I lost my six-figure income and I’m much happier

57 thoughts on “I lost my six-figure income and I’m much happier”

    1. Personal demotion definitely isn’t an easy thing to do. Losing that title can be a big deal, but especially to those who want to spend four or more decades building a career. 🙂

  1. Good for you! I made a similar move when changing jobs a few years back. I took a step down in my role, responsibilities, and pay. I could not be happier! Friends asked me why I didn’t try and go for the same level position or something bigger and I just said I wanted my life back.

  2. The beauty of making good financial decisions- saving, saving, saving…oh and frugality. Buy frugality leads to saving. Nice work. I think having the ability to demote yourself or taking a lower paying job is amazing and unfortunately rare for many in our society.

    1. It is rare. Many of us are too caught up in our titles to think about how those jobs are effecting our lives. It’s way too easy of a trap to fall into. Those jobs might be right for some people, but I’d say not all of us. 🙂

  3. Great post. I really think stories like this one will become far more common in the near future, as more people realise that endless upward career progression at the expense of a happy life just isn’t worth it. It’s also a great example of how keeping living expenses in control, and keeping ego in check, gives you so much more power and leverage.

    1. I think you are right. Stories like this are getting more common, and that’s great to see. More and more people are choosing alternative lifestyles and living arrangements, too. RVing, for example, is getting super popular. Seems everybody has one these days!

  4. Go you! It’s all about what’s right for you. And there’s no way in hell that I would trade my happiness, mental health, and physical health (I used to have a job that gave me migraines too) in exchange for a paycheck. No matter how big it is. I’m really impressed that you were able to handle the situation and stay at the company after taking a lower position. Many people would have just quit. Great job navigating your company and doing what’s right. 🙂

  5. I wish there was a link to this post that was mentioned: “The Awesomeness of Not Being Important”

    My last full time corporate gig was also a 6-figure salary by the time I left. When I started, I was in heaven…. I was being paid a really nice salary to do work that I actually did as a volunteer! Then, there were too many organizational changes and within 3 years, it quickly turned into a nightmare job that came with health problems. It wasn’t worth it, so I quit with nothing lined up. I agree, it is so important to be in a position, where you don’t have to rely on a big salary.

    Now, since I work part time, I have to be in a lower position with less responsibility, and I’m so happy that I am. I have very little stress and I love the people and company I work with. I have tons of flexibility also. No more climbing the corporate ladder for me!

    1. Oops! Good call, link added. I think your situation speaks so clearly to the wisdom of achieving financial independence even if you have no real desire to retire early. Things change, and not always for the better. Your part time position sounds perfect, too.

    2. I had a similar situation before I FIREd.

      I started out as a Software Developer, then became a Development Manager, and then a VP with regular trips to India. The VP thing broke me – panic attacks, difficulty sleeping, and constant stress from crazy meetings. I eventually downshifted back into just being a plain Software Developer and I was much happier.

      1. I can’t imagine the excitement, then the dread, of a VP position. I’m sure the money was good, but if it shortens your lifespan by years because of the stress, it definitely ain’t worth it! It probably didn’t take you long to realize what it was doing to you, either.

  6. Happiness has to be the goal for all of our decisions in life. We can get lost and start believing that it’s money, but it’s not. It’s happiness. I know people who thrive in high stress “hair on fire” type of jobs, and I know people who just get immolated in those types of positions. You have to find your bliss (Joseph Campbell idea), and be willing to understand and accept that what makes me happy may make you miserable. Different strokes . . ., and that is ok.

  7. Oh man, thank you for writing about this! I am an individual contributor, but have often thought about what my career path might look like. I am no where near ready for a management position, but I have taken part in leadership prep training following my manager nominating me and suggesting I look into it. Who knows what will happen, but from the outside, I’m not sure if I’d enjoy managing a team. I think I would run into many of your struggles (manager vs. the people, stress of work, etc).

    ~Mrs. Adventure Rich

    1. In my experience, you can’t be “taught” to be a good manager. Good managers are natural managers. Those classes might be able to shore up any deficiencies in things like documentation, project management mumbo jumbo and things like that…but, I bet you’re a lot MORE ready than you might think.

      If a management position is for you, that is. And many of us – me included – don’t truly know that until you get the opportunity.

  8. Thanks for sharing. That’s a gutsy move to ask for less responsibility. There are so many things that could go wrong with that move.
    Congrats for finding a nice balance. That’s tough in many jobs.

    1. Balance is absolutely key, isn’t it? Enough responsibility that you feel like a positive contributor, but not so much that it begins to take over your life. A fine line to walk!

  9. I’m glad it all worked out so well for you! Thanks for sharing this, Steve. This is a testament to the power of not inflating your lifestyle as your income increases and to the options that being in a solid financial position can afford you.

    1. Totally! Lifestyle inflation is an absolute killer. It killed me. It set me back YEARS because of the stupid spending I did back in my younger life. But as a whole, I’m definitely glad I got that out of my system earlier on. 🙂

  10. Wow! Interesting point of view.

    While working as employee, I would personally be seriously looking at move to other job, if I were to be demoted financially for much less than $20k. Just $500 would drive me crazy…. Once I even changed jobs just because the company gave me a poor year bonus!

    My line of thinking was always that while I was an employee, I was just a full time slave, donating “blood” to provide a nice income to someone. The “happiness factor” never was a deal breaker for me. The most important is to earn enough to invest in assets, and get out of the rat race asap.

    1. There is definitely wisdom in that. Basically, you know that you’re gonna live a less satisfying life while you’re working full-time, but the more you pull in, the earlier you can call it quits.

