Sunday, April 29, 2012

YMOYL Book Club: Valuing Your Life Energy--Maximizing Income (Step 7)

This is week seven of the Your Money or Your Life Online Book Club, where we are tackling the nine steps of the YMOYL program. Get more background info. and a complete list of the steps here.

Respecting your life energy is one of the key principles of the YMOYL program. Step six explores how this principle applies to expenses. Step seven applies it to the other side of the equation: income. As the Financial Integrity Guide says, "together these two steps orient your personal finances toward the goal of maximum fulfillment and freedom and help free you from 'the rat race.'"

The chapter starts off with a few definitions of work, then moves to a brief history of work, which for me was more interesting. A variety of sources estimate the daily requirement of work needed for our survival is just three hours a day. For instance, in the stone age, it is estimated that people worked around 15 hours a week to provide for their daily needs.

I found Dr. Frithjof Bergmann's quote even more enlightening. "For most of human history, people only worked for two or three hours per day.....The very notion that everyone should have a job only began with the Industrial Revolution." 

As work hours have increased, the popularity of the idea of leisure time has decreased, especially in America. Once thought of as a requirement for civilized society, leisure time has become almost abhorred in modern-American society.

What Does Work Mean to You?

This chapter also asks us, what does work mean to you? Why do you work? Is it to buy necessities, amenities, a sense of security, to carry on a tradition, for enjoyment, duty, service, learning, power, socializing, personal growth, success, creativity, fulfillment, time structure, or other reasons?

Separating Work and Paid Employment

YMOYL contends that we need to separate our definitions of work and paid employment. Besides earning money, the other functions served by paid employment--from socialization, to expressing creativity, to achieving personal growth--can also be gained from nonpaid work.

Step 7

Step seven is about increasing you income by valuing the life energy you invest in your job and exchanging it for the highest pay consistent with your health and integrity, for a self-defined period of time.

Do you feel that you are getting a fair income for the amount of life energy you invest in your job?


  1. Well... I guess I sorta wrote about a bunch of this stuff a few chapters ago - sorry for getting ahead of myself - but for me, learning to maximize my income was really big.

    Since I had pretty much shunned the corporate world from the moment I graduated from college, I'd always worked for poverty level wages. And since I was working at a tiny non-profit folk music school, this pretty much went with the territory.

    But over the years, I had worked really hard to grow the school, and by the time I read YMOYL, the music school had morphed into a thriving cultural arts center. And I was pretty much the only person left from the "old days" so I was also pretty much the only person who still viewed the place as a struggling, mostly volunteer run organization.

    This led to all sorts of conflict and bad feelings because I felt that other employees were overpaid, and that they didn't work hard enough, and that they got to spend WAY too much money on their programs.

    But the truth was that it was really my attitude and point of view that needed to change. It was actually really hard for me, but I had to shift the way I looked at it all, and a big part of that was giving myself permission to both earn a decent salary, and not work so hard.

    And in a funny way, learning to do those things was both good for me and good for the organization. It was hard for me to admit, but I really wasn't doing the school any favors by being taking on too much work and not getting paid enough - because in the long run, the school needed a functioning budget that allowed for enough money to pay the staff a living wage. So making that mental shift was really huge for me.

    The other thing I realized was that I had a LOT of skills and that I could make money outside of my job. So I started taking on "side gigs". I did some contract work as a database designer, started a little online used book store, and started exploring the world if internet publishing, which eventually ended up being my ticket out of the world of employment.

    I guess I'd always sort of viewed money as evil, and I saw the pursuit of money as an almost nefarious activity which made a person part of the dreaded "system." But I finally learned that in order to have financial freedom I had to accept the fact that I had just as much right as anyone else to charge for my time and to benefit from my hard work.

    1. Good for you for learning the tough changes and being able to implement drastic changes!

  2. My answers to some of the questions in this chapter:

    I work to pay the bills, because no one has left me a trust fund yet darnit. I sure as hell wouldn't work just to fill my time. Not an 8 to 5 plus job anyway.

    Deciding if I make a fair wage for life energy spent is a much tougher question for me to answer. To me, my latest salary is still feels like a decent amount of money, but I know it wouldn't impress many people and some would consider it a pittance (like say, the people profiled here. Need I say WTF?!)

    But my current salary allows me to live comfortably and save a decent amount. Plus, I work 40 hours a week, not 50-60, and the stress is fairly low most of the time. All-in-all I'm satisfied. Not deliriously in love with my job, not a live-to-work person, but satisfied.

  3. I've never much liked this chapter. Probably a defensive response because I stink at job hunting and also hate doing it and also I make less money than virtually all my friends and also could never get a teaching job like I wanted when I got out of college but ended up settling for clerical jobs.

    But now I realize I actually have been exchanging my time for "the highest pay consistent with [my] health and integrity." My friends who make more money are mostly doing jobs I would not like and working way more hours than I would like.

    Fantasizing about various part-time and/or temporary jobs that sound kind of fun, I have been researching the pay, and it has all been half what I've been making per hour with no benefits. Plus of course you don't get as many hours. So, it's better to do what I've been doing for one year than to work these part-time temp jobs for several years.

