Are We Just Working for the Weekends?


Today, more than other Fridays, I keep telling myself TGIF. Johnny has been very busy the last few weeks at work. So much so that when he leaves the office and comes home, he brings his work with him. We usually try to go halfsies on writing posts during the week so that’s why this blog’s had a little more of my voice lately. 🙂

But all of Johnny’s long work hours got us talking last night after we put Baby Girl to bed. Since we’ve been married, Johnny has always had to fight in his industry to keep a decent work/life balance. It’s just the nature of the beast. And it’s easy to justify working long hours… to better your career, to make more money… the excuses are endless.

But last night it kind of hit us like a ton of bricks: What are we doing?? Why do we put so much more time and effort into work than our actual lives? What is our life outside of work right now? Is there one?

And when does it stop? This is the question that generated the most discussion. Are we going to keep living this way forever, or do we expect Johnny’s work life to become less demanding at some point?

So we asked ourselves another question. Where do we see ourselves a few years from now? Usually when we ask this question on a personal finance blog, it’s assumed that we’re talking about finances. But throw finances out the window for a few seconds. I know. Sacrilege.

Where do we see our lives? Still working for the man, struggling to maintain that work/life balance? And then it hit us. We don’t want that at all. Johnny’s career is becoming more than just 8 hours of hard work each day… it’s becoming a lifestyle, one that has taken a seat on our couch and can’t catch the hint to leave. And all this is no fault to Johnny. His work is demanding, and the time required is out of his control. Deadlines are deadlines. In a few years we see ourselves having a clear separation between work and life. But the path we’re headed down right now won’t allow for that.

Once we realized where we want to be and its disparity with where we are now, we realized we’ve got to make changes. Those changes might happen in a couple years, or five years, or ten years. But they’ve gotta happen. So we’re going to do whatever it takes to find that separation so we can more fully live without work photobombing every picture-perfect moment in our lives. It might mean taking a pay cut. It might mean we won’t have as much money down the road. But we know how to save and budget, so we’ll be okay. And we’ll have lived. Lived our lives for ourselves, not for anyone else or any company.

So what’s your end game? Does your work allow you to live the life you want to live? If not, do you have an exit strategy?

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  • Reply Laurie February 15, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Such wisdom here, Joanna! We are a good 15 years ahead of you guys in the game, and let me tell you from experience: You’re right on track. Do whatever you need to do now to make life what you want it to be, because those days go SO fast, especially after kids. Kudos to you guys for having your priorities straight!

    • Reply Joanna February 17, 2013 at 5:34 pm

      Thanks, Laurie. That’s our plan, and I know it’s easier said than done. It’s nice to hear from someone who’s a few years down the road that we’re at least on the right track!

  • Reply Johnny Moneyseed February 15, 2013 at 8:14 am

    This is the primary reason we are trying to retire early. We are already spending the best years of our lives behind desks, so if we can become financially independent we won’t HAVE to be away from family, unless we want to be.

    • Reply Joanna February 17, 2013 at 5:35 pm

      That’s awesome you guys are working on early retirement. We’ve only got one life, so we might as well live it the best we can!

  • Reply Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies February 15, 2013 at 8:20 am

    We’re at a pretty good point. While our work doesn’t let us live the lives we want 100% of the time, it’s definitely not the only thing going on in our lives, plus we’re working on a solid exit strategy. Recent update – looks like 6 years.

    • Reply Joanna February 17, 2013 at 5:37 pm

      That’s great that you have a definite end in sight AND that you don’t mind your current jobs. We’d love to eventually have a more time-specific plan like you two!

  • Reply Michelle February 15, 2013 at 8:28 am

    This is something that we’ve been thinking about a lot. Why work so much and so hard just for that day off? Shouldn’t we enjoy ourselves everyday?

    • Reply Joanna February 17, 2013 at 5:37 pm

      Yup. Johnny and I are all for working hard, but we’d like some time to play hard, too!

  • Reply JOhn S @ Frugal Rules February 15, 2013 at 9:00 am

    This is the very reason why I left my job to help my wife run our business. Why put all that time and effort into a firm where they’ll not miss you if you’re gone and you just add another buck or two to the bottom line? Mind you, we bust our backsides for our business, but it’s on our terms and we get to choose what work we want to do and who we want to work with. At the end of the day we benefit ourselves and help the local community.

