A Reply to Money and Family

Well as I get back into work I’m using my lunch break to finally get caught up on my blog reading.  Then I found this great post from FT called Cats in the Cradle, Money and Family which just cried out for a entire reply post.

Beyond being an excellent post the one thing that made my jaw drop is that FT spends at least 70 hours a week working between his day job and an online venture.  Before kids, ok it is your life, do what you want.  After kids, FT I have to ask, are you CRAZY?!?!

Speaking as a father of two myself I can’t imagine spending that much time on work related tasks.  First a little math to show how insane this is.  First off a 7 day week has 168 hours in it.  Take off at least 6 hours a day for sleeping and that leaves 126 hours a week.  Then using FT’s minimum of 70 hours means FT is spending 55% of his waking hours working (and that is not assuming a lot of sleep either).

I work 37.5 hours a week and even if you include all the time I spend on this blog writing I would guess I spend less than 45 hours a week doing anything that resembles work.  The rest of my time is mine and I defend it rather strongly.  I hate overtime and only do the bare amount required when I’m know a we are facing a tight deadline.

Perhaps my views come from my own father who is currently wrapping up his career at the ripe old age of 57.  He spend most of his working career putting his family ahead of his career.  He could have easily been a VP of his company years ago, but he didn’t want that.  It was too much time for the pay and even now he is going to retire early soon to spend more time with his grandchildren.  I grew up in a house where family is first and there really isn’t any idea of putting money ahead of family.  Money is only a tool and if my father can put his family first and still retire at 57 why can’t I put my family first and do it at 45 with a little smart planning?

I’ve also watched other people his age working.  They gave it all to their jobs and frankly aren’t much further ahead financially speaking.  It’s a devil of a deal.  You don’t have to work 20 hours a week in overtime to get ahead.  Because often getting ahead means a ‘good house’ (read big with high taxes) and two vehicles because they have no time together with their family to drive anywhere.  Then people feel guilty and they take their kids on nice trips and get them cool toys in an effort to replace their presence with stuff.  People like this end of poor in the things that matter most: love and happiness and don’t have a lot of extra money, just stuff.

I love my kids.  They are amazing expressions of the world of life.  They are happy, resilient and loved.  They know without a doubt they are the most important things in my world (right after my wife).  I won’t give up enjoying watching them grow for a mountain of gold so why would I cheapen that expression by putting in more time to do a job than is required.

It’s not to say you can’t do a good job and still have a family life.  The trick is to work smarter and not harder on things.  Do what matters most and let the little stuff slide.  Replying to ‘thanks’ emails is a waste of time so don’t bother.  Return the important calls first and then put together a pile of little stuff to discuss with others all at once.

So in the end I propose this.  If FT was questioning the amount of time he worked, I suspect he already knows the answer that he should face.  You are working too much.  It’s time to cut back.  Life is about living, despite all our writing about money, it’s just paper with ink on it.

19 thoughts on “A Reply to Money and Family”

  1. It’s very enjoyable whenever you get impassioned in your writing Tim. I posted on FT’s site that my dad was similar to your own – prioritized family, worked no more than 40 hours and despite his prime years working in an abysmal economy still retired early. It’s definitely possible. I do struggle with following his example, but of course can do so now as I don’t have kids yet. But thanks to blogs like this one, Jacob’s, etc I am getting there mentally and trying to make some changes.

    Great post mate – bookmarked!

  2. Great post, Tim and a great discussion started by FT on MDJ. I was going to reply there, but the comments were stale by the time I had time to write my thoughts, so I will write them here.

    As Tim says, there are only so many hours in the day, the question is what we do with them. About half of our weekly hours are consumed doing things we have little choice doing, sleeping, eating, bathroom, chores, etc. What we do with the rest of the time is for us to choose.

    Time is Money, so the object is to get the money you need in life with the least amount of time invested so that you can put the rest toward the things that truly do matter in life: family and enjoying your life. Work is a means to an end, not the ends itself, and I have run across far too many people in my career that have forgotten this and have put their job as #1 in their lives: spending time at the office after hours socializing more than working. The workplace becomes their family and they neglect the one they left at home. I have worked with people who spend 70-80+ hours per week at the office, week in and week out for little more recognition and financial reward than I received for my 40.

