Consciously choosing to underearn

February 22, 2012 · 24 comments

If you’re anything like me you often set goals for yourself. With respect to personal finance, these goals are often directly or indirectly related to how much one makes. If you have a goal to pay down debt, you have to base your pay down rate around how much discretionary income you have. If you are looking to buy a house, you typically make sure your mortgage payment is no more than XX% of your take home pay. There’s no denying our incomes are crucial pieces of the game that is personal finance.

So what if I told you Girl Ninja and I are intentionally falling short of our maximum income potential? Some might think that’s crazy, but I suspect those that really think about it will admit, they too are guilty of under-achieving.

Here are two ways the Ninja household is saying “thanks, but no thanks” to more money.

Girl Ninja’s Job:

She taught public school in San Diego last year and her contract paid $40,000/year. Last year sucked major vacuum (see what I did there?). She was worn down emotionally and physically which in turn put unnecessary stress on our marriage. So when we made the move to Seattle, we had a few decisions to make. Does she look for a public school contract, a private school contract, or go back to substituting? Ultimately, we decided she should give private school a shot and see if her overall work/life balance would improve. It has :) She makes $11,000 less this year than last, but she is at least $20,00/yr happier. I’ll take that trade any day of the week.

This Blog:

So I mentioned yesterday I made $13,000 last year from PDITF. Many of you are like “Holy cow, you mean you get paid to write this garbage?” Not exactly, it’s more like I write this garbage regardless, and sometimes people give me their monies. I love their monies.

Thirteen G’s sounds like a lot of money to those that don’t understand how blogging works (from a business perspective), but let’s get real; It’s pennies compared to what many other PF bloggers make. You might not realize it but Get Rich Slowly, Bargaineering, The Simple Dollar, and Consumerism Commentary all sold for millions of dollars. Literally. (click link for reference)

(side note: there have been times I’ve wanted to write about how personal finance bloggers go about making major money on their blog, but am not sure if this is something that you care about since many of you are not bloggers yourself. Would love to hear from the non-blogging community as to whether this would interest you or make you want to stab your eyeballs out).

Suddenly $13,000 doesn’t seem like so much. If I was more disciplined (read: If I cared) I don’t imagine I would have much difficulty doubling my blog income in just a few months. There are all sorts of SEO tricks, ghost writers, ad networks, etc that I could use to make this thing more profitable. But frick, I spend about five hours a week on PDITF (an hour for each post) and at this point in my life, I have no desire to spend any more of my precious free time on it. Not even if it means I could make more.

So yeah, money is cool and all, and I’m sure if our income wasn’t as generous as it is right now we’d focus our attention on making more. But in this current phase of life we are chilling out maxing, relaxing all cool, shooting some b-ball outside of the school (fresh prince of bel-air reference). Translation: we are content with our current position.

We have zero desire to work harder just to make another dollar. Money can buy me more stuff, but it can’t buy me more time.

So reader, are you maximizing your earning potential? If not, how much more do you think you could make in 2012? Be reasonable not optimistic. What lead you to the decision to pass that money up?

p.s. I have no beef with people who are maximizing their potential, especially if it’s for life improvements like paying down debt, vacationing more, retiring earlier, blah blah blah.

p.p.s. I’m going to include a link at the end of each article from now on with my favorite “nail” that was recently posted to MANteresting… How to save a life if someone is choking.

{ 24 comments }

1 Lutus

With our first baby on the way my wife will become a stay at home mom. That will decrease our income, but if you factor in how much daycare would cost versus how much she makes it is totally worth it. I could also kill myself with adding more guitar students until I dropped. That would add $160 a month for every new student and I could realistically add 3 or 4 more students. That would be around $6000 in 2012. But my time and energy are more important right now.

2 Miss JJ

Last year, I asked my boss to demote me and cut my pay because I was so stressed out as a manager. He refused. We worked something out regarding my responsibilities without affecting my salary but I more or less indicated that I was not open to any further promotion. After a certain point, more money doesn’t mean all that much. Diminishing marginal utility and all that.

3 DR

Not maximizing your income potential is an interesting thought. I never looked at it this way, but my wife stayed home with our children when they were growing up. I never really looked at it as giving up income potential, but surely that’s what it is. On the other side, I continue to practice law even though I could blog full time. That may change in the near future, but it’s been hard for me to give up the income.

4 Michelle

Great post! I think more people need to realize this.

5 Daisy

I’m not maximizing my potential yet but I’m doing all in my power to do so on my blog – without selling out of course ;) but I spend an alarming amount of time every week writing, editing, and posting posts, connecting with other bloggers, reading other blogs, etc. It’s fun, though.

6 Bridget

I’m trying to STOP under earning. I set an income goal for myself this year and I only know how to make it to 80% of it (honestly I really should have run the numbers beforehand…)

But I’m single with no kids, so I can devote a lot of time to work and projects. I’m all about finding a perfect life-balance, I just don’t have much of a life right now. Wow that came out wrong.. you know what I mean.

7 StackingCash

Nice spinoff from the last post. I’m truly interested in how those blogs were sold off for millions. A basic run down of how blogs can make money does fascinate me. Regarding happiness, J.D. Roth got divorced recently, so you are correct in the happiness factor being a huge part about work life balance. This can be a future post regarding windfalls :) Gee, I should really make a blog… Laziness is a huge barrier for me. Also being so comfortable in my job has stopped me from progressing to my full potential in regards to making money too. I’ve had some great ideas in the past but lacked the bravery to invest time and money. Now, however, I have more time and money, just need to work on the bravery :)

8 SWR

I’m also really interested in how these blogs make their money! Especially those blogs that have sold for millions…that totally floored me!

