It’s Not How Much You Earn That’ll Make You Happy (Trust Me)

You’ve probably heard the saying “It’s not how much you earn, it’s how much you save” at least once or twice in your life, right?

Sadly, I never heard this idiom until one day when I was watching an old reality show (I think it was called the Househusbands of Hollywood. I’m not proud) and one of the characters on the show shared that this was something her dad always told her.

Still, she didn’t abide by his advice and chose to spend whatever she wanted because she had a gig on a morning news show and made good money. Hey, good for her. And I just did a Google search on her and she’s still making decent money as a host on TV so maybe in her case it doesn’t matter.

But for the rest of us, it does. It really, really does. Saving what we earn is the only way we can build wealth and feel financially secure at the end of the day. Also, the myth that you’ll become happier or more satisfied in life the more money you make — it’s just that, a myth.

Here’s why I know this to be true, if you don’t believe me. Ever since I got my first job out of university, I always wished I’d earned more. I was broke and made hardly any money that first year, but I did my best to save up enough to build up my emergency fund and start investing for my future. Even though I was doing the smart thing with my money, it still bugged me that I wasn’t earning as much as other people my age.

So, I thought moving to Toronto with my husband would do the trick. There were more opportunities in the city and higher salaries. And eventually I did get a job with a higher salary than I’d ever had before. On top of that, I started ramping up my side hustle with the blog and podcast and starting making more money that way too. This all culminated in me making the most I’ve ever made this past year. I’m talking almost 6 figures.

I knew that I was approaching this milestone back in the fall, and you’d think this would’ve been an incentive for me to stay at my 9 to 5 to make a similar amount (or more) the next year. But when it came to making a decision to stay to make more money or quit with the risk of making not even half as much, I still chose the latter.

I was pretty surprised with my decision too if I’m honest. Why wouldn’t I just do one more year to reach that 6 figure goal I’ve always dreamed of? Well, it was at that deciding moment in my life that I realized I was absolutely miserable. I was making more money than I ever thought possible at this stage in my life, but it didn’t matter. And to top it all off, that “it’s not how much you earn” line from that terrible reality show kept popping up in my head as a weird voice of reason.

2016 was a long year. It was at times incredibly fulfilling and exciting and a lot of good things came out of it, but it was also full of long nights, even longer hours and a big ball of stress. There was no way I could survive another year like that. I preach Money. Life. Balance. for goodness sakes and I had zero balance in my life!

So, I did one of the craziest things I’ve ever done and handed in my notice. I wanted 2017 to be the year I focus on what really matters and try my best at earning an income on my own.

You may be asking if 2016 was the year I earned the most, was it also the year I saved the most? That was another reason I chose to leave my day job. I was making really good money, but I wasn’t saving enough to make it matter.

For my side hustle, a lot of the money I earned was reinvested into my business. Don’t regret a dollar I spent on my business, since it was a big reason for it becoming my full-time job now. But having so many business expenses last year didn’t help me save much of that income.

Still, that would leave plenty of money to save from my full-time job, right? Yes, but I didn’t. Because I was stressed and unhappy, I would spend! I’ve never been much of an emotional spender, but that side of me came out in full force last year and I was spending money left, right and centre. Nothing extravagant mind you, but little things added up together can make quite an impact. And I hardly noticed until I started taking a good look at everything this year.

You know what the most annoying thing is? That even though I was earning a lot and spending a lot, I didn’t enjoy anything. Neither of those things made me feel good about myself. Most people think that this is living the dream — being able to earn a good living and spend freely. Well I did just that, and I’m telling you it’s not that great.

Now that it’s a new year, it really is a new me. I’m earning less since I’m just starting out on my own, but I’m also spending less too. And overall I just feel more connected with my finances, if that makes sense. Instead of having a general idea of what my money was up to like last year, I know exactly how much I earn, spend, save and invest this year. And I’ve gotta say, being this in tune with my finances makes me so much happier and more satisfied in life than making close to 6 figures ever did.

What are your thoughts on the saying “It’s not how much you earn, it’s how much you save”?

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Showing 7 comments
  • eemusings

    I can completely understand your POV. 🙂

    Personally as my income has gone up so has my happiness and my personal stress levels have decreased. Occasionally my work related stress levels spike but generally I’m pretty darn happy. I relate to getting close to six figures- I am just very wary of what it will take to reach that as I do not want to pursue it at all costs. As a an organic thing, without having to take on too much stress/sacrifice happiness? Absolutely. But if only achievable by trading my current balance for a lot less balance? Nope.

    • Jessica Moorhouse

      It’s tricky right, with more money comes more security (and that’s a big part of what money means to me), but I think we all have that special number of income where it stops making you feel good and just declines. Or maybe it’s because I was just trying to work two full-time jobs! In an ideal world, I’d be able to earn the same income I earned in 2016 but work 40 hours/week, not 100.

  • Rob

    “It’s not how much you earn, it’s how much you save”

    Hi Jess!

    I tend to subscribe to the saying:
    “It’s not how much you earn, it’s what you do with it”

    Too many people lack the knowledge to effectively budget, to effectively spend, to effectively invest, nor effectively save. People need goals and a plan to enjoy life, to know oneself. Money is but a tool that we are all given but we must learn how to use it wisely, no matter how much we have. I’ve seen unhappy “rich”people and completely happy “poor” people.

    • Jessica Moorhouse

      I’ve missed your comments Rob!

      • Rob

        Sorry Jess, I’ll try to be here more often (assuming I don’t get buried in the snow)! 🙂

  • Reply

    I tend to agree that it’s about how we leverage our dollars! Though, if someone wanted to let me test out making six-figures, then I could say definitively 😉 Another piece of the “does work make me happy” puzzle that I think a lot about is how someone’s job or industry is perceived. Thanks for the food for thought!

  • john

    On the other hand, there are lots of people who earn a lot, spend a lot, save a lot and a lot happier than most of us too.

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