To be clear: In this post I share my perspective, but don’t hold it out as right. The goal is to evaluate the costs and benefits of your job from your perspective.
It’s also important to note that these conversations (deep dives about our financial circumstances and how they relate to our savings rate) are more about trajectory (which way am I pointing) than position (judging where we are or aren’t) and velocity (how quickly or slowly we’re progressing toward our ideal).
I hope to understand my current position, then establish a good trajectory, then think about velocity. So, let’s get on with it.
In the spirit of a budgetary deep dive, let’s talk about the costs and benefits of our jobs.
I’m odd; I like to set new year’s resolutions in October (I promise this relates). When I set a new year’s resolution it’s going to impact one of four main aspects of my life: physical, emotional/spiritual, mental, and financial. Why not evaluate the benefits of a job in those terms?
What are the physical benefits of your job? Do the circumstances of your job encourage you to eat better, move more, rest more and better?
How does your job improve your mood? How does your job make it easier to create and maintain meaningful relationships?
What skills and experiences is your job providing that you’d have a hard time getting elsewhere? How does your job challenge and stimulate you intellectually?
How much money does your job put in your pocket? Assign a dollar value to those benefits your job gives you that you’d likely be spending money on anyway, ie health insurance, company 401k contributions, and any perks like food, cell phone, etc.
My quick take on each of these would be:
- I’ve lost weight because my job is within walking/biking distance of my house.
- My office also offers a standing desk (which is Jesse’s, and I use when he’s not in the office).
- Because of the close proximity to my house, I very rarely eat out for lunch. It’s just a quick fifteen minute bike ride home for a PB&J with my family.
- My job has given me new relationships with interesting, caring people.
- I enjoy quality conversation and interaction with Chance and Jesse at the office.
- There’s nothing toxic about my workplace (gossip, jealousy, politics, etc).
- The close proximity offers me time on my bike or on foot – which allows me quality meditation time several days per week.
- I have autonomy and flexibility in how, when, and where I do my work (which strengthens my relationship with my wife and kids).
- Supportive and grateful comments and emails from readers make me feel like my work matters, and give a healthy self esteem boost.
- Daily writing creates positive creative stress and requires study and introspection.
- Discussion with the community challenges and refines my biases and perspectives on life and money.
- My job pays more than enough to cover my family’s needs (and plenty of luxuries), while also allowing for a 13% savings rate (which I can influence by further optimizing my expenses).
- Because my job is results-focused, I’m also able to influence my effective hourly rate.
- My employer makes a 401k contribution on every paycheck.
- Jesse keeps the office stocked with protein shakes and bars, which come in very handy and further protect me from unnecessary eating out while at the office.
- The annual company meetup adds some quality free travel to my life.
If any of that read as bragging, please take it as gratitude. I feel very lucky.
What about the costs of a job?
My YNAB job is extremely low-cost. It’s so inexpensive, in fact, that to talk at all about job costs I have to go to the job I had before joining YNAB. I was hired by another friend to manage web marketing for his pest control company. I was grateful for the job, and I worked with great people. The job just happened to be very expensive.
Your Money or Your Life asks us to consider these costs as they relate to our jobs:
When I worked in the Utah office, the commute was about 20 miles each way. This made for high fuel bills and lots of time spent in the car (and traffic). When I traveled to the Raleigh, NC office, it meant driving to and from the airport, flying, being away from my family for days at a time, and eating out a lot.
In other words, it was costly in every way.
I can wear anything I want to work at YNAB. We even offer a pants-free office environment (just kidding – maybe). I bought about $900 worth of clothes and shoes for the pest control job. Expensive (financial cost), and uncomfortable (emotional/spiritual cost).
Lots of eating out with the pest control job. Physically and financially expensive.
I worked with good people at the pest control company, but I’m pretty introverted. A busy office environment is a drain for me, and I found myself needing to hide out for a while when I got home from work. Mentally and emotionally costly.
This takes into account things like cable TV with premium channels and nights out to “get away and unwind” – with the associated food and drink cost. It could also include retail therapy (“Work has been brutal lately; I’m going to treat myself to a new pair of shoes/new iPod/skis.”).
Vacations and Expensive Playthings:
“The last three months have been awful at work, so I told the kids I’d take them to Disney World.”
“I work a lot, so I bought a boat to improve my time with the kids.”
“My new motorcycle is my favorite way to get my mind off work.”
Important to note that this isn’t a negative judgment on leisure spending – just that portion of the spending driven by the “need to escape” job-related stress and fatigue.
All that commuting and stress can lead to sickness you wouldn’t otherwise have experienced.
How would you score your job? Remember, we’re trying to establish our current position (the costs and benefits of the job), then think about trajectory (whether and how we’d change direction).