Would you change job to earn less?

Not that often, you come across a job post that seems to have your name written all over it. When that happens, you just click the apply button. When an offer comes in, it is time to decide.

It has been a long standing aspiration of mine to start something from scratch. It seems that I lack myself the good idea or final courage to start my own business. With this new job, I will join a start up. Agreed, it will not be my company and my idea. There will be the opportunity to start from a white piece of paper and build something from the ground up. This is an experience that I would like the have. Something I will regret later when I do not do it. As life is about experiences for me, about living now, it was a perfect fit.


After a lot of talking to friends and my wife, I pulled the trigger. It took roughly 3 weeks of thinking and talking. Finally, I decide to give notice at work. This came as a big surprise to most people. I do like my current job, I have a lot of challenges and great colleagues.So, why change? Why did it take that long to decide?



  • Joining a startup as a first employee is a challenge. There is nothing in place and all needs to be build up. The risk is that the company runs out of money before it is profitable. At that time, I have to go back to square one and look for another job. This is to me the biggest risk I take. Will there be a job for me in corporate Belgium (as employee or consultant) and what will it pay?
  • A startup pay less than a corporate job. This was a tough one to accept and to detail to my wife. There are a lot of impacts. We can forget our current savings rate and our current 2029 FIRE plan. As compensation, there is the outlook of significant reward when the company does well. That should put us back on track. Only time will tell
  • The usual HR support is not there. A lot of items take longer to materialize or to get answers. To me, it is part of the experience. To, my wife, who works in HR, it is different. There were already some minor surprises, nothing we can not overcome

As response to the increased insecurity, we will going forward no longer make monthly investments in our index funds. To sleep well at night, I want to build up our cash buffer bigger than needed. The action in my playmoney will continue as foreseen. Other regular investments like tax pension saving will continue as well.

These are some extra benefits:

  • The commute will be bike-train again. I did this for 9 years and the switched to car for  a new job. I became increasingly difficult for me to spend roughly 45 minutes one way in my car. It really became a burden to me, something that tires me. Even listening to FIRE podcasts did not bring joy. The kids will have to adapt to the new situation. We will bike to school and they will go to the morning care in school again.
  • Working in a start up and in an accelerator space should give me an insight in this community. It is something I was curious about for a long time. Being part of it sounds wonderful.

Would you change job to get an experience you want? Even when it pays less? I would love to hear from you.


63 thoughts on “Would you change job to earn less?

  1. That’s really exciting. I, too, am looking at a potential move away from my current stable income so that I can join my girlfriend in San Diego where she will start work this Fall. Lots of things to think about and prepare for – especially the possible changes to my current plan for FIRE.

    Congrats on the new job and good luck!


  2. Great news! As you say that you would regret it later when not doing it, I would say it is a very good decision you made. And you can always take another job later, if needed, that’s the flexibility of life. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Best of luck, I on the other hand would not join a start up for less money unless I had a small piece of the business or a profit sharing plan. I hate to rain on your parade, but I started my own business with a partner for less pay. Worked 6 days a week, plus many 12 hour days for 4 years before we were big enough to hire more employees. Plus, 80% of small business in Canada fail within 5 years.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds exciting! If it is something you will regret later might as well give it a shot!

    I have thought about looking for something at a smaller company (my company is not that large, but we are growing a lot and becoming more bureaucratic) – I think it would take an idea I am really passionate about to make the move


  5. Been absent studying so sorry I haven’t been around but this is a question I often ask myself as well. Start-ups are the cliche big risk big return. Congrats on the new job and taking the risk I think there are many benefits to start-ups such as some you have listed above. I hope your company is not another statistic which will derail your 2029 plan but I am sure you have prepared. All the best with the job, looking forward to the outcome!


  6. Wow. That is great. I think what you guys are doing is pretty amazing and because you manage your finances well, I think you will do okay no matter how the start up company move turns out. Start ups are the best because you get to learn so much and stretch your abilities more than you can imagine. All the best!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That is exciting news! Sometime back, I made a similar decision….it did not work out as I expected but I would not trade it for anything else! I will share some of my experiences here…hope it is useful for you.

    To answer your main question: yes, I have traded in higher+stable salary in a big company for a smaller+highly unstable salary in a startup. Why? For me, it was work and the dreams of scoring big!

    Investing can be for capital gains or for dividends. Depending on your personality, you end up primarily in one style of investing, with a small secondary option in the other.
    + Startups are like investing for capital gains…not guaranteed, but if they work, they will work big time.
    + Big stable companies are like dividend investing….capital gains are non-existent, but stable incomes can be expected.

    I was amazed at the amount of things I learn in small companies…every single point needs to be and will be questioned and that raises your knowledge exponentially. The flip side is you will be working in 100 different areas….you have to guard against the fact that after 2 years, if you have to go back to a traditional job, you may not have increased your value significantly in one area.

