The Joy of Low Earning Potential

Yeah, yeah.  We all know how great it is when you can pull in those high numbers. 50% savings rate almost feels easy when your combined income is in the coveted 6 figure status- or so I would assume. But there are two sides to every coin.

low income potential


I firmly believe that achieving anything great requires a huge pile of optimism and creative thinking. So here are some of the upsides of low earning potential.

1. It will be easier to walk away from the paycheck

Sure early retirement is great, but money can be seductive. Especially when you have been counting and stockpiling those beans for a long time. If someone is willing to give me 80G for “just one more year.” Or worst 150K! I’m not sure I could walk away from that. Granted Mr. Mt had it great with his last employer. For a social service job in Montana $34,500 is good. Crazy good. He was thrilled when he landed that job. It’s still easier to walk away though. Because at the end of the day, what are we losing by taking a year off? Replacing our beater car with a new shinny one? Or Building a single car garage? (Although I do, at times, deeply long for a garage!) It made for an easy call. Sure we could have saved another 10k in our IRA’s, but instead we are getting a year of adventure, travel, rest and fun.

2. It is easier to find a comparable job

Those poor high earners have to make a tough call. If they leave the $120k a year job, and take 3 years off, can they find something similar if they want to return to work? Now the reality of the answer is almost inconsequential, because the fear the question produces is very real. That question is almost irrelevant to us. If the Hubs or I want to go back to work, maybe instead of $34,500 we will make $27k. So what? If it had better hours, or more vacation time, it would be totally worth it for us.

3. It will be easier to bring in extra income without it feeling like a waste of time

Let’s say you have always made $35 a hour. That’s what your time feels like it’s worth to you. So if the stock market REALLY sucks for a few years and you want to bring in some extra bucks, how hard is it going to be to find part time work that will pay you what you are accustomed to earning? Sure you could go back to work full time, but that might feel like a HUGE sacrifice. Enter the joy of low earning potential. If most of your life you made $11-$15 an hour, there are LOTS of part time or temp work options that will get you darn close to that number and could be really fun. One winter Mr. Mt worked at an outdoor shop to score a free ski pass. He put in about 10 hours a week and spent all that cash on heavily discounted ski gear. It was like a dream job. Ski every weekend, put in a few hours a night talking to other folks who love skiing, and get to buy “the good stuff” with his extra cash. I think he made $11 an hour, and it was pure joy.

Even while you’re still working, it can be easier! When you bring in money in the low 30’s, no one really expects you to live high on the hog. (Never mind that we have quite a few streams of passive income coming in as well). If we live in a modest house, drive an old car, or eat out enjoying $1 tacos instead of prime rib, well, it’s ok. It’s easier to be friends and hang out with other low income earners. Summer BBQ’s, birthday parties with a homemade sheet cake, long afternoons at the lake with friends are easy to come by, fun, and affordable.

So if you went into a career that you love (or loved) but didn’t pull in the big bucks, be of good cheer. Sure some things will take a bit longer, more hustle and hard work. But some things will be far easier too! So a big shout out to our teachers, nurses, fire fighters, social workers, pastors, family therapists and all my other peeps who might never see the golden 6 figures.

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5 thoughts on “The Joy of Low Earning Potential

  1. Hi Jillian,
    Thank you for your thoughtful article. I am in the situation of trying to step out of the six figure world and into simpler and less stressful work while our nest egg grows and we can cover our cash flow. My challenge is where to find $30 ish thousand dollar a year jobs that allow 3-4 weeks off a year.
    Do you have any tips or advice how to go about the job search? I would really like something that allows me to work from home, maybe even 4 days a week.
    Thanks much!

    • Hi Dave! I would start with looking at something similar to what you do now, only part time or contracted out. You might be able to find something where you get paid a similar hourly wage and just work half the time. Or something in a similar field. If you want something entirely different, and really want the time off, I would look at jobs that are seasonal by nature. I have a new post coming in the next few weeks about creating Passion + Passive Income and that might be really helpful to start.

  2. Definitely as my salary has grown, it’s gotten harder to justify the little side hustles I used to do as those hourly rates grow apart – #3 resonates!

    I guess when I had a lower income I also actually got money back at tax refund time, and in the really early days qualified for things like the community services card which saved a lot on health/medical costs.

    • It really gets hard to justify side jobs that pay half of your normal rate! Plus they probably don’t help you get promoted and further increase your income.