Psychic Income

A recent article in US News & World Report highlighted seven jobs that they described as “underpaid” in that the average median salary was less than the $41,674 national average wage index as calculated by the Social Security Administration. The selected jobs had a high societal need in that the authors projected at least 45,000 new openings between now and 2020.

The occupations listed, with average salary data, are as follows: Security Guard ($23,900), Sports Coach ($28,470), Medical Assistant ($29,100), Recreation and Fitness Worker ($31,030), Administrative Assistant ($31,870), Real Estate Agent ($39,070) and, Child, Family, and School Social Worker ($40,680).

The jobs highlighted here also have one additional characteristic in common: They receive medium-high to very-high job satisfaction scores from those currently working in the profession. Here we have workers, who clearly like what they are doing, despite what can only be described as lousy pay. What’s with that?

It would be easy to conclude that the country is suffering from above average unemployment and many people have to take any job they can get, even if the wages are below the national average. But that doesn’t explain why those workers like what they are doing.

It may well be that the individuals engaged in those pursuits are realizing a significant measure of “psychic income”, defined by as, “the personal or subjective benefits, rewards, or satisfactions derived from a job or undertaking as separate from its objective of financial ones”.

I know, money is important, we all have bills, but if you don’t like what you are doing, more money is probably not the answer.

All comments and suggestions are welcome.

Walter J. Kirchberger, CFA