When Is a Lower Salary Worth It — And What Will You Put Up With For a Higher Salary?

When Is a Lower Salary Worth It

2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on when a lower salary is worth it — but you may also want to check out our latest advice on whether you have to give your salary history.

Here’s a fun question for today: when, if ever, would you take a job with a lower salary — when is a lower salary worth it to you, and to what extent? Put another way: what are you willing to put up with for higher pay? If a job paid 20% more but demanded nights and weekends regularly whereas your current job didn’t, would you make the switch? (What if there was room for advancement? What if the commute was better, or you were working with a good friend?) On the flip side — if a job paid 20% less but promised a 9-5 existence (with face time requirements) — would you take it? What if the new job was at a nonprofit or had another component of you doing “good” in the world, whereas your current job felt soulless — how much is the “doing good” component worth it to you?

(Do you believe in the idea that there’s a perfect salary for happiness, either in general or for you specifically? If a job paid $75,000 — the supposedly perfect salary — and it gave you more control over work-life balance than you have right now, would you run to take the job — or hesitate? Why?)

Psst: We’ve talked in the past about the person who took a flexible job even though she was overqualified for the job, how some of the worst career advice we’ve ever heard was along the lines of “follow your passion,” how much your career affects your happiness, and when to quit your career.

Pictured at top: Shutterstock / By Syda Productions.

Here's a fun topic: when is a lower salary worth it to you -- and what will you put up with for a higher salary? At this stage of the game are you more interested in benefits, work-life balance, room for advancement, an easier commute, less of a face-time requirement, or more? (A related question: do you believe that $75K is the "perfect" salary?)



  1. Anonymous :

    Benefits matter more to me than salary at this stage in life (mid-30s, young kids, self-employed husband). I recently passed up a job with a higher salary for one that pays less but offers better health insurance, retirement options, and a shorter commute. 10 years ago, I would have done the exact opposite.

  2. I could get 20-30% more if I left my company, but my company gives 6 weeks vacation per year. I’d probably get half that if I left for a competitor. Currently at about $80,000, US, private sector, medium cost of living.

  3. New Tampanian :

    I think it can be beneficial if it means working in the industry you want to work in. For my industry, this is particularly true.

  4. Anonymous :

    I recently switched jobs within higher education to a role that pays 30% less. I’m working directly with students now, which I love, and I work 40 hours a week, instead of the 50-55 hours a week that I worked previously. I’m thrilled with the decision!

    • You sound like me! The thought of taking a 20% did not excite me, but my life is SO MUCH BETTER now that I’m in a job I love working with people I get along with.

  5. How can there be one perfect salary when cost of living varies so widely?

    • That’s exactly my thought – I’d be very interested to see a similar study done, but adjusted for COL, perhaps on a state/city basis or something.

    • Rainbow Hair :

      OK I am glad I wasn’t the only one thinking that!

  6. Anonymous :

    In-house lawyer here. Including benefits I make about $120k, which is less than half of what someone at my level makes in big law. But. This job respects my time. I don’t get sh*t for actually taking my (generous) vacation time (and this company has a use it or lose it policy, so I can’t cash it out if I don’t take it), and I do very little evening or weekend work. I have hobbies. I spend a lot of time with my SO and my pets. I sometimes think people who work longer hours get used to not having hobbies or very much free time and once they’re used to it and in the groove of working all the time they don’t miss the free time. I don’t want that to be me. I live a very comfortable life with plenty of cushion for a saving for retirement and for extra cash every month at this income level and it’s enough.

    • Biglaw senior associate here. It’s not always that we get used to working the long hours. Sometimes it’s that jobs like yours are really hard to get, and the only thing we are qualified to do is work in a law firm. I would give up a large percentage of my pay in a heart beat (much to DH’s dismay) if I could find an employer who would hire me for a 9-6 job. Where I didn’t have to log on after kids go to bed.

    • Anon for this one. :

      Agree. With equity and bonus I make 200k now and it’s SO MUCH BETTER than Big Law. It’s actually more than I made when I left BigLaw but that’s because I left before the NYC raises and I left really junior. I will say, my BigLaw classmakes now make a cool quarter million even before bonuses and my former firm’s hours requirement is only 2000 hours. I still wouldn’t trade. I know some of them wouldn’t trade either. To each their own.