    • Reply Joanna February 17, 2013 at 5:57 pm

      Awesome. It’s nice to hear from someone who has actually made the switch to working on your own terms. I’m glad to hear that, despite the hard work, it’s been worth it!

  • Reply Chaney February 15, 2013 at 9:07 am

    I’m pretty sure we have this discussion at least once a week. My husband has a very demanding job, and with the career path he’s on, there’s no end in sight. We’ve talked about what it would be like to move to a place with a slower pace (we currently enjoy/endure the fast-paced DC life) and a job that is less crazy. I appreciate you voicing your thoughts on this subject. It’s a hard one to figure out! Keep us posted!

    • Reply Joanna February 17, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      There are pros and cons of both sides for sure. Johnny’s job has always been demanding, but now that we have a baby, the scale has definitely been tipped toward not wanting to continue down that path forever. That’s all we know for now, but it’s been nice to just figure that much out!

  • Reply Leigh February 15, 2013 at 10:24 am

    I’ve been starting to feel this lately too. My exit strategy is to max out my 401(k), pay off my mortgage aggressively, and save up a nice nest egg in taxable index funds. I’m also cutting expenses ruthlessly to see if I can bring that timeline in to 5 years. I live on just a little under 50% of my base pay income and bank all of my bonuses 100%.

    And if I choose not to implement the exit strategy? I’ll have plenty of money in the bank and could do so at any time or travel the world and then go back to working again!

    • Reply Leigh February 15, 2013 at 10:26 am

      I have a somewhat demanding job as well. I work in software and I just can’t do the long hours anymore and I haven’t been at it that long! My counselor has suggested that maybe I should try self-employment, but I think I would want to have the mortgage paid off and a nicely sized (if not full for retirement) nest egg saved up first…

    • Reply Joanna February 17, 2013 at 6:10 pm

      That’s awesome, Leigh! You’ve got a great plan, and it sounds like you’re actually putting it into action. Well done. It’s still a few more years down the road for us, but we’ll definitely want to have a lot of money saved up first before we actually make a drastic move with Johnny’s career.

  • Reply Budget and the Beach February 15, 2013 at 10:45 am

    I just wrote something about that. For me it’s working hard and long hours, but I’m just “surviving” with the cost of living in LA. I want money to go farther and have more of a life. Right now freelance work is crazy busy, but I know that will slow down, perhaps even completely stop if history is any indication of how slow summer can be, which is great to get some time back, but then I’m not making any money! It’s tough! It’s got me thinking a lot too….

    • Reply Joanna February 17, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      I remember your post, and it sounds like you’re making some plans that will put you down a path where you can be more independent with your career and finances, which is awesome. The first step is realizing what we want, then making a plan, and then figuring out how to make it happen! Johnny and I still need to figure out the last two… 🙂

  • Reply HappyFund February 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    There is clear separation between my day job and my personal life right now, but it pays lower than comparable jobs in the industry. The biggest benefit though is that I get to work on things I want, some even earn me income.

    I used to have all the time in the world until I voluntarily weaned myself from my parents’ financial umbilical cord. Now, that I have to work to support myself, it’s all about buying back my time.

    • Reply Joanna February 17, 2013 at 7:30 pm

      Enjoying what you do is huge, even if it means taking a pay cut sometimes. And way to go on breaking free from receiving financial help from your parents. That was never an option for Johnny or me, but if it had been, I’m sure we would have had a hard time becoming independent from them.

  • Reply Emily @ evolvingPF February 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Very good thoughts here and ones that I consider for our future. We have a nice lifestyle now – generally only work 40 flexible hours per week, not much stress. But the post-graduate jobs we’ll pursue are going to be much more intense while at the same time we’ll want to start our family. I guess I’m thinking of putting in my dues for a few years and then possibly transitioning to part-time or contract work so I can manage my schedule better. For many others I’m sure the answer is early retirement, but I’d rather find something I can do sustainably that pays less.

    • Reply Johnny February 17, 2013 at 7:30 pm

      I think we’re with you. I don’t know that we want early retirement as much as a sustainable quality of life, even if that means a lower income level. This work/family/living stuff ain’t easy. It’s been nice reading these comments though to know that we’re not the only ones in this boat.

  • Reply Grayson @ Debt Roundup February 15, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    I am lucky that I have a job that I enjoy and though there are long work days here and there, it is a relatively relaxed environment. My end game is to stay at this organization for as long as I can.

