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Money is Something We Trade Our Life Energy For

Jason’s job search continues. He had a surprise interview this past week and we have our fingers crossed that they offer him the position. But when discussing the particulars of that one job, I started thinking about the hidden costs to that position.

Almost two decades ago, I read the book Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. That book led to the quick annihilation of my student loans, credit card debt, and the realization that we only needed one car in our family. Fast-forward and we are in another debt-ridden financial situation due to two graduate degrees, a car loan (still only one car!), and owning a home.

The book emphasizes the fact that “money is something we choose to trade our life energy for… You ‘pay’ for money with your time.” We only have so much time left in our lives, so how do you want to spend it? Since we often need to earn money, a significant amount of time is spent working for money. A lot of people over-simplify the calculation of how much they earn and hour. For example, if you earn $600 per week and you work 40 hours a week, you trade one hour of your life energy for $15.

But the book encourages you to look closer at the true costs of working in that position. What are the expenses that are related to that exact job? Depending on what you do and were it is located, there can be increased costs in commuting, costuming, meals, escape entertainment (special vacations or expensive playthings), etc. Upon deducting those additional expenses, you may discover that your job really only pays $8 an hour! Is it worth it?

I started thinking about these added expenses when Jason starting talking about this potential job in Middleton. We would have to buy a second car, there would be increased gas costs, plus it is in a business-like setting and he would need to purchase appropriate clothing. Now that we know our monthly expenses, our savings goals, and the potential increased costs of the new position, we have a better concept of the amount of remuneration that is needed to make this position worthwhile over the long term. If they cannot meet this amount, then it might not be the right job for him!


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Life is short. Breaking down earnings and costs to an hourly level is a pretty potent way to assess a job and one's "life energy." It's a bit scary though. It's easier to do with the kids and break down what they want to buy versus how many months of allowance it will take to pay for it. I hope Jason finds something that meets his quality of life needs.

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