Let’s take another look at last week’s Myth #4: “If you don’t have enough money, it’s because you’re not working hard enough.”

So is there indeed a correlation between work and income? More work = more income?

Let’s gather a few facts. I’ll focus mostly on the US and the UK, with apologies to my readers in other countries. Please do post a comment and let me know how the situation is in your country.


The world’s wealthiest 1% own $42.7 trillion, more than the bottom 3 billion residents of earth. Oxfam has warned that next year the 1% will own more than all the rest of the world combined


In the US, the top 1 percent has 35.6% of all private wealth, more than the bottom 95 percent combined. (Source: Inequality.org)

The gap between CEO and average US worker pay is 325 to 1, up from 42 to 1 in 1980. (Source: Inequality.org)


In the UK, people in the bottom 10% of the population have an average net income of £8,468. The top 10% have net incomes almost ten times that (£79,042). In 2012, the top 1% had an average income of £259,917 and the top 0.1% had an average income of £941,582.(Source: Equalitytrust.org.uk)

ukwealth-hiThe richest 10% of UK households hold 44% of all wealth. The poorest 50%, by contrast, own just 9.5%. (Source: Equalitytrust.org.uk)

The average FTSE-100 CEO earned £4.96 million ($7.8 million) in 2014, about 183 times that of an average worker. (Source: Highpaycentre.org

I realise that I am including facts relating to wealth as well as income, and arguably only income is relevant to our work theme. But the main point is that the American dream (and whatever equivalent dream of meritocracy we have here in the UK) is an impossible aspiration for most people.

Why the gap?

If income was proportionate to work, could the average US worker work 325 times harder, or the average UK worker 183 times harder, in order to match their CEO’s income? Obviously not.

wealth-inequality-usa-12So, clearly, there are other factors at work, such as qualifications, intelligence, experience, and connections – and quite possibly the self-confidence that often results from a certain kind of upbringing and education, particularly here in the UK. (As a point of reference, 7% of the general UK population attended private school, compared with 71% of senior judges, 62% of senior armed forces officers, 55% of Whitehall permanent secretaries and 44% of the Sunday Times Rich List.)

To be clear, many high-income individuals work very hard, and I’m not for a moment denigrating that. According to wealth expert Tom Corley, those on high incomes take less sick time, spend more of their leisure time networking, and watch less TV than those on low incomes.

Corley implies a connection between loving your work and doing well at it: “86% of the rich in my study liked what they did for a living. 7% loved what they did for a living. Those who loved what they did for a living worked 58 hours a week on average vs. 51 hours a week for those who liked their jobs. That’s an average of 7 hours a week more. This works out to 336 more working hours a year for the job lovers (less 4 weeks for time off).”

But what he doesn’t make clear is how those on lower incomes feel about their work – the teachers, nurses, firefighters, nonprofit workers and so on – who work hard and are probably didn’t choose their vocation on the basis of pay. Isn’t it possible that they love their work every bit as much, and are at least as dedicated to it – but they just don’t get paid fairly for it?

So what do we take away from all this?

– Income is not directly correlated to hard work.

– While working more may not make you significantly richer, NOT working will also not make you richer, unless you are already independently wealthy.

– Loving what you do definitely helps. If you don’t love what you do, working extra hours just for the money is only going to yield marginal results. Being a good little worker bee and doing what you’re told will probably make your CEO very rich, but not you.

– But loving what you do won’t necessarily make you rich. For many people in the developed world, there is still a trade-off between doing what you love and doing what will get you a decent pay packet. 

Questions: How do you feel about this trade-off? What would you do if you worked for the love of it, and not for the money? How do you feel about the growing disparity between those at the top and the average worker? Please post a comment and let me know!



  • Roz, so true! A couple of days ago I watched a training video in which they asked, how hard were you working when your business was 10 times smaller? The answer is probably as hard as now! More work doesn’t mean more income or more revenue (for a business.) I agree that loving what we do is essential, but also knowing the right people. Thank you for the post!

  • As always I find your writing to be thought provoking.
    In terms of inequality hasn’t always been this way? The nobility during the Middle Ages and the aristocracy to the robber barons of the 19th century the a small number have a lot and the 99% don’t
    However I find that if I dwell on this stuff I end up being resentful and and angry
    Resentments are toxic to me
    OK so I don’t have a lot but I should not let that stand in the way of being happy and fulfilled
    I have enough money to take care of myself and my family what more do I need?
    And I have a great place to row when the sun comes up and a boat I love so what do I need with all the other stuff ?
    Of course the world is unfair and it always has been that way :so what? I still have to live in it and I choose to live happily

  • Success in life is dependent on capacity. Many people who win a lottery, or suddenly come into a lot of money, end up in far worse straights than they were before. If you have the capacity for wealth then it doesn’t matter how much money you have, you will be content with what you have. There are many rich people who are incredibly poor. For them wealth has become a struggle to make more money or keep what they have. Life loses its joy when we focus on the wrong things. Money, and most of the things that it buys, will not make us truly happy. I have a modest income but a sense of fulfillment and excitement with each day. I retired from the United States Marine Corps after thirty year of service. On the best of days life was hard, challenges many, compensation modest. The intangibles were worth a worth a fortune however. Serving with men and women who lay their lives on the line for others, who risk all to protect our freedoms, who value life less important than honor and integrity, these things made all of the sacrifices seem small and the paycheck a fortune. When a person finds their calling, their destiny, the thing they were created to do then they become rich irrespective of the amount of money that they deposit in a bank.
    Tom Campbell,
    Master Gunnery Sergeant,
    United States Marine Corps, Retired

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