What Would You Need to Earn to Feel Successful? It’s Less Than You Think

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How much would you need to earn to be successful?

I don’t think you want to hear MY answer to that question, but surprisingly, a new CareerBuilder survey says it’s not as much as you think.

When asked the question, “How much do you need to earn to be successful?”, the vast majority (a whopping 75 percent) said they don’t feelthey need to earn six figures in order to be successful. In addition:

  • Some 28 percent said they would feel successful earning between $50,000 and $70,000;
  • Another 23 percent reported they would feel successful earning less than $50,000;
  • One-in-ten said they need to pull in $150,000 or more to be a success;
  • Most U.S. workers reported they currently earn their desired salary (23 percent) or are close to it (45 percent);
  • Nearly one-third (32 percent) said they are not anywhere near their target pay level.

Half of workers have not had a merit raise

“While compensation is definitely important, workers don’t necessarily equate success with hefty incomes,” said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources for CareerBuilder, in a press release about the survey. “Often you’ll see intangibles such as the ability to make a difference, a sense of accomplishment and work/life balance eclipse the size of a paycheck in what matters most to workers.”

The CareerBuilder study was conducted by Harris Interactive from Feb. 9 to March 2, 2012, and it included more than 5,700 workers (employed full-time, not self-employed, non-government, ages 18 and over) across various industries.

Here’s the most surprising part of the survey: workers are reporting some pretty significant gaps when asked when they last got a raise. Nearly half — 49 percent — of workers say they have not had a merit increase since 2010, and another 25 percent have not had a merit increase since before 2008.

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Women need less to feel successful

Yes, I know things are still limping along as the American economy slowly recovers from the recession, but these numbers were a lot more negative than even a skeptical pessimist like me would have guessed.

In addition, the survey found that men “were nearly twice as likely as women to say that they would need to earn six figures to be successful – 32 percent of men compared to 17 percent of women. Incidentally, looking at current salary levels, men were more than twice as likely as women to actually earn $100,000 or more.”

There’s more to the survey, of course, and you can find more about it here.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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