Should You Change Jobs for Money?

Leaving Work and Changing Jobs

This is a question that seems as if the answer is obvious. Sometimes it is, sometimes not. There are different scenarios where you might want to change jobs for the money. But there are at least an equal number where making a jump for higher pay won’t be worth it.

Let’s take a look at some different scenarios.

When Changing Jobs for Money Makes Sense

There are certainly times when the question of changing jobs for money has an obvious answer – and that answer will be a resounding YES!

1. When you are clearly underpaid in your current job.

If you’re in a job situation where you’re at the low end of the pay scale, and it doesn’t seem as if there’s any way to improve your pay within the system, you’ll probably want to consider making a job change mainly for money.

You may be very good at doing your job, but for whatever reason your employer fails to recognize it. Sometimes it’s the result of office politics, favoritism, or simply joining the organization at an unfavorable time. Whatever the reason, you may have no choice but to look elsewhere for higher pay.

2. When you are early in your career.

It’s not uncommon for people change jobs early in their careers. Some companies prefer to promote from within, in which case an employee may get promotions and higher pay relatively easily. But other companies are more attracted to the talent at their competitors, and would prefer to hire experienced people from other companies rather than promoting from within.

You may have to make two or three job changes early in your career in order for you to get your pay level up to where it needs to be.

3. When there’s no chance of promotion where you work now.

Sometimes the organization you’re working for is experiencing financial difficulties; if that’s the case it may be impossible to get a substantial pay increase. Other companies seem to be in a state of perpetual crisis – you’ll probably find it difficult to get a serious pay increase there as well. There are any number of reasons why an employer may not be in a position to give you more money, and if that’s the case you may have no choice but to change jobs for better compensation.

4. When you absolutely need more money.

If you’re in a situation where you have large debts to pay off, or very high living expenses (whatever the reason), you may need to change jobs to make more money. It may be that the debt situation is so threatening that you have no choice but to chase higher pay. It may not be your preferred route, but may be the only way you’ll be able get out of debt.

When Changing Jobs for Money Probably Doesn’t Make Sense

As much as we tend to think about money as the ultimate reward in a job, that isn’t always true. Sometimes there are risks associated with changing jobs for more money that we simply would not want to take if we think about them in some depth.

The Risks of Relocation

In some industries the only way to make more money is by relocating to take another job. While that might produce higher pay, it’s important to recognize that there may be risks to relocating.

The new employer may pay your relocation costs, which is certainly attractive. But they may require you to relocate from a large, diversified job market to much smaller one. The loss of your job in the new location could force you to relocate again – only this time you will be paying for the relocation yourself.

Any money gained through the higher pay of the new job could be lost if you are forced to relocate on the loss of the job.

You will also need to consider if what you’re giving up at home will be worth a higher salary. You may be leaving family, friends and a familiar environment in favor of a place where none of those advantages exist.

Sacrificing Training and Experience for Money

When thinking of changing jobs for money you always need to consider the training and experience factor. If your present job – or a lower paying one – offers greater training and experience, that could eventually be worth more than an immediate pay increase.

In addition, if a new job is offering pay that is out of proportion to the depth of the job, it could be a warning sign. The job could be a revolving door, the type that no one stays at for much more than a year or two before quitting or being fired. The higher pay may be an incentive for a job that simply isn’t doable.

Changing Jobs Just for Money

There is another risk to changing jobs for money that is more subtle. If a prospective employer sees you changing jobs every year or two for higher pay, they may see your time on a job with them as just another temporary stop. The moment another employer offers you more money, you’ll be out the door.

This will be an even greater problem if the caliber of your performance doesn’t match your level of pay. Having a job, any job, isn’t just a matter of increasing salary; it’s also important to increase your skills and abilities to match.

Being Where You Can Make a Real Difference

Being an “impact player” in a lower paying job can be more important than being just another link in a chain in a higher paying job. This can be especially important when it comes to layoffs and promotions. An employee who is considered to be an important part of an organization will always be less likely to lose his job, and more likely to be promoted. You may not want to let go of that advantage in favor of higher pay.

