Your Money or Your Life: Rid yourself of that pesky job, and with it, your cleaning person, childcare, new clothes, waxes, manicures, cars, vacations . . .

Standard

According to the New York Times, which is now adding its own dent to our pocketbooks by letting me read this article, a new study on economic stability says “many jobs today are unlikely to cover fundamentals like housing, utilities and food.” The article notes: “The report compares its standards against national median incomes derived from the census, and finds that . . . workers who have only a high school diploma or only some college earn median wages that fall well below the amount needed to ensure economic security” compared to those with 4-year college degrees. Apparently, those with more than 4 years of college are also not doing so well economically. You know our income. Now let’s look at how much we’re supposed to be earning to cover basic annual household expenses:

(Lots to be said about this data, like the housing that costs $9852. If you are in the NY area, and you are renting, and you are paying $9852 for housing for the year, you should never ever ever leave your home, and if possible, you should will it to your children and their children and their children. And if you own, and your taxes alone are lower than this number, you must live in a secret home underground, like the Invisible Man.

In the other direction, it’s also interesting that transportation costs $12,228/year. I’m guessing mega-SUVs have become basic annual expenses. “Are you sure my check bounced? Hang on a sec. I might have some food stamps in my Escalade that will cover the cost.”)

How are WE doing? My own family of 5 is not on here (don’t they know that 3 is the new 2??), but let’s imagine the magic number for 2 working parents and 3 young children is somewhere above the $70K mark.

Oh, wait, LUCKY ME!, I’m unemployed. THIS chart is for WORKERS.

Maybe we would all have more money if we just stopped working.

It’s been a while since I last worked. By now, I should be rich!

After all, if I’m not working: I don’t need childcare (yay! I get to be with my kids 24/7! Yay! I even get company in the bathroom 99% of the time. A shower without a kid coming into our one bathroom to poo? How BORING). I don’t need a cleaning person (I’m so glad I spent a few hundred years working on my PhD! Maybe I can use my diploma as a shmata to scrub down my toilet). And I don’t need transportation (I’ll just stay home, jumping in and out of the shower to wipe poo, and then to scrub my toilet. By “I’ll stay home,” I guess I mean I’ll stay in my bathroom).

The New York Times isn’t quite saying that–but the classic personal finance book, Your Money or Your Life, is.

The premise of the book is that working rarely makes you much money, especially if you take into account all the costs involved in supporting a job, many of which are listed on the New York Times chart: transportation, childcare, clothing, grooming, housecleaning, lunches out, etc etc. The book, in fact, makes you calculate your “real” salary. Not only do you run your costs of working against your salary, but you also calculate your “real” hourly wage–in addition to the hours spent at work, you put in the hours spent commuting, the hours preparing, the hours buying appropriate clothes, worrying about a job issue, taking vacations because you’re stressed about work . . . When you do the math, you’re supposed to discover that your “real” number of hours of work per week is not 40 or 50 but 100 or 120 or more, your hourly wage is something like $4/hour if anything, and you are spending more money on the expenses of your job than you’re making at your (measly $4/hour) job. So: quit. Go do something you’re passionate about. Go hang out with your family. Paint. Cook gourmet food. Live on the beach. Read a few novels.

Literature! That’s my passion! I should pursue that. Oh wait. I did. That got me far!.

Admittedly, I haven’t finished the book. But that seems to be where Joe Dominguez–the author who retired at 31 (what did he do after that? other than scrub his toilet, of course)–is heading.

And I must tell you: I’m not convinced.


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6 responses »

  1. Awesome post, PP! For me at least part-time child care is a basic necessity whether or not I’ve got a job. I think I once mentioned to you Julia Ward Howe’s disparagement of full-time childrearing as “soul-deadening servitude” (them’s fighting words from an abolitionist).

    I recall (from at least ten years ago when I read the book) that Dominguez felt trapped in a job he hated. As someone who quit a well-paying job with no prospects for employment in a tanked economy, I sympathize with his argument. But I agree with you on this point: being engaged in the work you love is the major source of personal dignity in our society.

    This all puts me in mind of George Orwell’s major criticism of Dickens. Orwell notes that Dickens has no concept of the human need for work. His happy novels all end with the protagonist never having to work again. His vision of complete happiness is the static domestic sphere– full-time childrearing and reading of novels. Orwell points out that Dickens never presents a character driven to work, driven to do a thing so passionately that he or she will pursue it “even if it means starvation.”

    I think Orwell is talking of the Job/work distinction. Jobs suck. Work gives us dignity.

    • Yes, he keeps calling jobs “making a dying”–so not how I feel about my work (which I sometimes want to call “work”–partly because there’s so little pay, partly because I often enjoy it too much to think of it as work).

  2. All I wonder about that book you cite from is whether, when he wrote it, the guy had a partner and/or kids. And, if so, who was it who wasn’t working while he sat at his desk and wrote about how important it is to follow your passion. Or rather, who was working while he was writing about not working. Is that cynical of me? More and more I am reminded of that old essay from the Friedan-era 70s, “I want a wife.”

  3. Pingback: Living to Make a Living « The Poor Princess Diaries

  4. Pingback: Double Income Royalty « The Poor Princess Diaries

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