Jeff asks: My daughter is 28, married and has been at 6 figures for 4 years. She is 6 hours from us, their closest family. Her husband’s family is 12 hours or an expensive flight. They have had their 1st child. She recently asked me about quitting her job and coming home to join the family business.
We’d love to have her but she’d drop to $50-$60k Her husband supports this move and he would look for work in the area. I’m having a hard time understanding the move. They have a better life now (based on money) than they would here. I know money isn’t everything but they would be giving up so much. I know she misses having family close. What advice can I offer? What should I do?
First of all, congratulations to your daughter for reaching the six-figure mark before her 30’s, for marrying well enough that she has a supportive husband willing to relocate for her career move (not always true with dual career couples!), and who has reached self-sufficiency but chooses proactively to spend more time with her parents.
Secondly, congratulations to you and your spouse for raising a self-sufficient daughter who wants to spend more time with her parents and for maintaining a business that provides gainful employment options.
Congratulations aside, I understand your worries. A 40-50% drop in income is significant. The husband’s uncertain job situation would decrease the household coffers even more, at least for the time he is unemployed and looking for work. I don’t know how easy it is to find work in your area for what the husband does, so that’s a consideration as well. Finally, a decrease in income early in a career compounds with time – past salary is a strong anchor in determining future salary – so a drop in income now has an ongoing impact well beyond the immediate term.
I have gotten letters from parents before about their adult children’s careers, and normally I say that the career decision is solely the child’s to make (in conjunction with the other people in the immediate household — your daughter’s husband and child, in this case). However, your daughter’s next move also involves your family business. Any new employee to a business puts financial stress on the business. In addition, with a family business there is the emotional stress from working with family. So your daughter’s career decision in this case also impacts you.
Are you and others on the management team happy about your daughter joining the business? Would this be a hire your business would have made otherwise? Is this a temporary hire while she establishes herself in the area or a longer-term arrangement, in which case you need to think about career path for her and maybe even succession planning if she has management aspirations? Your question is about your daughter’s professional life, but think about yours as well.
If you’ve worked out the impact on your business and your question is really just about helping your daughter with her move, then here are some pros and cons that you can brainstorm with her as she makes up her own mind:
Cons: A decrease in income impacts much more than your immediate income
- Living on 50% or less of your current salary is not just a mathematical exercise – your day-to-day lifestyle is impacted. Rather than just theorize if your daughter’s household could adjust, they should do a trial run: for the next 3-12 months, they should live on the new income. If they can do it, they’ll be more confident to make the move and have extra money to cushion the husband’s job search. If they can’t do it in the trial run but opt to go ahead anyway, they’ll at least know exactly how much the shortfall is.
- Past salary is a strong anchor for future earnings. Has your daughter mapped out the next three to five years in her career and what her income potential will be in the future? Has she run scenario analyses on the impact of a lower salary on her retirement goals and her goals for her child’s education?
- The move back home sends a market signal that prioritizes family over work. Sure, the job market is more progressive about supporting employees who want better work/life balance but this isn’t true for all employers, all jobs, or all geographic areas. I don’t know where you are located or what your daughter does specifically, but no one should assume you can get back on the fast-track in your career when you take a detour – even a well-meaning detour. Is your daughter prepared to rebuild her brand and her professional network in her new location?
Pros: You can build a six-figure career and have good work/ life balance in any geography
- Don’t assume the drop in income is forever or even for that long. While it’s true that some geographies pay more than others, there are six-figure careers all over the country. Furthermore, there are an increasing number of remote work opportunities, not tied to location, so your daughter could rebuild a six-figure career wherever she lands. Is your daughter willing to hustle for the higher compensation since it might be more challenging in her new location?
- You say “they have a better life (based on money)” but strong careers can be built by prioritizing a number of factors, not just compensation. For example, if your daughter has more household support because she’s closer to home (e.g., last-minute babysitting so she can take that last-minute business trip), she might be able to accelerate her career in a way she couldn’t before. How can your daughter best tap into the resources unique to her new location?
- A drop in income to make a move that is a better overall fit can be one example of taking a step back to take two steps forward. What steps is your daughter prepared to ensure long-term success in her new location, new employer, and new career, such that the drop in income is an investment — one step back to take two steps forward in a bigger game?
As a recruiter and career coach, I have seen people leapfrog their income after taking a pay cut to move into an otherwise better fit. I have seen people take time off professionally to prioritize family or personal interests and get back on track. I have seen people build a wonderful work/ life balance for themselves at various income levels (not all six-figures). I’ve also seen people who make lots of money and advance through multiple career milestones and still feel like they’re trapped with no good options. Whether or not the six-figure job is the better choice depends on the person and the circumstances in their professional and personal life at that decision point.
A version of this post originally appears in my Forbes column.