Thursday, August 12, 2004

The "Your Money or Your Life" Formulas

I often use a shorthand formula to measure my relative freedom & wage slavery. Its a very simple formula.... a simple ratio of time (in days) spent working to time (in days) spent free from work. And by work, of course, I mean work-for-money.

By my figuring, Thoreau had a magnificent ratio well over 1 to 8. For every day he spent day-laboring, he earned enough to live another eight days without working. My own figure is not nearly as impressive. Since going to Japan two years ago... I have achieved a ratio of 1:2. I worked 6 months in Japan... and earned enough to live another year without working (which included money for buying a van and for travelling around SE Asia).

When I finally needed to make money, I managed to make enough by working from 12-18 hours a week.

I highly recommend this little formula as a way to analyze just how much of your life you are frittering away- enslaved to someone else's priorities and schedule.

Another very good calculation is the one used in the book "Your Money or Your Life"... a formula for determining your real hourly wage. First you start with the generally accepted figure... in one column write the average number of hours you work per week.... in another column write the amount of money you typically make in a week.

Then, begin to add all work related time expenditures.... How much time do you spend, each week, on commuting to your job? Add that figure to the "hours worked" column. How many hours do you spend getting ready for work (dressing, grooming, etc.)? Add that time to the "hours worked" column. How many hours a week do you spend "de-compressing" from your job... too tired to do anything but watch TV or vegetate or sleep? Add that time. And add any other time that is wasted/spent as a result of working your job.

Next, do the same with money. For example, how much money do you spend, per week, commuting to work (gas, car maintenence, bus fares, etc..)? SUBTRACT that amount from your weekly income. How much money, pro-rated to the week, do you spend on clothes, tools, etc.. related to your job. Subtract that from your income. How much do you spend on expensive lunches or other expenses you wouldn't have if you weren't working? Subtract those. Subtract the cost of "mindless entertainment" used to de-compress from the job. Subtract the cost of childcare. Subtract health care and medicine costs- of illness brought on by job-related stress. Subtract the costs of on the job injuries. Try to capture all of the expenses related to the job.

Now total up the true weekly income and the true number of work-related hours... and divide income by the hours. This, then, is your true hourly wage... and it is probably much lower than what your W-2 says. This formula is a great tool for discovering what you are really trading your valuable time for. It is also a good tool for evaluating different jobs. A job with a higher salary may, in fact, pay a much lower real hourly wage-- if it requires, for example, a long commute, new clothes, unpaid overtime, and lots of de-compression time.

Unfortunately, most Hobopoets have to earn an income occaisonally. Our most practical goals are a) to work less while enjoying more freedom... and b) to get the highest real hourly wage for the least amount (or most pleasant) work possible.

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