How Much Money is Enough?

  • Asking how much is enough is not about settling for less than you’re worth—you deserve a fair salary regardless of your needs
  • Start with imagining your ideal life and what the associated expenses are with that life vision
  • Avoid getting caught up in the insatiable quest for ever more money, unless that will bring you satisfaction in and of itself

One of the obvious perks of being a lawyer is the often-generous salary one can earn.

Sure, the hours can be grueling and there are aspects of the job that can be tedious, but a healthy paycheck can be enough to offset the negatives that generally come with every job. We all need money to live in this world, and most of us have an ideal lifestyle we envision for ourselves, but how do we decide exactly what we need to achieve it? How do we determine how much money is enough?

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

For almost everyone, the salary discussion is the most fraught part of interviewing for a new job. The worry that potential employers will be so offended by a too-high salary request that they will opt to rescind the offer, rather than respect a job seeker who knows his worth and come back with a reasonable counteroffer, can be so strong that many people simply don’t engage. They either ask for an amount that is much lower than what they want and deserve or unquestioningly accept whatever is offered to them. And yes, even lawyers—professionally trained negotiators—fall into this trap.

Fear of rejection or simply of appearing arrogant can tempt you to sell yourself short. Fight that impulse by being clear on what your lowest acceptable salary is—being sure that this salary is an amount that will allow you to feel satisfied you are being fairly paid for your services, not just the amount that will allow you to narrowly avoid homelessness and starvation. How much money you strive to earn should allow you to live comfortably and feel that your worth is being recognized and respected.

What Kind of Life Do You Want to Live?

What does your ideal life look like? Is it relatively expensive or inexpensive?

What are your goals for retirement, debt repayment, saving, entertainment, family planning, and home ownership? What amount would allow you to feel secure in all these areas? The answer will be different for everyone.

When considering how much is enough for you, it’s important to acknowledge the emotions that are frequently wrapped up in how we feel about finances. They are not always rational and not always positive, so it will serve you well to separate your emotions about money from the financial facts. Then allow a tiny bit of your emotions to mingle with your rationality to ensure the amount you come up with not only allows you to sustain yourself, but also allows you the amount of extra cash that makes you feel comfortable and that your work is worth the effort.

Don’t Get Caught up in the Quest for More

It is not unusual for there to be no answer to the question “how much is enough?” For some lawyers, no amount will ever be enough—no matter how uncomfortable they might be with actually managing their own finances. Some people will always strive to not just keep up with but surpass the Joneses, always want a bigger house, a fancier car, more luxurious vacations, and a bigger bank account, no matter how much they already have. But this pursuit of ever more wealth is not at all guaranteed to result in contentment, especially if the money is pursued just to amass it, and not with specific goals in mind.

Money is a tool and a means to an end, not the end itself. It can buy enjoyable experiences, beautiful surroundings, and useful things, but as the old saying goes, it can’t buy happiness. In fact, focusing on simply making more money can lend itself to encouraging unhappiness. Keep your eye on the prize of living a good life—whatever that ends up meaning to you—as you advance in your career and your salary increases, rather than simply focusing on the quest for more.