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Young Graduate. Should he follow the money?

Got an email from a loyal PDITFer. Here’s what it said…

I have a bit of a decision to make and heard from a birdie that you are the man for financial/life questions…i kinda just need a wall to bounce ideas off of.  Here’s some background info first. I just graduated, have a great job lined up with the company I want to work for, doing what i want to do, and in the right ballpark money wise ($55-60k)…not a home run but definitely a solid single/double, and great benefits plus a 6% 401k match (great right).

Problem…just got some info on a possible job working in a different city as an entry-level civil engineer for that city STARTING out at $70-$75k which could easily jump a year later. Now I don’t want to toot my own horn but I think I am a great candidate for the job and have better than a 50/50 chance of nailing it…not exactly the job i want to do though.  My questions are these, should I at the very least apply for it, take it if i get it, or stick to my guns (the job i already have lined up, since it is very much what i want to do and has a lucrative career path of its own)?

Ahhh, To be a whore to money, or not to be, that is the question. One that you already know the answer to. Being that you are a recent college student I am going to assume you were either not working, or only working part-time while in school. This means you have been use to living a minimalist lifestyle (hopefully). Although making $70K/yr would be awesome, I think you’d find a $55-$60K salary will afford you virtually the same lifestyle. Heck I graduated college making $38K/yr and let me tell you, I felt like a millionaire.

Let’s look at two statements you made to describe these jobs. For the first position you said…

“I just graduated, have a great job lined up with the company I want to work for, doing what i want to do

And for the civil engineering position you said…

“…NOT exactly the job i want to do though”

That puts the nail in the coffin as far as I’m concerned. The lower (but still adequate) paying position sounds like a great gig, with great benefits, and great potential. The higher paying position sounds like the only thing it has going for it is the pay.

I personally made a commitment to myself to never work a job I didn’t love. I mean come on, we are WAAAAAY to young to be miserable in our respective careers. Not even money can make a crappy job fun. All it can do is make a crappy job a little less miserable. Besides, you can always find another miserable position down the road if you want, but the good jobs are few and far between.

Nonetheless, I would still encourage you to apply for the higher paying gig. If nothing else it will give you some more interviewing experience and a chance to learn more about the position. I’m totally convinced options are a good thing, so I say open as many doors as possible. But for now I’d stick with the job you’d enjoy doing. Oh and I need you to pinky promise me you will live well within your means, regardless of your pay?!

What would your advice be to our recent college grad? Would you sacrifice a great job, for a mediocre one that has better pay?



  1. I guess 55-60K for a beginner is pretty decent. So, I agree with Ninja here. There will be many more opportunities in life for a young person. Do what you love and earn decent money. However, if the pay and the benefits were terrible, I wouldn’t have suggested to do what you love and starve yourself

  2. Apply for the higher pay job, if for nothing else…..interview experience. There is nothing wrong with interviewing, and IF offered the job (because…while we all think we are the best person for the job, it isn’t always the case), you can turn it down.

    In the interview you will get a better feel for the job. Maybe it is better than you think. Or worse. You won’t know unless you try.

    I will also agree that the difference in pay, particularly because you are just starting out….won’t make a huge difference in lifestyle. You get used to whatever it is.

  3. No harm in interviewing for the other position. Maybe the person interviewing you will really sell you on the job and the city it is in. Personally, for me, location is one of the most important factors in choosing the right job. No point in relocating to a city that doesn’t offer activities and opportunities you want, especially if you already have a job in a place you like.

  4. It first of all amazes me that this young man would consider $55-60K “not a home run but definitely a solid single/double,” when for the many recent grads carrying huge student loans and no prospects other than minimum wage at Target, it would seem like a grand slam. Regardless of which job he takes, I get from him a distorted sense of money that troubles me more than which job he eventually goes for. Others here see no harm in interviewing for the higher-paying position; I sense someone who will never feel satisfied with whatever salary he makes.

    • I tend to agree. When I read he would “only” be making $55-60k, I kind of wondered where he got a skewed idea of what starting pay looks like. My friends and I (all recent grads) were super happy with anything above $30K. I’m sure his degree field promises more just starting out, but he also needs to realize that he’s better off than a vast majority of his fellow recent grads. I make just about $20K and can’t even imagine what it would be like making that kind of money.

      • Ditto. I worked 3 years PART TIME out of college (after 9 months of not having a job) in my dream job/industry making ~$25k and just got promoted to a full time position making $38K.

        All while trying to pay back $60K in student loans.

      • I would disagree. He’s (clearly) in engineering. Where I live (Houston, TX) $55-$60k for an engineer would be a very low-ball offer. The $70k would maybe come in close to the average here for a college-grad level engineer. And, perhaps he doesn’t think he needs or deserves the higher pay but, when you’re in a certain industry where the higher pay is the norm, you don’t do yourself any favors by taking a low-ball offer.

    • I’m not sure we have enough info to make that judgement. I think it really depends on the geographic area, the labour market where he is, and his field. Not everywhere pays as little as the US does in a lot of fields!

      For example, my first job was in a major urban area in Canada as an admin assistant, and my pay started at 43k. My first non-admin-assistant job started at 55k. These jobs were at the bottom of the scale for my industry and my location.

  5. He should definitely interview to see if he gets it. But as a person who sold out for a higher paying position, sometimes the higher pay does not mean you are excited to work every day. But once you are hooked and making that much money, it’s hard to walk away from it.
    Also, things to consider are if the city has a higher cost of living. If it does, his extra salary will go to pay for that difference.

