Hidden Costs of Working

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Being able to quit your day job and use your time in the way you consciously determine is extraordinary.  

Consider these set of facts. I commute 2 hours each way to work in Manhattan 5 days a week.  That adds up to about 1,000 hours per year spent unproductively commuting.  This is only temporary, but for the sake of exemplifying the power of financial freedom, it shows many of us, including myself, have two jobs.  

One is the 9 to 5 office job and the other is commuting.  I work about 50 hours per week, add on the 20 hours commuting, and my total time commitment is 70 hours per week or nearly 3,400 hours per year!  Given my writing speed, I could write over 1 million words in one year with the time I devote to working a traditional job.  The point is that many of us never consider the total time commitment we have to make to our jobs and what we could do with that time if we weren’t dependent on a paycheck to live. 

In addition to the wasted time commuting there is a dangerous health cost associated with a sedentary lifestyle that office jobs foster.  Office workers are devoid of any prolonged physical activity.  Even if you work out for an hour after sitting for 9 hours the negative effects are not negated.  This means you will likely be visiting the doctor more often than if you were financially independent and not working an office job. Financially, it means increased medical costs, potential hospital visits, and a drag on your financial life.  Financial independence means the freedom to live an active, healthy, vibrant lifestyle.

Another cost of working a 9-5 job is all the time spent away from your family.  Your kids are raised by babysitters, teachers, and friends.  Is there a dollar amount you can place on watching your kids grow up, being there when they have their first little league game, or just being there when they want someone to talk to?  

Let’s use a hypothetical family of 4 where both parents commute 2 hours each day to work (1 hour each way). Let’s also assume that the 2 children are in elementary school.  Waking hours for a typical child ages 5-10 are 7am-10pm.  The parents put their children on the bus at 8am and leave for work.  School ends at 3pm, but both parents are at work until 5pm so their children are enrolled in after school childcare from 3pm-6pm, which costs $500 per child per month.  The parents pick their children up and they have dinner together, do some homework, and then put the children to sleep at 10pm.  This is a very reasonable schedule for modern day Americans where both parents have been forced into the workforce.  

This is not the 60’s anymore, both parents work full time in nearly half of two parent households (Pew Research). In this example guess what percentage of time the parents spent with their children during the child’s up hours? Only one third and how much of that time was quality time?  We all know not much.  From Monday-Friday two-thirds of the children’s time awake was spent with teachers and after school caretakers.  That is the price of not owning your time.  Other people raise your kids.

If this wasn’t bad enough working in an office involves office politics where Machiavelli dons a suit and tie, smiles in your face, and then stabs you in the back with surgical precision.

Let’s summarize the cumulative economic, social, and health costs that working a 9-5 job forces you to pay over a 10 year time span.

Commuting 2 hours each day x 5 days x 50 weeks x 10 years x 2 (Mom & Dad) yields 10,000 wasted hours, which could be productively used to generate an income stream.  If those hours yielded just $10 per hour that’s $100,000 in lost income.

The sedentary lifestyle of working in an office does not come without a price on your health.  The present value of the increased health costs could easily cost you $2,000 more per year.  That’s an increase in expenses of $40,000.

Since you’re working all day and don’t want to become state property you spend $1,200 per month per child on day care for 5 years ($1,200 x 2 x 12 x 5 = $144,000).  When your children turn 6  you spend $500 per month per child on afterschool day care ($500 x 2 x 12 x 5 = $60,000).  Total day care costs from 1-10 = $204,000 (ignoring inflation).

We aren’t finished yet because you and your spouse had to buy 2 cars to commute to work since the home prices near both of your offices are too expensive.  You both take out two $25,000 car loans at 3% interest paid back over 5 years.  Your car payment is $449 for each car, but add in insurance of $150 per month, plus $50 in amortized monthly maintenance per month, $75 in gas per month, plus $10 per month in amortized parking & speeding tickets because you can’t be late to work.  Each car has an all in cost of $734 per month.  10 year cost of owning two cars = ($449 x 2 x 12 x 5) + ($285 x 2 x 12 x 10) = $122,280.

Just from the above costs that’s nearly $500k in costs incurred because you aren’t financially independent and did not have control over your time.   

How would you use your time if you were financially free and didn’t work at a job you despised?  How much traveling would you do?  Where would you travel to?  Would you volunteer in your community or start your own business?  

Start thinking about your ideal life made possible by financial freedom.  Millions of people never scratch the surface of their potential because their time is completely consumed by work.  You have unrealized potential just waiting to be activated.  It’s not a simple linear act to change your life, but with strategy, foresight, execution, and mental strength I’m confident you’ll get there.

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