    • Reply Johnny February 17, 2013 at 7:10 pm

      Awesome, man. That’s so great that you’ve found a place where you’ll be good to stay at for a while. That end game sounds like a winning game plan.

  • Reply MomofTwoPreciousGirls February 15, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    I could discuss this topic for days! The position I was laid off from in July was an entry level management position (like nearly the bottom of the totem pole). I put in 50 hours a week at the office, a 45min commute in the am (because I left my house @5:45 am without even kissing my husband or children) and a 1.5 hr commute back home. Then of course no lunch breaks and checking my blackberry and laptop until bedtime. It was sucking the life out of me.

    I finally got offered a new position with the same company (conveniently the offer came after my severance was over, so it comes with a 25K paycut (although opportunity to earn more bonuses will get me back to where I was….just not guaranteed). HOWEVER, I get all my years of service back and best of all the new position is at an office that is 6 miles from my home (and the girls’ school) and I get to drop them off and pick them up. I’m close enough where I can attend quick luncheons during my lunch break. The quality of life in this season is more important than the money (GASP!). We will have to make some short term sacrifices and changes, but the time I get to spend with them is priceless.

    The dream always seems to be climbing the ladder, but despite popular thoughts, the people further up the ladder don’t work less hours for more money. They are required to work more hours and dedicate more of their lives to the business to ensure its success…

    • Reply Johnny February 17, 2013 at 6:58 pm

      Congrats to you! I love your perspective. And this is my favorite line of this comment thread: “despite popular thoughts, the people further up the ladder don’t work less hours for more money. They are required to work more hours and dedicate more of their lives to the business to ensure its success…” The ladder don’t look so great from the top.

  • Reply Tina @ My Shiny Pennies February 15, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    I agree with your sentiments. Climbing the corporate ladders comes with added stress and responsibiities and that’s just not what I live for. It dawned on me as I was checking my email on vacation that I don’t want a job where I feel compelled to check work emails when I’m out of the office. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to retire early with an 8 to 5 job, so my goal is to accumulate rental properties.

    • Reply Johnny February 17, 2013 at 6:34 pm

      You’ve identified the ultimate gut check: do I feel obligated to check my work email on vacation. Guilty as charged. And that’s awesome that you’ve figured out a potential way out. I’ve been meaning to look into rental properties. Any books or resources you’d recommend looking into?

      • Reply Tina @ My Shiny Pennies February 18, 2013 at 9:18 am

        I thought “First-Time Landlord: Your Guide to Renting out a Single-Family Home” by Janet Portman and Marcia Stewart was pretty helpful. I don’t have any experience as a landlord, and this book gave me some solid background.

        • Reply Johnny February 26, 2013 at 12:41 am

          Awesome. Thanks for the recommendation.

  • Reply Brian @ Luke1428 February 15, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    The best part about all of this is that you are communicating and have recognized this is an issue. As you continue to talk the answers will come, but as you said it may take some time. These are huge issues you are discussing and the worst thing people do in situations like this is fail to plan by looking at the entire picture and how their decisions will impact their life. They then end up making silly decisions too soon – like quitting a job just because they’re tired of it but have no real prospects for the future. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply Johnny February 17, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      Thanks for the advice, Brian. You’re right. The worst thing to do in this situation would be to make a rash decision that “felt right” in the moment. I think this will probably be a recurring topic over the next few months. And then hopefully we’ll have our plans down.

  • Reply Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin February 15, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    A year after graduating college I had acquired a rare skill that allowed me to make a large sum of money however the hours and days were long. I worked 7 days a week for 12 -14 hours a day, this was probably the most exciting and depressing time of my life. The work I did was exhilarating but I would hop on facebook and see all my friends from college going out, having fun, and starting families. I will say that by 27 I was far beyond my peers financially and professionally. At the time it didn’t seem worth it but looking back it definitely was, my point is you guys work very hard, I can tell from your blog and your personalities. I have no doubt that 5 years from now you will be extremely successful and able to make your own terms. =)

    • Reply Johnny February 17, 2013 at 6:15 pm

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, Marvin! And that’s an awesome success story of yours. Congrats to you, man! I think if I knew I could be more in control of my life and my time by working 70-80 work weeks every week for five years, I’d take it. Hopefully that’s what we’re doing right now.

  • Reply Shannon-ReadyForZero February 15, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Well said. Good for you guys for taking the time to talk this through and make sure the future path is one that meets up with all of your priorities. Not an easy thing to do so great for you for starting the conversation now!