    Mostly I'm a person who gets only jobs with extremely high turnover or where they are hiring lots of people at once. In other words, with desperate employers. I hang around programmers and engineers but like working in education, so I don't get jobs through contacts like everybody supposedly does.

    Until this year. This year an amazing thing has happened that I'd only read about before: people are creating jobs and finding money just so they can hire ME. I now have three part time jobs with colleagues from my last job just because that job gave me expertise that they want. One of them just today asked if I'd be interested in extending my contract for eight additional months, though there are no promised yet. A fourth person expressed interest if I ever get any hours freed up again (though again, I don't know how serious she is). And I am sucking down all this work while it is available because the pay is so much better than the sort-of fun jobs I'd been thinking about, plus I like them.

    I'm working for money. I have always had four goals. 1) Make at least a living wage, ideally much more. 2) I won't do anything immoral, and ideally I help the world significantly. 3) I want to be at least competent, ideally supremely awesome at my job. 4) I can't hate my job, and ideally I love it. Generally I do best at the competence and worst at helping the world (yes, I help people, sometimes making their day a lot more pleasant, but not doing anything very important).

    I do recognize that I get incidental additional benefits from working, which I want to pay attention to so that I can make sure to replace the important ones somehow when I am no longer working. For example, there's the free socialization, free party food, free air conditioning, and plenty of respect for my work. Also, my workplace is convenient to a couple of things that my house is not: huge libraries and a branch of my credit union.

    As for working 3 hours a day, it fits with what I've read about a couple of primitive tribes but does not fit at all with what I've read in Little House on the Prairie. So, it may be easier to do that in some environments than others, even if you don't want all the fabulous electronics we have available to us to day (which I do).

  4. I’m going to contradict myself when discussing this chapter! While I have followed the advice to a degree-I didn’t go as far as finding a government job but I did actively seek a better paid one in the not for profit sector (and have same satisfaction and stress as my string of other not for profit jobs). This is helpful yes to saving money. However this YMOYL chapter is just too devoid of emotion and politics for me. I think the point that people over identify with their work is important and to redefine work as paid activity helps gain more perspective. Yet I am unable to work in as disassociated sense as inferred in this chapter. I mean you have to do the best you can for your own self respect, and attend training and show at least some passion to sustain a job of work over time and place. Maybe it’s me not letting go but I think the chapter tries to do too much and is very male in tone (individualised, task centred, goal orientated). Debs point stood out for me too- I am trying to create a self reliant lifestyle and I can tell you now it doesn’t happen in 3 hours a day. Frugal do it yourself life is very time consuming- not that I begrudge it. Good to read everyone’s perception too. I’m not looking forward to commenting on the next chapter! It’s just too depressing : ) I can tell you now I’m not reaching the cross over point any time soon if ever!!! Ruth in WA

    1. I think the point of this chapter is that if you normally look for the most fun job you can find, since you are stuck at work many, many hours, you might want to also consider less fun jobs that would let you quit completely much sooner.

      If like me, you couldn't stand to do any of those jobs that would let you quit in only 3 - 5 years, you could at least make sure to remember to compare the true salary when deciding whether to switch jobs--the actual salary, the value of the benefits, the (negative) value of the commutes and added expenses, etc.

      (I am kicking myself for not taking a pre-Y2K job in COBOL that a friend said I could probably get even though I didn't know much about programming or anything about COBOL. I knew it wouldn't last, but I forgot to take into account how much money I could have made for just a few month's work.)

      Also, it's reasonable to bargain. Ask for raises. Keep your eye out for other jobs with higher salaries.

      I agree with you that once you accept a job, you should do the best you can while you're there--to me part of accepting a job is accepting that I am going to have to do some work! And frankly, part of what motivates me to go to work is my plans for doing my job as well as possible.

      One more point: some frugal stuff doesn't actually take more time than the regular way. It's just as easy to shop at a thrift store as at a mall (easier if you don't like the current fashions). It's just as easy to go to a library as a bookstore or movie rental place. It takes less time to bunch your errands together to save gas. It takes less time to cook a double-batch so you can just re-heat the extras one day instead of eating out. It takes less time to automate your bill paying so you never end up paying a late fee. And once you've made your price book, it's easy to focus on stocking up on whatever's cheaper at the store you're in. And once you own a needle and thread, it's often quicker to mend something than to replace it.

  5. OMG!!!!! OK, this is going to go down in my list of incredibly stupid things. I've been to 5 or 6 thrift stores looking for a copy of YMOYL so I could re-read it... no luck, and the waiting list at the library was huge, so it didn't seem worth it.

    So today, I decided that I was gonna make some more headway on my clutter and I opened a box of books that I had set aside to sell online, and guess what I found? You guessed it! Unbelievable! All this time it's been sitting there amid my clutter.

    Anyhow, guess I'll re-read it now!

    Tell me again... why do Swedes have flat foreheads? Oy Vey!

  6. how did your read go ecocat lady? ruth


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