My Friend Is Underpaid and Staying Put at Her Job. Here’s Why

If you’re hoping to find a new job, now’s a pretty good time to be looking. The U.S. economy added 353,000 jobs in January. And given that unemployment is low and the labor market is hot, it’s not surprising that 95% of workers are looking for or plan to look for a new job in 2024, according to recent Monster data.

Meanwhile, I have a friend who’s underpaid at her job — and has been for years. Recently, she asked me to take a look at her resume and offer suggestions to spice it up so she could pursue a new opportunity. 

My friend’s goal initially was to simply get a boost in pay. But after a few interviews, she’s decided to stop looking for a new job and stay put. And while a higher paycheck could improve her financial situation, my friend has ultimately decided to stick with her current job for one big reason.

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When you’re able to coast

My friend has skills that could probably lead to a better-paying job if she were to put herself out there. But at this point, she’d rather stay put because her job isn’t particularly stressful or demanding.

She has the flexibility to work from home pretty much whenever she wants (for her own sanity, she likes to commute to her office once a week). She also has flexibility with her hours. 

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Plus, as she says, the work just isn’t so hard. Most days, she admits, she really only has to put in about six hours’ worth of work, even though she’s paid based on a 40-hour workweek. Her boss isn’t a stickler for hours in a chair, though. Since she gets her work done on schedule, she isn’t hassled and her time isn’t tracked.

To put it another way, my friend is coasting at her job. But that’s not a bad thing. My friend is in her late 40s trying to juggle two teenagers and their much-younger sibling she had a bit later in life. That means she values the flexibility her job offers. 

Her current schedule allows her to grab her first-grader off the bus when he gets home and attend her older kids’ after-school sports events. It also allows her to do things like cook for her family without having to worry about missing deadlines. That’s huge.

It’s OK to sacrifice pay for a better work-life balance

My friend has had periods in recent years when money has gotten tight. Usually, that’s triggered by something like a home or car repair, because she and her family do live pretty frugally in general. 

A higher paycheck could help my friend’s finances. It could allow her to build up her savings account balance and perhaps do some of the things she’s been talking about for years, like finally finishing her basement or taking her dream trip to Hawaii.

Still, my friend is staying at a job she knows she’s underpaid at because it allows her to focus on her family, avoid stress, and maintain a favorable work-life balance. So if you’re thinking of getting a new job to take advantage of the red-hot market, before you do, think about your current situation.

Maybe you’ve done your research and realized you could be earning more elsewhere. But if your current job is flexible, you like your colleagues, and you enjoy the work, you should recognize that there’s value in that. And it may not be worth it to give that up for more money, even if a higher paycheck would mean getting to save or travel more.

Along these lines, if you’ve reached the point where you’re burned out at work, you may want to consider a lower-paying job that results in a better work-life balance and less aggravation. Taking a pay cut is never easy. And you might need to make some adjustments to your spending if you accept a job offer that comes with a lower paycheck.

But remember, there’s a value to having free time and better mental and physical health. An overly demanding job could make all of those things more difficult to attain. So even though you may be inclined to seek out the highest paycheck possible, know that in some cases, earning less can make a lot more sense.

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