  11. My wife recently had a similar experience. She was working a job that paid very well, but was making her quite unhappy. At the same time, she had a side gig as a gym instructor. A big part of the unhappiness was in working the long hours of a full time job and a part time job. So, she ended up switching to a part-time position with her main employer and ramping up her gym coaching hours. The result is a little bit less pay, but it’s no big deal since we were already living well within our means, and she’s also significantly happier.

    There’s definitely real power in living frugally and having enough money to be able to make these sorts of leaps without fear. Thanks for sharing the interesting story anonymous blogger!

    1. Thanks for the comment – switching from full-time to part-time has definitely shown to be a huge boost to many people’s happiness. I’m hearing about that happening more and more, in fact. It’s good to see!

  12. In some ways I took a step down in my current role going from manager to top level individual. I did get a pay raise but leaving the mgmt track probably stunts my future income growth. So be it though, I’m happier for it and that matters alot.

  13. Good story anonymous blogger! I once lived through a similar at work. It was a complete hell for about a year.

    Ultimately I learned that chasing money rarely leads to more happiness!

    Thanks for sharing!

  14. Strong work avoiding lifestyle creep. It’s all about options. The more the better!
    I like your frog in tepid to boiling water analogy, so true about so many things at work and with money.
    I also relate to death by 1000 cuts – it’s how I got physician burnout. Thanks for posting of these and keeping us aware that the demons exist.

  15. I so agree your happiness and health needs to be a priority over a title and income. Congrats on figuring that out and do what was best for you. Such valuable lessons here, thanks for sharing!

  16. Sometimes the extra stress and just overall crapiness that comes with a pay increase just isn’t worth it! Sucks to have to learn it first-hand, but at the same time if you didn’t try you’d never have known perhaps. 🙂

    I’m thankful to have a job I like, even if I’m a bit bored at times right now. It’s stress-free though and that makes it a pretty good fit!

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. It’s true that if you didn’t try you might not realize where your true calling is. I think it’s wise to try new things, but definitely, to keep at something that actively makes you upset and frustrated for the sake of money is probably outside the bounds of that wisdom. 🙂

      Good on you for having a job that you like. Too few people can honestly say that.

  17. Thanks for sharing that story!

    Sometimes, It is just not worth the extra responsibility. 15 years ago I recommended a team member who was one level lower than me to lead a team of seven people. I hate managing and I told my boss that she was a good candidate. I rather just manage another team of 2. My boss asked if I was sure because I had more experience and I told him no thanks. I mentored her for several months. I knew she was technical and has the ability to lead when I recruited her to our team 18 years ago. After two years in her new role, she was promoted to my level, director, and she got an 11K raise. Everyone was happy. My boss was happy with her performance. She was happy with her new responsibility and her new promotion. I got to keep my salary and damn happy to avoid the extra work.


  18. A work life balance is super important and part of this post I thought you were talking about my husband. We’re in Seattle as well (not sure if you are currently or not) and Jared does 12 hour days at Google. We can both grind it out but I definitely don’t want this 12 hour thing for the next 30 years. Shudders

  19. I never took the leap into senior management. I have witnessed other people do it and it was not all it is cracked up to be. Most jobs that pay over $100k per year are very stressful and demanding. If your team does not respect you, they can ruin you. I saw that happen before. For me, I have made slow and steady progress and just do my job well. I only have one direct report and she is enough. I have a good relationship with my boss, but do not want his vp title. I just won’t tell him that.

  20. I’m impressed that your author went to her own employer and sought a demotion: bold and smart move, which apparently paid off.

    I haven’t written about it yet, but I walked away from mine too. Best decision ever. Like your anonymous blogger, it’s simply not worth the money to trade your health, well-being, and so on. I could live on pennies and be FAR happier and more fulfilled…and, it turns out, that jumping into something I enjoy more led to more and more pennies rolling in. Still not six figures again, but who knows where it’ll end up…

    1. Yup, you never know. Some management positions might be just right – a lot depends on the organization. I’m doing things that generate pennies compared to what I used to do, but strangely enough, I’m FAR, FAR happier.

  21. I really like this anonymous blogger. I know a lot of people don’t like the idea they have to work but they shouldn’t also HATE going there because you have to walk on eggshells. He/She did the right thing in taking the pay cut and gaining some sanity in the process. 🙂

  22. It’s tough managing people. I did so for about five years, made some good money, and then left. It’s simpler being a manager of yourself!

    It’s a good deal to just get paid and have minimal stress I say!


  23. My favorite quotes here:

    “Not going crazy upgrading your lifestyle if you do get a significant increase in pay, is the smarter way to go”

    “I’ll also say that don’t worry if you don’t ever reach the ‘top of the ladder.’ It can be really lonely up there. Work with what you have and set goals that are within your wheelhouse and do the things that will make you most happy, not what society expects of you and your career.”

    Not all successful people are happy, but most people who are happy with what they do for a living are successful. A higher income doesn’t always require setting a higher standard of living.

    1. Thanks Oliver. Lifestyle inflation is a huge killer of retirement. But like you said, a higher income doesn’t necessarily always require setting a higher standard of living. Those who don’t let that happen put themselves in a position to retire whenever they damn well please.

    1. Amen to that. The more you make, the more of the government you finance (until you’re filthy rich, then you get to utilize a series of cleverly designed loopholes! ) 🙂

  24. I took a tens of thousands of dollars pay cut for my most recent job and it improved my happiness tremendously. I think anyone who is stressed at work, should forget about the money and jump at the chance to take another less stressful job.

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