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Quality of Life is More Important Than Money

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My wife and I recently took a voluntary $20,000 per year reduction in income – after taxes. Before you question why we voluntarily chose to do this, you have to understand the full situation. My wife was in the US military and her job required her to work very long hours and irregular schedules. Weekends and holidays did not exist in her line of work. Planning for events, holidays, vacations, and a social life was difficult because her work schedule would usually only be released 4-6 weeks in advance. Add to that the possibility of deploying for 6 months at a stretch and it quickly became evident that at this stage in our lives, our quality of life was more important to us than earning more money.

I know a lot of people can’t afford to take a $20,000 a year pay cut, and it’s not easy. Fortunately, we started planning for this drop in income well over a year ago and we were prepared for it.

To prepare ourselves for this drastic change in income, my wife and I paid down all of our consumer debt, trimmed unnecessary expenses from our budget, and began living well below our income level. After doing this we added more money to our emergency fund, and began investing a little extra in our retirement accounts while we had the available funds to do so.

My wife recently began her new job, and is very happy with her decision to try something new professionally – and so am I. Even though my wife and I earn about $20,000 less per year now, we are still financially stable and we now have a better quality of life than when she was earning more money, but working irregular schedules. I am glad my wife and I have a very open line of communication and planned for this a year ago – when we still had the time to prepare for it.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a chance to prepare for a drastic decrease in income. If you have to deal with a similar situation, I hope your story ends as well as ours did. If you are not able to prepare in advance for a drastic drop in income, I hope you will be able to find a way to handle your new situation. Later this week I will write about how to deal with a sudden and drastic drop in income.

Note: This is not intended to say anything bad about the military. My wife and I both served and are proud to have done so. For both of us though, we reached a stage in our lives where we wanted something else.


Published or updated April 29, 2011.
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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mrs. Micah

I agree with you 100%. You’re both quite brave to do this. I’ve seen a lot of families where the couple barely gets to spend time together because of their salaries. Or people work insane hours and never live.

Good luck with this move!

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2 David

I’m with you on this choice, nice going. Quality of life is way more important than having a few extra bucks to play with!

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3 Ryan

Mrs. Micah and David, Thanks for the comments. The higher pay checks were nice, but in the end, our time together was just worth more to us than the extra money. We’ve already been able to spend much more time together and we are having a lot of fun. It really is wonderful. :)

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4 kitty

Another way to look at it is that taking a job with less hours even if it pays less is going to save money in the long run – on health bills. Working long hours and weekends cannot be good for one’s health. Health bills are expensive.

I would’ve done the same thing. I stayed with the same company for over 20 years even though at some point around internet bubble I could’ve gotten a better paying job. I choose to stay because other jobs were likely to be less interesting, would’ve required me to commute to NYC, wouldn’t have the same schedule flexibility. Quality of life is more important than money.

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5 dimes

If my husband worked a regular full-time job, I’d work one too so that we’d have the same income and predictable hours. However, our current situation seems to be working well enough, and he doesn’t have the option of getting out of the military at this point. Congratulations for the wife though.

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6 Ryan

Hello Kitty,

We actually had free health care through the military but now we have to pay for it! But, I get your point, and ultimately it was all of the factors put together that led us to this decision. We don’t regret it at all.

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7 mapgirl

Hi Ryan,

I just wanted to thank you and your wife for your service. I live in DC and sometimes you see kids who barely shave in uniform. You just want to give them a hug.

That is awesome that you guys prepared for the income change and that’s allowing your wife the freedom to try something new. I think the main thing about money is that it can offer freedom. It’s nice to have a number as a goal, but really what we’re doing with the money is buying options and freedom for ourselves.

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8 Ryan

Hi Mapgirl,

Thanks. We both enjoyed our time in the service. We both had the opportunity to serve our country, see the world, and somewhere in between, meet each other. :)

I agree with your assessment on money and freedom. This is how we look at it, and we are very happy with the freedom we gave ourselves by planning and being fortunate with our money. :)

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9 shadox

Money has a diminishing marginal utility. You need a certain amount of it to enjoy your life, and a little more to save so that you can enjoy your life later down the road, but when getting money starts to interfere with you quality of life, that’s when you know it’s time to scale back.

Good decision.

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10 Ryan

Spoken like a true MBA, Shadox. ;)

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