    Pick the startup carefully….else a lot of the effort will go down the drain. I recently came across a wonderful article on how to evaluate startups…take a peek at this. https://haihongwang.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/how-to-pick-a-successful-startup-company-to-work-for/. I wish I had such info when I ventured out a while back…

    Carefully plan family life….work life balance goes out of whack….not only because you will be forced to work more…but also because you *like* to work more 🙂 Startups can be exciting with lots of interesting problems.

    Startups will have a higher % of people that will not fit in big companies…aggressive, unhelpful, rude, …..you may have to learn to navigate such personalities…

    I keep moving into and out of small (startup and small public companies) and big companies….each place teaches me different things and taken together makes my career interesting. So, give it a shot and see how it goes. Knowing how detailed you are, I think you will enjoy it.

    Best of luck…if you score big, remember to send a party invite!


  8. That’s a ballsy move! I’m not sure I would be able to do the same… I like playing it safe, so having a stable (predictable) source of income is a big part of that. Best of luck to you–I look forward to reading all about it!


  9. Hi atl,
    Congrats on the new job, it sounds exciting and energizing! I think Time is the most important currency of all and being able to spend your time on something that speaks to your values as a person is more rewarding than a higher paycheck. The book, “Your Money or Your Life”, makes this argument pretty convincingly.
    Best wishes,


  10. This is exciting and I think you are going to love the opportunities to learn broadly. And build your CV at the same time. I often look back at my career and wish I had made such a jump. But there was always something new for me with my company so it all worked out fine.
    Best of luck!!


  11. I have never been the first hire, but I have been the 10th and they had a party to celebrate the first double digit hire. Good luck! Working a new startup is definitely an experience worth having.


  12. Boy, very tough decision but I’m sure the experience will be very rewarding! Congrats and I look forward to hearing more about it.


  13. Congrats, sounds every exciting. Perhaps less red tape as well which can be frustrating in larger organisations. And much healthier riding a bike to work. Look forward to hearing more about it.


  14. Hey ATL,

    I love your idea from changing to a job you like.

    I negotiate just with my boss if I could work only 30 hours soon. It will be so much more life quality for me.
    At the days at home I can work on my own goals. At first I will earn less than now, but I think this is just for a while.
    If I learn more about options, I can make so much more than a 9-5 job.

    So, dont regret your choice. I think you will make it! 🙂

    best regards

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ciao ATL,
    Well what can I say? I have already done it twice (going for a lower pay job) and never regretted it, so best of luck and keep us posted!! 🙂
    ciao ciao

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thx for the support. I already did it before (going for a less paid job) and managed to get an upgrade afterwards. That were big corporates with stable operations. Now, it is different…


  16. Very, very cool and a very big bow to you sir! This takes guts to do. But in the long run you will probably discover it’s a great experience. Good luck and have lots of fun. I might need to follow you one of these days, been playing with the same idea for a while.


    1. Keep us posted on any move you might make. It took me some thinking and at some moments, it still freaks me out a little. Fun is often outside the comfort zone.
      I started to run again, and decide to limit myself to max 6K. I think I was not made for longer distances.


      1. Absolutely agree that fun is outside the comfort zone. My contract renewal is scheduled for September, will have to make a decision around that time. Pay is pretty good at the moment, and so are my colleagues and the projects I’m working on. So might give it another year before trying something else.

        As for the running, I’ve also started again halfway last month and with good results. Almost back at 5k with a pace around the 5:15min/km. Hope to keep the momentum going this time. If you stick to the 6k runs, your stall active for around 30min at a time, that is pretty good!


  17. Good for you! Way to follow your guts and go with what you feel it’s right for you. I think it will be a lot of fun for you. I’ve never worked at a startup, in fact, I’ve been with the same company since I started my career. A few friends of mine worked at startups and said they found larger companies boring when they switched over. Many of them end up going back to working for a startup.


  18. As someone who went to work for a startup, I can say with all honesty that it had it’s benefits and drawbacks. The benefits were being able to work my way up quickly and having a say in the day to day company operations. The drawbacks were that it was a highly stressful undertaking and I was ALWAYS working. In fact, on average I gave about 60-75+ hours a week to this startup, and absorbed a huge amount of the work load where they weren’t yet in a position to hire more help.
    Eventually, I ended up leaving this behind and moved on to a more stable situation. My suggestion to you is, if you work for a startup make sure you have a stake in the company earnings. Otherwise, you’ll work tirelessly towards a standard paycheck that you could get anywhere and wonder what the benefit is. I wish you the best of luck and know that you can definitely make it work under the right conditions! 🙂 – Mrs. FE

    Liked by 1 person

  19. When I grow old and look back on my life I want to say – I grabbed life by the balls and followed my dreams. I do not regret any missed opportunities. I tried them all – they might not have all succeeded but at least I tried!
    Well done and good luck 🙂


  20. I think what you’re doing is great. Whether it works out exactly like you think it will or not, you’ll learn so much that can be carried with you in other ventures.

