Working the 40 Hour Lie

I was browsing Facebook the other day, and got into a personal finance discussion on a friend’s thread.  The post itself was about how people in poverty are some of the most resourceful people ever; likely true, considering our impoverished aren’t dying by the daily dozen, rather they’re stretching scarce resources.  However, the point the person on the thread was attempting to make was that people aren’t even given a chance at rising out of poverty.  That sentiment absolutely baffled me!

Manage Your Time After 40 Hours

Worker harder and Smarter

Listen, I get some people are going to be poor and some rich.  We call it economic stratification and it’s actually an integral part to a functioning merchant society.  However, living in poverty – actual poverty as defined by the federal government – I believe is a personal choice for most people; and in this person’s case it was absolutely a choice since she was a young, child-less female with a college education.  To judge her purely by her grasp of the English language and ability to formulate her thoughts, I would describe her as an intelligent woman.  Then of course came the reasoning as to why she was in poverty: wages are too low, rent is too high, and it’s simply unfair that she can’t get by on 40 hours a week.  That’s when it hit me.  She’s ONLY working 40 hours a week.

40 Hours to Get By

Let me start off by saying that I agree wages have not kept up with productivity and I also agree with a minimum wage increase.  I believe the inflationary argument is overly dramatic and likely a farce.  You can check out some excellent papers on the short, intermediate and long-term effects of incremental increases to minimum wage at the St. Louis Federal Reserve website and the International Monetary Fund.  By and large, small adjustments do not send economies into death spirals.

Now the, back to the argument.  40 hours is part-time.  You heard me!  Part-time!  You have 24 hours a day for seven days a week.  That’s 168 hours a week.  Subtract 56 hours for sleeping and 40 for working and you’re still looking at a sweet 72 hours left to do with what you will.  Even if you include one hour for getting ready and one hour for commute each work day, you still have 57 hours left. There is simply no reason to use all those hours for either menial errands or relaxation.  You can work a side gig, start a business, improve your skills, network, the opportunities are endless.  We all know wages are stagnant, so you can either sit back and bemoan the fact or you can go out and work on building other income streams!  Personally, I work an average of 42 hours per week at my day (or night in my case) job, I spend another 6-11 hours on this blog writing posts, self-promoting, and following other finance blogs for click backs, and I’m currently in talks to join in a start-up business venture.  If I do end up joining the business, I estimate my total hours to work a week at around 65.  I also have the occasional budgeting and cash flow consultation jobs I get from this blog which add another 3 hours per client.  They’re sporadic, so I just hustle a little bit more on those weeks.  I also give myself at least half of one day to do absolutely nothing and decompress.  It’s all about work ethic and discipline.  Side note, before I had this blog and started the talks with the business venture, I was usually working overtime at my job to the tune of about 12 hours extra a week.

In this particular discussion with this Facebook stranger, I mentioned that people who have no criminal backgrounds should go to a community college after work and get a trade skill: medical coding, bookkeeping, mechanic, police/fire/medical, legal assistant.  All of these jobs make enough to get you out of poverty and can be done in two years or less.  Not to mention, if you are in poverty you can get a $2,000 Pell grant to cover your tuition which, at a community college, should cover nearly all of the bill.  But nay, this person said that someone in poverty shouldn’t have to spend what little time they have after their job to go to school and learn a skill.  Not to sound crass, but if you’re making $20,000 a year, you probably don’t have cable or season tickets to the Lakers.  Much of your free time is spent on free activities like family or socializing.  Why not spend that time bettering yourself with marketable skills?

Another thing to note is that the Bureau of Labor Statistics in their last quarterly report noted that the average hours worked was 34.4 – salaried employees tend to work more, while hourly people tend to work less.  As a young professional we should be skyrocketing that average.  Those who are older and have more wear and tear on their bodies should be the only ones taking it easy.  You can’t work an average amount of hours and expect to get extraordinary results.  It just doesn’t happen – especially not in this political or economic climate.

Sacrificing Your Wants to Get Ahead

A common theme I see in budgets for young people complaining of not enough money is poor spending habits like spending too much on necessary items and splurging too often on unnecessary items.  As a young person it can mean buying a home before they’re financially ready or not getting roommates when possible.  Although, the biggest killer I see is buying a car outside of your finances and having those huge payments.

It’s an issue of mindset.  You may work hard at your job, but you’re probably not working hard enough to get ahead if you think it all ends when you go home.  For me, I prefer to live like a peasant for the first few years of my professional career so I can live like a king for the rest of my life.  That’s why I focus so much on my budget and it’s why my work is just beginning when I go home.  If I can afford a home on a public service salary and two dependents, you can too!  You’re just going to have to work harder and be more productive than you ever have before.

