Even though I have a pretty large online footprint(I’m currently writing for 6 sites and managing 2) I also go to a regular job during the day. A lot of people like to complain about their job or bitch about their boss, but I actually like my day job. That’s one of the reasons why I haven’t taken the leap yet to working online full time. That and the money of course; I’m pretty honest when it comes to why I’m working in the engineering field.
But I don’t think I’m the only one who’s doing it for the money, I’m just one of the few who will admit it. I always kid with my friends that there must be a lot of engineers who hate their families since I’ve encountered countless people at my past and present jobs who work in one city while their families live in another. At my last job, a lot of guys actually worked in San Diego and their families lived in LA. That’s 2 hours away without traffic which means that they were forced to drive to LA every weekend in order to spend time with their families.
But if you think that’s bad, I work with a guy right now who lives in Orange County and his family lives in Phoenix. He actually leaves work early every Friday so that he can fly home! That’s beyond insane to me, so what’s the deal with these guys?
Must be the Economy
I would understand if you couldn’t get a job and your absolute last resort was to take whatever you could get in another city. But let’s be honest, the housing sector is booming right now, companies are hiring and the economy is doing just fine. If you want proof, go to the mall on a Sunday and see how many people are out buying crap they don’t need. Or take a weekend trip to Vegas and watch people spend and gamble away more than I make in a month(and I make decent money!).
Since I live in a pretty affluent area, I can’t speak to what conditions are like for the lower class, but the people I see living away from their families are definitely middle to even upper class citizens of this fine country. I know the economy was bad 5 years ago but it has clearly recovered since then and work is pretty abundant in most fields as long as you’ve got the necessary skills and drive to apply yourself.
Why Do They Do It?
So if these ‘family haters’ can get a job in their hometown why don’t they do it? You guessed it, not enough money. While the job market has definitely picked up over the past few years, there is still a ton of variability from city to city and especially from state to state. Most people are so dependent on their day job income, the second they lose it they realize they have basically been living paycheck to paycheck this whole time.
As we make more and more money, it’s easy to succumb to the lifestyle inflation that starts to creep in(I’m definitely guilty of it). When I used to travel all around the world, I would cram myself into coach seats, sleep in shitty hostels and eat street food for dinner. And even though I still enjoy eating street food(more $$ doesn’t always correlate to quality with food), now I want ocean view rooms and extra leg room on my flights when I travel.
As you make more and more money, I think it actually gets harder to save money. There are some pretty nice toys you can buy when you start making a lot and it’s only natural to feel entitled to them. After all, you were the one who worked so hard to get to where you are so you should be able to buy whatever you want. It’s that sense of entitlement that makes people feel like they can’t take a pay cut. To borrow a phrase from my friend, the Financial Samurai, most of us want an ‘A lifestyle’ but we’re making ‘B money’.
Contractors Are the Worst
The perfect example of someone who gets too used to high salaries is the contract employee. In my field, contractors can make up anywhere from $50/hr to $100/hr and a lot of them receive a special tax deduction known as per diem which makes their marginal $30/hr of salary tax free. That plus the fact that they get time and a half for overtime easily puts them in the 150k-250k range for doing the exact same job that I do. Obviously there are drawbacks to being a contract employee but I think $150k+ easily outweighs a lot of those drawbacks.
Most of these contractors by nature are moving around a lot. They sacrifice job security and family time to make more money(albeit a lot more money). I actually don’t have a problem with this strategy as long as it’s leading to an end game. I might be willing to be away from my family for a year if it meant I’d make 3 years salary up front and be able to grow my businesses and passions after that. But it’s a slippery slope since once you start making all that money you have to resist the temptation to spend it all.
How to Avoid a Shitty Situation
Last summer I abruptly quit my high paying job in San Diego and moved to Orange County with my fiancee without another job lined up. Every single person I talked to told me how big of a mistake I was making(even my parents). I couldn’t believe that no one was on my side but apparently everyone knew better than me. What they didn’t know was that I’d been planning for this move all along. My fiancee applied to med schools all over the country and she wanted to go no matter where she got in. That presented a major problem since there are only a few places in the country where I can get an aerospace job.
Even though I make a very good salary at my day job, I don’t depend on it. I keep a large emergency fund built up at all times and my only monthly payment was/is my mortgage(that property is now rented out on a 2 year lease). We only ended up moving about 60 miles north but that was still way too far for me to consider keeping my old job. I would not want to spend the first few years of our marriage living under different roofs. I was confident that I’d be able to land a job at some type of engineering company, even if it meant that I had to take a pay cut.
The main reason I wasn’t worried though was because I started building up my online businesses about 9 months before we were scheduled to move(at that point we didn’t even know if/where we would move). I knew there was a chance I might not find work and I wanted to have as much side income as possible coming in. Things went well for me online and it actually allowed me to take 3 months off in-between jobs and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Luck Doesn’t Hurt Either
I’ll be the first to admit I got pretty lucky the way things turned out. I bought my condo at the perfect time so when I rented it out it provided for a nice cash on cash return. Upon moving up to Newport Beach, I got a solid job offer from a large aerospace company. I even got lucky with my online businesses since I never started my first blog with the intention to make much money. Now my total online income is slowly approaching my day job income working only four hours a day.
But even if all that wouldn’t have gone my way, I think I still would have made the same decision. I’ve never depended on one source of income and I never will. A lot of people at my work joke about not doing certain things because they don’t want to get fired or let go. I don’t have to live with that fear since I know that no matter what happens I will always be able to adapt.
Readers, what do you think about sacrificing your personal life or your family in pursuit of a higher salary or a better job? If it’s ok to make temporary sacrifices, then where do you draw the line or when do you stop?
-Harry @ 4HWD