How Much Money Do You Need to Make, in Order to Feel Like a Success?

Whoever said money doesn't buy happiness never tried to pay their mortgage armed with only a positive attitude. Most of us need a certain amount of financial security in order to be satisfied. A recent CareerBuilder survey translates that into dollars and cents: $75,000, it turns out, is the magic number. But this doesn't mean earning that salary will necessarily make all workers feel successful.

gold bars 

(Photo Credit: New Old Stock)

In fact, the survey found that many workers can feel successful at lower income levels than the $75,000 threshold:

  • 55 percent said they could feel successful at less than $70,000.
  • 78 percent said that they didn't need to earn $100,000 annually, in order to feel like a success.
  • Men were twice as likely as women to need to feel that they needed to break the $100,000 ceiling.

"In many cases, success is relative to the type of work individuals do or their current career stage. Regardless of income, we found that workers tend to find success near their own salary level or in the range directly above," says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "This is healthy because it shows workers can derive meaning from their work at any level while still striving for that next promotion or raise."

And it's worth it to ask for that raise: Although only 44 percent of workers say they've ever asked for a raise, among those who did, 66 percent received an increase in pay. Women were less likely to ask for more money: only 38 percent of women asked for raises, compared with 49 percent of men.

Tell Us What You Think

How much money do you need to earn in order to feel like a success? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


  1. 13 Special K 10 Aug
    q4dasouth334 - if you were really in tax prep, you must have been *terrible* at it, because you don't seem to understand how the progressive tax system works. First off, there is no tax bracket threshold at $100K, and second, in the US tax system, the higher rates only apply to income *above* the previous threshold. So please stop giving out bad advice.
  2. 12 DocizN 08 Aug
    The magic number for me is $125K for the next two years. However, at two-years and three months the magic number will increase to $175-$225K. After fours years I could settle into $400K.+ /year. Nope not greedy just realiastic-families cost money with college, pet care, medical,business ventures and the like.
  3. 11 q4dasouth334 08 Aug
    The only thing about hitting that 6 figure threshold is the tax that you have to deal with. Better to make $99,999.99. I know it sounds weird but trust me, as a former tax prep you'll be thanking your lucky stars for it.
  4. 10 Cameron 07 Aug
    Without factoring in education, age (years of applicable experience), cost of living (location, ...) and other important factors, those percentages are statically meaningless.
  5. 9 Cameron 07 Aug
    Without factoring in education, age (years of applicable experience), cost of living (location, ...) and other important factors, those percentages are statically meaningless.
  6. 8 Teacher 07 Aug
    I guess those who choose to educate children shouldn't even play this game, since there are no raises. Good thing not everyone is solely concerned with a dollar sign. Still, teachers want to have children and homes and vacations too...unfortunately you can't pay for these things with Positive Attitude and a Meaningful Job. My magic number would be $80k but I would kill to make $60k.
  7. 7 bill 07 Aug
    My target is the ability to pay for a house, two kids, two cars, and a couple of vacations a year with needing to balance my checkbook. That number is $300k by age 50. The she is important because it X dollars makes you happy at 25, it doesn't necessarily make you happy at 45 or 50. I was really happy to break six figures at age 28, but $100k now is not what I would consider to equal success.
  8. 6 Dora Ayala Castro 07 Aug
    This amount to have me feel financial successful would be million dollars a year for the rest of my life. Still downsize my lifestyle.
  9. 5 TexasMan1970 07 Aug
    Judge your desired salary on were you live and not just what the total dollar amount you want is and you will live a much happier life..
  10. 4 TexasMan1970 07 Aug
    It all depends were you live. We have people moving here to Dallas, Texas from California to Texas and most of them tell me that the cost of living is cheaper here. However, some of then make 15% to 20% less for the same position here. $100,000 in parts of Texas is like making $135,000 depending on what part you live in. It's could be almost like making $150,000 in California and $165,000 in New York. It all depends on the cost of living were you live. Gas here is $3.15 a gallon in some parts of Texas. Not sure what it is everywhere else? I can go South 80 miles from Dallas, Texas to Waco and buy a house for $150,000 that would cost close to $200,000 to $250,000 here in Dallas area because of land value and crazy pricing here. Plus yearly home taxes would be twice as much in the Dallas, Texas area then south of here. Like I said it all depends on were you live. Not just the state you live in but what part of the State you live in and what city.
  11. 3 Daniel 07 Aug
    $100k is an easy first target. I asked for a 40k raise 2 years ago and got a 15k raise. I just asked again for another 20k raise, and think it's going to happen. This will help get me close to my six figure target. Make a solid case for why you are worth a higher salary and back it up with projects, skills, and comparison data showing how much others in same field and area are making.
  12. 2 greedyiguess 07 Aug
    I think it greatly depends on where you live and the cost of living in your area, they should do this study by region. I would imagine somone in San Fran or NYC would have a much higher number than me living in the midwest. that said my number is 150K
  13. 1 olderworker 07 Aug
    80,000 is my magic number, though I've never earned anything close to it.


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