Hello everybody, welcome to episode 105 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. We’re gonna be talking some finances today, folks. I’ve actually gotten really into finance lately. I started learning a lot about investing like 4 years ago, but lately I’ve put extra focus on it through the course of the pandemic and for someone who’s not really a numbers or a business guy, it’s truly fascinating to learn about, so I’m exciting to take a question about it today. Anyway, that’s my little aside. Let’s take a look at today’s question on part-time work and see how this woman’s financial situation is clashing with her mental health…
QUESTION: “My supervisor mentioned that there might be an opportunity for me to reduce my hours from 40 per week to 30. In some ways this is exactly what I want – the work is stressful and it’s a career with high rates of burnout. There have been dozens of times where I’ve fantasized about spending less time at work and more time doing the things I love. The reduction would likely support my mental health, and potentially my physical health as well. Part of me also wants to go back to school at some point for a Masters degree, and working fewer hours would allow me to fit in some prerequisite classes.
My hang up is primarily around finances. I’m in my early 30s and feel like this is the part of my life when I should be focused on earning as much as possible and saving for retirement. My husband also recently learned that he will have to take some furlough days as part of state budget cuts, so our financial situation is not looking quite as comfortable as it had been even a month ago. We live well within our means and are almost completely out of debt with the exception of our mortgage. Should I prioritize my well-being and desire to improve work/life balance, despite all of these financial considerations?”
A Joint Decision With Your Husband
All right, another good question that I feel pretty lopsided on. Love it. Thanks for sending this one in.
First of all, unless your husband listens to the show and has like granted me permission to make this decision for the two of you, it’s definitely something to talk about with him and a decision that needs to be come to together.
This is not me saying that you can’t make your own life choices. What you love to do should always be put first for you, but obviously because of your commitment to him it’s a decision that directly impacts both of you and thus should be come to together.
That being said, I think you’d be crazy to not take the reduced hours through part-time work, even if you just asked your supervisor if you could test it out for a month. And you’re making my job easy on this one because it almost sounds like you’ve come to this decision already.
Look at how you asked the question: you listed 5 reasons you want to do it and 1 reason you don’t want to do it which was a bit of a softie anyway, no offense. You’ve described a minor setback in an otherwise very strong financial situation versus a myriad of other reasons to be excited about. To me, it’s no contest.
But we’ve got plenty of time left so let me spend it by elaborating.
Part-Time Work: An Opportunity To Put Life First
Everyone dreams of what has become this rare opportunity to put life first. You know this first hand – you said there have been dozens of times that you’ve fantasized about spending less time at work. Why not try it? Why not give dreaming a chance? There’s so little to lose here and so much more to gain.
And yet I still think you’re shortchanging that gain. As a matter of fact, let’s look at it from the perspective of your money brain. And we’re not here to just be dreamers and dreamers alone, people. Money is a big presence in our lives, so we’re going to be realistic and respect it, not just kick it to the curb or be one of those cults that believes we can just materialize more money by chanting a mantra in a tent for 5 days.
So here’s the money brain: It seems the big priority for you guys is saving and retiring in a timely fashion. That’s awesome. Seems like you might get set back a little bit should you and your husband both be making a bit less, even though his would be temporary. Fine.
Concretely, should you choose to get the master’s degree, you’ll be put in a position to make more money than you do now working your current 40 hours per week which, of course, is best for your finances long term.
Living Within Your Means
You’re already living well within your means which is incredible. Maybe you can still find ways to trim the fat in that department, but if not, where’s the sense of balance, anyway?
When you retire, you want to look back on a life in which you made at least some choices from your heart instead of your wallet. Retirement is about expanding upon a life of freedom, not waiting until you’re 65 to start a life of freedom.
Oh, and FYI, maintaining good physical health is going to make your retirement a whole lot better.
Mental Health and Work Performance
Speaking of which, remember that mental health and (to a lesser extent) physical health, play a huge role in work performance.
Increases in these areas that would come from taking 10 hours a week off your plate would make the remaining 30 hours that much more full of vigor and enthusiasm. You’d be revived, you’d be avoiding a lot of the burnout you mentioned, and you’d deliver a more quality performance. Quality over quantity, as they say.
So not only would you be a better, more creative presence at your current job, but you could also start something on the side if you really wanted to that was built on passion and could turn into some extra money.
Because mental health permeates into everything, of course, your marriage would be better off as well. Both you and your husband would benefit from you being in a better mood, so his work performance would increase like yours would.
Cultural Obsession With Making Money
There’s a big obsession with the struggle to make money these days. It’s become such a villain that it’s almost exclusively seen as a grind, as though being miserable is part of the money-making process.
If you listen to this show and other shows in this network, you know the value of mental health. You know it needs to be put first and you know that it makes money-making more enjoyable and more efficient.
However, If Money Is A Pressing Issue…
The only scenario in which I’d be at least somewhat inclined to tell you not to take the reduced hours would be if money is a pressing concern, either realistically or imaginarily.
What does that mean?
Realistically, if money is a true issue, if you guys are barely making ends meet and it is by far the biggest stressor in your life, then temporarily I might (not definitely) but might suggest keeping the 40 hours but simultaneously working on a plan for a better work situation.
Imaginarily, well, the truth is that a lot of people convince themselves that their money problems are astronomically worse than they actually are. They do not factor in all the opportunities to spend less on things they don’t actually need, they try to keep pace with a social status, etc. Nonetheless, these concerns can feel so real that it’s still damaging to mental health to the point that taking 10 less hours a week would be perceived as more destructive than the benefits of having that free time would be constructive.
If that were the case, that would be an illusion and therefore the unhealthy and unrealistic obsession with money would be a separate issue which should be worked out anyway.
Conclusion: Part-Time Work and Mental Health
Either way, if I were to suggest keeping the 40 hours under those circumstances, it would still be a temporary suggestion and something to transition out of while the person simultaneously bettered their perception of finance.
By now, you know my stance on this. Like I said, though, come to this decision with your husband. If he’s really not into it and you really are, remind him of all the objective ways you believe your part-time work hours would benefit him, even if it’s through you being happier and feeling more in control of your life. And if that’s not enough to sway him, then hopefully he enjoys sleeping on the couch.
Ok thank you again to the asker for sending this one in and thank you all for listening. I hope it was helpful.
FYI for those of you who are interested in learning more about finances, do check out one of our other shows, Optimal Finance Daily, if you haven’t already. There are a lot of great articles on there about planning for retirement that are worth checking out.
As always, guys, go ahead and send in any questions of your own that you’d like us to answer here on the show. You can email them to advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
We love hearing from and helping you guys, so jump on in. We’re done though for today. Take care everyone, and I’ll talk to you next time.