How to Determine if You’re Earning Enough Money

FT Contributor
A woman employee receiving money from a businessman.
Reading Time: 5 minutes

It can be hard to put an exact figure on how much money is “enough” for you. The amount of money you consider to be enough is entirely dependent on what makes you feel financially stable, comfortable, and confident.

It may be tempting to assume that making more money will make you happy. However, even top earners may live unfulfilling lives. If you can maintain a healthy work-life balance but still make enough money for a fulfilling life, you can achieve happiness.

How Do You Know if You’re Earning Enough?

Feeling that you’re not making enough money is common among those who work hard. It can be difficult to determine if you truly are earning enough because the amount you need for the future may seem nebulous and vague. However, there are some variables you can analyze to determine if you need to make a change and begin earning more money.

Earning a Living Wage

You’re earning a living wage if you can comfortably meet all of life’s needs with your current salary. A living wage varies by location, so be sure to take your state and city into consideration.

However, if you’re like most people, you don’t simply want to earn a living wage that covers your mandatory expenses and you probably have additional financial goals you want to achieve. You may also have personal expenses or needs that your salary must cover. You’ll need to analyze other aspects of your life to determine if you need to earn more.

Signs You Aren’t Earning Enough Money

You should look for these signs you aren’t earning enough money so you know when you need to make a change:

  • You can’t cover your monthly bills and debts: You should be earning enough to pay for your expenses, including debts like your mortgage or car loan payment.
  • You excessively rely on credit cards: While credit cards can help in an emergency, they usually are attached to high-interest rates and other unfavorable conditions. Making minimum payments can get you into a “credit card debt pit,” which allows the balance to continue growing until you simply can’t catch up.
  • You have no savings or emergency fund: A savings account can help you achieve future financial goals and an emergency fund is important in case something unexpected happens. Without this fund, a car breakdown or medical bill can send you into debt that will make it impossible to progress toward other financial goals.
  • Your personal life isn’t progressing: If you feel stuck in your personal life due to your financial situation, you may not be earning enough money. If you feel you have to delay important life events like getting married, buying a home, or having children, it’s a sign you need to make a financial change.

Earning Enough for a Fulfilling Life

Money doesn’t lead to happiness and simply earning more each month may not be the answer to all your problems. However, earning enough money to feel fulfilled can lead you to a more well-rounded life full of exciting opportunities.

Achieving Financial Independence

One way to feel fulfilled financially is to gain financial independence. Your income should be able to cover your debt each month while still providing you with enough wiggle room in your budget to enjoy activities, outings, and splurges in moderation. You should also be able to make progress toward your long-term financial goals each month. If you don’t feel your earnings allow you to do this, you haven’t yet become financially independent.

To work toward financial independence, you may need to develop yourself professionally so you can advance your career. The way you develop your professional skills depends on your position, goals, and industry, but may include obtaining higher education degrees or completing certification courses.

If you can’t move into a higher position at your job, you could also look into additional sources of supplemental income. Consider selling crafts or vintage items on the weekends or getting a serving job at a local restaurant in the evenings. The extra money you earn from part-time work like this can allow you to gain financial independence quickly through a higher monthly income.

Finding Contentment

Earning more money doesn’t always lead to greater contentment in life. One of the keys to enjoying life is to reframe your definition of success, which doesn’t always mean more money or the ability to purchase luxurious material items. There are several other ways to live a happier life without more money, such as:

  • Being thankful for what you have: Embrace what you have now, not only material items but also friends and family that you love and cherish.
  • Teaching others: One of the best ways to be happy is to share your knowledge. Teach others what you know, whether it’s a skill or how to live with less.
  • Being present in life: Instead of focusing on when you’ll earn more money or get a promotion at work, enjoy the moment. Take pride in the job you do now and the simple life you’re living instead of always focusing on a bigger paycheck.

Even if you don’t feel you’re earning enough money right now, you can still find happiness and contentment in your daily life. As you strive for a higher income, don’t focus solely on financials and enjoy your life for what it is in the moment.

The Importance of Work-Life Balance

If you don’t feel financially independent and you know you’re not earning enough money, it can cause stress in your life. It’s tempting to devote yourself solely to your career and making more money when you feel this stress. However, placing all the focus on your career and finances can make you unhappy.

It’s important to balance both your career and your personal life to stay fulfilled and connected to those you love. If you commit too much of your time and energy to work, life is hard to enjoy. Your personal relationships can begin to deteriorate and not spending time with the ones you love or doing the things you enjoy may make you unhappy.

Work-Life Balance Definition

A work-life balance is important, whether you’re the CEO of a large company or a retail clerk at a small mom-and-pop shop. Work-life balance can also be referred to as a “work-life separation.” You achieve this balance when you’re able to compartmentalize your work life and your personal life. To set yourself up for a healthy work-life balance, you’ll need to be present in the moment at work, but when you come home, let all your work stress go.

Tips to Finding a Better Work-Life Balance

It’s important to balance your goal of earning more income with your enjoyment of life. If you only focus on earning income, your personal relationships and other important aspects of your life will suffer, which can lead to unhappiness and discontentment. Here are a few ways to ensure you’re mastering the all-important work-life balance:

  • Unplug from work when you aren’t clocked in: Modern technology makes it hard to separate work life from home life but unplugging from your work-related devices at home can help you create a more firm separation. Since constantly checking emails or taking work-related calls at home can lessen the joy you get out of life, unplugging is crucial.
  • Stay focused on your goals: Avoid negative people or unfulfilling activities that distract you from reaching your personal or financial goals. For example, addictive video gaming or excessive social media engagement can waste time you could use to enjoy a loved one’s company.
  • Seek flexible work options: You may be able to attend more social events or satisfy personal obligations without compromising on work with flexible or remote working options. Talk to your employer about getting some work completed at home so you don’t have to miss out on socializing.

It’s important to feel you’re making enough money to be financially independent while progressing toward your long-term financial goals. If you know you’re not earning enough, take the steps necessary to increase your income. However, keep in mind that money doesn’t always equal happiness, so it’s crucial to have a healthy work-life balance and enjoy your life in the moment.

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