Survey: Majority of U.S. workers don’t equate 6 figures with success

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Survey on salary and successSuccess. It’s something we all want to achieve, but everyone has a different perception of what it takes to reach it. Raising a family might be what one person associates with success, while starting a business might mean success to someone else. And while money is often linked to accomplishment, not all workers need a hefty paycheck in order to feel like they’ve made it.

According to a new CareerBuilder survey of more than 5,700 U.S. workers across industries, 75 percent surveyed don’t think they need to earn six figures in order to be successful. Twenty-eight percent said they would feel successful earning between $50,000 and $70,000, while 23 percent reported they would feel successful earning less than $50,000.

Success and the sexes
Men and women have different opinions when it comes to income and its link to achievement. 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 with 17 percent of women. Perhaps that has to do with differences in salary levels of the men and women surveyed; men were more than twice as likely as women to earn $100,000 or more.

Success differs among fields
The survey also found that workers in different job fields define success differently. Workers in the following fields were the most likely to report they would need to earn six figures to feel successful:

Workers in retail (36 percent), hospitality (33 percent) and manufacturing (22 percent) were the most likely to report they would feel successful earning less than $50,000. 

Are workers achieving their desired incomes?
While it’s one thing to have a salary goal in mind, it’s another thing to actually earn it. The good news? Most workers reported that they currently earn their desired salary (23 percent) or are close to it (45 percent). Yet not all workers are where they want to be on the pay scale. Thirty-two percent said they are not anywhere near their target pay level.

It may take longer than expected to reach that target salary. As companies are slowly recovering and rebuilding from the economic crisis, workers are reporting substantial gaps between raises. Forty-nine percent of workers said they have not had a merit increase since 2010, and 25 percent have not had an increase since before 2008.

While these tough economic times have affected incomes, they also may have shifted some workers’ definitions of success, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. According to Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder, “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.”

How do you define success? Tell us by leaving a comment.

3 Comments
  1. @CareerBuilder Allowing others to define success for you can have negative impacts. Personalize it, work smart and live your definition.

  2. @CareerBuilder Im not surprise big companies want people with a lot of experience and have connections to get the job.

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