    • Reply Johnny February 17, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      We’re looking for that elusive yellow brick road. Others have found it. We’re going to try our best to follow them without getting attacked by the flying monkeys. 🙂

  • Reply My Financial Independence Journey February 16, 2013 at 8:20 am

    I would say that my job is pretty demanding. But it’s also pretty fulfilling. I have a great exit strategy, but nowhere to really exit to. I think I’d be very bored, both socially and intellectually, without a full time job.

    My exit strategy is really just a form of insurance against layoffs or my work situation otherwise souring. But if I ever get sick of the whole thing, I will be able to walk off and still pay all my bills without ever having to work another day in my life.

    • Reply Johnny February 17, 2013 at 5:58 pm

      I, too, think I’d be bored without a full-time job. So I don’t think I’m looking to work less as much as work smarter. That’s nice that your exit strategy is more of an insurance policy than a ticket to sanity. 🙂 Kudos to you.

  • Reply Simple Economist February 16, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Thanks for the post. My wife and I have been thinking about this same topic too! Doing the old debate of to have a stay at home parent. I think looking long term helps too. Sometime working crazy for a little while makes sense if it is a means to an end. If it is going to be going for a long time it might be worth it to reevaluate. We decided to slow do our FI plan to move to a one income house and spend more time with the little one.

    • Reply Johnny February 17, 2013 at 5:54 pm

      “Sometime working crazy for a little while makes sense if it is a means to an end.”

      I think that’s the perspective that we’re missing for a while. It won’t crazy for ever. But it’s still probably not sustainable over the long-term. BUT, it should be a means to an end, so I just need to keep at the grind until we reach a point where we can really decide what to make of the rest of our lives. Thanks for your comment.

  • Reply Michelle February 16, 2013 at 11:07 am

    It’s wonderful to hear that people are beginning to think about work/life balance when they consider how they are living their lives. I live in a place where people are pretty aggressive about having their “fun-time” It’s not unusual to have extremely heavy traffic on Thursday nights going into the mountains for a long weekend. That being said, not everyone lives in place where quality of life is in the day to day language. There comes a point when you have to think about what is truly important to you so that you can live your happiest life. And then work towards it. This is what I’m doing now and having clarity on what I want has been really helpful!

    • Reply Johnny February 17, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      Clarity. That’s a great way to describe exactly what we’re looking for right now. That’s awesome that you’re already on your way to figuring it all out. Hopefully we’ll be those Thursday night mountaineers before long.

  • Reply jefferson @SeeDebtRun February 16, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    I admit that I am guilty of working for the weekends, in some respects.. I cherish my family time above all else, and life can be quite hectic Monday – Friday. I work in the IT industry, and I have co-workers who clearly go home and spend all night on the computer after spending all day on the computer, and I just can’t stomach it… I need some sort of balance in my life.. But I will say that I certainly don’t hate my job, and am able to get a sense of satisfaction from what i create at work.. For that, I am very grateful.

    • Reply Johnny February 17, 2013 at 5:41 pm

      Satisfaction and joy of what you do is worth an intangible amount. Depending on the week, I love what I do or hate it. I’d love a little more 9-5 stability and leave work at the office. Gotta find that balance. Life’s too short to spend it all worrying about work.

  • Reply Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle February 16, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    I love my job and my clients but I would love to be able to pick and choose when I work. I am working all weekend and I am thrilled to have Monday off but by then I will be too tired to do anything but sleep late, nap and go to bed early.

    More money means more choice and right now, and for the next 10 or 12 years, I have no money so I have no choice.

    • Reply Johnny February 17, 2013 at 5:35 pm

      I think the biggest thing for me right now is, like you said, being to choose when and with whom I work. I think there will be a point in the future where that will be a reality, but that’s a ways off. Until then, working this weekend and crossing my fingers that tomorrow’s off.

      One day, Jane, one day. 🙂

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  • Reply Joanna February 17, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    That’s awesome you two have both found careers you love. Not many people can say that.

    And I agree about paying to do those things we don’t like… at some point if Johnny is still working long hours and we feel like we can spare the cash, that might be a nice way to lessen the blow of working so much!

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  • Reply March 27, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    I will get my undergraduate degree in May and I am dreading the day I have to start work in corporate America. However, I know it won’t be forever. My husband and I have an end game to do what we love that doesn’t include an 8 hour work day (or more) in a job that is unfulfilling. Life is just too darn short for that kind of nonsense!

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