9 Diana

I always welcome more money but you are right sometimes the exchange of stress and time is not worth the extra $$. I have a side business that basically runs itself and I’m sure if I put more money into I would be driving a nicer car and live in a bigger house and I have considered it. We’ll see!

I hope you do write a post on how people make money blogging. I would love to start up a blog (again with this time thing!) and would love to hear the ins and outs of it from you!

Thanks for a great post!

10 Rachel

I’m currently working on starting a blog. It’s main purpose isn’t to bring in money, but it would have that potential. I’m not really expecting cash to fall from the sky with it, but it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if it did.

11 C The Writer

Nothing to maximize, so nope.

My job is horrible and if I worked there any more, I’d end up in the, to use a politically incorrect anachronism, nuthouse.

12 BrokeElizabeth

Awww I love that you value Girl Ninja’s figurative $20,000 happiness over an extra $11,000 a year :).

I am definitely not maximizing my earning potential…

Right now I’m in university but I definitely have the time to hold down a part time job… which I don’t have (yet). I made the choice to settle into university without the pressure of a job, and some personal issues have dragged that time out a little longer than I anticipated.

Next year I’ve applied to be an RA which will knock 75% off my accommodation costs, and I’m looking around to see what jobs I can get on my student visa.

13 Jennifer

I would definitely love to know about how those “big” blogs bring in all that dough. Heck, I’m interested in how anyone makes money. It fascinates me.

Interesting topic! I am in no way maximizing my earning potential, and like you, am A OK with it. I’ve been at my current job level (mid level manager) by choice for 12 years now. I certainly have the knowledge and experience and ability to move up, but I don’t want to. I tell my boss often that I don’t want her job. Her job is much more stressful than mine, and her butt is on the line all the time. Me, not so much. That brings me joy. I make what I think is great money, and I have a lovely work life balance. That works for me for now.

14 Mo D.

Working in the office I’m at now, there really is nowhere to move up the ladder, but I’m OK with that. I’m content with my job 90% of the time, and technically, I can take early retirement in 10 years (though I doubt we’ll be in a financial position for it to happen that quickly). I could leave my employer and go somewhere else in a supervisor or managerial position, but right now, my workday ends at 4:30PM, I don’t bring work home at night or on weekends, and I don’t have any managerial responsibilities… 10 or 15 years ago, I might have wanted “more”, but I’m pretty happy where I am and what I’m doing now.

15 Em

I would be fascinated to learn how blogs make money, period. Not just the big bucks, but any money at all (other than adsense). I’ve always wondered how all that worked. Not that I plan on blogging, I’m happy to not maximize my earning potential by not blogging :)

16 C The Writer

I blog and I make nothing, so…sometimes blogging doesn’t make a difference in what you earn.

17 Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager

It’s a trade off, how much time would I be willing to sacrifice to make more money? Give up skiing on weekend or playing with my puppy on week nights? I don’t think so.

18 Kyle

I’m really curious as to how you made that 13k from your blog? I don’t see ads anywhere on the site.

19 C The Writer

I’m kind of wondering that too, and even if there are ads, nobody’s going to click them, I know I don’t. And on my blog, nobody does.

20 Julie @ Freedom 48

We’re definitely not maximizing our income potential. We work hard at keeping a good work/life balance. If I die tomorrow I don’t want any regrets or any “I wish I would have…” thoughts. That being said, I think we do well maximizing our savings from what meager earnings we have =)

21 Alice at DontDebt

Yes, you could earn more money, but then you would lose that quality of life that you’re experiencing right now. You always have to remember that happiness is more important than money.

I could probably earn more than I do right now, but am recently married and like my life too much to spend all my time at work. I realize that this also means that I can’t complain too much about the amount of debt I’m in – but I’m working toward paying it off so I’m OK.

22 krantcents

Money is not a motivator for me. I have enough to live very well and enough for retirement. I have 5 more years as a teacher for my pension. I am a happy guy. In spite of that, I monetized my blog and starting earning money. If I am going to do all this work, I might as well make money at it.

23 Earn Save Live

I spent four years in graduate school, and I made a conscious choice to underearn during that time. I took a $20,000/year pay cut, which really affected our family’s life. But now, after a graduate degree, and an international move, I’m making significantly more money. And I’m a lot happier.

I think that sometimes, we need to make short terms sacrifices (whether they are emotional, mental, physical, or financial) in order to reach long term goals.

24 psycharah

I took the first 6 months of my son’s life off of work, and my husband is now off work for 6 months with him (thank goodness for Canadian maternity/parental leaves!) so I guess you could say we’ve consciously underearned for this year. I firmly believe that you should work to live not live to work. I chose my career (which is remunerated well, but not in comparison to other professionals with similar credentials) because I love it, though I could have made more money with less education in other fields.

Theoretically, I could make more money working for myself, versus my current employer, but I love my job and my colleagues, and the regular salary it affords me. I could take on a side gig teaching, but I have a 7 month old son at home, and I won’t sacrifice more of my precious time with him for more money right now. I can’t imagine the dollar figure that I could make if I left my job and hung out my own shingle (overhead, start-up expenses etc. would have to be factored in)… teaching a sessional course at the university could gross about $8000, but taxes would eat about half (I live in Canada and I’m a high tax bracket already) and the hours I’d have to put in to prep a new course would make it slave labour the first time around. Not worth it to me in terms of happiness.

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