When I was in college, I was always looking for quick tricks to make an extra dollar.
I worked library shifts and helped students with their printing issues. (Get paid to study!)
I did random moving jobs. (Get paid to work out!)
I signed up to let AllAdvantage track my computer and serve me banner ads. (Get paid to surf the web!)
And I also got paid to input and parse data for a professor. (Get paid for data entry!)
Thankfully, at the ripe age of 42 (and three-quarters), my desire to turn a quick buck has disappeared.
But apparently for many RadReaders, that’s not the case – there’s a solid market for data entry.
Or shall I say the GLAMPing version of data entry. Take a look:
The results were impressively equally divided. And like today’s politics, each side felt the other side were big buffoons.
Which leads us to a spike-y question: What is the next dollar worth to you (and what are you willing to sacrifice for it)?
It depends on your phase of life
The clearest indicator on where you stood on the data entry test was having kids. This makes perfect sense, since 70% of our days are spent at work, why give up one entire day (15%) to go make more money. (Said differently, the opportunity cost is gnarly.)
The next factor was a bit murkier. I had to squint across tiny Twitter avatars to try to extrapolate the age of responders. My unscientific analysis was that those who had more time to “compound” that extra Saturday income (i.e. they were younger) were willing to sacrifice the Saturday.
Now you can dismiss this as a silly Twitter engagement strategy (to which I say, touché). But I think the divisiveness indicates a more perplexing question.
Should you take a crappy job for a boatload of cash?
Here’s another tweet, this time from my friend Kris. Kris is a former options trader who left the hedge fund rat race to spend more time with his kids during the magical window.
The full tweet described a real-life situation of a peer who “took a very high paid gig that 3x’d their pay.” However, when they got there they realized that “the place was a sh*tshow.” However, it’s hard to believe that they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into.
Yes, they got paid more. But they sacrificed a ton.
Kinda like the Data Entry question.
Yes, money does make you happier
We’ve all heard that beyond $75,000 money doesn’t make you happier.
I think that’s BS. (In fact, this paper by Matt Killingsworth appears to disprove the $75K trope.)
But as I argued in What’s the Next Dollar Worth to You, we can all agree that at some point the marginal utility curve flat-lines.
Now, I strongly believe that the X-axis varies by individual, some people will need less money to be happy (i.e. a monk) and others more (i.e. a Hedge Fund Manager).
But the curve – by definition – has to flatline, as money can’t buy you more of one thing: time.
TT4AIT: A new acronym
Most of our readers will find themselves somewhere between Point B and Point C. And those on team Saturday Data Entry (and the professional described above) are making an explicit trade-off.
They’re trading today for a better tomorrow.
And there’s nothing wrong with that: It’s why we invest. Why we eat our broccoli. And why we exercise.
But if you look at the acronym (TT4AIT pronounced tee-tee-four-ate), you’ll notice I added the letter “I.” Because often times, people are Trading Today for an Imaginary Tomorrow.
We call this, the When-Then Trap. It’s believing that you’re this close to being happy and satisfied with your life. Your life is just missing one puzzle piece.
The When-The Trap propels the hedonic treadmill. The corporate hamster wheel. It often looks like this:
WHEN I run the NYC marathon, THEN I’ll feel happy.
WHEN I earn 7-figures, THEN I’ll feel happy.
WHEN I get promoted to Partner, THEN I’ll feel happy.
WHEN I get a vacation home, THEN I’ll feel happy.
That’s where the Imaginary part comes in. We’ve done this enough times to know that there are no external solutions to internal problems.
Which makes the Saturday data entry job problematic. It’s also what makes taking a grueling job to triple your pay problematic.
The SACRIFICE of the next dollar
The marginal utility graph shows that a dollar isn’t always worth a dollar. Surely if you have a lot of money, that’s the case.
But if you value your health, you may not trade it for a job that requires burning out.
If you value seeing your kids grow up, you may not trade it for a job that requires lots of travel.
We all need to figure out what that next dollar is worth to us, so that we can enter these trade-offs with intentionality and clarity.
Because if you agree that the line between B + C flattens, then by definition you believe in the diminishing utility of the next dollar.
Laurie Santos, who teaches the popular Yale course Psychology and the Good Life recently explained the futility of this trade-off in an interview with the New York Times. First, she acknowledges that more money makes you happier:
There was a recent paper by Matt Killingsworth where he was trying to make the claim that happiness continues as you get to higher incomes. And yeah, he’s right.
But that doesn’t paint the full story. Here’s where the marginal utility kicks in:
But if you plot it, it’s like if you change your income from $100,000 to $600,000 your happiness goes up from, like, a 64 out of 100 to a 65. or the amount of work you have to put in to sextuple your income, you could instead just write in a gratitude journal, you could sleep an extra hour.
So take it from one of the world’s foremost experts on happiness. You could work six times as hard, write a gratitude journal, sleep more – or do some data entry on a Saturday.