How do you place a value on quality of life?
May 19, 2007 9:10 PM   Subscribe

How do you place a value on quality of life?

Posted anonymously, since this is career-related and I'd rather not have it attached to my name.

I have a job offer for $60K, but it's somewhere I know I won't want to live for very long, kind of hated when I visited, and suspect I would be pretty miserable in. (Think very very cold and very dark for large parts of the year.)

My other option is to stay in grad school for another year, and finish the degree that I'm working on. Money would be tight, but livable. I might not be able to pay off much existing debt, but it wouldn't get any worse. I'd have an established group of friends and the benefit of knowing and enjoying the area.

My goal is to live somewhere I enjoy while having a job that I like. (Yes, der. Like there's anyone who doesn't have that as a goal.) I see that probably involving a move to Austin or another college town like Ann Arbor or Ft. Collins. If I took the job in the very cold place, I would almost certainly be looking to leave there as soon as I could.

How do I decide if the money I would earn if I took that option would be worth the emotional/psychological hardship? Let's assume that the work and grad school options leave me with equally good career possibilities at the end.

I suspect this might be unanswerable, because I've been going back and forth over the options in my head for weeks now, but I would really appreciate any insight you can give me based on your own experiences.

The thought of taking the job makes my heart sink, but so does the idea of letting a "sure-thing" opportunity go.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If the job offer and your grad degree offer comparable career possibilities in the end, why not finish up that last year, be just as qualified for the job offer as you are today but have the degree on top?

"Sure Thing" opportunities don't come once in a lifetime. The place that offered you the job today could be looking for you a year from now because the person they hire may hate the locale as much as you. To me, it doesn't seem like that tough of a choice.
posted by chimaera at 9:18 PM on May 19, 2007

How do I decide if the money I would earn if I took that option would be worth the emotional/psychological hardship?

It wouldn't. Finish grad school.

Anecdotal, sooo many people that I know - myself included - who took 'some time' off from school to work for a little while never got around to going back to school, and state this as one of life's larger regrets. (yeah yeah, I know I still can go back, but odds are I won't - lifus interruptus and all that)
posted by spinturtle at 9:28 PM on May 19, 2007

In my experience, people in graduate school, whose main life goal is to move to a college town and have congenial, low stress lives and jobs they really like, aren't nearly done with college. Finish grad school. Move to a college town. Keep hope alive.

You could die badly in a cold, dark place, all alone, and the riches locked away there belong, rightfully, to far hardier sorts.
posted by paulsc at 9:30 PM on May 19, 2007

Finish the degree.

If you know in your heart that you won't like the city that you'd be living in it's not worth it.

I've been working for a Boston area company for more than two and a half years. I was traveling to the Boston area every couple of weeks for most of that time. A few months ago I was told that I would need to move if I wanted to keep my job. I've never liked Boston and still struggle with it. It probably doesn't help that it really is grey and rainy here most of the time that I'm in town. When I leave town it's sunny and nice. I keep trying to get them to let me move away so they can get more sun. So far they aren't buying it.

Good luck
posted by FlamingBore at 9:33 PM on May 19, 2007

As Mr. T says, "Don't be a fool, stay in school."

I tried the whole "holding on to the big(ger)-paycheck, miserable but trying to deal with it" thing and it was nothing but pain. I finally woke up and walked away from the whole mess, thankfully. But it was a lot harder than if I had just followed my gut in the first place. And because I'd waited, I ended up having to sacrifice some things to get closer to what I actually wanted.

My advice to you is, you can live with "just scraping by" if you're doing what you want to do. And you make it pretty clear in your post that you've made your decision, but are just looking for a little friendly reinforcement. So consider yourself reinforced!
posted by SassHat at 9:35 PM on May 19, 2007

Stay in school and then go live someplace you want to live. No amount of money is worth misery. If someone wants to pay you to do something now, they probably also will once you graduate [you can't really get less qualified in that time period].

