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Joe Szynkowski: Winning the career lottery
Column | WorkHappy

Joe Szynkowski: Winning the career lottery

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When I submitted this column, the third-largest lottery prize in U.S. history had yet to be won. The Mega Millions jackpot had climbed for months without a winner, reaching $970 million for Friday night’s drawing. 

To win the money (or a lump sum option worth roughly $716 million), someone would have to beat some pretty overwhelming odds. About 302.5 million to be exact. 

We’ve all been asked the question, “If you won the lottery, would you keep working?” And we’ve all rolled our eyes at the person who responds, “Yes, I love my job!” 

The exorbitant lottery jackpot got me thinking. Is there actually a magic number so high that would convince truly happy professionals to leave their careers?

Money makes us happy

The University of Pennsylvania released a new study says that money may have more to do with overall happiness than we think. 

In the study, 33,000 Americans in the age range from 18 to 65 used an app called “Track Your Happiness” that would check in with them during random parts of the day. “How do you feel right now?” or “Overall, how satisfied are you with your life?” are the questions that users would randomly receive. 

The study discovered that a $20 bill means more to someone who makes $25,000 per year. Meanwhile, someone who makes $100,000 almost feels indifferent toward $20.

What’s your magic number?

If some of us are indifferent to smaller amounts of money, what is our big number? The amount that would give us the confidence to put in our two weeks and “retire?”

I took my question to the streets. Here are some of the answers I received from my connections:

• “Not much!”

• “A couple million.”

• “$1 million if it were just me, much more if my husband quit too.”

• “$10 million to $20 million.”

• “$1.5 million. I’d put a million into a steady investment and live off the $500,000.”

• “$50 million and it would be a sure thing.”

• “$2 million would be enough to live comfortably, even if whatever I did next were to tank.”

From $1 million up to $50 million — that’s quite a range! Various factors like age, retirement goals, geographic location and family size definitely come into play. 

More money, more problems?

I’ve interacted with many executives who have accrued millions of dollars by working exhausting corporate jobs that came with stock options and other “perks.” They have been wildly successful in business and are well-respected by their professional peers.

Just a word of warning, these are among the most bored and unhappy people I’ve met. They are restless and unable to enjoy retirement — constantly searching for that next big payday. They regret being away from their families during their professional peaks and wish they were closer with their kids.

I don’t believe money is the root of all evils. It’s also not the cause of true contentment.

But winning the Mega Millions jackpot would be pretty sweet.

Joe Szynkowski is a Sr. Director for NuVinAir Global, a Dallas-based company disrupting the automotive industry. Thanks to technology, he does so happily from his home east of Marion. Check out for his WorkHappy Spotlights or email for more guidance on finding career joy.


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