Should You Take Your Dream Job If the Pay and Benefits Suck?

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Gallup conducts a poll every year to measure job satisfaction among workers in the United States. The report from 2016 shows that Americans felt happier than they did the year before.

That could be because of this decade’s movement to escape cubicle life and leave jobs that make people miserable in favor of pursuing a passion.

New grads and young adults may be the most optimistic about finding their dream jobs. But your desire to chase down job satisfaction in one area can cost you — literally.

The same Gallup poll showed that less than half of workers feel satisfied with a number of work aspects that impact their financial lives. These include pay, benefits, and opportunities for advancement.

According to the poll, 56 percent of people aren’t happy with the retirement plan their employer offers. Another 59 percent aren’t satisfied with their pay, and 63 percent of people feel the same about their health insurance benefits.

Your happiness in your job and the financial realities of your life are both important factors to consider when you’re early in your career. Strike a balance between pursuing dream jobs based on your passion and looking for positions that allow you to address your financial priorities.

How to balance dream jobs with financial realities

Finding that perfect balance of job satisfaction and fair compensation may be something you need to create yourself by thinking long-term.

When you’re in your 20s, you likely have decades of work ahead of you. It feels suffocating to imagine yourself working a soul-crushing job for that long. It’s hard to listen to advice that suggests prioritizing your financial needs over your dream job, especially when you’re early in your career with a lot of life to live (and work).

But that long, long life ahead of you is exactly why you should prioritize good pay and benefits over doing what you love — at least at first.

Build a financial foundation first

Most of us don’t find a position that offers great job satisfaction and great benefits. We’re usually faced with a choice.

I believe you should choose the position that gives you the best shot of building a strong financial foundation right now. Just get started and accept that you may work a year or two in a job that you strongly dislike.

The short-term sacrifice might be worth it when it sets you up to do what you want in the long-term.

I worked in a job I absolutely hated for three years when I graduated college. I deliberately made a choice to take the job because it offered the best pay of the positions I qualified for, and provided me with a 401k with employer match and health insurance.

I made another choice to put my head down and do everything I could to build my savings and start investing while I worked there. I put away half my income and went from a few thousand bucks in my savings account to a six-digit net worth.

The benefits of missing out on dream jobs (at first)

Prioritizing my finances in the short-term allowed me to live my dream in the long run. Because I built a financial foundation, I was able to quit that job after three years and work for myself.

I still do that today — and I love it. Out of all the dream jobs out there, nothing is better to me than freelancing, being my own boss, and building my own business.

But was it worth it? What did I miss out on, or suffer from, by putting money first?

I put myself in a position to have a lot of Sunday night dread, and working a job you hate is a good way to pave a road to burnout. I didn’t just hate that first job out of college. I loathed it.

But my lack of job satisfaction gave me the motivation I needed to launch my freelance career. It fueled my desire to build something for myself.

It also taught me a lot about what I wanted from the rest of my career. I gained perspective and awareness about my own strengths and weaknesses. I learned that I could do anything for a short period of time.

The experience also showed me what I valued. Had I started my career in a job I loved, I would have never realized that my real passion rested in making an impact the way I do now.

Focusing on building a financial foundation gave me the freedom to take more risks with my career than I could have done otherwise. Working a dream job with pay and benefits that sucked would have left me more stuck than working the job I hated but provided me with the means to eventually escape.

Either way, find happiness outside your job and inside yourself

Buying into the idea of dream jobs is dangerous. It can leave you feeling like the only solution to your troubles is to find the perfect job.

I used to believe that if I only had a better job, I’d be happier. I was so jealous of my friends who pursued their passions right out of school. They made little money and stayed on their parents’ health insurance, but they loved their work.

What I didn’t realize is that I would have been unhappy from the ages of 21 to 24 anyway, whether I worked my dream job or not.

It’s easy to blame a job that sucks for your problems and your unhappiness. I didn’t know it at the time, but I eventually figured out that the unhappiness I experienced in my early 20s wasn’t due to a job — it was internal stuff that I needed to work on.

Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking any kind of job will make you happy. Happiness doesn’t come from any external force. It only comes from cultivating a strong sense of self, getting to know who you are, and actively working on your own mindset.

Here’s the good news: You can do this even while you work in a position you dislike. A job is only one part of your life, and you’re much more dynamic than the role you work in.

What should you do?

I delayed my dream job for a few years for a number of reasons. I knew that landing a job I was passionate about, but that offered low pay and benefits, wouldn’t solve my problems. It wouldn’t have allowed me to create the freedom I needed to make bigger decisions in a few years.

Dream jobs are nice in theory, but they often don’t challenge you to explore what you’re really capable of. And if the pay and benefits aren’t there, dream jobs certainly don’t empower you to take risks and grow wealth for the long term.

Only you can decide what the next step in your career is, so carefully weigh your options. No matter what job you choose, it’s sure to hold valuable lessons for both your career and your finances.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

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1 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student Loan RefinanceFixed rates from 3.999% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.480% APR to 7.524% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.480% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.07% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.17% (2.72%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.50%-8.69% (3.50% – 8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Average savings based on 18,113 actual customers who refinanced their federal and private student loans through our Education Refinance Loan between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. The calculation is derived by averaging the monthly savings of Education Refinance Loan customers whose payments decreased after refinancing, which is calculated by taking the monthly student loan payments prior to refinancing minus the monthly student loan payments after refinancing. The borrower’s savings might vary based on the interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of the loans they are seeking to refinance. The borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if their monthly payments are lower.
2.57% – 5.87%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.80% – 6.38%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 7.52%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 7.99%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.57% – 6.65%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.72% – 8.17%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.