    I did just that – twice. The first time, we moved to be closer to family. I wanted my children to have the experience of growing up with their grandparents. But I had to take a pay cut to do it. It also involved changing industries. I wound up only staying at that company for about 18 months before I left to start my own buisness (with a huge pay cut).

    The business never got going and I wound up with an offer to go back into corporate. But at a much smaller and more entrepreneurial company. And making about what I was making before I left the first time.

    Looking back, I would do it again, but I might do it a little differently, knowing what I do now.

    Best wishes and good luck. I can’t wait to hear how it progresses.


  21. Good for you! This sounds really exciting and job that you will enjoy going to every day. I would have no problem taking less pay (to a degree) for a job that gets me excited every day, provides satisfaction, and most importantly, I am proud of. I have been through a few career changes over the last few years and it sounds like you made the right decision. Who cares if you needed to adjust your savings rate or plan now. It happens. I’m sure pursuing your passions and working your tail off for this start off will provide you with alternative financial opportunities down the road that will make the pay cut all worth it in the end.

    Best of luck in your new career!



  22. Congratulations on making this move, amber! I worked for a start-up for the last five years; it has its ups and downs, but I really enjoyed the work environment and would do it again in a heartbeat, even if it wasn’t the best financial decision (there’s still some potential long-term upside if the company eventually sells, but it’s too early to know if it will be worth anything meaningful yet). I hope you have fun with it!


  23. Well, huge congrats on that my friend. I hope it’s everything you want. I haven’t done that, and we couldn’t afford to earn much less than we are at the moment. It’s a good question, I’d be happy to choose something that is a home job, that’s for sure. Less commuting 🙂



  24. I think WordPress ate my comment. Shorter version: Congrats on taking this courageous leap! I still think you’ll hit your FIRE goal, and you’re going to learn a lot no matter how this turns out. But I’m hopeful for you that you’ll achieve your goal of getting to build something from scratch. This is wonderful news, and good for you for making the switch!


  25. Yes! Congratulations! It’s easy to only focus on the money and forget that you wanted to save so you can live a life full of experiences. Now you have to let your corporate salary go so you can start experiencing rightaway. Tough decision, but I think it’s a good one!

    Working for a startup is so much fun, you will learn a lot and do unexpected things. And who knows, you might just hit it big later!

    Good luck!


  26. Sounds pretty exciting ATL! Being self-employed, I’ve never really been in this situation but I’m exploring some options right now in case I ever need to find another job.

    Just a bit curious, and I understand if you don’t want to share, but what kind of industry is the startup in?


  27. good luck, neighbor! There is a chance to go better, I am sure you will not miss this chance!

    About me, I will move to a lower payed job only if I have more time for me+ family+my hobbies. I just arrived in the position where financial part is stable, I see a easy future, and I want to enjoy more what I have.


  28. Wow – this must be the big decision that you mentioned when you commented to me on my blog! This is very exciting and definitely one of those big life decisions! I will be excited to follow you and see how your journey is going! I have left for less money – three times in the last four years. In each job I had more freedom and was happier. I just got two full-time job offers today and I am going to be turning down both of them (glad I have that decision making skill figured out!) The jobs don’t align with my life goals and I am only looking for that at this point!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I completely understand your thought process here. My one and only client right now (enough hours to add up to a full time job) is a startup, and I love it. I’ve been in startups for most of my career, actually. I know that I could make more annually by working at big megacompanies, but I feel that I get far more flexibility from this life. We’re going to achieve FIRE in about three years even with the lightly lower income, and getting there with our sanity intact and without stress-related illness means just as much as the paycheck to us!


  30. Good Luck on the startup Amber Tree!

    For me, work life balance is very important. That is why I switched to working 4 days instead of 5 as I have more time to work on my personal finance. I will slowly make my way to working 0 days a week. 🙂


  31. Any update on “how you’re doing so far with the new job”? 🙂
    Here in Switzerland startups are everywhere, and everyday a friend or colleague join them. They pay well too. My problem with startups is that they require you to work very long hours and you can forget work/life balance or “live now” for a couple of years. I’m not willing to do that AND reduce my salary.

    I’m going to launch my own startup when I’ll be FIRE though. That’s a different thing. Money won’t matter, time I can devote to it will be as much as I want, the idea being under development would be mine. These are three very important factors for me.


  32. Hi ATL,

    I joined my current company when it was around 2 years one and about 10 staff. So you could definitely say it was a start up still at that point I think (Although I got none of the benefits of being in from the start unfortunately!)

    However it has been a really exciting so far. Enough that I’m still here 14 years later. I hope you find your new job just as enjoyable!

    I don’t think I’d join another startup now unless I was one of the founders, and this is definitely something I’d like to do as I reach or approach FIRE.



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