Why Coworkers Don’t Talk About Their Salaries (and Why We Should)

if financial success and work is a game,

The gender wage gap is a thing. Bitches Get Riches illustrated this best when they said “This is not open to discussion” and made every word a separate link to census data and economics journals. Anyway, know it’s true, even in my past workplaces. I’m now paid $2 more per hour than my previous (female) assistant manager. Guess what: I’m not the assistant manager. Obviously, something’s going a little fucky here. That’s why I’m trying to do something about it.

Paraphrasing from a now buried tweet I once saw, “Men shouldn’t consider themselves allies unless they disclose their salary to female coworkers. This is the only way we can achieve wage equality.” I agree, and I’ve been extremely open to anyone who’s asked. I also kinda think everyone should disclose their salary to one another, for a couple of reasons. First though, let’s weigh the cons.

The main problem I hear is it might put a target on your back. Sometimes, people will think it’s unfair you’re getting paid more than them. (Spoiler alert: Sometimes, they’re right.) I’ve had coworkers go out of their way to try and sink me, but the end result of this was I actually got much better at my job. With management seeing me go above and beyond in my work, the naysayers have mostly slinked away. Besides, any misguided attempts at revenge would be a race to the bottom. Being a good dude and trying to boost them up instead is a race to the top. With this mindset, that target no longer seems so bad. It just seems like part of the game. Let’s come back to this in a second.

The other obvious problem is this results in coworkers making a snap judgment about workplace hierarchy. I don’t really think I “outrank” anyone, by the way. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all the same cubicle. We’ve already established wages aren’t objectively fair (and most of them are far too low across the board anyway), so let people think what they want, but try to boost them up too. This is actually one of the best things you can do to increase your own salary. If I’m a manager with three employees, and they’re paid $30/$30/$23, when Employee #3 asks for a raise, giving them $27 is almost a “Why the fuck not?” Here’s the sweet part: If you’ve got a great connection with your coworkers, and you’ve all been open about your salaries, Employee #3 can knowledgeably ask for more! This even makes your boss look good. Managing a team of highly paid professionals looks great on paper. Managing an unmotivated clusterfuck of minimum wage underlings? Not so hot.

Your workplace is just a game, and everyone’s in it to win. Done right, there are no losers. Your “boss” is a coworker. That’s it. They want success too. Stop comparing the extra money and focus on yourself. “How can make $3 more per hour,” not “Debbie’s a bitch for being richer.” Besides, if you’re here, you’re on your way to wealth already, partly because you’re smart enough to talk about money openly. If financial success and work is a game, you should know the rules and how other people are playing itBurying your head in the sand helps no one. Bringing down your workplace helps no one. You know what does help? Community over competition. It’s not even a competition! Go to work, boost up your team, and be open about how much you make. Any temporary feelings of inadequacy might suck now – “Ben makes HOW much?!?” – but knowledge is always good. After all, if someone is doing the same job as you, but makes $40,000 more per year, wouldn’t you want to know about it? Wouldn’t you want to look into that opportunity too? Just resist the urge to bring them down. Race to the top, y’all. Let’s all get rich together, and embrace the workplace. If you’re still working, you might as well love it.

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We Use 66% Less Electricity Than Our Neighbours

we seem to use

Over the past few months, we’ve gotten pretty good about optimizing our finances, but our obsessively geeky need to optimize everything eventually led us to the website of BC Hydro. For those of you not in BC, BC Hydro is our main electricity distributor, serving about 1.8 million customers across the province. Since I moved into my place seven years ago, I’ve been paying bills from them every two months. They keep the lights on for us, but I never turn on too many. That’s why I suspect we’re one of the most energy-efficient households in our area. Pull up your own numbers and play along. It’s kinda fun being able to see your stats. Here’s ours.

