Balancing Your Work With Your Life

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The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Greg Johnson. Greg is a proud husband, father, and debt crusader who is in the process of becoming debt free. Along with his wife, Greg co-founded the personal finance blog, Club Thrifty, where they encourage readers to “Stop Spending. Start Living.”

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the delicate balancing act that goes on between the demands of one’s work schedule and his life.

I suppose my thoughts originated in part because I’ve recently been pulling a lot of “all-nighters” recently. I’ve been questioning my own work schedule, wondering how I can find the optimum balance in my life. Where does the pursuit of money infringe on the pursuit of happiness, and vice versa?

Fortunately or unfortunately, we live in a world in which we need money to live. We need money to meet our needs for shelter and food. We need it for our comfort. We even need it for many of the things we find entertaining – like travel or sports. We need money…and we need to work – in some form or another – in order to get it. Whether or not one believes in the consumer driven system that our labor sustains is moot. The fact is that we live in this system, and we have no way around it.

So, what is the right balance? Obviously, we need to have a high enough income to take care of our needs first. Furthermore, many of us want to save for the future so that we are not stuck working 8-hour days in our older age. Still, many people trade working 60-80 hours a week today so that they don’t have to work as hard later. They forget to live their life now while they toil and dream of a life that may never come later. Unfortunately, many people become too old or sick by the time that they get there. That time that they spent working is time that they will never get back.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with planning ahead. In fact, I encourage it. Yet, often times, I feel that we trade so much of our time away to in order make money – gambling that we will have time to spend it in the future. We forget that the only certainty that we have is now. We forget the reasons that we want to make money in the first place. What is really worth more to us? Is it the time or the money?

In my own life, I am struggling with the balance between my work and my life. My day job is very demanding, and I’m not sure how much longer it is going to be worth it. I make a good amount of money, but is the trade-off worth it? Is being on-call worth and working straight through the night worth it? Am I making enough to justify working weekends and holidays, especially since I don’t control my own salary? I’m not sure. I’m beginning to get the sense that my work/life balance is out of whack.

I want to be able to travel. I want to be able to spend more time with my children and my wife. I don’t want to be in the middle of dinner, only to be interrupted by my work – causing me to be an absent father and husband for the rest of the night. I still enjoy the financial benefits that the job provides, but I’m questioning whether I’ve reached the point where the financial benefits are outweighed by the sacrifices that our family has to make in order to achieve them.

A friend and fellow blogger of mine shared a quote in the comments of one of my articles a few weeks ago. He said, “When given a choice between time and money, always choose time.” Why, you ask? “You can use your time to make more money, but you can’t use money to make more time.” How true that is.

One way to use your time to earn more money is by pursuing a new degree to further your career. A Graduate Tax degree, for example, puts you in a great situation moving forward because you can work in a variety of different industries as a tax professional. This degree, which you can earn online while continuing to work at your current job, allows you to take positions as a tax associate, financial analyst, staff attorney, or international tax manager, which opens up your earning potential to an entirely new set of possibilities.

I have yet to find a distinct rule on what somebody’s work/life balance should be. It varies depending on each individual and their own goals. I have found it is best to try to remember to put money in its proper perspective. For me, earning money alone can not be the primary goal. It is only a tool to help me achieve the things that I really want out of life. Once I decide that the pursuit of money is conflicting too much with my life goals, it will probably be time for a change.

So, what are your thoughts? How do you know when to draw the line between working hard and over-working? 

Have you ever struggled with balancing the demands of your work with your life? How did you come to make your decision? 

Please share your stories in the comments below!

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  1. My work life balance right now is pretty minimal. I'm always doing SOMETHING and I'm constantly adding to my to do list.

  2. myfijourney says:

    If you're going to be a well paid professional, you're going to have to work. Probably at least 45-50 hours a week assuming that you're efficient. More if you're days are filled up with travel and meetings. I've just kind of accepted this and try to work as efficiently as I can.

    And I am starting to establish certain hard lines in the sand to ensure that I get a minimum amount of exercise and fun in the week. You can't go overboard with hard lines in the sand, but I think it's okay to say “This evening is important for me and I'm not moving or canceling it, we can meet on any of the other evenings or mornings.”
    My recent post Getting to Know the S&P500

    • I agree with that statement and I'm not opposed to working 45-50 hours per week. It is the 60-80 that I'm not down with…plus the fact that the industry I work in doesn't have “set hours” per se.
      My recent post VIP Club Roundup – 18th Edition

  3. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

    Good post Greg! You hit the nail on the head and is one that my wife and I constantly struggle with. We've come down to the realization that we need to create that balance, otherwise it just will not happen. Money is great, I love making more of it, but at what expense? Time is the most precious commodity there is and I don't want to look back 20 years from now and wonder where it went.
    My recent post Carnival of Passive Investing #27

    • I hear you John. I'm afraid that is what I'm doing right now. I can see it happening, but it is like a train that I can't seem to stop.
      My recent post VIP Club Roundup – 18th Edition

  4. Good post! I think almost everyone get to experience that kind of struggle. There used to be a time when I felt I was merely breathing not living because I spent my days immersed at work that I ended up feeling so miserable because of it. Right now I am doing my best to create a balance in my life, not just to live but to really be alive.
    My recent post 4 Ideas for Following Warren Buffett into Consumer Staples

  5. CordeliaCallsIt says:

    This is such a tough one. Right now, I'm working 25 hrs/week at my “day job” and roughly 20-30/week trying to launch my freelance blogging business. Ultimately, I know the payoff will be being able to do what I love full-time, and hopefully regaining that sense of “balance” in the process. So right now, I'm trying to accept the fact that a little sacrifice now will have big payoffs down the line.

    That said? You still have to enjoy the life you're living now, even if you're working towards something better. Because now is all you technically have, and you (and any family/friends who look to you) deserve to be able to enjoy it . So I've instated policies like “Saturdays are work-free days” and “no work after 8pm unless it's time-sensitive.” It keeps me from getting (totally) burned out and inserts a teeny bit of “life” into my work-life balance.

    I think “work-life balance” differs from person to person, and it's hard to define what it IS, but you can tell for certain what it's NOT. I think if you're worried about yours, then it's probably off. But, if you have good reason for that and can try to level things out now and then while you work towards something, you're at least on the right track.

    Best of luck with your balancing act!
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