How Much Money Do You Need?


Today I remembered a conversation I had a few years ago. A friend was in the midst of applying for jobs, and she was having a hard time deciding which offer to accept. They were very different in terms of salary and type of work. So she sat down and calculated her annual expenses, down to the penny. She discovered that, with 20k a year, she could pay all of her bills.

As soon as she realized that, she knew it didn’t matter whether she took the position that paid 45k or the one that paid 75k. Either way, she’d make money she needed. After she’d eliminated the salary variable, she was able to evaluate the positions based on another set of criteria. She could select the job that would teach her the most, where she could have the greatest impact, and experience the most joy.

I’m quite certain she accepted the job with the lower salary. But since then she’s received a number of promotions, and she now makes far more than the higher of the two salaries she’d been comparing. Not to mention, she’s in a role that she loves, living a life she finds meaningful.

I wonder, if we all did this exercise and nailed down the exact dollar amount we need to live—and live comfortably—what opportunities would we open ourselves up to? What obligations would we free ourselves from?

Because, let’s not forget, a successful year is measured by more than just the amount of capital we acquire.

PS: Don't get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we should accept low-ball offers or skirt opportunities to negotiate higher wages. I’m simply advocating for making decisions: to take a job or not—to leave a job or not—to build your own business full-time or not—about more than just the money.


photo: Marisa Vitale