The tide is high and I’m moving on


I really should replace all my blog titles with song titles and/or quotes – especially ones from the 80s. I am sure most of them would be fitting!

At any rate, it looks like I may be heading back to work sooner than anticipated. It’s still a bit up-in-the-air but a contract has come up and if I am chosen, I would be heading back to work in the next two weeks until March 2016.

On one hand, the contract is AMAZING and it would be a real resume booster, on the other hand, it would start at the beginning of August, from what I can tell. That means that I would be cutting the summer short with the kids. While the contract hasn’t been offered to me yet, I approach every potential job with a series of questions to determine whether or not it would be worthwhile. I thought this was a worthwhile thing to explore for the blog, so here are some questions you should ask yourself:

What is the pay before/after tax?
How long does the contract run?
How long is the commute?
What hours will I be required to work?
Will there be overtime?
Is this move good for my career?
Will I need childcare? For how long? For how much?
Are there hidden benefits or costs?

Those questions lead me to a pros/cons list so I can determine if it’s a right fit for our family. For this job, I have:

– One, it allows me to layout in one grid the things I should consider. On a basic level, I can just count the pros and cons and have those numbers decide. BUT, some of those things are weighted much heavier than the others. For example long commute is definitely a heavy consideration. Aside from all the literature pointing out that it’s the largest thing associated with a decreased quality of life with workers, it’s also my least favourite thing. I hate that there is time I am wasting getting to-and-from work where I am not being paid and I am not benefiting from the time off. I also know that the average commute time in north America is 25 minutes (with large cities itching towards 40 minutes), which is close to my historical average of 20 minutes. If we look at the data though, the average time for people who commute by bus ( is 40 minutes. The bus travel planner says the bus ride with transfers is 28 minutes but I have walking time to consider. So even given all that, 30-40 minutes isn’t significantly different, especially given the high rate of pay (and possibility of working from home two days a week).

– Two, it gives me a hidden view into my own psyche. How? In terms of decision-making, we all have bias. We may not know we have it but it is there. When I look at that chart I can see how I have inadvertently gamed the pros/cons into making the pros look better than the cons. I look at the chart and see that the cons can be entirely justified away if I just look at the pros. When I look at “I planned to spend more time working on health issues” I know that I can still work on health issues even when I am working full-time. The area where I will be working has beautiful walking paths and during three months of the year it’s a completely bike-able distance. Given this, the chart indicates that I really do want to take this job.

Counting your eggs before they hatch

We all know the old adage of counting chickens before they hatch, so it seems a strange exercise to nail out a working budget – that is, a budget that takes into consideration the money and time constaints you will have when you are working. Think of it less about counting on having that income coming in and more about figuring out the cost of working. There are hidden costs in jobs and it’s important to figure them out before you accept any position.

In this case, there is some extra financial consideration that has to be given to child care. Child care will cost me at the very least 20% of my weekly wage (omg!) and transportation will cost me .016 of my weekly wage and cost me 80 minutes a day in unpaid time commuting. Other hidden costs could also include any professional clothes needed for the job (for example, I definitely need new tights for work this year and I am still checking thrift stores for a navy blazer). I also put a slush fund into the budget of $10 a week to cover anything such as team lunches, Christmas parties and fundraising drives. While it’s good to opt out of as many of these things as possible, sometimes being a team player means you have to show up.

Of course, the reverse is true as well, if a job offers a generous retirement package, benefits, bonuses and other perks, you would factor these in as well as positives.

Calculating your true hourly wage is nothing more than factoring these things in. Let’s say someone who works for $20 an hour also commutes an hour a day. So their real “work” day is 9 hours long. Let’s also say that there are no positive benefits and that the person in our example spends $40 on work related expenses a week, $25 on transportation and $150 on childcare.

Hourly wage: $20 (750/week)
Hourly wage after taxes/EI/CPP: $15.84 (594.20/week)

– 40 (work related expenses)
– 25 (transportation
– 150 (daycare)
= $379.20/week

Now it’s important to consider that your real working hours are actually 42.5 due to 5 hours a week of commute time. So your real hourly wage looks like this:

379.20 / 42.5 = $8.92 per hour

So that $20/hour goes down pretty fast when you calculate all the additional expenses.

It seems like splitting hairs but when considering jobs that may have shorter commute times, for example, you may come out ahead even with a smaller hourly wage. It’s important to do the math to figure it out.

In the end the above-mentioned job is still incredibly worth it even if I factor in a lot of negatives. The biggest negative, of course, is the kids. They really want their summer to hang out with me.

In the end though, since I took over a week to write out this blog I have also heard back about the contract and they have decided to go with someone else. So while it’s a bummer to not be chosen, it’s also a relief to know that I don’t have to give up the next month with the kids and scramble for child care. It also gave me an opportunity to plot out some numbers and see what kind of jobs I should be looking for and ones that are definitely not worthwhile for me. I continue to search and I am confident that something good will come my way.