How much is your life worth? Part II

(This is part 3 of a series.  You can find part I here.)

In my previous post I suggested that the hourly wage your employer trades for your life is worth far less than you think.  In this post I’m going to help you get a better handle on what that number really is. To correctly estimate how much you’re worth per hour, you need to first calculate how much time you spend doing things for work that you don’t enjoy or wouldn’t do if you didn’t have to.

For example, would you go to the dry cleaner or spend time commuting to and from work every day?  What about going to lunch with co-workers that you may or may not really enjoy?  The same goes for work related functions like picnics or Christmas parties that you have to do if you want to climb the “ladder.” Would you still attend these events if there wasn’t an unwritten expectation? 

Perhaps you would, or maybe you’d rather spend that time with family or friends? There is no right or wrong answer.  But consider all the time you spend on work, either because you have to, or because you feel obligated to. So to get to your real hourly rate, add up all that time and divide it by how much income you earn. 

Let me give you an example and it may make more sense.  Suppose you earn $25 per hour and you work 40 hours a week; a fairly average income of $1,000 per week.  So do you really work 40 hours per week? Let’s assume you get up two hours earlier than you’d like so you have time to get ready and drive to work.  Also assume you spend an hour at lunch, when you’d rather be doing something else, and then another two hours in the evening commuting and decompressing from the stress of the day. 

That eight hour day just became a thirteen hour day, and I bet that’s low for many of you.  At 13 hours a day your $25 dollar wage just became $15.38 and if we take off 25% for taxes, which is probably low, your wage just went down to $11.54 per hour. That doesn’t even factor in the holiday parties, networking events or time spent buying clothes or picking up dry-cleaning. 

But wait, there’s more, as the popular advertising message says.  We just discussed time, but what about money you spend directly on your job?  Do you buy clothing that’s just for work?  What about a nice car to fit in with your peers and the gas and maintenance costs?  Do you spend money on lunches that you otherwise wouldn’t if you weren’t working? This is harder to measure, but you can get close. 

The point is that you should factor in these costs and reduce your hourly wage accordingly so you know how much money you’re trading your life, in exchange for your employer’s money. Now take a moment and really think about this. 

Get a pencil, paper and calculator and jot down some estimates.  Seriously, do it now, and come back to this after you know your hourly rate.  There is a reason behind this exercise and when you understand it, your life and the way you handle money will forever change. Check back for the final post where I show how understanding this is the key to a happy life. 


photo: flikr


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