How much do employees need to earn to feel successful?

If you asked HR pros what employees would need to make to feel successful, most would probably answer $100,000 or more. But the good news for employers is: That number is actually much lower.

The majority of Americans said they’d feel successful making less than $70,000, according to a new salary survey from CareerBuilder conducted by Harris Poll.
The goal of the survey was to identify two things:

  • The salary level at which employees would feel successful, and
  • How many people are actually earning their desired salary.

The two aren’t necessarily the same, and the survey fielded answers from 3,372 full-time workers.

Feeling successful

Here’s how the numbers broke down in terms of what employees needed to make to feel successful:

  • Under $50,000 — 25% of employees said that’s what it would take for them to feel successful.
  • Between $50,000 and $69,999 — 30%.
  • Between $70,000 and $99,999 — 23%.
  • Between $100,000 and $149,999 — 15%.
  • Between $150,000 and $199,999 — 4%.
  • More than $200,000 — 4%.

(Numbers don’t add up to 100% due to rounding.)
This may strike many employers as good news, as they’re probably likely paying employees closer to their “success” level than they originally thought.
Unfortunately, this is where the good news comes to a grinding halt.

Not getting desired pay

While employees may be closer to feeling successful than you originally thought (at least as far as compensation goes), the majority are still not getting paid the salary they desire.
In fact, just 35% said they’re getting paid their desired salary.
Here’s how the numbers broke down in terms of who’s earning their desired salary:

  • Of those making less than $50,000 — only 23% said they’re making their desired salary.
  • Of those making between $50,000 and $75,000 — just 39% have hit their salary target.
  • Of those making between $75,000 and $100,000 — 56% have hit their target.

From there, the amount hitting their desired target naturally continues to escalate.
The survey results also suggest what employees should do if they’re not happy with their current salaries: Ask for a raise. It found that 66% of workers who asked for a raise actually received one. But the majority of workers — 56% — have failed to do so.

Pay transparency: Good or bad?

The survey also polled HR pros to get their thoughts on pay transparency — and 2,188 responded.
Their views on openly disclosing salaries across the workforce:

  • 53% view it as a bad idea — saying it sparks jealousy and morale issues, and it violates worker privacy.
  • 47% view it as a good idea — saying it ensures pay equality and dispels wrong assumptions.