Some people though are content where they are and are content to live an average life.  If you’re one of those people, that’s great.   You’re nodding your head right now and thinking “I’d rather live a stress-free life than work more”.  To each his own.  But if you’re thinking this article is rubbish and distasteful and that no one should have to work more than 40 hours a week, then I would remind you that you can’t expect extraordinary results for an ordinary amount of work.  The average day job does not make you wealthy.  People who make millions are those who achieved a great deal of education or have unique skills.  The other ones are entrepreneurs.  If you know your number for retirement, then you need to go out and grab it.  It’s up to you to succeed – ordinary work gets ordinary results.  Don’t fall for the 40 hours a week lie.


Readers, do you hustle in your down time and attempt to make multiple income streams or are you content living a simpler, albeit less wealthy, life?  What are your reasons for choosing your certain lifestyle?  For my older readers, do you wish you had hustled more in your youth or are you happy with what you’ve achieved in your life?  Let me know in the comments below!

Cash Flow Celt

I'm just a local business and finance nerd looking to help people get educated about small business, marketing, and personal finance! I write about anything and everything that I can tie into those themes. I'm also Central Florida's only Kilted Realtor, so I write about Real Estate too! Check out my About Me page to see the origins of Cash Flow Celt.

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6 Responses

  1. Catherine J Colangelo says:

    I’m one of your older readers (62). No, I do not wish I had hustled more in my prime working years (I regularly put in 60 hour weeks back then with a family). The question might better be: Do I wish I had saved more methodically? To that I can answer yes. My life now in retirement is a satisfying balance of work I want to do and time with my family. I am not rich by any means but I am intensely happy. And, truth be told, that has always been my ultimate goal. Money has never been a goal for me, having a happy and satisfying life has. Saving is good. Trading it for time with one’s family is never a good idea.

    • Cash Flow Celt says:

      As someone who put in 60 hours a week in your prime, there probably wasn’t a lot of extra time to hustle. 20 hours can make a big difference when it comes to being financially independent. As far as saving more methodically, that’s what I’m about here. Making your savings part of your “fixed expenses”; that way it’s easier to hit your goals.

      For me personally, it’s easier to work harder now considering my kiddo isn’t building life long childhood memories yet. Trying to get to a stable and comfortable financial position, with employment that *I* get to decide, makes sense. I’m trying to get to a point that when he needs a father, I can make that time – something you can’t do when money is the most crucial thing in your life because your day job isn’t cutting it financially.

      • Catherine J Colangelo says:

        I admire your goals and your work ethic. Get back to me in 10 years and we’ll see if “life got in the way” or if you have been able to keep up with your savings goals and still be a dad/partner. I’m just concerned that money is the most “crucial thing” in your life. I understand but admonish you to seek balance. Also, I was pleased to see that your blog came right up on a Google search first place!

  2. Yetisaurus says:

    Great post. I totally agree with you. I can’t think of a single person I know who has earned a lot of money over their lifetime who hasn’t put in more than 40 hours per week on average.

    I would love to see a psychological study of people who are struggling financially and to get to the root of their mindset. Are they too lazy to work more than 40 hours per week? Are they just defaulting to that because that’s what they think everyone else does, so it doesn’t occur to them to do anything different? I’m not trying to be condescending, I really do wonder about that. There are very, very few people whose responsibilities actually limit them to only 40 hours per week. But a lot of people THINK that’s all they can do, for some reason.

    The same thing goes for putting money in savings. A huge chunk of the population doesn’t save a dime, because they think they can’t afford to save. But if they got a pay cut of 10%, would they starve to death? Doubt it. They’d get creative, cut back, and find some way to survive. If so, then they can afford to save. It might make life less comfortable for a while, but it would more than make up for it in the future.

  3. Jack Catchem says:

    This reminds me of one of the Dalai Lama’s reiterated statements by the slothful: “Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
    Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

    All due respect, please. I’ll cite the Starks here. “Winter is Coming.” I’m going to make my plans for my inevitable decline and do amazing things at home, work, and writing while I yet breathe. Thanks for supporting hard work, Celt!

    • Cash Flow Celt says:

      Thanks for reading Jack! For some reason you ended up in my spam folder. 🙁 I tend to check it periodically, and luckily I saw your valid comments.

      I’ve heard that quote from the Dalai Lama paraphrased, but never in its entirety. It’s a great one though. That’s really all you can ask from life though is to enjoy it doing what you want to do. Anything past that, and you’re needlessly suffering.

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