  6. I remember when I got out of college and was making 55k a year being hired on after COOP and was interviewing for tech companies in the bay area/DC offering 65 – 70k a year. I looked at the cost of living and realized that I would need to make between 100 – 150k for the jobs to be equivalent. Now that I make 90-100k with my bonus, jobs in tech markets (NYC/bay area/DC) would have to pay 250-500k a year for equivalent cost of living. In closing just because you might make more money at another position doesn’t always mean it is better fro your life.

  7. No harm in taking the interview, but I would only take the higher paying job if you were blown away with the job and location.

    After working for 5 years after college, I would seriously consider taking a pay cut for a job I enjoyed more. For many middle class people the only chance of being “rich” is in retirement as long as you start contributing early enough. I’m getting pretty jaded with trying to figure out all the things I could do to improve my life when I am an old person; I would much rather just keep chipping away at the retirement stuff as best I can while enjoying life now. Unless the higher paying job was RIDICULOUSLY higher, do something you like and enjoy living!

  8. This is an obvious answer take the lower paying job now. When you have more experience you can venture out and try different positions in your field. I think it depends where you are in life and how big the sacrifice. I would if it can get me closer to FI. But that’s just me because freedom is better than any job.

  9. For me I think the issue would lie in “have a great job lined up with the company I want to work for”.
    Does that mean I interned with the company, they offered me a position and I have a set start date? Or does this mean I have worked for this company through college, they have always welcomed me back and I need to tell them when?
    If I had a set start date, I think it would be awful tacky to be fishing around for another position (“Yeah I really like you… oh look! a shiny thing!”).
    If it’s been the safety net for the last five years and there is no commitment to go back, it might be worth the interview. Yes, you can always turn the position down but why take the interview spot from someone who may actually want the job?
    I’d be looking at a lot of other things beyond the money. Where do I want to be living? Can I afford to live there? If I move there, the job doesn’t pan out, I want to quit in six months… what will my options be for employment? What are my ultimate goals? How does this job play into it?
    I’d also consider why I am looking at information on other jobs if the one I lined up is everything I want.

  10. I agree with your advice – interview for the experience. Maybe he can do some great networking that’ll come in handy in the future, too! But I’d also stick with the lower paying job mainly because it’s something he actually wants to do. Don’t let the money blind you!

  11. Statistically, the best way to improve your salary is to switch jobs and increase income. Why wouldn’t you want to get a higher pay job sooner?

    You can always move to another employer..

  12. Im with Ninja.
    With many years of life under my belt, trust me to be a money whore at something that doesnt light your fire each and every day will soon wear thin.Instead make each day a joy to wake up to by doing the work you truly love

  13. By all means go for the higher paying job and use it as leverage to negotiate a higher salary (if offered the the higher paying job). I would also recommend negotiating three times for a higher salary.

  14. I’d go for the sure thing, and see what options are out there later on. The great thing about working for the gov’t is the security (kinda), but you often reach a limit. Working for the private sector is a risk, but the benefits are usually a much better payout. I realize you can’t achieve happiness in a job you don’t always like, if the money is better, maybe the payout is worth it. Besides, you could always gain some good experience and move to the private sector at a later point in time.

  15. *Update*

    So I shot this email to ninja about 3.5 yrs ago when I was first getting out of college but hopefully reading all you guys’ feedback helps someone else starting out. It’s tough to decide which company to go with and know what you want coming out of school or just starting out in life so I have no shame in asking for advice (take it if i like it, and leave it if i don’t).

    Again in the interest of helping someone out that may be in a similar situation, my university was great at setting us up for employment IF you took the opportunities given. I’d interviewed with quite a few companies and built up some great experience working summer internships (luckily they are paid in my field), although never with the company that I referenced above but they are known as an industry leader and what attracted me to them most was their commitment to teach and give opportunity based on merit rather than experience. I did end up taking the job with them and don’t have any regrets. The opening offer, I still believe is low ball, based on industry standards for my experience and education and the fact that it is a job I consistently work 60-80hrs/wk (not to mention people who got hired on 3 years previously started out higher…again I graduated in 2010 though when the economy wasn’t the strongest, and I do feel fortunate I had multiple offers). Going with the company I did however was good on two parts, the first being that although I knew it would be hard work I also knew I would love the work and the second being that they do live up to their reputation of being one of the best companies at training their people and providing as much opportunity as you can handle…Based on merit, my pay/responsibility level has gone up well above what I’d thought it would in the past 3.5 yrs (further validating the choice I made, the initial difference really doesn’t matter at all anymore).

    A few reflections I have on just starting out that helped me are echoes I think of what other readers and Ninja have already said in one form or the other. 1.) If I had a choice between schools, I’d take the one that would put me in the least amount of debt (I was lucky enough to land in an amazing private university on a full ride but had I not, I would have gone to a more affordable state school, there are great professors at every university so don’t be fooled by the media hype surrounding the “prestigious” schools. 2.) I took a job I thought I’d enjoy and with people I liked…even with my pay, there is no way I’d work 60-80hrs per week if i didn’t like it or the people. 3.) I started saving for retirement right out of the gate and everytime I got a raise, I increased my contribution to retirement (not excessively but it has snowballed nicely over time). 4.) I was in a position to buy some real estate when the market/interest rates were down and am now renting out 2 of the spare rooms and building equity at a significantly discounted price. 5.) Some of the best advice I’ve gotten for all matters in life were off the cuff comments my dental hygienist made when I apologized for not being as good about brushing/flossing recently. She said, it’s alright, everyone gets busy or forgets or just doesn’t can’t do it, but to just remember that anytime you do do it is better than not doing it at all…I’ve applied this to money and working out and it’s served me well. Hope this helps and I enjoyed reading you guys’ comments!

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