      What is funny to me is that I have a lot more time and sure I spend some of that extra time on hobbies, dates and friend dates, pet time, but I also spend so much more time doing professional development – speaking at CLEs, attending conferences, meeting other people in my industry, women’s events, etc. I feel like if BigLaw had let me have the time to make those kinds of connections I would have stayed but there just were not enough hours in the day for BigLaw + professional development activities.

      • Hi, I am a partner in a boutique law firm making mid 6 figures/year, but I feel you were describeing my situeation. I have to work SOOOOO many hours to bill my 7200 hours, leaving me virtueally no time, and barley enough time at night to read Corporete, and respond to a few p’osts! If ONLY I could reduce my billings, I would have more time for ME, and I could find a guy to MARRY me. Making alot of money is NOT worth it when you have NO time to live your life. Even tho I am a partner, I would trade it all away if I could find a decent guy to MARRY me and have a home in Chapaqua, like my sister, Rosa has. All of this work stuff is NOT what I thought I wanted when I went to law school. FOOEY!

    • Anonymous BigLaw Associate :

      Also a biglaw senior associate, with hopes of early retirement. If I could find a job that paid me 80% as much for 80% the hours AND predictability, I would take it. But I can’t justify cutting my salary to a third or less, which is what in-house jobs would pay me. We have kids and more importantly neither my husband or I have any family to provide a financial safety net.

      The only thing that comes close to what I looking for would be going part time at my law firm, but that doesn’t get rid of the unpredictability aspect so it just doesn’t feel worth even that pay cut. So I’ll probably be here until I retire.

      • In-House in Texas :

        Of course depending on the market you live in, I think an in-house job could be competitive to your biglaw salary. I’m in Texas in the energy industry and they start Senior Counsels at about $240K + a 40% bonus. Plus we’re one of the few industries where fully-funded employer pensions are still the norm, which doesn’t include the 5% 401K match and twice a year bonuses to your 401K.

  7. Anonymous :

    I am in the middle of a major career change where I’ll make about half of what I made as a lawyer and that is okay with me. I saved a really nice sum of money as a lawyer and invested well. I could retire comfortably in a LCOL area so any money I make from now on is really just for extras like gifts and donations, travel, hiring a housekeeper, having pets, and eating out.

    Right now, I’m on my romantic partner’s insurance and benefits. We plan for him to retire to work on some projects he wants to do so me being able to earn benefits for the two of us will be important later on. I will probably be looking for a mix of good benefits, lots of vacation/flexible hours, and lower wages.

    I think having a retirement fund/nest egg/F-U money really changes how much I am willing to put up with at work. When I had a negative/zero net worth, I put up with a lot of long hours, travel, creepy co-workers, bullying, etc. Now that I can support us indefinitely (although at a much lower standard of living), I am not afraid to cut back to part-time (as I did in my final year of practicing law), speak up, or quit without a new job in place.

  8. Anon for this :

    Is it OK to use gender as part of rationale (in addition to skill growth) while asking for a raise?

    In my company, there haven’t been any raises for 2 years unless HR identified a “gender gap.” Two years ago my pay was bumped about 10% and they told me it was for this reason.

    I am (at long last!!) being promoted to VP next month. It’s a different process from pay review, and raises/bonuses are determined in February. When I get promoted, I want to proactively ask for a raise, since it is not a guarantee. I know for fact that I currently make significantly less than the male VPs in my department. I make $115, but the pay scale for VPs is around $140-170. All of the VPs in my dept are male. I assume I will be bumped up a little bit, but can I say something like, “due to my promotion I would expect my pay to increase to be similar to my male counterparts.” Or should I leave gender out of it?

    • Anonymous :

      I would leave gender out of it, at least initially. If VPs are paid $140-170, you should be paid at least $140 when you’re promoted to VP. If they refuse to give you a raise to that much, then I think you can bring up the gender thing. But I wouldn’t open with “All the male VPs make more” – they make more because they’re VPs, so once your’e promoted to that status you should have a comparable salary. And congrats on the promotion!

