Working 75 Full-time Hours Per Week and Nothing to Show For It

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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 full-time hours per week in my mid-twenties — no reason to get alarmed or contact the department of labor. I signed up for it.

I was just 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 a forty-hour workweek. My hours of work were 7:30 am-2:30 pm, seven hours a day, five days a week, for total hours, worked at thirty-five. The school year in New York runs September through June.

Thirty-five hours 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 was and had my friend submit my resume.

The human resource department was impressed with my resume, and friend’s recommendation that they sent me directly to the hiring manager. 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-shift working from 4 pm to midnight, for an additional eight hours a day.

An interesting wrinkle to this job was the days off rotated each week. So as an example 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 to work from 7:30 am to midnight each during the workweek Monday to Friday. I would not have a full day off until there was a school holiday, (no holiday pay) 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 rotation occurred every five weeks. If I ever felt like I was overworked, or burnout as least I could catch up with some sleep on the weekends.

Work-life balance or time off 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 per week could be a financial blessing for my future family and me. Instead, I did what most naive 20-something year old would do. I went full YOLO and lived beyond my means.

Hours per week

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. This 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.

It was undoubtedly a missed opportunity. Even if I had saved five or ten percent of my 75-hour income, I would have been in much better shape for my future.

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 savings 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 of eating 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 per 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 others around me 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 per 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. If I could go back in time, I would change that, but unfortunately, I can’t. So I share this story to hopefully spark an interest in someone not to follow the path I did. 

Unfortunately, my bad behavior with money didn’t stop there. My early foundation of carefree spending directly led to accumulating over $100,000 of consumer debt.

Since I had no financial plan, my overspending got worst as the years went on, and I added a wife, children, and house. I fell into another personal finance trap that everyone has debt, and it was okay to use credit cards to make up for cash shortfalls.

No matter where you are on life’s journey, don’t be afraid to as for help. Find someone, anyone that is a trusted source, and get their opinion.

Happy Ending? 

I finished the school year in June and reduced my total hours worked to forty with my single mid-shift job. It includes health benefits, sick leave, paid vacation, and overtime pay. Since I had decreased my work week by thirty-five fewer hours, I often picked up overtime to fill the gap of all the additional free time I had. I was compensated at time and a half rates, so I could make the same money as I was when working two jobs, not now in less time.

This hard work paid off. Shortly after that, I was recognized by my manager and promoted to a new department and a ground-level position. I moved to days, my salary doubled, and I became a salaried, exempt employee.

I stayed with the company for over twenty years, building a team, increased my salary to over six-figures, with a bonus, and met some great people.

Finally, at age forty, I had an a-ha money moment and read Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover that put myself and family on a path to debt freedom.

The position I held for over 20-years allowed me to pay off our debt in 2015, finally, and build an emergency fund before I was downsized in 2016. Thank goodness I had that money epiphany, or it would have spelled financial disaster for our family.

So no real financial nuggets for me 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. That may have potentially changed our economic course for years to come. But like I said, hindsight is always 20/20.

I hope you will learn from my mistakes.

Have you ever worked hard or put in long hours for an employer and had nothing to show for it? What’s the maximum number of hours you have work in a single week? What early mistakes have you made, and wish you could have a do-over?

21 thoughts on “Working 75 Full-time Hours Per Week and Nothing to Show For It”

  1. Oh my gosh – I can SO identify with this post. It is so true that you can’t out-earn overspending. When I was in the mortgage biz (before the 2008 bust) we were all earning pretty good cash. I was working part time as a sales assistant (20 hours a week) and earning $50k a year. Some of the sales reps were earning ten times that. We all blew every bit of it.

    Can’t go back and undo those mistakes, but we can learn from them and not let it happen again. Great post, Brian!!

    • Thanks, Laurie. Hope all is well. All about moving forward and learning from our past mistakes. 🙂

  2. Yes people who are young do not want to listen to financial advice and if its not ingrained in you to be a saver the person will probably never learn till life makes you. IT was a good experience and something you can share with your grand kids, as I see the next generation not understand that type of work ethic.

    • So, far, so good with my kids. They have shown the ability to be hard workers, but I want to teach them to be smart workers too, and not repeat some of the early mistakes I made.