BC Hydro has a thing they call Team Power Smart. You click a button and they start tracking your kWh usage for the next 365 days. Reduce your energy consumption by 10% from the previous year, and you get a $50 credit on your bill! Obviously, $50 is peanuts, but the seed had been planted. With raw data in front of me and graphs to show my progress, my goal now wasn’t just 10%. Now the question was, How low could I go? From November 2016 to November 2017, I somehow blew through 4,600+ kWh. To qualify for my credit, my goal from November 2017 to November 2018 is 4,191 kWh, but my stretch goal is actually 3,000 kWh. I crunched some numbers, and we seem to use 10.08 kWh per day on average, or 302.4 kWh per month. I briefly lamented not being on track for my stretch goal, but then I looked up average electricity usage in BC. “Households in BC Hydro’s service area average just over 900 kWh per month”! We’re literally 3x more efficient! This only strengthened my resolve. If BC Hydro was giving me $50, I might as well use it for good. Time for some online shopping.

A few nights ago, I came home to a package waiting for me: the Kill A Watt P4460 I’d been eyeing for months. The order total was $45.84, but I knew this’d save me more in the long run. With the ability to plug it into just about anything and immediately see a cost forecast by week, month, or year, it’s giving me the data I need to be smarter about energy consumption. I no longer use a PS4 as my main streaming device, and now use an Apple TV I got through a barter. According to this, a PS4 “consumes 89 watts per hour when streaming video”, “35 to 40 times more power consumption” than an Apple TV. Because I was an idiot just a few years ago, I once had five PlayStations all humming away in my living room. Now: one Apple TV. I haven’t noticed any decrease in life satisfaction. In fact, I think I’m happier.

Our light bulbs are almost all CFL now too. Technically, LEDs use less electricity, and buying them kinda makes sense, but not really. Computers also go to sleep more often, and I’m even reading about energy-efficient cooking (except that barely even matters).

Annnnnd… that’s kinda it. There’s pretty much nowhere else we can be more efficient. I limit screen time anyway, so instead of a 50” HDTV running all the time, I listen to audiobooks on my iPhone. (Current binge: “Happiness by Design” by Paul Dolan.) Also, I went back in my BC Hydro history, found the oldest bill I had, and I’m apparently paying 18% less per bill now. See why I’m a data geek? Saving hundreds now means thousands later. We’ll most likely revisit our energy consumption this November and see how we did on our challenge. In the meantime, I’ll try not to seem like such a weirdo typing on his keyboard in the dark.

If you’ve got weird energy-saving tips, let us know in the comments. How do you think we’re doing? Is 10 kWh/day a lot for three people? Let’s get competitive and save some money.

PS: We pay a base cost of $0.18990/day, and $0.08580/kWh. What’s your rate?

Are You Worth Your Wage?

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Okay, don’t close this window yet. There’s a point to all of this. I know many people have adversarial relationships with their employers, but this will help shed some light on how they see you as an employee, which will ultimately make your working relationship better. This will most likely lead to raises, promotions, happy working conditions, and more control over how you work. Worst-case scenario: You lose three minutes, and decide you deserve a better job. That’s valuable to know too.

First off, most employees have no idea how much they actually cost their employer. In this fantastic article about salary negotiation, Patrick McKenzie writes, “[G]et into the habit of seeing employees like employers see them: in terms of fully-loaded costs.  To hire someone you need to pay for their salary, true, but you also have taxes, a benefits package, employer contributions to retirement, healthcare, that free soda your HR department loves mentioning in the job ads, and what have you.” Depending on a variety of factors, for many jobs, “a reasonable guesstimate is between 150% and 200% of their salary.” You cost more than what you see on your paycheck. When I say it like that, it seems obvious, but it’s a significant jump. Your $20/hour is more like $30/hour. This is just a quick aside, but keep it in mind if you didn’t know this already. Let’s get to the meat of this article.

Let’s say you have a below-average job. It’s not too stressful, and you spend one of your eight hours a day just Facebook-ing. Regardless of how you spend your time, every three minutes, someone from accounting walks by your desk, taps you on the shoulder, and hands you $1. “Thank you,” you say in this absurdist scenario. “See you in three minutes. I’m gonna watch a cat video now.” Here’s the thing: From an employer’s point of view, this is exactly what’s happening. If you make $20/hour, by the numbers, this isn’t an absurdist scenario at all. It’s just math! Now, I get that you can’t be directly productive every minute you’re at your workplace, but I started asking myself, “Am I worth what I’m being paid? Even at my (now-)$16/hour job, am I actually making my employer $1 every 3m45s? Not only that, but am I making them profit that will also cover the cost of keeping the lights on and the store open? Is it notably better than the 7% they’d be earning in an index fund instead?”

