Your lovin’ gives me such a thrill
But your lovin’ don’t pay my bills
Now give me money.
– Money (That’s What I Want), Barrett Strong, 1959
We live in a golden age of capitalism. Everywhere we turn, we see billboards telling us to drink this or see this movie, personalised ads online telling us to buy a new watch because we recently just bought a new watch, or a constant stream of jingle-blaring, over-the-top television ads.
Most of us are a part of this system, whether we like it or not – our companies pay us, we spend that money with other companies, who then have money to pay their staff, who then spend money at other companies. Not only that, we need money to pay for rent (or mortgages, you lucky thing you), food, heating bills, electricity bills, road tax, council tax, phone bills, TV license, petrol, transport fares and loo roll.
Money, as they say, makes the world go round, and the more of it you have, the more of it you can spend. The more you spend, the happier you are, right?
In today’s society, we are bombarded with messaging telling us to spend our money. That messaging has seeped its way into our collective subconscious, where we glamorise those who are rich and we try to emulate them, working our way up the company to get that sweet, sweet pay rise and be able to get the bigger house, the bigger car or the Jacuzzi we always wanted.
It’s incredibly easy when you’re first starting out in the world of work to think that you’d be happier if you had more money. When I first started out, I had a salary that was so low my rent cost over half of my take-home pay. This was actually true for all of my time working in recruitment and then media. To be fair, recruitment is almost entirely based on a commission basis and I was utterly hopeless at it, but my time in media made me extremely conscious that, in order to get anywhere close to the amount of money I wanted, I would have to work for a considerable number of years earning not very much at all.
In the end, I am now here, writing to you, and doing things that make me far happier, even though the money situation is not even remotely improved. While earning a decent wage is definitely important, if you have the opportunity to do something you love and earn money to do it, then you should do it. A good indicator of this is worrying about your salary in your job, as I was, because money would be irrelevant if you really loved what you did.
This isn’t to say that you should read this and immediately type out your resignation letter, walk in to work tomorrow, throw it at your line manager and flounce out the door. You may not be loving your immediate role, but there may be light at the end of the tunnel. If you know you’re in the industry you want to be in, you can look at companies like Monster, who do an excellent salary calculator and show you the average salary for someone with relevant experience, in your city, in your industry.
If you find that you are being underpaid, you are then in a good position – you now have that information to give you a better hand in negotiations. You can approach your manager with this information, look for other roles that pay you what you deserve, or (if you have more nerves than I ever did) threaten to leave and see if your company will give you a counter-offer.
However, if you are being paid the average and it’s not enough then you need to have a think about what will make you happiest. We no longer live in the age of one-company loyalty but are expected to progress our own careers. Sitting pretty at one company despite not being satisfied with your progression doesn’t look great on a CV anymore. However, if you love your company and your job and your only reason for moving would be money, then I would urge you to reconsider.
Money is important. If you don’t have it, or don’t have enough, it can definitely eat away at your happiness. However, if you love your job despite the pay then you’re almost certainly better off there. If you love your job, then just because you live in a six-person flat above a takeaway and can’t go to cocktail bars every week doesn’t mean that you are less successful than anyone else. There are a million and one things you can do without money, nearly all of which are far more enjoyable, deep down, than sinking yet another pint / glass of prosecco / espresso martini. Walk in parks, see free exhibitions, do things that are productive and wholesome, and see who is the happier between you and your mate who works for HSBC a bit further down the line.
Take it from me, as someone who has seen those friends change in the five years since uni – it won’t be them.
Or if it is them, ask them for some money. They’ve got enough.