I’m considering taking a 65% pay cut to feel like I’m making a difference

Could you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I'm a 36 year old woman, living in the outskirts of London with my partner. I became a homeowner for the first time in 2021 and am loving it - although keeping up with the maintenance is a new kind of pressure! I grew up in the South East and was lucky to be financially secure throughout my childhood. I know that money was tight when my brother and I were both in school, but we never went without which I know is a huge privilege. Both my parents worked full time as teachers.

What do you do exactly and how did you end up on such a high paying salary?

I work in a sales role for an international tech company, helping our financial services customers in Europe and Asia to grow their business using my company's software. I earn about £260k/year including commission and shares. It feels crazy to type that out, and I have no idea how I ended up here really. I joined from the public sector as I wanted to see what the fuss with the private sector was about, and luckily they wanted someone with my industry experience. I started on £140k here. I've since been promoted and hopped teams a few times. I've always asked if there is room for additional compensation and have got about a 15% raise each time I've moved.

How do you feel about earning a high salary?

I feel a huge amount of guilt about what I earn, but I always have. When I look at my former colleagues in charities, or friends who are teachers or nurses, I feel very guilty that I earn more than them when (in my opinion) my job is much easier than theirs. I've always felt this guilt, even when I was first earning and on £22k, so it's not only associated with my current high income. I try to pay it forward by giving to charity and helping friends and family out where I can, but it never feels like enough. My therapist has been helpful for showing me it's not my "fault" though.

What do you currently spend your money on?

The house my partner and I bought a couple of years ago has needed far more repairs than we'd anticipated so most of our income has gone into that. And at the end of 2022, we went on our first holiday abroad since the pandemic. I also try to save while I'm earning this much, so I have a Stocks & Shares ISA and SIPP (self-invested personal pension) that I put money in each month.

What's making you consider doing something else?

Although I work with excellent people and friends, I'm not too interested in the end product that I'm selling. I miss feeling like I have a purpose, as I did in the public sector. I also find the working hours fairly brutal - with a global team and clients there are plenty of late nights and early mornings. I'm hoping to start a family soon and I can't see how I'll be effective in this role and a parent. I have also been in this organisation for over 7 years now and fancy a change.

Where would you go? How much money is enough?

I'm currently weighing up a job offer back in the public sector, albeit a slightly different part from where I left. It would be a massive pay cut (likely around 65% - gulp!), although I know I'm lucky that it's still a really decent salary. I have been careful not to let my lifestyle inflate with my salary so that I could keep my house and much of what I do outside of work. It's a tough one. My partner and I talked about how moving jobs now (and taking the pay cut) could affect our timescales for having kids. We're getting on a bit to be first time parents so I feel the pressure of that ticking clock. I also need to factor in maternity leave, when I'd qualify for that, and how both organisations would view part time work. I hate that it's only women who have to factor this in to career planning. It's just hard to walk away from so much financial security, especially as I know the public sector role will be more stressful and there's no guarantee I'll enjoy it more than what I do now. I'm the main breadwinner in my household so I feel a bit of extra pressure to make the "right" decision financially. Ultimately I want to feel like I am making more of a difference with the hours I put into my work, and that I'm growing/learning. I'm very grateful for the opportunities I've had from both sectors.