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. 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.
  4. 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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