Changing Careers. Surviving on Love or Money.

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The prevailing wisdom among many “career success” pundits is that if you do what you love, you’ll make lots of money. In my humble opinion, this is rarely the case.

If you hate your job and wonder if you’d make more money by following your passion and doing what you love, take a deep breath, a step back, and stop listening to the Donald (Trump) who espouses a “do what you love to succeed” mantra. When Trump first started, he borrowed heavily from his father and at one time had a negative net worth of $300 million. To succeed, he had to add some hard grunt work to his “passion.”

If you’re thinking of changing your career, you need to come to grips with the fact that there’s no direct link between doing what you love and meeting your financial goals. In other words, if you’re passionate about money, make sure the money will follow.

If you’re in college and pursuing a liberal arts major you’re really passionate about, remind yourself of the sobering fact that you may not be making a lot of money in the field that degree is preparing you for. If making a lot of bread is your goal, you might consider switching your major and career to a STEM field (science, technology, engineering, math). It’s not rocket science to realize that these fields are far more in demand today (and thus more lucrative) than something that will basically only qualify you to teach the subject.

If you’re making a mid-life career change, make sure you’re not so clouded by passion that you ignore the real life earning power of your new métier. If you have a passion for music, the arts or writing, you need to prepare yourself for some dismal earning stats in these fields. While a handful who pursue these passions make good money, most struggle for years only to move back to a career they grow to like, one that offers money enough to buy a home and raise a family. Many argue that it’s best to do what you love as a hobby, something that serves as a break from the challenges of career, that offers major financial rewards.

If you’re a senior (late 50s, early 60s) who was recently laid off, pursuing a career that coincides with your passion probably makes the most sense. Here, you’ll need to consider your financial stake in the game. If you desperately need money to maintain an acceptable standard of living, you should first consider downsizing before switching to your “passion.” If you can afford it, by all means, pursue your life’s passion as artist, writer, chef, yoga or sailing instructor. While you may not make a lot of money, chances are you’ll do well and succeed at it.

One final thought. Many who have pursued their passion into a full-time job have come to realize the sad truth of their segue: that a job can turn a passionate endeavor sour with the responsibility of finishing something on schedule and doing it to please those willing to pay for it.

Something to consider before you start writing that great American novel and cash in on its movie rights.


Image courtesy of 89studio/


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