The refrain of the last few financial posts should be: Regular wage increases are not the solution to the problem of debt; control of spending is the only way out. What an increased income provides is a speedy way to get toward where you are aiming, but whether you’re pointed at increased or decreased debt has everything to do with your habits and your will power. If the take home message is that we shouldn’t worry as much about increasing revenue as we should about decreasing spending, then what was the purpose of all of these posts about increasing your regular wages? The system of these posts is guided by attacking our budget from largest factor to smallest factor, which means that, assuming your budget balances, your income is going to be the largest portion of the equation.
I have had three major influences in my own personal financial research, Mr. Money Mustache, Dave Ramsey, and Strike Debt. While Mr. Money Mustache and Dave Ramsey focus mostly on the personal responsibility for your financial well-being, Strike Debt focuses on how policy and power structures either enable or disable your ability to stay out of debt. I prefer to take the broad spectrum approach, because the problem of debt involves both personal and corporate responsibility.
If we do not win the head game and become personally responsible in all aspects of our lives, it wouldn’t matter whether we’re in a socioeconomic utopia or surrounded by leeches who bleed us dry; in all circumstances, irresponsible people will lose their money. When it comes to personal responsibility we have already dealt with the obvious routes toward making more money — getting a raise, getting a promotion, and getting a higher paying job. Clearly, there are other issues here that we didn’t spend any time on like transitioning from temporary employment to permanent employment, moving from part time employment to full time employment, and keeping a job once you have it. I didn’t feel like I personally had any insight regarding these issues, but I would love to give a signal boost to anyone who is interested in tackling these issues. I welcome guest posts and I will liberally share your blog posts if you send them my way.
Whereas personal economic responsibility is often limited by current practices and laws, our corporate responsibility for our debt reaches above and beyond policy and procedures. In other words, once you have reached the end of your possibilities for economic growth you need to focus on opening up other possibilities. If we created a community based on economic responsibility, the assumption is that the ground would be fertile for people to succeed. There is also the dangerously irresponsible individual that I mentioned above who will always be a hazard in any society, but those people are less common in an environment where people are concerned with the economic well-being of all of their neighbors. When you’re surrounded by people who are making the right decisions, you make the right decisions on accident. To create this world, we have to create a system that assures that everybody has acquired certain basic needs, that enables higher earning for lower and middle class families, and that eliminates the predatory practices that tend to enslave the many to the whims of the few. Our focus for discussing the kind of actions that aim to change policy was the Fight for $15 and expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), but these are clearly only the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to fixing what is wrong with our community, the only things setting limits on us are our collective imagination and our collective passion.
To wrap up the topic of increasing your regular rate of pay, I wanted to shift from the quantitative issues of more income and less spending to some qualitative issues that come up every single day as our workplaces define our lives. I want to talk about turning our time at work into quality time.
The most common phrases regarding employment are “working for the weekend,” or “It’s five o’clock somewhere,” but if we were satisfied by what goes on while we are on the clock we would say much stranger things like “working for the week,” or “it is always now here.” What these sentiments sum up are that we currently want to speed up time while we are at work while slowing down time when we are free from our labors. There are few things I can think of that are more disgusting than wishing that you could just throw away eight hours each day, looking toward the clock hoping it might be over soon, or that time with the family is tainted by degrees as the amount of hours until you’re back at work tick down. For the sake of our collective sanity, I think we ought to find a way to eliminate this anxiety by being present to what we’re doing at all times and getting to a point where we are no longer concerned with the passage of time. These worries are stealing years from our lives, and that’s just not something that we can afford to lose.
The easiest step toward adding value to your work life is to build up your relationships with your co-workers. Even if you continue to view your job as intolerable, your co-workers at the very least are the people who suffer through it all with you. Get to know the people around you. Find some common ground. Whatever you think is so important in your own head is probably not quite as important as the random value that another person can add to your life. This is probably really easy for most people, but it isn’t for me. I can be loud and over-the-top, but all of this is just a coping mechanism for an introvert who is constantly forced into social situations. While you’re learning to love your co-workers not as lovers, friends, or relatives, but as co-workers — which I think is an important and overlooked type of love — you can join together and determine how you can add value to your work life in other ways. Through some combination of personal pride, entertainment, challenge, and probably a lot of other factors that aren’t immediately coming to my mind, the goal is to enjoy even the most mundane facets of your job.
The best model for determining whether or not your job provides everything you need is asking yourself whether you would still work there in the event that you no longer needed the money. If you had enough money to retire tomorrow, would you still work for your current employer? If not, where would you be working? If so, are there any things that you would do differently? There are plenty of reasons to leave your job for something else. Maybe you need more money, maybe you need to live closer to home, maybe you need better hours, but have you ever considered what your life would be like if you loved every moment of your day whether you’re at work or at home or off somewhere spending your money?
There is still plenty to study pertaining to the paycheck, and I hope the other portions of the breakdown might end up as enlightening as the search for a higher wage has been for me. At the very least, I got to spend some time reading some interesting bills, rulings, and speeches surrounding Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the New Deal, and the establishment of the first federal minimum wage. I didn’t expect to touch on any of these issues when we started down this path. As I focus on moving forward, I may throw in some more quality of life posts as I focus on transitioning toward making my passion (writing) into a career. Wherever we go, I want you to come with me. I appreciate all of the people who contributed their two cents and helped direct our studies. I hope those of you who really got involved will stick around and I hope that we can stir up some more interest with some of the other interesting people who surround us.
Your homework for the next post: What are your feelings on overtime? Do you wish you had more of it? Less of it? Do you wish you got paid more for it? Taxed less for it? Can you think of any issues regarding overtime that might be interesting to talk about?