    • Anonymous :

      In principle, I would leave it out. You are being made VP, you should be paid in the VP range.
      In reality, if you found in the past, that citing gender equal pay as an argument helps to get you what you want (equal pay), then use it in this negotiation.

    • I would not mention it. Your pay history and the file will be reviewed when you get promoted. If they are aware of gender issues enough to bridge a gap, they have policies in place already. I wouldn’t worry about it until you get there. Ask for what you want, to guarantee the discussion, but bring up your qualifications and give them an opportunity to reward you. If they don’t, ask them why not?

  9. Anonymous :

    I took a 15% pay cut for an approx. 40% reduction in my hours. I can’t even begin to estimate the reduction in my stress level. Working in government it will probably take me until retirement to get that 15% back, but my quality of life is so improved. I was able to make this change because 1) I have a spouse that works and makes significant money, and 2) even with the reduction my salary is above the minimum we need to get by. I doubt my stress would have gone down if the pay reduction meant we couldn’t make budget.

    I do think there is an amount that is a baseline for happiness. But it varies so much with cost of living, and what you consider essential. I now live in MCOL small city in south and $75K would be just fine (not awesome, but fine). That also happened to be right around my salary when I lived in NYC 10 years ago. I felt like I was doing ok, but I would never be able to buy real estate or have kids. My spouse was considering applying to a job in NYC a few years ago. My ballpark at that time was that we needed to make at least twice our current salary before I would consider moving back. Now that we have kids, I’m not sure there is enough money to make me consider moving back. I know multiple people who still live there and have kids. I really don’t know how they do it.

  10. Anonymous :

    We have a $75k average income per person, and it’s exactly right for us. It allows us to buy all the things we need, most of what we want and still save a lot, without obsessing over tracking expenses or sticking to a strict budget. I don’t think I’d want to work 10 or 20% more for 10 or 20% more money, and I certainly wouldn’t want to work twice as hard for twice as much money.

    Caveats are that we live in a fairly low cost of living area (very nice single family homes in an excellent school district can be purchased for under $500k), we were both lucky enough to not have any student loans and our “wants” are fairly restrained as far as those things go – mainly regular international travel, but we stay in modest hotels.

    • You sound a lot like DH and I (household income of ~150k), only I think our COL is maybe a smidge lower. It really feels like a sweet spot around balancing our wants, savings, and work hours. I feel if we were to increase how hard we worked all the extra money would go to paying for time savers like a housekeeper or meal delivery services.

  11. I make $250k/year as a senior Biglaw associate but no bonus because I never hit my hours. My husband on the other hand makes a slightly higher base plus a gigantic bonus because he regularly bills 2700 hours/year. I have to handle all of the home management and childcare (we have an au pair who works 10 hours/day while I’m at work) because my husband is constantly working when not commuting. My pay per hour worked is much better than my husband’s even though it’s frustrating to feel like I can’t make my hours or make partner because I have too many obligations at home.

    I recently thought about going in-house and taking a pretty substantial pay cut ($75k less) but the benefits and bonuses would have almost made up the difference. Since my hours are so reasonable at my biglaw job and the in-house job would have involved a massive commute, I decided not to make the move.

    • Word. I’m 75% time as senior associate. I still don’t make my hours (valued niche practice, but not quite enough work). I too had in-house offer, but involved hour commute instead of my current 25 min commute. I do majority of the emotional labor running the household. DH has decent hours but is reactive rather than proactive about household duties, so it just doesn’t work.

  12. anon for this :

    Timely. Does anyone think marital status has anything to do with it? I’m concerned about taking a major salary cut because of the impact on my retirement savings (which are in good shape – I have a healthy nest egg), but still.

    • Absolutely. The decisions two people make as an economic unit are totally different than the choices a single person makes. But familial status does too. Financial burdens change but so do caretaking duties.