I'm not totally sure what paulsc is getting at but I live in a place that is cold and dark for long parts of the year and 1. it's my dream location and it's SO GREAT living where you want to live 2. the only thing bad about it is people living here who bitch and complain about it endlessly. So, feel like you're doing all the denizens of the cold dark place a favor: stay in school.
posted by jessamyn at 9:37 PM on May 19, 2007

I'm going against the flow here. You only want to live in a little college town because it's what you know. Try the cold dark place. Focus on your work, save money, learn to love winter, maybe you'll decide it's not so bad.

The trick is booze and vitamin D.
posted by zadcat at 9:44 PM on May 19, 2007

Congratulations! You are now at the point in your life where you can pass up something good because you want something great. That is actually awesome. Many people never get to that point. The 60K job is good, not great. Hold out for great.
posted by selfmedicating at 9:48 PM on May 19, 2007 [6 favorites]

I currently live in a place that I assumed I would hate when I moved here. It's a smallish city, and it's cold and dark here for a lot of the year, too. I moved here from a big city with lovely, temperate weather, and it was not without a lot of initial regret. I certainly didn't intend to stay very long, maybe a year or two. I thought I'd pay my dues in my chosen profession and leave after getting some experience.

However, I have grown to like it here very much. I have a job I love--I've got five years of college teaching under my belt; I am permanent full-time faculty, not a sessional--and I also own my own home and can afford to travel, all things I could never have done at my age and stage of my career if I had stayed in the city. Furthermore, to my surprise, I actually found that I like it here--there are a lot of great things about the place that were not apparent to me when I first moved here.

So I guess I wanted to say, you might not hate this new place as much as you think you will, especially if it affords you a job you like (this part is important) and the means to do what you please.

[That said, I would advise you to finish your grad degree. Can you take a leave of absence from your grad programme, or finish up while you are working in the new place? I took a break during grad school, and I nearly didn't finish. I think I would have deeply regretted it had I not finished.]
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:00 PM on May 19, 2007

Hope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no hope.
posted by flabdablet at 10:17 PM on May 19, 2007 [3 favorites]

It would be something to think about and consider if you didn't hate the place where the 60K job is. Go for the degree.
posted by qvtqht at 10:43 PM on May 19, 2007

You are really the only one who can answer this question. Sometimes when you are young it pays to take that entry job, even despite the onerous working conditions if only to open future doors, and to lay down a few bucks to get yourself out of the gate after basically just spending without saving in school. The bigger decisions come longer term. Do you devote yourself to a high paying salary at the expense of a personal life, or do you forgoe a potentially rewarding career to spend more time with family etc. Short term I would more likely tend toward the $$$ and feel your way around the issue to see where you want to go long term. After the life sucking prestige job, I chose family. I could easily double or perhaps triple my salary tomorrow, but then it would be 60 hour weeks, Saturdays at the office, all that jazz that almost broke up the family years ago. You have to find your own path, but find one that does not close doors. You can always choose a different path later, and even close a door or two later, once you know what door you are closing. For you, the q is twice as hard. If you turn down the job you close, perhaps only partially, one door, but if you leave your degree program you definitely close another door. We don't even know why you were even looking in the first place seeing as how you were still in school. It all comes back to having to make your own decision. Best of luck to you in whatever decision you make.
posted by caddis at 10:49 PM on May 19, 2007

Problem with being miserable AND earning more money than you're used to is that you will likely spend a lot of that money to make you feel less miserable.
posted by dinkyday at 11:22 PM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'd kill to go back.

Can we run this through the jealousy filter?

60K now somewhere miserable may sound like a lot (and in many places is), but how much more will it be post-grad, at the location of your choosing? Tough it out, if you can. I sure wish I had.

good luck to you!
posted by metasav at 12:01 AM on May 20, 2007

If the thought of taking the job makes your heart sink, don't take it. I moved from a warm and fun place to a cold and dark place. My financial situation is now healthy, but my liver is miserable. Even though I like my job, I am not too happy in a place where there is nothing to do except drink and snowboard, especially since I don't snowboard.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:30 AM on May 20, 2007

"I'm not totally sure what paulsc is getting at ..."
posted by jessamyn at 12:37 AM on May 20

"... My financial situation is now healthy, but my liver is miserable. ..."
posted by betweenthebars at 3:30 AM on May 20

Honest to the God in which so many have trouble believing, jessamyn, betweenthebars is not my sock puppet account.

