Have you heard the phrase “trading time for money?” If not, it means getting paid either an hourly wage or salary. You are paid to be at a certain place and to do certain tasks. It’s great to start with, but after awhile, you’re left wondering if there’s more money that can be made in a shorter amount of time.
Trust me, it’s an amazing feeling when you make a quick profit instead of having to slave for several hours for the same amount of cash. As an example, I just resold I lawnmower the other day that I bought for $30 for $120. I spent 20 minutes finding the lawnmower at a garage sale, taking pictures, listing it, and messaging the buyer and made $90. Cool, right? Not many jobs pay that well, so it’s a great feeling finding deals like that and creating value (the end buyer still got a decent discount when comparing that to new prices).
Working harder is not always working smarter
I want to share an interesting story with you to help you grow your mindset and think of how you can trade value for money instead of just time. A coworker from a previous job was talking to me about having worked from 4am – 7pm for 2 weeks in a row in order to finish some reports and presentations for a Board Meeting. I’ve heard all kinds of stats saying that most people are only productive a fraction of the time at work, so I wonder how much of that time was truly work… stats aside, if what he said is true, this means he would have spent 15 hours a day at the office, when he gets paid to be there for 9 (assuming he uses 1-hour for a lunch break).
Let’s do some math!
Excluding lunch, let’s say he worked 6 hours more per day for 2 work weeks. 6 hours x 10 days = 60 hours.
Let’s assume his hourly wage is $35. Not bad, right? That comes out to around $70K a year, assuming he gets 2 weeks of paid vacation. A nice, cushy job. It will allow you to pay your car note, a mortgage, and get groceries. Maybe take a nice vacation or two a year. Unless you live in New York. You might be able to afford a closet for $70K a year in New York (sorry, fellas).
During normal work hours, he’ll earn $2800, excluding taxes and any deductions from his paycheck after 2 weeks, or 80 hours, of work.
By working an extra 60 hours in those two weeks, he effectively lowered his hourly salary from $35/hour to a measly $20/hour. “Congrats, ya played yourself!”
Of course, when he told me, I replied “oh wow, sounds busy!” as he probably felt proud or something. In my head, I thought “Why the hell would you ever do that?” and tried my best to not look like Storm from X-Men by rolling my eyes too hard.
What can you accomplish with 60 extra hours of time?
What could he have done with those 60 hours working towards something else? He could have built an asset or added a passive income stream. Perhaps taken classes to get a real estate license. Or even have done something fun like gone fishing.
Here’s a few things I’d rather do than work 60 hours “for free”:
- File an LLC for a business idea
- Start conversations with potential business partners
- Self-publish a book to sell on Amazon
- Write blog posts embedded with affiliate links to earn commission as traffic grows
- Create an online course with videos, captions, the whole nine yards
Instead, he put in overtime for basically a pat on the back. Maybe he’ll get lucky and get a 5% raise next year for his efforts. Am I the only person who thinks this is madness?!
If his salary was $70,000 a year and he got a 5% raise, he’d get an extra $3,500 the following year, or $73,500. Whoopdie-doo!
Next time your boss asks if you can stay late, really think about it. If it’s a serious matter and you’re not asked to stay late very often, perhaps once or twice is fine. If it’s a constant request, tell your manager politely that you’d rather eat burning coal. Yes, get fired or laid off, just get out of there! Or if that’s too extreme, at least negotiate a raise.
The best part about spending time on other things such as a side-hustle is that you don’t have to cram 60 hours of work into 2 weeks. You can start with just 30 minutes or an hour a day. Imagine how far you’ll be in just 2 months of time. What can you do differently with time you’re spending on wasteful activities? Figure out how you can add VALUE in exchange for money, and your “hourly wage” will increase astronomically.
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The flaw with this is that it is both incredibly short-sighted and downright selfish. You only consider the immediate hourly rate as your measurement, while missing value to “working overtime” like:
1) learning and skill-gain associated with taking on additional and challenging work;
2) long-term benefits to your career through gradual progression, experience and networking, and new opportunities by impressing the people you work with or getting their recommendation when you take a better opportunity; or
3) helping out your team if they may desperately need it.
The calculus isn’t just $20/hour and a 5% annual raise. It’s long-term progression and self-development, salary growth beyond a one time raise, and being a good coworker to your boss and team. At best, your logic shows you are short-sighted and unintentionally damaging your reputation and network. At worst, you come off as a selfish person who doesn’t care to learn or try.
Thanks for your feedback! I realize the article comes across as selfish but hear me out… I know you commented anonymously but if you know me and how I think you’ll know I’m an avid learner and don’t half-ass anything.
I believe in giving 100% of time you agreed to commit to a company. If you get paid hourly and work overtime, great, work away. People love being paid time and a half.
But when someone is getting paid a set salary, they are only hurting themselves in my opinion by working more than the person next to them who leaves at 4:30pm and gets paid the same. Trust me – I’ve worked the corporate job and had an endless supply of “busy work.” There will always be work. How is it fair to work extra time when you know that the company really should just hire more bodies? Have you had a team member in college who never showed up and you had to pick up their slack? If so, you were probably pretty pissed. I know I was!
Let me address all of your points…
1) “Learning and skill-gain associated with taking on additional and challenging work;”
I’m all for learning. Especially when you’re getting to do challenging work. My main concern is that sometimes you’re stuck doing busy work that is not fun, nor challenging. Or maybe it is challenging because it’s so ridiculous and unnecessary that the project is turning something into rocket science.
2) “long-term benefits to your career through gradual progression, experience and networking, and new opportunities by impressing the people you work with or getting their recommendation when you take a better opportunity;”
Check out a book I recommend called “The Millionaire Fastlane.” Millionaires are not typically made through rising up the corporate ladder over 50 years. Experience and networking are great, but you don’t need to spend 20 years to work your way up to a “Director” role when you can build scalable businesses or side-hustles today.
If you want a recommendation, do you really think someone will say “gee, I don’t know, Chris left at 5pm every day instead of staying with me until 8pm” ? I doubt it. They’ll say “gosh, Chris was so efficient. He did stuff in minutes that took others hours. No wonder he got it all done in a work day!”
3) helping out your team if they may desperately need it.
I’m all for going the extra mile here or there. But if it’s consistent, I’ll be asking that we hire a few key people instead of trying to do 3 people’s jobs. I’ve worked oil & gas during a downturn. I saw where 1 person would have to do all the tasks that 3 people used to do while getting a freeze on pay raises and no bonuses. What’s the incentive here? Oh, don’t forget no new training since we’re cutting costs!
Much love! Apologies if I came off too selfish 😉