Budgeting / Credit Cards and Debt / Personal Finance

Fix Your Finances in 30 Days

Day 6: Your True Hourly Wage

Two days ago, we determined your true annual salary. Yesterday, we determined the number of hours you truly work in a year. Today, we combine the two numbers – and consider what exactly that means about you, your employment, and your time usage.

Are you ready for the big calculation? Take the total salary you calculated two days ago and divide it by the total hours you calculated yesterday. You’re going to be left with a number that you’re going to have to ponder quite a bit.

This number is how much you actually bring home each hour you do something for your employment. For some of you, this number is going to be shockingly low. There are many seemingly decent-paying jobs that wind up with an hourly wage below minimum wage when looked at in this fashion. For example, if you come up with an hourly wage below minimum wage and you spend 60 hours a week involved in work activities, you might actually be better off working at Home Depot with a much lower responsibility and stress threshold.

Many of you might balk at the Home Depot idea, but hear me out. A relative (and friend) of mine walked away from a situation where she was making between $40,000 and $50,000 a year to take a job working the floor at a local Home Depot for $9 an hour. She worked forty hours a week, rode public transportation to and from work, and came home from her job without the baggage of additional stress. What happened? She was reinvigorated to follow her passions. What about her finances? Without all of the extra costs of her job, she was only slightly worse off than before, plus with the extra energy to follow her interests, she actually wound up doing better than before within six months.

Spend some time considering what this number actually means. There are a lot of truths about our lives that are revealed by this number.

If you buy a frivolous item for $X, consider how many hours you had to work to have the money to buy it. Let’s say you calculated that you are actually earning $5 for each hour of your time invested in work. When you go to buy a new pair of shoes that cost $80, look at them and ask yourself whether or not they’re worth 16 hours of your time spent working. When you go to buy a new electronic gadget for $300, look at it and ask yourself whether or not it’s worth 60 hours of your time spent doing things you don’t want to do.

When you pay a loan bill, figure out how many hours you have to work just to pay for the finance charges or interest. I find this one to be a real eye-opener. Whenever you pay a bill, look at the amount you’re paying in finance charges or interest that month, then convert it to hours of your life spent at work. With the example above, a $100 finance charge amounts to twenty hours of work just so you could have some frivolous item before you could actually pay for it.

Some people consider this exercise frightening; others find it incredibly uplifting. The maxim that time is money is painfully true; by translating the things you spend money on directly into hours of your life spent toiling in labor, you often discover that maybe you don’t need a lot of things after all. When you start doing that… well, that’s tomorrow’s exercise.

Ready? Let’s continue on to the next day.