When you think about it that way, simply employing you is a goddamn risk. If the position is a mutually beneficial fit though, you’ll be earning them boatloads of money using a passionately developed set of skills, and they’ll be paying you well to develop those skills until you’re making boatloads of money too! Remember how we talked about going “above and beyond in work and business”? I’ve been using real-time pay calculators as a motivational tool at my day job. When I see it tick up $10 and I know I’ve actually done nothing, I don’t particularly feel good about myself. It’s a gentle nudge towards productivity, and I’m thankful for that. I always strive to do more now, and I’m certain it shows.

This is even more insane with my wedding photography. To a client who’s paying me ~$400/hour to shoot, I’m getting paid $1 every nine seconds. Am I creating art worth $1 every nine seconds? I damn well better be to charge my rate. Knowing this helps me kick ass at my job!

Think about how you make money for your company. Would you hire you, or are you being a leech? Would you be more productive doing something better? Are you worth $X every X minutes? If you’re not, it may be time to find a better fit.

As both an employee and an employer, I’ve seen it from both sides. Are you worth your wage?

What Would You Do With A Million Dollars?

FINAL

It’s not about the money. It’s never been about the money. This is why.

If you’ve been with us since the beginning, you’ve already read 99 posts from us about frugality, optimizing our career lives, setting up side hustles, losing 10+ pounds effortlessly, house hacking, and how to set ourselves up for retirement. It’s been over two years, and I’d like to thank you all for accompanying me on this crazy ride towards being the healthiest and wealthiest humans we can possibly be. This post is our 100th post on Unconbentional, so for once, let’s dream a bit and remember why we’re doing what we’re doing. There’s a point to all of this, so stick around for some not-quite-obvious advice. If you want to live like a millionaire now, this is how.

We’ve all thought about it. With unlimited money, how would our lives be different? Almost a year ago, I challenged you to define your ideal day and — spoiler alert! — pursue exactly those goals and pastimes for the rest of your life. Some of us realized that happiness was within our grasp all along. Some of us realized we weren’t quite there yet, but that was okay too. What I discovered was I needed to set aside my “When I reach ________, then I’ll be able to ________!” mentality. Heck, I didn’t even wait until I had $500,000 in the bank to pull off a mini-retirement, and I learned a lot from it! I still have ambitious dreams though, and I’d like to share them with you now. Here’s a quick rundown of why I want to be a millionaire.

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My main hobby now is cooking. If I were a millionaire, I could cook every day for my friends. Heck, I might even pay someone to do my cleanup! (I wouldn’t though, because I know there’s value in doing what you hate.) Every night, I could roll out something ambitious and crazy like stuffed pig’s trotters or rigatoni con la pajata, and I could be creative and well-fed all the time, surrounded by friends at the dinner table. That’s Dream #1 and every day, I get closer. Sure, I might still be on French onion soup, but we all start somewhere.

Dream #2 is helping my friend “D” start a brewery. I’m more a drinker than a brewer, so I’d mostly look to finance it instead of actually working there. He’s been a loyal friend for over a decade, and if I were a millionaire, my dream would be to make his dream come true. For me, friends > money, every time.

Meanwhile, unrelated to food and drink, I’ve got a whole pack of friends who love cars, fixing them up, and drifting like maniacs. Basically, if a car’s going forwards or backwards, it’s boring. Driving sideways is their jam. (I think they’ve just seen too many Ken Block videos.) Dream #3 is going in with them to buy a cheap piece of land in the boonies, and owning just enough to put in a bit of dirt track. Those car nuts can go sideways forfuckingever. Again, happy friends make me happy.