  13. i’m an associate for a relatively large law firm with a billable hour requirement of 2,000 a year (which is absolutely ludicrous compared to the billable hour requirements of actual Big Law firms in town). i’m waiting to hear back on a company’s final decision for an in-house position. my salary would go down by $20K or more but if they make an offer i am going to IMMEDIATELY take it. five out of the six people who interviewed me had previously worked Big Law positions and assured me that moving in-house was the best decision they’d ever made, and i will not hesitate.

    i mean of course, a lot of it is based on me genuinely liking the company, but no billable hours? only one client? ACTUALLY getting 2 weeks of vacation a year? getting to work with outside counsel instead of the other way around? having flexible time to raise children? heck, yes.

    • Triangle Pose :

      No billable hours is awesome. You do have more than one client though. The corporate is your client and IME there are many clients in different business units that need your attention. Still the best decision I ever made and I would not hesitate, but just wanted to share that caveat.

      Also, you should get more than 2 weeks vacation. Negotiate for 4 or 6, esp if it’s a big company.

  14. Anonymous :

    I recently took a pretty large pay cut. It’s hard to say how much since I worked in an industry that relied on bonuses heavily, but the company was going through rough times so minimal bonuses lately. My base went down from $180 to $160. And now I work in government with no bonus and no regrets at all. I never work nights/weekends. When I use vacation time, I am not allowed to work. Healthcare, etc. benefits are great. I can work from home regularly. I feel secure that the government won’t go out of business or need to downsize me.

    This was right for me right now and I don’t anticipate re-entering the private sector. I hope to retire from this comfortable job in 10-15 years, after my kids are out of college and on their own.

  15. I took a big pay cut (~30%) to switch from a stressful job that I hated to a job I love (within the same industry). Would I do the same thing again? Probably, but I would have thought MUCH more carefully about the income I was sacrificing (and would have negotiated very differently). I didn’t make up the difference in salary for over five years. As a think about transitioning again, it makes me much more conscious of how I am going to negotiate for my next offer so that I don’t stagnate again.

  16. Very timely! I’m interviewing to leave biglaw for a lifestyle small law shop… it will be about a 40% salary cut for hopefully 25% fewer hours, which is I think as good a ratio as you can hope for. I just want a job where I hopefully don’t ever have to work 80 hour weeks, and since I don’t have kids, I really don’t need biglaw money.

  17. I left litigation for gov’t and I’m never going back. I took a base salary cut of about 20% initially but I make far more per hour working 40 hours a week than I did working 80 (plus additional stress of constantly carrying a work phone with an expectation for an immediate response to all issues). I’ve gained so much of my life back.

    I get to see my kid every day … I get paid vacation and sick days and holidays off … I hardly ever work nights and weekends, and when I do I’m recognized as a superstar (it’s never required.) I spend less on childcare and on convenience meals than I did when I worked at a private firm. Health insurance is much better. I live in the Midwest and make bit over 100K with 4 weeks of vacation, 401K, pension, 6 weeks of paid parenting leave (if I ever need it again), and job security. I don’t think there’s an amount of money that would convince me to rejoin a private firm – at least not one like the one I left, where I easily billed 2600 hours and worked every holiday for 3 straight years.

    • Triangle Pose :

      Congrats! Your job sounds great.

      “I easily billed 2600 hours and worked every holiday for 3 straight years.” Hat’s off to you, I don’t know how you survived it. I never billed that much and I felt like it was a constant struggle. I had to work straight through one weekend and I complained about it so much. I never worked through a real holiday. Ugh.

    • Also in government; I haven’t actually worked in BigLaw, so I can’t compare with that—however, I wouldn’t trade my current job for anything higher paying/more demands. I work 40 hours a week, with the opportunity to work more if I choose (for OT, etc.), have paid vacation and sick leave, and am generally able to have a life outside of the office.

    • Pretty Primadonna :

      I work in government and have very much the same flexibility and low-stress work environment. How I wish I were making six figures, though. Bah humbug!

    • I took a 50% salary cut leaving big law for government. I absolutely love having nights and weekends for my own life again. I definitely have to curb my discretionary spending more than I did at the law firm (although I also don’t feel the need to online shop away my feelings in my current job), but it’s a livable salary and comfortable benefits, and I’m not looking back.

