Should I take a lower salary working for my family or pursue a higher paying job for a good company?

I am 22 years old and recently I have been working for a small bank as an intern as part of a college requirement. I'm in my last semester, so after the internship is done I will be graduated. The bank has offered me a full-time position at the end of the internship with a good salary and benefits, not to mention the work environment is also really welcoming and friendly. I've been working for my family in a small business ever since I was 16 years old and they expect me to come work for them full-time when the summer is over. Being a small family business, I won't get the same salary, nor benefits, and as the youngest one I'm the low man on the totem pole. My dream career goal has always been to own my own business and eventually become partners with my brother and father. But, to do that, I obviously need to bring a lot of capital to the table, and I don't know if working for them will extend that time to save enough money.

I'm stumped as to whether I should leave the family business for a few years to raise capital or go back to them and continue to learn and grow working in the business. I would like an unbiased opinion for my situation because my family has been the only one to give me financial advice for most of my life.

Co-Published on Investopedia

Co-Published on Investopedia

From your question, it seems like you truly think working for the bank is the right choice, and I agree. You are not the only person who is going through a situation like this, although it might feel that way. I am also a professor of entrepreneurship and at least once a year I have a student who is in the exact same position as you. Usually, I advise my students to take the job at the outside company for a variety of reasons.

  1. Working with an outside firm will help you learn new management and business skills, which you can bring back to the family business to help grow the business. Getting an outside perspective to come into the family business can be very helpful for long-term growth of the business.

  2. You will likely develop more as a professional working for an outside firm than the family business. The bank likely has more training and development opportunities, and you can gain access to different mentors than the ones you already have in the family business.

  3. You can use the higher pay and benefits to build up a strong retirement fund in addition to savings for buying into the family business. This will provide you with better security should the worst happen with the family business.

  4. You will likely get more respect from the family if you build your professional career outside for a while, then return to the family business. As you said, you are currently low-man on the totem pole. But building a career at the bank first and then bringing new and valuable skills to the business will raise your status within the family business.

Talk with your family about the decisions and help them understand how this decision is a benefit for both you and the family business. Make sure to focus on the benefit to your family and the business – but be strong about asserting that this is your desire. 

Regarding financial advice, it is wonderful your family has been so proactive and helpful in giving you financial advice. Most young people don't have that advantage. At the same time, graduation is a great time to begin working with your own financial adviser. As you said, having unbiased opinions is helpful. Look into getting a financial adviser for yourself who can advise you on your career, the family business, and on your other financial needs. My firm offers financial planning for recent college graduates, and I know many other firms do too. You can also check out the XY Planning Network, which has a lot of firms which work with younger clients.

Joshua Escalante Troesh is the President of Purposeful Strategic Partners and a tenured professor of Business at El Camino College. To explore working with him on your personal financial planning and investment advising needs, simply schedule a free Discover Meeting.

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