The fourth and final dream is a pretty common one: World travel. I’d love to see Mexico, Spain, Argentina, and Australia. A loose goal I set myself is seeing 20 foreign countries by end-of-life. Dream #4 will be a lifelong pursuit, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

That’s why I want $1M.

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The money doesn’t actually matter though. It’s just a tool to buy the dreams you really want. $1M in the bank doesn’t do anything except generate some profit from investments. Done properly, you can Retire For Good this way, but if you’re a loyal Unconbentional reader, you might realize full-on retirement might not be the world’s greatest goal either. Instead, for once, I urge you not to think about your dollars too much.

Instead of using only money as a metric of success, I’ve started quantifying the completion progress on my dreams. Since I’m an efficiency kook, I started looking for ways to increase my progress with as little money as possible. I quickly realized “When I reach ________, then I’ll be able to ________!” was just an excuse to delay working on goals. Supremely motivated people like you or I know we can start whenever. Here are examples.

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Dream #1 (40%)I cook once a week already, and I’ve gone up to four large meals in a week before. That week almost became a problem! With both my roommates working all the time, they can’t commit to at-home dinners seven days a week anyway. The last beef bourguignon I made even led to some food waste because we ate through it slower than we thought we would. Can you imagine if I cooked every day? I think I just need more friends to feed!

Dream #2 (10%) — Not much I can do about this one yet. I need to take care of my own money before I drop tens of thousands on a brewery. However, “D” became the assistant brewer at a 2,500-square-foot brewery recently, so maybe I can just visit him and strut around pretending I own the place.

Dream #3 (0%) — I mean, I’m researching lots to buy, but this ain’t happening soon.

Dream #4 (50%) — With a little advance planning, I can almost always leave on a weeklong trip. With contacts in Mexico and Australia, my vacations there could be cheaper than I thought. I’ve also already visited 10 countries; France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Greece, Denmark, UK, US, China, and Japan! Getting to 20 in this lifetime should be a cinch!

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I’m not saving to reach $1M. Not really. I’m actually saving to max out on my dreams. Here’s the thing: Without even spending all that much, you can work on your dreams every day. That’s what I want you to know. No more “when ________, then ________”! You’re not saving money; it’s more like dream fuel. The best part is real dreams are rarely tied to money. If your dream is to own a house someday, you might think you need $3M — (I live by Vancouver, okay?) — but with a little digging, you could also find a €19,000 property in Sicily! Money’s not the goal because your dreams are! Sometimes, a little bit of knowledge or even reading a blog post can fulfill an entire goal for you!

Gary Vaynerchuk once said, “People are chasing cash, not happiness. When you chase money, you’re going to lose. You’re just going to. Even if you get the money, you’re not going to be happy.”

This might be a personal finance blog, but it’s not about the cash. It never was. Find out why you do the grind. Work on your dreams now, every day. Look beyond the bank account, and remember why you want those numbers healthily high. Imagine what you’d do with a million dollars, and start doing that thing now.

It turns out I just want to cook for my friends. What dreams are you delaying for no reason?

Featured Blog: Debts To Riches

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A few months ago, I decided to connect with my local mustachian community in Vancouver, BC. The plan was simple and appropriately frugal: Get to a nearby lake, hike, and meet personal finance nerds. That was it. No fancy drinks at a bar, and no unnecessary spending. Since I certainly don’t save >50% of my income like these guys, I was out of my depth. They all brought food from home. I had bottled water. Some of them were already retired. I never intend to retire. Some were almost millionaires. I still have debt! It was quite the shakeup. And yet, I knew I needed to meet them to reorganize my life. Though I’ve been writing about personal finance for two years now, I’m actually quite lazy and complacent, and I often have trouble following my own advice. Then, on this trip, I met Veronika.

Her story scared the crap out of me at the time. Her tuition and past living expenses resulted in a rewarding job, but she graduated in May 2015 with a staggering $130,455 in debt. Remember how $22,535 in debt led me to make a bunch of bullshit justifications about it? This news damn near killed me! And yet, Veronika didn’t seem too bothered. Quietly confident, she seemed as calm and relaxed as our retired new friends. HOW?!?