  18. Anonymous :

    I’ve worked in nonprofits my entire career, and I always was content with supporting a mission and clients who a vulnerable and unable to afford legal representation.

    I’m now 33, single, and need to make more money. I just get by and have a very small ($3K) emergency fund because I can’t save any more. I need to pay off substantial student loans still, and about half of my loans aren’t federal loans with loan forgiveness, which Trump may eliminate anyway.

    I need a higher paying job because for me, making low $60Ks is a struggle. I have a prestigious education that I paid a lot of money for, and I want to pay more than the minimum back and be able to save more. I’d like to be able to travel to see family and take a vacation now and then. Its great that I get 5 weeks paid vacation, but I’ve only taken one vacation trip in 6 years. I can’t really afford a vacation elsewhere.

  19. The perfect figure is so dependent on field and where you live. I just started making $75k this year, 15 years into my career. And that’s considered a really good salary for my field and experience level. Because I live in a LCOL city, I’d be OK with making $10-15k less (for less stress) — but I’ll never be able to say, “OK, I’m fine with a job that pays literally half of what I’m earning now.”

    • Also, lower salary doesn’t necessarily mean lower stress. If I’m going to take a pay cut, you’d better believe I’m going to have some hard questions about work/life balance and actually being able to use my vacation time.

  20. I’m a biglaw senior associate – my base is 300k and bonus is around 100k. I had my busiest year this year at around 2350 hours plus maybe 150 hours of various practice development tasks like pitches and client alerts that we get no credit for. All in I’m sure I “worked” around 2700 hours (I serve on a couple of firm committees, have a mentee, am involved in recruiting – it adds up). Nonetheless, I was told I need to find time to write articles and speak at conferences. It just doesn’t seem possible. I’d happily trade a lot of salary for a life, but so far, while I can get to the final round of interviews for the in-house jobs I’ve applied for, i can’t seem to land the actual job offer. My dream job came along offering 9-6 hours, limited night work, and almost never any weekend work and the salary was awesome – $250 base and bonus on top with 4 weeks paid vacation. I was so sad when I didn’t get it.

  21. If so many of us are miserable at BigLaw under ridiculous pressure and confines of the billable hour, why don’t more women start their own firms where we can make our own rules? If most women end up leaving law firms to go in -house, surely in-house lawyers would value/want to hire women-owned firms. What am I missing (aside from the guts to do this myself)?

    • Follow-up so that it is relevant to this post — why couldn’t we make same or similar salaries ?

    • I’m not convinced that just starting your own firm or going to a smaller firm solves the issue. The issue is the demands of clients. There is some work that is not so time sensitive and that lends itself well to boutiques and smaller firms. But even if I went and started my own firm and had enough specialists and associates to fill out an entire deal team, the clients would still want to do their deals on crazy, accelerated schedules that would require long hours. As long as you have law firms and lawyers competing for clients, the ones that are always there for their clients and able and willing to drop everything to take on a new issue are going to be the ones that are successful.

      I did a big career assessment 1.5 years and considered everything from going solo to boutique to staying in biglaw. Ultimately, I realized I would have to significantly change my practice and stop doing the big deal work unless I stayed at a big firm. I ended up lateraling to a biglaw firm where my practice/industry fit in better and just found out today I made partner!

      Yes, the hours suck, but the money is good and I love what I do (most of the time). Having talked to a lot of in-house counsel that I work with, the grass isn’t always greener. It really depends on the specifics of your practice and industry.

  22. Anonymous :

    I’m struggling with this. I took a huge pay cut when I left NYC close to 10 years ago and moved from BigLaw to government. I then went back to a smaller BigLaw shop in a middle market about 5 years ago and didn’t make partner last year. So I’m now strongly considering going back to government, where there’s an opening. But the salary has me holding back. And, even more than the salary, this particular position doesn’t have many paths for advancement. I was largely bored when I left, and I’m concerned that will happen again, with no real path out.

