Remember way back before the pandemic hit, when people would go to restaurants? Back then, Denny’s had a promotion where they were giving away free breakfasts. I saw on the news that at some locations people were waiting in line for hours. And they weren’t homeless or poor. When interviewed, they said they just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a “free” meal.
The fact that they would refer to the breakfast as “free” is emblematic of a larger problem that holds back so many people. They assign no value to their time. It is important to realize that time is your most valuable asset, but I take it even further. To fully appreciate that asset, you need to assign it a specific value. By whatever formula you decide to use – what you think your time should be worth or the computed value based on your current job – assign a value to your time. Then you can apply that number to your daily activities to determine what they are costing you.
Your hourly rate is higher than you think.
You are likely one expensive dude. Let’s say you are an employee earning $75,000 a year. With benefits, that’s probably closer to $100,000 a year in terms of your total compensation package. According to a Pew analysis of Department of Labor data, the average, full-time american works 1,811 hours per year (it’s those last 11 hours that’ll kill you). So, using these assumptions, that $100,000 in compensation equals $55 per hour.
You may decide that the wages you are paid by your rat bastard employer are not indicative of your worth, and instead set your real hourly rate at $100. Conversely, you may decide that since you spend most of your day in the cubicle playing Fortnite, you are only worth $25 per hour. Hey, you do you, but it is important that you select a realistic hourly rate. We’ll use an even $50 per hour for our analysis.
When you sit down tonight to watch an hour of Survivor and an hour of Fleabag, know that entertainment experience is costing you $100 ($75 if you record it and fast forward through the commercials). I’m not making a value judgment here; you may well decide that $100 is a fair price to pay for a couple of hours of mindless television in order to decompress, but you need to make that informed decision. The people waiting in line at Denny’s were paying a very high price for that “free” meal. They would never consider paying $100 for a Grand Slam breakfast, yet they paid an equivalent price in lost time.
The meter is always running.
At one time, this would have been more of an intellectual exercise. You put in your hours at the rock quarry, and went home to eat and rest before going back to break more rocks the next day. Assigning a value to your time didn’t mean as much, because there was no reasonably accessible means to turn that time into money. But that excuse is done and gone. You may elect not to reach out and grab an opportunity for a side gig, but it is now undeniable that gigs are available for the taking, and therefore a TV binge comes at a cost. If nothing else, you could jump in your car and earn income as an Uber driver for those two hours. I’m not saying you would or should, but the point is there are myriad such opportunities, so the reality can’t be denied.
You diversify your investments, why not your work?
We all see the heart wrenching stories over and over, where a plant closes somewhere and the former employees tell their tearful tales of how they have no skills other than what they were doing at the plant for the past 20 years. I am always left scratching my head, wondering why anyone would put all their eggs in one basket like that. At some point in the 20 years, you’d think it would have occurred to them to develop a plan B.
The Covid pandemic put this in especially sharp focus. If one was, say, a bartender, it was certainly not unreasonable to assume that even if the bar went out of business, other bars would be hiring. But now we see that entire job categories can be wiped out. Presumably, as good as you might feel about gold as an investment, you wouldn’t invest entirely in gold. So why do so many people invest entirely in a single job or profession?
Find a side hustle you enjoy.
If your response to this is that you don’t have a side gig and can’t think of one, then figuring one out is where you should be devoting your time for now. And just know that whatever side gig you choose, it doesn’t have to be onerous. As the old cliche goes, “find the thing that you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” If you are devoting chunks of time to some passion, then find a way to monetize that passion.
I started a blog many years ago, devoted to reviewing cigars and craft beers. I never gave much thought to monetization, beyond thinking that cigar companies might send me free cigars to review. I achieved that benefit almost immediately, which I found very cool, and then I started getting requests from paid advertisers. With no real plan, a hobby became an income source.
I recently discovered a YouTuber named Marissa Romero, who does a great job of highlighting many available side hustles. You’ll reject many of them out of hand as not applicable to your interests or circumstances, but I think it is impossible to listen to her without at some point saying to yourself, “Hey, I could do that.” Here is just a sample: