Father’s Day Thoughts: What Are You Working For?

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I don’t mean to be a downer on this holiday, but I still want to point out the results from CareerBuilder.com’s 2007 annual Father’s Day survey of full-time working fathers:

  • 27% of working dads say they spend more than 50 hours a week on work and nearly 1 out of 10 (8%) spend more than 60 hours.
  • 38% of them would take a pay-cut to spend more time with their kids, if given the choice.
  • 25% of working dads spend less than one hour with their kids each day. 42% spend less than two hours each day.

It’s sad that some fathers wish they could cut back on hours but can’t.

My father worked long hours to provide financial stability for our family, and I will always appreciate that. I learned from him to respect hard work and the importance of really finding your own passion. However, I was bitter about what I felt was being put on the back burner to his career pursuits for many years, and that experience has always shaped my career outlook.

While it sometimes it may seem like I’m solely focused on making money, I’ve actually made an additional rule for myself: I can work crazy hours now, but when I’m a father, I’m not working more than 40 hours a week no matter what. My actual goal is to work less than 20. Hopefully I can properly share how I am closing in on this goal in the next few years by developing the right skills and and keeping the consumerism down.

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  1. This could be alleviated somewhat by abolishing the income tax, SS taxes, and other taxes that put an unfair financial burden on everyone.

    There are probably some families that need to downsize a bit by having a used car and newer car or perhaps they bought too much house, but how low can you go?

    Another option is to find the highest paying government job possible. The pay may not be that great, but the time off and some of the benefits are not too bad.

  2. i like your plan of putting the hours in now and then working less when youre a father. remember to follow through though. i make plans like that but when it comes time, its nearly impossible to implement. when you are driven, its hard to just cut back.

    remember to spend quality time with your wife/girlfriend every day/week (if u have one) or your plans of having a kid may not even happen. i recently have found that my hours of work and mindset on making money has put burdens on relationships. this needs to constantly be evaluated, dont lose track on the fact that money is a means to an end. if we end up with millions and no one to share them with, we have failed. good luck to you, i admire you and your blog

  3. Danny at Money Socket says

    Looking back this fathers day, I can truly appreciate the effort my dad puts in to put food on the table and to put me through school. He drove a bus day in day out for over 20 years now and I have to admit it would be nice to spend some more time with him.

    The idea of working harder now makes a lot of sense. I’m also planning to put in the effort now while I’m young, have no dependents, and I’m physically able to. Hopefully I’ll be able to work hard enough and save up enough to let compounding interest do it’s job 10 years from now.

    With your knowledge Jonathan and a successful blog like this, you’ll definitely be able to work less than 20 hours.

  4. Nathan Whitehead says

    There’s another way to spend more time with your kids without working less: get your kids involved in your work. This has been the traditional way of life for thousands of years; sending children away to school, apprenticeships, jobs, is a relatively modern invention.

  5. Abolish taxes? That’s a fine sentiment, I suppose, but where do you think government employee salaries come from?

  6. It’s an interesting balance across the board. The concept of working hard until you’re in your 60s, then retiring is, to some degree silly. I want to spend my younger years having fun and doing things that I’m unlikely to be able to do when I’m in my 60s 🙂 But there’s also value in working hard when you’re young and cutting back when you have children so you can spend more time with them.

    I’m lucky enough to be in a position to spend more time with my young son rather than working as hard as many people have to. If all goes well I’ll be semi-retired within the next year (before I’m 40). I may not retire filthy rich, but I’ll be comfortable and have the time to spend with my son -and- time to pursue my own fun activities.

    Live within your means and save 🙂 Working the system with 0-balance transfers, bank signup bonuses, etc is more fun than anything.

  7. Tom Lutzenberger says

    I actually put in close to 10 years in a grinder of a job to pay my dues and get to the level I am now. After spending years of working till 11pm at night and many times 7 days a week, I get to the top so to speak and can work from 8 to 5. It was the funnest thing to finally have a true Christmas holiday again. But with the coming of our children, I am again working til midnight.

    The reason being is as my wife and I have decided the best way to raise our kids is by us doing it, that means a pay cut (i.e. she doesn’t work). To make up the difference I do consulting at night as a 2nd job.

    The point of all this is, yes it is still the role of at least one in the household to bring in the income to make it possible for the rest of the family to be taken care of. We can talk all day about how nice this, how nice that. But the bottom line is, someone still needs to pay the bills to afford having a family.

  8. My parents, both mom and dad, and when I was younger I resented it a little that they couldn’t be alot of things as I got I older I came to appreciate more and more the sacrafices they made. They didn’t really have alot of choice in the matter given we were rather poor immigrants, they worked as much as they did to literally put food on the table, not for any career goals.

    If you’re workin for a nicer car or better sounding title, I don’t think it’s worth it. I mean my mom still regrets to this day not being able to spend more time with us (my dad actually had more flexibility to handle the routine parenting tasks like parent teacher conferences). Work enough that you’re productive, and the amount you need to, but everything else just give you more slack to spoil your kids, and there’s nothing worse than a spoiled brat.

  9. Tom: If you’re at the top, so to speak, shouldn’t you already be making more than most dual-income families by just working 8 to 5? Your kids are going to hate you when they are teenagers if you aren’t there. They don’t care if you’re making $120k instead of $80k by working the night job. They just want you to spend time w/them. Having mom isn’t enough!

  10. OK Don: “This could be alleviated somewhat by abolishing the income tax, SS taxes, and other taxes that put an unfair financial burden on everyone.”

    That’s a little hard to support. Stopping the funding of the government is not really a suggestion that bears a lot of weight here. Maybe if you provided some more supporting evidence or details you’d get a little more support for the idea.

    Tom: You’re also not giving a lot of supporting evidence. If you’ve “worked your way to the top” so to speak, then you’re probably making the equivalent of two average salaries. How is working more going to let you spend more time with your kids? I mean what are you doing with all of the money you’re making now (with one big income and one regular income)? Have you pre-paid the kids college? Do you own your home outright?

    I don’t get it, we’re talking about working extra hard, early on, so that you can do things like pre-save for college or your home or even just some steady investment income to ensure that you have time for the kids. If you’re near the top of the food chain and you can’t afford to feed three mouths, then you’re just digging deeper. Look around at Jonathan’s lifestyle inflation posts. Maybe you’re suffering from some of that.

  11. Rxforfinance says

    I feel that I work too much now. I have kids and would like to spend more time with them, but I have the fear that ‘extra’ work might not be available in the future so I need to get it now. The other problem is I have a hard time saying no when someone asks me to work for them.
    I had a good income, so I don’t usually have to wait for the next paycheck to buy shoes for my kids, I can pay the bills as they come in, etc.
    I manage to fully fund my 401(k) and IRA’s for my wife and myself. But I don’t have an emergency fund per se.
    Who knows? I guess I am just kidding myself. I should cut back now, and when the kiddies are out of school and out of the house, work 60+ hours a week to “catch up” b/c I would have to cut back on some retirement savings.

  12. Rxforfinance says

    I myself manage to shave every other day 😉
    I have a teenager who probably needs to shave more often than I do. I guess I am just young at heart (beard).

  13. I think a lot of the posters must be much younger than I am. I have two adult children and one still a minor. For those who are planning all their “quality time” moments with their children, let me offer a little advice: Your kids expect you to work. Through their unsophisticated little minds they have figured out that Mom and Dad have to earn a paycheck or they don’t get any toys. Besides, as they age, they don’t want you to be with them 24/7 anyway. Enjoy them when they are young (I mean really try to enjoy them – it goes quickly), tolerate them when they are teenagers and lovingly boot their butts out when they start shaving everyday (or every couple days).

    I love all the comments (I really mean that) but whatever your plans are to kill yourself now so you can gaze upon your children uninterupted while they grow, think again. Life is going to happen. If you don’t brace yourself for it now, you will be heartbroken when your kid lets you know he would rather spend time with the buck-toothed heathen down the street instead of dear ol’ dad. Shake it off. He still loves you and believe me, since they have figured out you have viable employment and therefore, food, they always come back.


  14. goldnsilver says

    I agree with Ron. I appreciate my father’s hard work, but I always expected him to work. I love my dad dearly, but it’d drive me crazy if he were with me 24/7.

  15. I would have loved to spent more time with my Dad, and really for my Mom to have had more time with my Dad, since they really enjoyed each others’ company, they were best friends. But I do have to agree a little with what Ron just said — I expected my father to work and if he was hanging around a lot it would have seemed funny, back when I grew up anyway. I wish he didn’t work on every weekend, although sometimes he’d bring me with him to the office and that would kind of be our time together. It was special going on the train with Dad and into the city. I have to say, it made me feel like Daddy was important (and by association, so was I). A working Dad, with purpose, makes a kid feel secure and hopeful for their own future.

    But, of course, I was very happy having my Mom home with me (most of the time anyway). She worked once I was a bit older, but not full time. That was okay with me. I wish I could have done the same when I had my daughter. I always planned to stay home until she was at the very least, school age (6 or so), and then also have a part time schedule. But since I earn far more than my husband, this isn’t possible. I guess I’m Daddy’s little girl 🙂

  16. I think Ron has a very valuable advice. The lesson is, don’t overkill on either side. There should always be a balance between work and life, no matter what your age is, and whether you have children or not.

    I recently read, “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich” by Timothy Ferriss, May not agree with all the points the author makes, but there are valuable thoughts and points to ponder about.

  17. I make less than the national median income and pay about $10k or more to support all levels of government before and after my paycheck. I’m talking fed income tax, state income tax, sales taxes, phone taxes, car tax, and whatever else. Most of this are taxes we pay on necessities. I remember paying a $120/year in taxes on phone landline, and this was for only the most basic service.

    If I were not forced into government “insurance” garbage like SS, that is some real extra money I could use to buy the insurance I would like or to improve my standard of living or invest it for the future.

    At the federal level, if one would endorse candidates that support the US Constitution to the letter, we would be vastly better off. At the state and local level, why not support privatizing schools and other nonessential government functions.

  18. My dad got a little career obsessed when I was a kid and traveled 5 days a week for his job. Now, my parents are retired very comfortably, and I wonder if he overdid it a bit. I didn’t really notice him not being around once I got to high school, but it would have been great to have him around in my formative years. At least i think it would have…

    @don_m: I sort of like the idea of privatizing schools, but just remember if you make less than the national median income, you’re probably only going to be able to afford to send your kid to a below average school. the tough part about the free market is that price will often dictate quality. super if you’re shopping for a car, kind of bad if you’re trying to educate a child on a limited income.

  19. Yes! Work like crazy when you are young! I have cut back considerably, but because of all the years I put in up front, I am still well compensated.

    Another benefit (and a question): because I saved early on, my “nest egg” is now significant. I was playing around today with one of those “when will you be a millionaire” calculators; without revealing too much, it turns out that my continuing contributions (based on my conservative estimates) are nigh on worthless with regard to my goals. That is, my current (significant) contribution rate shortens the time required to achieve my goals (which exceed the”one million” of the calculator) by a mere three years. In other words, if I did not contribute another dime, I would reach my retirement goal regardless.

    SO: when should one begin to divert for other goals? My offsprings’ college funds are woefully inadequate; the house needs a paint job; my “emergency fund” could be bigger; a maid service would be nice…

    When, if ever, does deferring current income toward retirement silly? Should I keep saving just because that is what I do? Hmmm…

  20. sfmoneymusings says

    That’s very admirable to set a goal of working less than 20 hours a week once you have kids.

    My dad used to work 80+ hours a week including weekends to earn more money (my dad jumped around in various startups) when I was a kid. So my dad was never around to help with homework so I got poor grades in school until my dad intervened when the report cards came home. He worked to earn more money for our college tuition and so we could go to better public schools, live in a nicer house with more ammenities and have opportunities he didn’t.

    While I admired his dedication to work and challening himself with long term projects with lucrative financial benefits and bonuses, he’s talked frequently how much he missed our younger years growing up. All the money in the world can’t make up for lost time.

    My dad’s doing a better job of working less hours now and spending more time fostering my younger sister’s growth, education and development. But he’s still trying to earn/make more money for her college tuition.

  21. Susannah says

    We worked hard, and now are thinking about taking a break since the kids are young and DO want both of us around 24/7 (one’s 2, one’s 6 months). The developmental age when they start being more independent is about 7, so we are thinking a 7 year break would be good, and estimate that our savings should comfortably last us at LEAST 10 years.

  22. Hi, its very truthful blog. I know how hard my dad work for us. Thanks for nice blog.

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