  23. WriterKate :

    I am taking a $10K cut (12%) to leave my current job, which has been a bad situation for a long time and the timing was finally right for me to get out. Current job put my mental health at risk at different times and has strained my marriage at times. Benefits are almost equal. We live in VHCOL East Coast city so we will need to adjust to my lower salary. I figure I won’t need convenience things as often (coffee, lunch, biweekly cleaning) which will help the adjustment. Beyond worth it for me.

  24. Anonymous :

    For those of you who have made the jump from BigLaw to government- do you have any regrets? I’m a mid level associate, will have over 2500 in client billables this year (fairly typical for my firm), and am considering the switch. The pay cut is huge (2/3 less), and I’d also lose out on the BigLaw maternity leave benefits, which I will (hopefully!) be using in the next few years. Any advice?

    • Check your govt policy on banking annual leave and sick days. At my govt position my sick days & vacation carry over, so even though I only get a few weeks paid leave, I can use up all my saved days to extend it. So I’m getting a total of 11 weeks paid, which is not biglaw level but is still something. And I’ve only been here for two (part-time) years – the people who have been here longer sometimes have months of days saved up. My govt job will also hold my position for me for up to 2 years, so you can take a really long (albeit unpaid) mat leave. It’s nice to have the option.

    • Do a casual search of daycare, nothing in depth but just an understanding of baby care in your area. 1200/mo is the floor here, for hours beyond 7-3pm. 60K + taxes for a nanny.
      Also, while you are in biglaw, pretend you have the baby and bank that 1200 a month. Then you have that much (after taxes) to help bridge the gap of maternity leave that could occur. Good luck!

  25. I had two nearly identical job offers two years ago, except one was part time (3 days a week) and one was full time. They were both govt lawyer jobs, so both were a 9-5 jobs with similar (if not identical) benefits. The actual work would have been very similar (and the differences were such that neither was an objectively better job). The salaries were not – if you annualized the PT job salary, it was about $35k less than the FT salary. After factoring in the extra childcare & taxes, I would have taken home about $30k/yr more working at the FT job. It was a really hard decision but I took the PT job. I figured I could always find a FT job, but a true PT job is more of a unicorn.

    • And FWIW, I posted here about which job to take and I remember that the overwhelming advice was to take the FT job, and one person specifically said, You worked hard for your career, don’t give it up for cuddles and housework. Which made me realize that I didn’t view staying at home two days a week as just cuddles and housework, it was so much more to me than that, and being home with my kid(s) twice a week was more important to me than it may be to other people (no judgment, we all have different and valid choices and tradeoffs).

  26. I am in the process of taking a government job that is about 10% less than what I was making in academia, and in a location with higher taxes. BUT my academia position was heavily dependent on grant funding which was an endless chase for dwindling money, and I was expected to write grants on my own time. I wasn’t tenure track which meant no job security. With government, I’m hoping I get long-term security and work-life balance. The pension and benefits are great. I could take a corporate job doing very similar work and get paid more for it but I doubt I would have any job security. At this point in my life (early 40s), I’m prioritizing job security and building towards retirement over salary increase.

    • Check your govt policy on banking annual leave and sick days. At my govt position my sick days & vacation carry over, so even though I only get a few weeks paid leave, I can use up all my saved days to extend it. So I’m getting a total of 11 weeks paid, which is not biglaw level but is still something. And I’ve only been here for two (part-time) years – the people who have been here longer sometimes have months of days saved up. My govt job will also hold my position for me for up to 2 years, so you can take a really long (albeit unpaid) mat leave. It’s nice to have the option.

  27. This post is so timely! I recently made a significant career change, leaving my job in finance to move to a different career. My new salary is approximately 25% of my former base (so HUGE pay cut), but I have quite a bit more vacation time (and never have to work holidays ever again), more sane hours during the day, a thoroughly reasonable work-life balance, and so much less stress in my life now. For me, the difference was stage in my life. In my early 20s I maximized my salary and I’m thrilled now that I made those choices then, because having that income and savings is what allowed me to make this transition. I’m now at a point in my life where I am close to starting a family, so having a better work-life balance became extremely important to me. My new job also definitely has a component of “doing good” in the world, so there’s that as well.

