Thursday, December 8, 2016

Cash Money

My grandma asked me this week if I am going to return to work.  I came up with an answer, but I don't know that the answer I gave entirely satisfies me.  I told her that I don't really intend to return to work, which is true in the short term, but the conundrum of what to do with my life is a thorny one.

There are two reasons to work.  First off is money, but secondly is the structure that works brings to life.  Sometimes having lots to do and many hours scheduled keeps me doing things instead of just sitting around.  I get a lot more productive when I have to be!  I don't think that actually would improve my life overall though because it would certainly increase my stress and it would be hard on Wendy.  Our life right now relies on me being able to just handle everything that she doesn't want to handle and our schedule is based quite substantially on me being home.  We don't have to worry about who will cook or do dishes or how we will get to the library in time.  I just do it, and that relieves so much tension.

To figure out if the money from working would make me want to go back to it I need to sort out exactly what I would buy with that money.  Our savings are ticking up these days at a rate that makes me comfortable, but we certainly aren't rich.  We don't have financial worries, but we also have to live frugally to achieve this.  So what would me earning 60k a year bring us?

A lot of that money would get soaked up by work costs and taxes.  Some costs are direct, like buying work clothes and transportation, but other costs creep in.  We would end up eating out more, paying people to do stuff for us, and maybe forking over money to keep Elli entertained and taken care of while work was happening.  Consider all that, and the actual net benefit is probably in the 30k / year range.

The thing I most want to buy is a bigger condo.  For 240k we could upgrade ourselves to the big units at the top of our building, which have a better layout, double the living room space (so we could actually entertain more than 3 guests at a time....), bigger kitchen, an office... it would be glorious.

But 240k is 8 years of work.  It does last a lifetime, but because there are greater taxes associated I should probably budget more like 300k, which pushes it up to 10 years of work.

10 years.  That is a LOT of selling beds.  Or writing code, or interfacing between coders and clients, or whatever it is I end up doing.  I have another 50 years ahead of me, and I am not at all convinced I want to spend 20% of it in a giant ball of stress trying to save up for a bigger condo.

The only other thing I can think of that I really want to buy but am hesitant to pay for it tattooes.  If I could get thoroughly inked up without having to worry about money I would, but when I think of an elaborate tattoo that costs 10k and then consider it would take 4 months of work to earn, I can't justify the expense.  I would rather just have my own plain boring skin than put in 4 months at a job.

When Elli moves out these values may change.  My need for space will go down, but my desire for more stuff to do and more structure will no doubt go up.  Also the stressors on Wendy will drop dramatically and the need for me to be home will be less.

So while working again is possible, right now I do the math and it just doesn't seem like the thing to do.  Maybe someday I will have the opportunity to do something I love which is worth it for its own sake, but as long as work is work it seems like my place right now is at home.


  1. Some other variables/thoughts:

    - Elli quality of life...presumably there is some value that is unlocked by a larger living space, especially as she gets older.

    - Optimally, work is so much fun that you'd do it for free, but that's relatively rare. But given you have choices, it's also unlikely you'll do work that is no fun at all. I never planned on writing a municipal licensing system, but it turns out that building something and making it better, solving problems that others can't solve, and making users happy is all pretty satisfying. You may find your life enriched by work in ways you don't expect.

    - On that theme, increased exposure to the world has benefits. The Internet helps, but it's a bit less "real" in terms of engagement and being well-rounded.

    - Part-time work may be optimal. When I was a 3-day a week contractor, it was really good (which I knew at the time).

    - Work is probably bad for your health. More stress, more pressure, less time to work out and take care of yourself. This is hitting home for me more now than it would before as I don't have time to prioritize doing physio, staying fit, etc.

    - What's your back-up plan if Wendy suddenly can't work? Staying in the game helps, though this scenario is unlikely so may not be too relevant.

    - As someone who is also very frugal, but is now less so, it feels really good to be so comfortable with your financial situation that you can splurge on other people and give some away.

    - Spending 10K on tattoos is ridiculous.

    1. People spend 100k on cars to look cool. A tattoo lasts longer!

      If Wendy can't work then I work, easy. I have the advantages of immense privilege, education, and I know tons of people in positions in companies that can get me an in if I need to work all of a sudden. Also I can always just go sell beds and make a living, they always want reliable people who put up good numbers.

      As far as exposure and well roundedness goes, you are right. That is partly why I volunteer. It gets me out doing things and meeting people that are outside my usual bubble. Very similar to working, in that way.

  2. There's another reason to work, although it might not apply to you: to do the job for its own sake. Not for the money or the structure (or not solely) but to actually undertake that endeavor. A pastry chef might work in a bakery because they like to create something others appreciate, or an IT developer might write code so that their clients have an easier time doing what they do, or a teacher might teach because they enjoy seeing when students "get it".
    Taken to an extreme, a job can be a calling. I practice public interest law as a calling. I viewed my (unpaid) political work in the same way.

    You may see your current unpaid job as a homemaker as a necessity for the lifestyle you and your family want, but also at least partly as a calling... something you're driven to do from a values standpoint.

    I haven't heard you express any role or task as a calling, though, so my comments may be entirely moot.

  3. You may find that continuing to broaden your volunteer efforts in the community would provide some of that structure and involvement in the world, outside your home,w without the stress and rigidity of paid work. There's certainly no shortage of great causes and good people who could benefit from your skills, experience and volunteer labour!