Whatever job it is that you have, it is important that you take some time away from it each week so that you can switch off and allow your batteries to recharge. That said, no one ever got rich without putting in serious amounts of hard work, and if you want to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle it will be necessary both to find a career that offers a decent salary structure and make it a strong focal point of your life. The debate over finding the right balance between work and leisure is an ongoing one and the message is usually to prioritise the latter, but in this article we will look at whether it is actually worth working longer hours for the financial benefits.
Money and Happiness
Although many people would answer “yes” if asked whether they would like to be rich or not, what most of us actually want is to be happy – we just believe that having more money will make us happy. The conventional wisdom is that money can’t buy happiness, but the research in best-selling book Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth indicates that there is a definite link between happiness and money, with people who live in wealthy countries being much happier than those in poorer ones.
The book also showed, however, that the impact of money on an individual’s feelings of happiness was a lot less if that person already had a comfortable income. This suggests that financial security, rather than untold riches, improves our chances of being happy and if we don’t have that security then working longer to increase our earnings is probably a trade-off worth making. For those who are already secure though, it is more complicated.
What Does More Money Mean?
Earning more money brings us greater freedom: to travel and to buy the things we want. Most people would expect to be happier under those circumstances. On the other hand, the authors of the financial management book Your Money or Your Life argue that, while having more money to spend makes our lives more fulfilling to a degree, it is possible to have too much cash and fall into the trap of overconsumption. Here an obsession with material things starts to dominate and make it impossible to ever be content with what we have.
Think of those who have more clothes than they have space in their homes to store them in, but still spend hours online every day searching for new shirts or shoes because they are bored with the ones they have. On the other hand, there are those who limit themselves to using the extra money they earn by working longer to buy one thing a month that they really want – or to save for a dream holiday abroad. Working longer and earning more gives you more options, but it is important not to let spending define your life.
Does Working Longer Always Mean Earning More?
Those who work long hours in return for a little more money each month can be compared to poker players known as ‘grinders’, they get their name from their chosen strategy and the way they grind it out at the table. They are generally professional gamblers able to maintain a winning consistency during long game sessions. They usually play a low-edge, low-risk style of poker, often boring to watch, but very effective. It is easy to see how this compares to those who slog away at routine jobs for long periods each week to ensure a decent income, but unlike in poker, grinding it out at work doesn’t always mean you will earn more.
A report by a campaign based in the United States called Project: Time Off found that those working the longest hours in office jobs were the least likely to have been given a bonus during the previous three years. In poker, the contrast to the grinder is the risk-taking player who goes all out for the big pot, and a comparable example in the working world would be the freelance entrepreneur who seeks to commit less of his time and set a pay rate for himself that he feels his skills are worth.
Quality of life
The quality of life is the most important factor to bear in mind. There is not much point in making more money if you never have the time to do anything with it. Having enough money is essential to leading a fulfilling, happy life. However, having the time to spend with friends and family, as well as relaxing by yourself are all equally important. The Japanese are particularly known for having a culture based heavily upon work and they also have a phenomenon known as ‘karoshi’, which translates into English as ‘overwork death.’ It is certainly not worth putting your life at risk in that way just to try and earn a bit more money.
The question of whether it is worth working longer to earn more is clearly a very complex one, but the key seems to lie in achieving financial security. Without it, we cannot enjoy a social life or travel. Once you have that security it becomes less worthwhile to keep adding work hours for a bigger wage, because doing so can reduce fulfilment and impact your health.