    The flip side is the period of adjustment. Overall my mental health is so much better and I would take my current life/job over my former any day, but the shock to my budget certainly took some getting used to!

  28. I left big law during the recession for government for half the pay and worse hours (12 hour days + weekends) — and it was the best decision ever. It set me up with experience in a highly specialized area, and I loved it. Parlayed that into an in-house position. I could make that move/risk early in my career (no mortgage or kids), but probably not now. After almost a decade of practicing, love my job (now at a start up) and the equity upside could put me on par with biglaw.

  29. Unlike most the comments on here, I am at the stage in my life where I am happy to take additional workload/travel/responsibilities in return for increased salary.
    Recently married, no kids, just bought first home and most of our money goes to our home and travel.
    I’m really scrambling over the next 4 years or so to push myself, my career and my salary so we can enjoy our TINK stage of our lives and set ourselves up for children.

  30. Anonymous :

    Not in law – environmental consulting, not junior level but slightly under 10 years of exp and I make less than 50k in a HCOL area, so if I made 75K I’d be very happy. I wouldn’t mind a bit more work (a standard workweek is about 40-45 hrs a week) to make 75K, but I don’t know if I’d leave my current firm or have a longer commute for money. My commute is just 20 minutes in an area notorious for long long commutes, up to 2 hours each way, and the culture at my current firm is fairly flexible and understanding of personal/childcare issues for both men and women.

  31. I work as a gov’t attorney in a HCOL area and make about $115K. The salary – when compared to effort/hours worked – is really really good. And I have a really cushy schedule (every other Friday off, lots of accrued leave, etc). But, because I have never gone the BigLaw route (considered it briefly when I got an offer over double what I make in DC), I often feel disenfranchised. Seems that most of my colleagues came from BigLaw and have an appreciation for this gig that, quite frankly, I don’t. Reality checks from any of you out there to bloom where I’m planted? Because it’s really tempting to cash in and go back to the firms and beg for a job. (A particularly insane fantasy given that I have 2 kids under 4).

  32. I was making $150 base and $40k bonus at a VP level role at a tech company working idk, 60-70 hours a week (or more). I got laid off and landed in a contract consulting gig.

    I’m going to make $90k this year and I’ve billed 600 hours all year (I bill 100% of my time). I reduced my travel from 2 weeks/month to once or twice a quarter.

    DH carries our benefits. This change was a huge black eye to my pride, until I realized there were people willing to pay $150/hr for my expertise and I could avoid all the politicking I hate about offices. My blood pressure is down. I am much healthier. I’m about to have a 3rd kid, which we never would have gone for if I were still working FT.

  33. I doubled my salary 2 years ago by taking on a newer position. I was enamored by the higher salary and exotic international trips. I have probably 4x the amount of work I had before and a 24/7 job where I travel 75% of the year. I am looking for a new company to go back to making less and having a better quality of life. An incredible experience, but you truly only live once and I feel like I have no work life balance.

  34. I left BigLaw after 2 years and took a +50% pay cut (from $165K to $80K). Seven years later and I just made it back to my BigLaw salary (after my boss surprised me with a 9% raise as a welcome back from maternity leave). And I would make the same decision over and over again. Working a reasonable work week, in a family-friendly office culture with no billable hour requirement where I can take 3 weeks of vacation without my colleagues batting an eye makes me a much happier person and way more fun to be around. No more working weekends, no more working holidays, no more dreading work. The career shift coincided with a move from a HCOL to a MCOL area and some other life events, so that probably changed how we felt the financial impact, but my husband and I are still very comfortable.

  35. After develop[ing myself to a level where I have options to choose from, I chose a job in finance that is full time yet in 4 days, so I have a 3 day weekend every weekend. I also moved close to the office so that even on long days, I still have time to enjoy a small activity for myself. For me, happiness is free time to do the things I enjoy, yet also being surrounded by challenges and even chaos from time to time. I feel like I thrive when I can be the calm eye inside the storm. This rythm allows me to live the way that brings out the best in me. At work I have plenty of energy to perform, in my personal life I have the time to unwind and invest in in deep and supportive friendships.

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