  3. I’m a reader from India. Sounds like a similar story here.. worked (although a single job) for almost 60-70 hrs a week, didn’t take any vacation, and saved nothing at all in my 30s. The only saving grace was to lock myself (due to family pressure, which happens a lot where I live) into a large real-estate purchase. It just happened that the house appreciated well (more than doubled in 10 yrs) and I had paid them off by the time I was 30. I realized FI somewhere in between and now my savings rate is upwards of 60%.. and I think I have a lot of room to improve (thanks to a good income). Should reach FI in <5 years.

  4. Oh my goodness! That is insane! I dont think I have ever worked more then 60 hours in a week. And I thought that was too much!!! 🙂

    Its good to reflect on it though and see how it helped you get were you are at today.

    • It didn’t seem too bad at the time. Let me know how many hours you are putting in with the new baby girl at home?

  5. Wow. I did something similar. In my late 20s, I was working my government job (7 am – 3 pm) and another job at the King Kullen warehouse (4 pm – 12 am). And what made that workload even more nightmarish is that the warehouse gig was a union gig. I had three months to make book, and I was told by the warehouse foreman that making book would be very difficult if I declined overtime. So on most nights at my warehouse job, I worked to 1 am or 3 am. I kept the warehouse job for almost a year. I finally left when I got a nice promotion at my government job. But like you, I made a ton of money and ended up with precious little real wealth to show for it. Meh. Thanks for sharing your 75-hour-a-week jaunt into the wretched pit of YOLO. I knew there was a reason why I liked you so much. Cheers.

    • Did you say OT? I forgot to mention I worked overtime too at my mid-shift job. It was hard to turn down time and a half or double time during holidays. Just more cash to burn. 🙁 Unforatnantly for many New Yorkers a 2nd job it all too common. They need to look up the Geoarbitrage I hear so much about! 🙂

  6. OMG yes! I took an unpaid promotion a few years ago. As it turns out, it was triple the work and made my work life absolutely miserable. I ended up quitting over the entire affair. And what did I gain from it? Nothing, to be honest. I guess the nugget of wisdom is that the stress made me realize I’d been complacent and wasn’t happy there?

    Sometimes we put in hard work and don’t get anything out of it. But even then, the odds are in your favor if you put in hard work 100% of the time. You’re bound to get something out of it eventually, even if it doesn’t always work out. 🙂

    • That’s doesn’t sound like much of a promotion. No pay increase but 3x the work? 🙁 Glad to know it worked out for you in the end.

  7. I’ve worked my share of 75+ hour weeks (we call it residency) but thankfully I have something to show for it now. By saving much of the money I made after residency, I now can afford to work a schedule of about 75 hours a month (plus some on-call time from home).

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    • Thanks, POF. I’m glad to know you made the best of it and get to enjoy a flexible schedule these days!

  8. Brian great article and what a learning opportunity. I just found your blog and am excited with what I have read thus far.

    Having a plan and being intentional is incredibly important and the early we can figure that our with our finances the better!

  9. I can’t think of one person I knew when I was in my 20s who had a financial plan. I was too lazy to work 75 hour weeks unless it was acting. But those weeks were rare.

    I feel badly for young men who work crazy long hours yet go into debt to impress the girls. Sometimes the ego wins out over common sense, unfortunately.

  10. It’s painful to think about all of that work – and nothing to show for it except for a few YOLO memories. I can, of course, relate to this! And it took a long, long time for me to learn in a lasting way. The good news is: better late than never! We really can make a difference even when we turn around very late. (This post made me wonder if you might go back to some kind of teaching job at some point. It was very considerate of you not to leave your position back in the day mid-way through the school year. I bet you loved working with those kids 🙂

    • Thanks, Ruth. It’s true that’s it’s better late than never, but hard not to wonder “what if” but just try and focus forward. I do enjoy teaching others, something super satisfying about it.

  11. I worked as a medical resident for four years and, despite earning a good income, wound up more in debt by the end of it. “You deserve it” was my downfall. Thankfully, in my fifth and last year I discovered financial independence and started living within my means.

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