Addicted to Income Part II

This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and works as a financial adviser. He is married, has three kids and plans to retire at age 35.  Robert and his wife then plan to return to school and become teachers, eventually living and working overseas.

We had some friends over on Saturday and, while our kids played on the playground, we chatted. Money doesn’t come up often in conversation, as a topic, but it seems to lurk behind a lot of the decisions we make. Our friends explained a choice they’ve made that tells us they’re addicted to income.

She stays home with the kids, while her husband works as a teacher. Teachers in Alberta make a very good income, but he works long hours, doing extra-curricular activities and coaching. The benefit, of course, is the two months vacation during the summer. I can only assume that his monthly income covers all (and just) their monthly living expenses.

But because of his ability, he works as a tour guide, away from his family, for five weeks in the summer. And they explained that the income is really nice. Each year, they’ve been able to complete a project on their house, using the extra income from the extra five weeks of work. There is nothing wrong with working a second job, or doing extra work for extra income. That can make a lot of economic sense.

But they said that those five weeks are really hard. It’s hard for the family to be apart and it’s hard for him to leave for five weeks each year. From the way they talked, I got the the distinct impression that they’d rather not do it again. “But,” they added, “the money sure is nice.”

And that’s when I realized that, to some extent, they’re addicted to the income. They are making choices that don’t feel right, choosing to do something they’d rather not, just for the money. Without discipline, our spending will always expand to use all available income. Living on much less than I earn has helped me to maintain my spending discipline and not get addicted to income.

Have you been addicted to income? Have you made a choice you’d rather not, just for the money?

5 thoughts on “Addicted to Income Part II”

  1. You imply that your friend was making enough just on his teaching salary, which might – or might not- be the case. For me, the teaching salary wasn’t enough. When we had to go into our meager savings to pay for groceries, it was a signal to get a higher paying job or get a second job (the kids were too young for both of us to work outside of the house – ad my wife was in grad school).

    So I got into puppetry. Worked lots of weekends and much traveling during the summer, but it did the trick. It eased a lot of financial stress in the house despite the added juggling of schedules.

    And, yes, the money sure was nice.

  2. Banjo Steve, You’re right to point out that I can’t possibly know the complexities of my friends’ complete financial situation based on a single anecdote. But it caused me to question, for myself: can I tell the difference between wants and needs? and Am I giving up things that are more important to me (that I can’t buy) so that I can get more money?

    In your case, I’m sure you were struggling to make ends meet. I think it’s heroic for a person to sacrifice long hours and hard work to ensure his family is looked after. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. Not really a direct comment on your theme, but as a rural teacher I sometimes can’t but feel sorry for my more urban counterparts. I am a teacher in Manitoba and make a pretty decent income. My wife is just finishing up her education degree as well. When I compare my standard of living and ability to save money with that of my friends who chose to live in an urban area it is not even close. Our union negotiates similar wages (mine are a little lower), but the living situation gives me such a head start. I am so fortunate that I vastly prefer country living!

  4. I wonder if your friends are needing the extra income because they have enough debt that they can’t save based on one income alone? As mentioned we have no way of knowing; but I find that people who take on one or more extra jobs are often doing it to keep up with debt payments more than to get further ahead if they’re already debt-free.

  5. Shaun, Debt can definitely have that effect. The sad part is that it’s a long-term commitment, so working that second job could last years without really “getting ahead.” That’s a distinction between addicted to income (I could quit, I just don’t want to) and enslaved to debt (I have no choice if I’m going to meet my obligations). I guess that’s why Tim and Dave are always so focused on getting out of debt as quickly as possible.

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