The Job Satisfaction Factor

Finally there’s the issue that we don’t think much about when we are looking for higher pay, and that’s job satisfaction. You’ll probably be working at least five days a week, for at least 50 weeks out of each year. That’s a lot of time on the job, and that’s why job satisfaction so important.

You may be better off in a lower paying job with higher job satisfaction, than a higher paying job with less satisfaction. The higher paying job may help you to pay your bills more easily, but it still may not be worth it if each and every day on the job is a struggle.

Would you change jobs primarily or exclusively for money? What risks do you see in that strategy? Leave a comment!

  1. Timothy Mobley

    Good points! There is so much to consider when deciding to change jobs. One thing I would add is it won’t be prudent to leave a job before the 401K vesting period has passed. Depending on the size of the 401K unvested balance and the increase in salary, it may make more sense to stick it in the current job and see if there will be growth opportunities while the employer match portion of the 401K gets fully vested. And then if nothing has changed during that time, reconsider.

  2. Great article on the decision of when you change jobs! I completely agree with point 4. Sometimes people just need to realize that making more money is a must and not an option. You can do something more enjoyable with less stress after you get out of your financial problems. It is a tough pill to swallow, but keeping your eye on the prize can help make the job more tolerable.


    • Kevin M

      Hi Oliver–There can be times like that, and when they come you have to do what you have to do. It may be a matter of taking better care of your family.

  3. Margo

    Great article. I actually really like my job 90% of the time and, where I live, it is pretty good pay for a woman with only a high school education. Point #3 is my problem. There is no advancement/promotion opportunities where I work, mainly because I do my job well. But because I am in my mid 50’s, I just keep at it so I can pay off debt, save for retirement, and look forward to the day I retire.

  4. Kirby

    Great post. “Being where you can make a real difference” is an important consideration. So many people only look at the monetary aspect of a new job or potential career change, and they don’t consider their relative worth to their existing company and what position they may be in if times get tough and 1) the company values them and 2) they weren’t the most recent group of hired employees.

    Sometimes people jump too quickly to a higher paying job only to find out that the pay was to compensate them for what I call “combat pay” – getting paid higher to deal with a much more stressful environment, working conditions, boss, etc.

    • Kevin M

      HI Kirby–Combat pay–perfect! There are jobs where that description fits perfectly. A lot of times they’re higher paying jobs too, paying so much that the employee feels he can’t quit.

  5. D.R. Freeth

    I wouldn’t do anything for money. I don’t serve money. I serve God. Sometimes I have no money. But the rewards of serving God make us very wealthy. It’s the best job there is.

  6. Tushar @ Everything Finance

    Great post. It’s absolutely true that many people change jobs early in their career fairly quickly. However, sometimes this can be seen as job “hopping” which can be bad for the resume, depending on the company to which you are applying. I think ALL of the costs and benefits must be weighed before making such a decision.

    • Kevin M

      Hi Tushar–That is common when people are in their 20s, but it gets riskier when you hit your 30s.


    I was hired as a manager in a new higher end fast food chain. The first weeks we opened I was on the job by 8 am and often didn’t get home till midnight. I didn’t see my sons at all during this time, except to drop them off at school in the mornings. The money was AWESOME!! Lots of money but I didn’t really care about the money. I was relying upon others to raise the beautiful sons God has blessed me with, it wasn’t worth it!
    I am now the only cook at a private pre-school and I love it!! I am now off weekends and holidays! The pay isn’t as much, but I have been able to be with my sons and go to their after school activities but most importantly I am there for them. No amount of money can buy back the time lost with your children. At that other job, I would cry on the way to work almost every morning!

  8. Kevin M

    That’s an excellent example of trading family for money. You made the right choice, assuming you’re able to provide adequately for your family. Money really isn’t everything.