Is $75K the Lawyer Happiness Number? Shoes and ‘Life Assessment’ Part of Trade-off
Posted Sep 13, 2010 9:51 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Lawyers who give up big salaries should be comforted by a recent study showing that after reaching a household income of $75,000, people don't become more happy with more money.
The New York Times includes an example in its article: lawyers and others who pursue a field for high pay, and then realize they don’t like the work. Nicholas Lore, founder of career coaching firm the Rockport Institute, told the newspaper he recently coached a lawyer who gave up high pay to teach law. Lore said he is worried that the bad economy might be forcing people into poor career choices.
Daniel Pink, who wrote Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, pointed out that fields that are hot today might be on a downward trend. And people who choose a field just for the money will likely find they aren’t very good at it, and their salary will reflect that. “Generally, people flourish when they’re doing something they like and what they’re good at,” he said.
The Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Report blog had more information on the study, based on Gallup surveys of 450,000 Americans. The evaluation by economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahnema found that day-to-day happiness rises with income until hitting a plateau of about $75,000. After that, there isn’t a gain in happiness.
More money does boost people’s “life assessment,” however. Deaton explained this finding to the Associated Press. Giving people more income beyond 75K is not going to do much for their daily mood ... but it is going to make them feel they have a better life," he said.
Above the Law noted the study and wondered if $75,000 is the magic plateau for lawyers. With big education debts, lawyers may need more money to live a “$75,000 lifestyle,” the blog says. And they may expect to earn more because of their advanced degrees and specialized training.
The Wealth Report wondered if the number varies by city. “Would $75,000 mark the ultimate day-to-day contentment in such high-cost cities as New York City, Los Angeles or San Francisco?” the blog asks.
And do the little things count? Above the Law notes the observation of a friend who left BigLaw. Did she miss anything? The paycheck, she replied, and “being able to go crazy in the shoe department of Bloomingdale’s.”