SURVEY SAYS: Salary and Career Success

August 18, 2014 ( – We recently covered a survey that found most employees say they can feel successful without earning large paychecks.

Last week, I asked NewsDash readers, are you satisfied with your salary, and what salary would make you feel successful?

More than half (55.6%) of responding readers indicated they are satisfied with their current salaries, while the rest are not. One-third (33.8%) of respondents said their salary would need to be $100,000 up to $200,000 in order to feel successful in their careers. Nearly three in ten (29.6%) reported they need $75,000 up to $100,000 to feel successful. Nearly 10% chose $200,000 or more as the salary level they would need to feel successful, while 8.5% chose $50,000 up to $75,000. Nearly two in ten (18.3%) responded that their feeling successful is not based on salary.

Fifty-five percent of responding NewsDash readers said they have asked for a raise, and among those, 68.3% received a raise by asking for one, while 31.7% did not.

In verbatim comments, some readers shared why their salaries make them feel successful or not, and some discussed salary fairness and perceptions in general. Many expounded on what other factors they think signify (or should make people have a feeling of) success. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who shared these words of wisdom: “As far as career [and salary], I’ve seen the desks of altruists and status seekers cleaned off with the same disinterest. I’m reminded, then, of a well-known recovery program axiom, ‘To thy own self be true.’ There is my measuring stick.”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!


Salary is somewhat important - we have to pay for our homes, our benefits, our kids... But I feel the most satisfaction with my job when I am in a place where my contributions are respected and appreciated. No amount of money is worth working in a place where I am put down and constantly disrespected.

I make decent money. The unfortunate part is that my bills are indecent!

Career/job satisfaction isn't (all) about money; if you are paid fairly and enjoy what you're doing, and look forward to going to work, that is success. I've had jobs that paid more than well, but hated them because it didn't utilize what I had to offer, and I didn't feel like I was contributing anything to anything or anyone. Money is important, but not everything. Steve Jobs had more than enough, but in the end it meant nothing.... If you enjoy what you do and earn enough to live a decent life and enjoy life, you are successful. Few people can really say that.

I feel the salary is successful...the job, not so much. For the salary I am being paid, I would have expected more respect for the knowledge, and autonomy/discretion for the role. Micro-managers exist at every level and really can damage the confidence of the employee upon whom they are inflicting that behavior. The term "self-fulfilling prophesy" comes to mind...why bother to do things right the first time, etc...blah, blah, blah...

I'm finally at a spot in my financial career where I don't have to worry about my bank account before each pay. I've never really negotiated a salary but have always been lucky to be happy with the salary I received. Maybe I would be making more today had I negotiated...maybe not. I figure as long as I like my job and my bills are paid, that is success for this phase of my career.

Did ask why not included in bonus program since others at my level were included and that worked the next year.

In behavioral finance, people always look at someone with a higher income and say, "if only..." To a person making $30k per year, there is effectively no difference between someone making $75k, and someone making $1 million. The person making $30k would say "if only I made $75k, I’d have it made". Of course to the person making $75k, there is no difference between the person making $150k and $1 million and would be apt to say "if only I made $150k, I'd have it made". This continues at all levels. Therefore, the survey is flawed in the sense that it is more of a reflection of the average salary of those polled, than it is a reflection of the question it is asking. You cannot judge success based on salary, because on average people will always want more than what they've got. As a side note, notice that politicians use this behavioral tendency to manipulate the population. Think about the buzzwords "millionaires and billionaires." It makes for great political fodder, but when you look at the real difference between the two, you realize it is equivalent to comparing a $30k per year person and claiming similarity to someone making $30 million. When you look at it that way, it's an absurd comparison, yet to the vast majority of the population, millionaires and billionaires both have inconceivably more than they do, so they must be the same.  

Unfortunately, when I retire - and I do want to retire - I'll be back in that "less than $50,000" boat. I guess I'll still feel "successful," but it brings up some bad memories of trying to make ends meet. It's hard, at least for me, to feel successful when I'm worried about paying my bills every month.

I work for a bank. Contrary to popular belief, being in a staff role in a bank is not a high paying job.

I've never been motivated by money and have been able to adjust my lifestyle to income in hard times. I earn very good money today and have never asked for a raise. Although I know I have benefited by colleagues asking for more money and my boss wanted to keep our salaries in the same relative relationship.

