Passion vs. Money: Should You Choose a Job You Love or One That Pays?

We all want to be happy, right? Following your passion and working a job that truly meets your interests and skills can bring contentment and a sense of purpose. However, most of us also want peace of mind, and sometimes following your passions doesn’t lead to a steady paycheck.

Earning enough money to live the life you want is a tantalizing option, but it might mean choosing a career path you aren’t passionate about. However, money can give you opportunities to pursue your interests outside of work—without worrying about paying the bills.

Since there’s no easy answer when it comes to choosing a career that offers financial security versus one that fulfills you in other ways, let’s take a look at the age-old question of passion vs. money—and break down what might be the best path for you.

What Is Passion?

Passion is a drive to pursue something based on its own merits, not what you’ll get in return. Passion is love and determination.

Passion for cooking makes you get in the kitchen and spend three hours preparing a meal that will be eaten in 15 minutes—and leave a mess to clean up afterward. But you don’t stop because you enjoy every part of the process, and that is the fuel that keeps you going.

Without action, passion is useless and no magic will come out of it. You have to take the first step, do whatever it takes, and don’t quit if it isn’t not easy. You’re probably already thinking of some things in your life that fit this description, and if there’s something you can say this about, that is at least one of your passions.

Is It Important That You Love Your Job?

Many people would say yes. In fact, 62% of Americans would take a pay cut in order to work somewhere with a mission they believe in.

We spend much of our lives working, and the way you feel about your job likely translates to the way you feel about your life—at least to some degree. If you are miserable at work, it may be unlikely you would have a full and content life, at least not in the long run.

And if the trouble at work is due to negative culture, descrimination, or bullying, it’s no longer a question of passion vs. money. If you’re in a toxic or dangerous environment, report the issues to a supervisor you trust or through a whistleblowing system to compel leadership to do something about it, like sexual harassment training or disciplinary action.

On the other hand, working at a job that you genuinely like will make you more creative and productive, and therefore, likely more successful in it.

Passion can boost creativity, and creativity and devotion often lead to success. When work feels mandatory and forced, even the easiest task may feel like a burden. And in many professions, you have to be able to go above and beyond.

When working on something you are passionate about, difficult times won’t seem as bad because you won’t care if it takes longer or how many obstacles you need to overcome. Long hours, high stress, interpersonal conflict, and other challenges pale in comparison to the feeling you get with every victory.

Not only will you not mind doing tasks that are not part of your job description, but you will also feel proud to give that extra effort, because while praise from your superiors is great it’s your passion that drives you.

Not Everyone Has a Passion

In a world strongly centered on money, it may seem too romantic to say “follow your heart” when choosing a career. In reality, not everyone has a strong ambition and not everyone is privileged to have one.

While it is true that everyone has their interests and talents, passion is not innate or fixed. Talents must be developed through devotion and determination.

Even when we strongly believe we have a great love and desire for something, it is quite possible to grow out of that dream. Aspirations grow or completely change over time. Nothing is constant—not people or the market. Your perfect job might not be in tune with the current market needs, and you might need to adapt.

The market is not adjusted to your dreams. If there is a lack of demand for your skillset and you struggle to make ends meet, following your passion may seem less appealing than it once did and your feelings about it will likely change.

Effort and Patience Create Success

Today’s culture of work is greatly focused on how much we enjoy what we do for a living. Before millennials and Gen Z, how happy you were at your work was almost taboo, an irrelevant subject you would only analyze privately or within your closest circle of friends and family.

The trend before was simply to work hard. The harder and longer you work on something, the better you get. The better you get at your job, the more exciting and fulfilling it becomes, and that can lead to greater success and even love for a job you originally took only to pay rent.

Passion for Money

A day of work is a day of work, regardless of whether you like what you’re doing or not. The benefit of choosing a job with a great salary and benefits goes beyond paying the bills and providing healthcare, and giving you a reason to learn the difference between stocks and bonds.

Having a steady income can greatly influence your mental and physical health, and provide a sense of security and control over your life. Research shows a connection between low income and poor mental health, while in the U.S. the gap in life expectancy between the richest 1% and the poorest 1% is 14.6 years.

Furthermore, a higher-paying job can improve status and boost self-confidence. In a society where money is equivalent to success, another digit to your annual income means more than just a designer bag and 5-star hotels. It creates opportunity, powerful connections and networking, an international career, and even early retirement, where you can pursue your passions as your hobbies instead.

The Gray Area

Choosing a career is never easy, as the market is constantly changing, but so are we. Passions change, and not everyone knows what job is the perfect fit. This might bring anxiety and uncertainty, but it can also give you the liberty to try, experiment, compare, and grow.

Not everyone has been dealt the same hand in life and not all have the same needs and expectations. Make a decision based on your current and desired lifestyle, assess what you value about a job, make a list of pros and cons, and remember that no choice is definite.