No, really.
posted by paulsc at 1:01 AM on May 20, 2007

quality of life equals available resources divided by the number of people competing for them.
posted by bruce at 1:46 AM on May 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm guessing you're young, so I'm not sure how bad the move to the dark, cold place could be. Maybe you should give it a try. Life's a continual process. If you only ever do nice things, will you really have lived? Sometimes introducing a little grit can be a good thing, if only for short periods.

Plus, if there are any other young people working at the company in the cold, dark place, they'll easily fall into a community, and it could even be fun. And you'll also have dinner table stories for the rest of your life about your experiences.

If you want direct advice then I'd stay where you are. Starting and then not finishing a postgrad is stupid, but my main concern is that they money you're being offered is good but not exceptional. IMHO.
posted by humblepigeon at 2:14 AM on May 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Think of it this way: it's all about quality of life, however you define that. Money's just a means to that end. So, would the increase in quality of life that you would get afterwards, from whatever money was left over after necessities (and, as dinkyday says, the stuff you bought to make yourself less miserable) be enough to offset the expected decrease in the meantime? (Be honest with yourself about your ability to rein in your spending when you have money available, tempting you. Unless you were planning on putting any extra towards your debt immediately, which would probably be the thing to do.)

Also, you said right in the question that you don't want to do it:

The thought of taking the job makes my heart sink, but so does the idea of letting a "sure-thing" opportunity go.

It's an opportunity to be miserable for however long, for uncertain gain (remember: it's not 60k; it's 60k minus taxes, minus living expenses (more in the cold place? Less? Would you get a more expensive place because you had the money?), minuswhatever extra you spent to distract yourself from where you were. See it dwindling?).

It's not even an opportunity to have a better career afterwards.

It sort of sounds like you just think you should take it--but if it's not the best thing for you, if it won't really help you improve your life, then you shouldn't. It's your life.
posted by Many bubbles at 2:38 AM on May 20, 2007

I've lived in miserable, cold, dark places myself. Any extra money you make will be converted by the cold and dark into booze and therapy. Stay in school, I beg you.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 5:26 AM on May 20, 2007

I'm taking a year off school and somehow ended up living in the coldest place anywhere. Not so dark though, more like 24 hour sunlight.

I love it here, I know it's temporary, I've met tons of amazing people and I'm making enough money to pay back my student loans.

I'm glad I got out of my sheltered university bubble for a while but I wouldn't have taken the job if I had thought I would have hated it.
posted by piper4 at 6:26 AM on May 20, 2007

How do I decide if the money I would earn if I took that option would be worth the emotional/psychological hardship?

Easy. Flip a coin. Heads you take the cold place, tails you stay in school. Get set to do it now.

But wait -- are you hoping it comes up tails? That's your answer.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:45 AM on May 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

well, if you're being tapped now even before you're out of school, you'll probably be even more desirable once you've finished your degree.

it sounds like you don't want to move yet. don't let the math tempt you. the only reason i would counsel otherwise is if this is the dream job leading to your dream career, but it sounds like you're responding more to the security of the job more than anything else. i would hold out for something with more impressive variables.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:26 AM on May 20, 2007

Some decision making strategies: You are undecided between options A and B. How much would you need to change option A to make it the for-sure choice? How much would you need to change option B?

Work in increments -- What would it take to make cold dark place a sure thing? Would 65,000 make the difference? 70,000, 80,000? No number? This will help you establish quality of life value.

And for grad school, what would make it a sure decision for you-- is it money? If someone gave you a stipend of $1000 a semester would that make a difference? If it lasted one month less? Two months less? You can take the month difference and convert it to salary in the other job to get a dollar value for the quality of life comparison.

Another approach: come up with an option C that is also equivalent to A and B. Like, a $30K job in Austin. Then you know sunshine and fun is worth ~$30K to you.

You're gonna get all sorts of different numbers from the above -- but you might get a better handle on comparing the options.
posted by Eringatang at 12:15 PM on May 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

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