Verbatim (cont.)

I also include in my 'salary' happiness quotient my retirement benefits. I feel fortunate that I work at a company that provides a DB plan in addition to a 401(k) with an employer match. For me, part of a successful career is the ability to successfully retire from it.

If an employer expects growth in knowledge and expertise from the employees, they should expect to compensate for that increased knowledge. An employee cannot continue to grow and become a greater asset to the company without realizing the company's appreciation for the effort. The motivation and morale will deteriorate.

A few years ago I did not think my annual raise represented the rating of high performer so I asked for a larger raise and was told no, that the percent was predetermined so no extra could be added. I was disappointed and while I knew I had been successful I did not feel appreciated. I think that while there is not a never ending bucket for salary, high performers should perhaps receive a bigger bonus or "on the spot" bonuses. The feeling of being appreciated can drive positive outcomes which mean success for all.

As I do payroll I see what others make and that's the problem with being satisfied with my current salary. In comparison with others, I am underpaid.

Seriously, is anyone ever satisfied with their salary? Doesn't everyone always want more than they are getting at any point in time? I feel successful in my career, even though I think I should make more money. I work in the operations side of the business, so in general, I think we make less than the front line, even though I am ultimately responsible for billions of dollars of assets. Go figure. 🙂

To feel really successful, I would need to have sufficient wealth to not rely on my salary.

My lack of satisfaction relates not to the overall level of salary but to the comparison of it to what others similar to me in experience and credentials are earning.

Those at the top of the pay scale often fail to realize that they got there by the hard work of others.

I have always thought I would like to earn more than the FICA limit. During my career, that limit has always seemed to increase faster than my wages. Fortunately, I'm still happy.

I neither define, nor measure, my success by financial means. My work product, business partners, what I can provide to others, and my skill set and related opportunities are more valuable to me when evaluating my success. That said, I do make a nice salary and have a comfortable lifestyle.

Unfortunately salary does not always match career success. There are way too many incompetent people in management making exorbitant salaries while these same people deny fair compensation to their workers.

I'll be happy when I become an HCE or a key employee. I'm not picky - either will do.

Verbatim (cont.)

I feel my salary should be based on the retention and satisfaction of my clients. In my business, we have been losing clients at a rapid rate, however, none of the clients have been mine. I would be happy to be compensated monetarily.

Generally, most people desire a higher salary to be successful. In some parts of the world, success is owning a car. In others, it is owning two, or based on income. In America, it is often based on a higher salary than is currently earned. In studies, happiness increases with pay up to a point shy of 100k a year, beyond which additional pay doesn't actually benefit a person's level of satisfaction with life. I am relatively new to the workforce, and earn significantly more than I used to, but I am also aligned well with my ten year plan and life goals, which lends me much more satisfaction than my annual salary.

My boss appreciates me and shows it in annual raises. I might like to make more, but I can live on what I make. That is what is important.

There were several success salary highs throughout my career. Making $1,000 times age as early as possible. Then, $50,000, $75,000, & $100,000. After that, it is now investments in the market above $1,000,000.

I think you need to first define career success. For me, working for a well-respected firm, at a job I love with a level of authority and autonomy, appreciated, and a short commute from home is what is successful to me. However, I do expect to be compensated for my level of experience and education, so I don't necessarily equate salary with career success.

I think success is more based on how my team succeeds than how much I am compensated. I believe if I lead my team to succeed, the compensation will follow.

I make far more than I ever imagined I would. Now, I just need to crack six figures.

As far as career & $, I've seen the desks of altruists and status seekers cleaned off with the same disinterest. I’m reminded, then, of a well-known recovery program axiom; "To thy own self be true." There is my measuring stick.

In my opinion success is all about respect and work/life balance. I would much rather make a little less in salary and be respected by my peers and just appreciated in general.

As long as you can pay your bills and have a little left over, you're successful!

I think it is based upon three factors: 1. preparation such as experience and education and hard work 2. playing the politics (in a corporate setting) 3. luck--being the right person at the right place at the right time

They say money can't buy happiness, and as the recent Robin Williams tragedy reminds us, neither can fame. That said, if you're not paid what you're worth, I think it's hard to be happy in your work. I do find the compensation package some executives receive to be excessive. And yes, that includes individuals at the financial services firms that make their profits from servicing retirement plans.


NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.
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