Should Senior Devs Accept Less Salary?

You’ve worked hard to get where you are. You are a much better developer than when you started, back in the dark ages where we didn’t have these easy tools that the “kids who think they are so clever” do now. You’ve paid your dues. Why on earth should you accept less money on a new job that your last?

Well, in a perfect world you shouldn’t. In the real world, we are faced with the reality of some middle managers who do not understand tech, always under pressure to cut expenses, and like the newest buzz words of the month that they see on the CVs of the younger cheaper hires.

Economics lessons from the road

The Celestial Circus

I learned a valuable lesson in career economics, far from the tech world and a full 20 years before I set foot in Silicon Valley for the first time. At the age of 19 I was traveling the United States with “The world’s smallest traveling planetarium”. We did an astronomy act performing for crowds. Originally the troupe was paid for this act, but then John, head of the company and former mathematician asked that we not be paid.

When I asked him how this made sense he replied, “Most entertainers come back and do the same festivals every year. Each year they want a bump in salary from the year before. Eventually they don’t get rehired because they price themselves out of the market.” John explained that instead he asked for different compensation, such as being allowed to sell merchandise without paying the normal fee to do so.

This was 1989. I checked in on John a little over a year ago. Now in his 80’s the company is still going strong 30 years later.

It’s not what you make

The most important lesson I got from my time with John, is that it isn’t what you make. It is how much you keep.

A few years ago, I returned to a company to where I was making 105K and agreed to come back for only 60K. Why would I do that?

The trade off was that I got to work remotely. Living in the San Jose area was costing me in rent $27,000 a year for a two bedroom apartment. Living in Wisconsin was costing $7,200 a year for a 5 bedroom house.

So even though I was earning less, I was keeping more of my money.

Later, I relocated to my in-law’s house in Thailand. The savings just kept getting better. I didn’t have to pay rent here, but when I have in the past it was around $150/month.

I was keeping even more of my money.

Not to mention, the lifestyle was better. Coding in the morning, watching the water buffalo being driven home in the evening. We don’t live near the postcard picture places Thailand is famous for, but last year on the 4th of July, I worked out of a hotel room in Phuket, and we toured the islands on the 4th since the office was closed that day.

My day off

The company eventually started to crash, and most of the staff, including myself found themselves without a job the week after Thanksgiving.

During the year before the crash, I took the time to set up a few passive income sources, and while it wasn’t a lot of money, it did give us enough to live on.

Now I’m getting ready to accept another job that will pay even less, but… I’ll get to keep more, and I still have my passive income. The new job will give me a cushion and time to build up the side projects. It is also a bit of an adventure, and a chance to work with some of the best people in the industry, but I digress.


While getting a lower income may be a blow to the ego, it may be a boon to your wallet or lifestyle. What you have your company trade off on, will be unquie to your situation. Don’t accept less unless you get to keep more, or improve your lifestyle. Say, for example coding from the beach!

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