    I have worked very hard to achieve what I have in my career, but I have not done it at the expense of my family time. As the old adage goes: Work smarter, not harder. It’s amazing what you can achieve in 35-40 hours when you know you must have it all done within those 40 hours. Once I am home, my energy is invested in my family. Only once they are asleep in the evening does my computer time begin.

    There are precious few who, on their death bed, wished they had worked more. Take it to heart.

  3. Guiness,

    I think everyone struggles at some points. I know I have an offer from work about switching me from banked overtime to salary with bonus (but no overtime). I’m struggling about to take it or not. I get a better pension, bonus plan and then a leave with pay every year between Christmas and New Year’s (basically an extra week of vacation) if I got to no banked time. I’m seriously considering it, but I’m concerned about the impact on my family if work starts to abuse the shift.

    Thanks for the comments everyone!


  4. It will have a lot to do with your corporate culture amongst those on salary. Are they often still sitting at their desks after the hourlies have gone home? Are they coming in on weekends to catch up on piles of paperwork? Could be a bad sign… once you are salary, getting extra work from you becomes as easy as putting more paper on your desk and giving you the “you better get this all done or you’re in trouble” look.

    I’ve worked in places that had a great culture where people work extra hours only during crunch times and I have also worked at places where the salaried staff work 60+ hours per week and the workload never seems to diminish.

    I distinctly recall at a past job, I was hourly and my co-worker left and I was given both jobs to do in the interim. After racking up a lot of overtime on my first paycheque, my employer came to me, shook my hand and “congratulated” me that I was now on salary, would receive a 3% raise, and to keep up the good work! “Oh, and we haven’t decided whether we’re going to replace your co-worker yet, so you’ll have to keep working both jobs.” I couldn’t believe they had the guts to try and sell it to me as a good thing!

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  6. Sarlock,

    Actually the culture as a whole isn’t bad as a whole. It’s my direct supervisor who I would be concerned about. He is always in at the crack of dawn and then the last to leave.

    He makes the odd crack about us not being around that much, but at the same time he knows we will help when the really need it.

    In the end I’m going to wait and see the exact offer before I decide. I did some rough math with a few assumptions and it came out I would have to put one hour of overtime every day for a year to be better off as a hourly rather than salary. If that happened I would likely be looking for a new job anyways. I don’t do excessive overtime. I did it once for a job and have vowed to never do it again.


  7. I don’t think it’s fair to criticize FT for working 70 hours a week when a good chunk of that time is spent on his blog. A blog is not a job but rather a hobby (even if you are trying to make money at it).

    There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about something!


  8. Mike,

    Let’s turn the tables then. How much time do you work on your blog? Take that and add it to your job. Are you near 70 hours? Likely not.

    I’m trying to point out that excessive time on anything one thing is not a great idea when you have small children. Even your hobbies.

    Passion about something is fine. I’m just saying we need to watch about getting carried away.


  9. I probably spend about 60 hours per week and work + blog. Of course that has all changed now that #2 is here.

    You’re right that 70 hours is excessive but on the other hand, there is only so much you can do with a three month old. As the child gets older and maybe gets a sibling then the situation will “correct” itself and FT will not be spending that much time working. 🙂


  10. Mike,

    Ya, tell me about it. What is it with two kids that just sucks up so much more time?

    Mmm, it depends on your level of interest in your young baby. I know I spend a fair amount of time with our youngest already at two months, at the same time I can respect that as they get older they are more fun to play with.

    I also think it partly how you treat your blog. Mine is firmly in the hobby only section of my life. I do what I can when I can within a specific time frame. So some ideas sit in limbo for months before being acted on.

    Really I know it is to each your own, but I think if your lower end is 70 hours a week you might want to look at your work-hobby-rest of life balance.


  11. Great insight. I always believe that family will always come first. Money and other material possessions will be worth nothing if one does not have a family to share them with.

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