What’s the saying, hindsight is always 20/20? I wish I had a better understanding and appreciation of money when I was working 75 hours a week in my mid-twenties — no reason to get alarmed. I signed up for it.
I was a year or two out of college and had yet to land a steady full-time job. With no prospective jobs in sight, I went back to a part-time teaching assistant position at my former high school I had held during my college years. I was able to negotiate an increase in hours since I had no other obligations but had to stay under forty hours. So seven hours a day, 7:30 am-2:30 pm, five days a week it was for a total of thirty-five hours a week. The school year in New York runs September through June.
Thirty-five hour a week with no benefits wasn’t ideal, but I was living with family, and my overhead was pretty low. Six weeks after accepting this part-time gig a college friend called me with a full-time opportunity in my chosen career field. He told me to send over my resume, and he’d submit it with a recommendation.
I explained I didn’t want to leave the high school at this point in the school year because it would be tough for them to find a replacement. He understood that, and it would be okay because the company was looking to fill mid and overnight shifts.
Would I be willing to work two jobs to get my foot in the door of a larger local company? I agreed and had him submit my resume.
The interview couldn’t have gone smoother. I just hit it off with the hiring manager. So much so we go into a personal discussion about his ex-wife. I don’t recall the details, but anytime I would see him we’d share a laugh. Needless to say, I got the job and was hired for the mid-shirt working from 4 pm to midnight.
An interesting wrinkle to this job was the days off rotated each week. Week one if I had Monday and Tuesday off, week two I would have Tuesday and Wednesday off, week three Wednesday, and Thursday, and so no.
So I very quickly began work from 7:30 am to midnight each day. I would not have a full day off until there was a school holiday and one of my days off from my mid-shift job fell on the same day or my days off from my mid-shift job rotated around to a Saturday or Sunday when school wasn’t in session.
That didn’t matter. I was twenty-four years old, single, and had very little financial overhead. I didn’t have anyone else to worry about but myself.
I wish I knew that working 75 hours a week could be a financial blessing for my future family and me. Instead, I did what most naive money people do I went full YOLO and lived beyond my means.
Never Had a Goal for My Money
When I share this story, and I often do. One of the keys things I point out is my lack of financial goals. Now as a twenty-something-year-old, that might not sound that unfamiliar. Early in life, we are trying to figure things out.
I knew I wanted to meet a woman, settle down, get married, and start a family. So I had some board brush strokes goals laid out. I just never connected the financial piece of it. I figure to meet those goals I need to go out often, look nice, and meet new people to try to increase my odds of accomplishing those goals.
This including spending a lot of money on food, drinks, clothes, entertainment, etc. Which is what I would expect most twenty-something-year-old would be spending on, but without a plan or goals around it, even with limited time while working 75 hours a week, I couldn’t out-earn my spending.
I Deserve it, and I Work Hard Mentality
One of the other significant factors in working as many hours as I did for a year and not having any saving to show for it was I fell into the I deserve it; I work hard mentality. I fell into this trap big time.
I was eating almost every lunch and dinner out. Yes, I was busy running between two jobs, but with a bit of planning, I could have done a better job to eat healthier and save some money.
I recall after a stressful week at work, capped with having to work on my Birthday I purchased a new video game system, a few games, controllers, etc. in excess of $500 for myself. Now between my work schedule, social life, sleep, etc. I didn’t have much time to play at that point, and the system collected dust. It was more of a pity purchase at that time.
I justified spending my money on things I didn’t need but telling myself I work hard, and I deserve to buy these things. That’s never a good reason. I wish I understood value-based spending better at that point in my life.
Advice and Education
I don’t recall reading much immediately after college. It was almost as if I have obtained my degree and my learning stopped for some time or maybe I was too stubborn to ask for help, advice or even seek some on my own.
Sure I was keeping a busy schedule working 75 hours a week, but boy I should have at least popped my head out of the sand for a few minutes. I just skipped along following the herd, never really asking any family, friends, co-workers if I should be doing anything differently.
That was a mistake because maybe seeking some advice or reading a book may have sparked an idea or taken me down a slightly different path. I’m sure there were others around me who had experiences or failures that I could have learned from, I was just unwilling to listen.
So that’s my story how working 75 hours a week for a year didn’t teach me a thing. It was more about me and not about the work. You have to be willing to open to new ideas and change at an early age to be successful. Your youth is your advantage.
I finished the school year in June and reduced my hours to forty with my single mid-shift job. Shortly after that I was recognized by my manager and promoted to a new ground level position. I moved to days, and my salary double. I stayed with the company for over twenty years, build a department, increased my salary to over six-figures, and met some great people.
So no real financial nuggets even while working 75 hours a week, but the hard work did pay off in the end. I would not trade the long hours and experience of the two jobs, because I enjoyed teaching others, and I made a career out of my mid-shift position. I wish I could have made better use of my second income and set myself up for some early financial success.
Have you ever worked hard or put in long hours and had nothing to show for it? What early mistakes have you made and wish you could have a do-over?
Brian is a Dad, husband, and an IT professional by trade. A Personal Finance Blogger since 2013. Who, with his family, has successfully paid off over $100K worth of consumer debt. Now that Brian is debt free, his mission is to help his three children prepare for their financial lives and educate others to achieved financial success. Brian is involved in his local community. As a Financial Committee Chair with the Board of Education of his local school district, he has helped successfully launch a K-12 financial literacy program in a six thousand student district.