I very recently started work at a new job, and one of the tasks of involved in that process is the salary offer and negotiation. When you're working your way up from $25,000 a year, most offers seem generous, but of course there are all sorts of statistics and articles that say superiors respect people who negotiate and also women are less assertive in these areas, meaning that they often are complicit in their own lower wages.
I feel that I am doing quite well and am perfectly happy with the arrangement as things stand, but it did get me thinking about financially structuring my life and the undergirding assumptions and values that we bring to our ideas about appropriate remuneration. For example, as Robert Reich has been reminding me as I read Saving Capitalism, salaries do not reflect worth, except in the most shallow sense imaginable. But just as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company isn't really "worth" the enormous pay package, so also my "worth" both to my employer and to myself is equally untethered from whatever yearly sum I happen to be bringing home.
Which brings me to a question I've been mulling over. If salaries aren't based on worth, what should they be based on instead? (Always ethics.) The thing is, I don't *need* to be making an enormous amount of money. My father managed to hold things together (just barely, but still) for between four and six people while grossing maybe $20,000 more than I am individually making now. I think living wages, especially where children are involved, should be generously sufficient, and I gather that these things are or can be taken into account. However, as an individual with minimal needs and debts, I consider myself fortunate to be able to make myself comfortable enough on what I have at present.
What I'm getting around to, but don't really have time to flesh out, is this thought that maybe instead of planning for pay raises and always wishing (and being prompted to wish by advertisers and advocates of consumerist ideologies) for more, we should spend more time thinking, planning, and defining for ourselves what exactly is enough. I have my non-essential pleasures, but at the end of the day and the end of my life, I would rather say that I am content than rich.
Post-Script: I'm not opposed to making more than enough, per se, but the value of that, to me, is in the opportunity for generosity (I say, as someone who has primarily benefitted from the generosity of others and perhaps not so often been the generous one).
Also, I am intrigued by the notion of vocation and of commitment to a workplace such that you are willing to prioritize factors other than solely what you get out of it, which I think most non-invested wage workers don't typically think of because they're not motivated to participate in the long-term future of the company, but that's a different subject.