- Make enough money to support your desired lifestyle
I'm not an extravagant big spender with super-luxurious tastes. There are a lot of things I do without. But like anyone else, I have certain minimum standards about how I want to live, and they don't seem to vary much. Here's an illustration:
This is not drawn with accurate figures, but represents a rough sketch of my financial history. The early years were tough, as I was not making much money while trying to live on my own for the first time. I didn't get into huge amounts of debt, but there were a couple of years where I must have barely broken even, if that. Then there were years when I saved a little, but not much. It's only more recently that my income has grown to a point where I could save a lot, but only because my spending hasn't ballooned to match.
Unfortunately, it's not like you can just select the amount of money you want to make on a checklist when you are hired for a job! (I can fantasize about the HR paperwork: "Let's see, I think I'd like dental plan B, and I'll put $50 a month in a FSA, and hmmm, well, I'd like to be able to afford two homes, a yacht and an all-Prada wardrobe so I think I'll take the $400,000 to $449,999 salary range...check!")
But there are times when you have a choice in the matter. If you happen to have a passion for collecting Rolexes, a career as a social worker might not be the right choice for you! (From what I hear about social work salaries, even having a passion for 3 meals a day might be a problem...)
I may not be able to choose to make as much as I want, but I can choose to approach my career in a certain way and devote a certain amount of energy to it so I can move up the ladder and make more money. I can choose to pursue a job at a company or industry based on its average pay scale. Sometimes I choose not to follow the money, because other things are more important. Yes, grasshopper, as usual, it all comes down to balance.