are offered internal opportunities, increasing their income over time.

On the other hand, a job with a higher salary that doesn’t add to wellbeing and general happiness is more likely to be a salary plateau point as motivation and engagement decrease.

Of course, it’s far easier to evaluate job opportunities on salary than the more abstract concept of future happiness. However, there are some ways to think about it when considering your next career move.

What made you happiest in your previous roles?

While there are some common themes, happiness and job satisfaction are subjective. It’s a good idea to reflect on your career experiences and clarify what made you happiest in your previous roles. (And it’s probably not the salary you’ll think of first.)

In fact, the link between salary and happiness is finite. One famous 2018 study by Purdue University found that once a person has reached a salary of USD95,000 (approx. AUD140,000), money no longer improved wellbeing and could actually lower it.

Focus on work-life integration

We used to talk about work-life balance, but post-COVID, this may be better summed up as work-life integration. We spend so much time at work that it should add value and meaning to our lives, not just money.

But this is often misunderstood. It doesn’t simply mean that the organisation espouses values you agree with. It means the everyday experience delivers on what’s important to you.

Look at the employee supports and benefits an organisation offers and ask whether they support your life goals. For example, do they offer additional leave for the other things that are important to you, such as volunteering, study or necessary life admin?

Culture is critical

The organisation’s culture will play a significant role in your happiness on a daily basis. And it’s more than just a set of written values. A positive culture is driven by many things, but some of the key tenets include:

  • a transparent business vision that cascades into employee goals and expectations, so everyone is contributing to a collective mission
  • positive communication style (people generally get along and talk to each other in a respectful manner)
  • clear and professional processes for conflict resolution
  • clearly articulated values that are translated into everyday actions and behaviours
  • employees being given the tools to do their jobs, and the trust and autonomy to get it done.

Role expectations matter

Role expectations tell you a lot about who thrives in an organisation (and whether you will!), so they should align with your motivations. And it can differ widely for organisations across the same industry. For example, Apt measures adviser performance on client engagement and satisfaction rather than revenue targets, and people committed to these indicators are the ones who will find the most job satisfaction with us.

Career development opportunities

Another key area to consider is how the organisation supports your career goals. Can you easily see how you will learn and grow your skills? Organisations that invest in employee development are more likely to have a positive culture and value you as an employee.

At the end of the day, salary remains important and must be commensurate with your experience and skill set. However, the important thing to remember is that the best long-term gains will likely come from the most fulfilling role, not the highest paid.

General Advice warning

The information provided in this blog does not constitute financial product advice. The information is of a general nature only and does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be used, relied upon, or treated as a substitute for specific professional advice. Apt Wealth Partners (AFSL and ACL 436121 ABN 49 159 583 847) and Apt Wealth Home Loans (powered by Smartline ACL 385325) recommends that you obtain professional advice before making any decision in relation to your particular requirements or circumstances.