I guess I'm in the latter category, for I am about to divide working people into four categories:
1. Those who are happy with their jobs and finances
2. Those who like their jobs but wish they had more money
3. Those who are satisfied with the money they make but wish they were in a different job, or didn't have to work at all.
4. Those who are dissatisfied with their jobs and their finances.
I have no empirical data--only my own observations-- to back up what I'm about to say.
It seems to me that category #1 is a lot smaller than I remember it being when I graduated college--or, for that matter, than during my childhood in a blue-collar family and neighborhood. I saw lots of people who worked very hard for very few rewards, financially or otherwise. However, I also saw a fair number of people who weren't working prestigious jobs or making lots of money but were contented. Some of their satisfaction came from their jobs, but I believe even more came from their family lives and religious faith, or investment in some other belief system.
While growing up, I saw a few people in the second category. Some of the women were happy as cashiers and store clerks, or as housewives, just as some men actually liked being bus or truck drivers. However, even the ones who were making relatively high pay still worried about finances. Even the best of blue-collar lives has its share of uncertainties.
I don't recall seeing anyone in the third, but plenty in the fourth, category. I now realize that many blue-collar workers and their spouses--at least in my day--were unhappy about their jobs and finances because they came into both because of a series of bad circumstances or choices made when they were "young and stupid." The third category is one I imagined lawyers and some other professionals would inhabit.
These days, though, it seems that more and more alumni/ae of colleges and graduate schools fall into the fourth category. Some professions that employed large numbers of graduates are now shrinking or disappearing altogether. What that means is worse working conditions--which leads to more stress--and lower pay for those who remain in them. You can hear about such things from lawyers, teachers, engineers and other professionals. Many recent graduates and young professionals wish they hadn't incurred the expense or given up the time it took to train for those professions; increasing numbers of longtime professionals--particularly teachers and lawyers--say that if they had to make the choice today, they wouldn't go into the professions they currently practice.
What's interesting is that the dissatisfaction I hear now from university- and graduate school- trained professionals isn't so different from what I used to hear from unskilled blue-collar workers. The work is a grind and nobody appreciates the effort they put into it. They feel alienated from the reasons why they went into the work they chose; so much of what they do on the jobs bears little or no resemblance to anything they thought they'd ever do on the job. The one who wanted to become a doctor to "connect with people" soon realizes that she's not treating patients: she's dealing with cases. The young person who envisioned law as a lucrative profession, or even as a means to social justice, finds himself working on the most routine documents. And the teacher who wanted to "change young lives" finds that the local school board only cares that targets are met for test scores, quotas are filled and that meaningless paperwork is done.
What may be even worse is that people in such professions are always "on the clock." I have lost relationships over this: People who are not in those professions simply do not understand that just because you're not in the office, classroom or hospital, it doesn't mean you're "free." Others have lost marriages and families, as well as other ties to people and communities that had been part of their lives.
And, to top everything off, nearly all of the people I've just mentioned are saddled with large debts they incurred to finance their education and training. Under current laws, that debt isn't even dischargable in bankruptcy.
Compare what I've just described with something the brother of a friend of mine--who is a union electrician--and the UPS driver of my route told me: "Once I punch the clock, I'm done!" To my knowledge, they have never met, yet they used the exact same words, delivered in the same tone of voice.
They have time for friends and family, and they rarely--if ever--express bitterness or resentment. They might wistfully imagine themselves as rock stars or some such thing, but they don't seem to have that regret that so many young professionals--and those who trained for those professions but can't get jobs in them--have. And, perhaps best of all, they don't have the debts those professionals carry.