Well, I just blazed through her entire blog Debts To Riches, and I’ve gotta hand it to her. She’s executing her debt repayment plan with such laserlike efficiency, her debt-free and financial independence targets are boldly laid out in her intro: “DF: 2019 | FI: 2031”. If this doesn’t seem possible to you, I think it’s time you read her blog! It’s more than possible. She’s doing it.

Debts To Riches is peppered with money insights I haven’t seen anywhere else. She believes that “psychology > math” when it comes to saving, and this led her to write the most actionable personal finance articles I’ve read. Math is great, but what about maintaining motivation? If that doesn’t interest you, the numbers should. She started with $130,455 in debt just two years ago! As I write this now in November 2017, she’s crushed that down to $93,400 – a $37,000+ difference! Debt-free by 2019? Financial independence by 2031? I believe it. If you want insightful, eloquently written personal finance advice for real humans and not savings robots, look no further. Stop reading this.

Read Debts To Riches now.

Working Forever Might Not Be So Bad

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Taken from a previous post:

FIRE [Financially Independent, Retired Early] is generally defined as the stage a person reaches when the return on their investments is enough to cover their living expenses. A quick bit of math you can do to figure out your FIRE number is to take your annual expenses and multiply by 25. (If you spend $25,000/year for example, your FIRE number is $625,000. Start saving.)”

You can read the rest of that post here, though my description of FIRE isn’t as accurate as it could’ve been. For one, since this is such a huge topic, I didn’t exactly account for inflation. The truth is if you’re 30 now, you want to aim for $1M by 65 if you want to Retire For Good (RFG). This is because $1M in 35 years only amounts to $500,000 of today’s spending power, or $20,000/year in returns based on the 4% rule. This also assumes you can live off $20,000/year. Some people can’t. From this point forward, please note I’ll be using a tilde (~) to denote future value, and no tilde to denote today’s value. Here’s a post to help you math out your saving goals now, based on ~$1M/$500K/$20K. Read those links, and the math should all make sense.

In any case, I now advocate working in some capacity forever. Here’s some of the reasoning as to why, but this little bit of math should convince you that working forever might just be the way to go. (Trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds.)

If $20,000/year is the goal, it’s very possible that someone at 65 could make that without too much effort at all. Remember, that’s only $1,667/month. In Canada now, what you can receive from Old Age Security ranges from $526-$874. Let’s aim for the low figure of $526, and subtract that from $1,667. (OAS is considered taxable income, so keep that in mind. Also, not everyone qualifies, so read this.) You’re now left with $1,141. Let’s also assume you have some savings. Let’s say you missed ~$1M by a wide margin and only landed at ~$400,000, or $200,000 of today’s value. Going by the 4% rule which spits out $667/month, that takes you down to $474. Now, I don’t know about you, but making $474/month, even in old age, seems entirely manageable to me. When retirees somehow watch 6.2 hours of TV a day now, making $474 per month working is a better use of time and will help you retain your health. This would only mean 31.6 hours per month at $15/hour. If that sounds bleak, it shouldn’t. At $20/hour, that number’s 23.7, or only 3% of your month! That’s only if you’ve completely messed up your retirement savings! If you’ve saved ~$1M, you’re done! You can coast! But if you’re like the rest of us and see yourself only reaching ~$400,000, you should understand you can work after 65 in a way that will actually be flexible, easy, and good for you, and you’ll still be perfectly fine!

Obviously, planning for old age can be kinda scary. There’s always the possibility poor health makes it impossible for you to work. This is why you should aim for ~$1M.

Society teaches us retirement is black-and-white. It’s not. Loads of retirees continue working to supplement their income. If you save properly now, you won’t have to work at 65, but you’ll probably want to anyway. I know I will. And even if you fuck up and don’t save ~$1M in this lifetime, a little bit of work after 65 can go a long way.

6.2 hours of TV time a day is 186 hours per month. Can you use <24 hours to plan yourself a more secure retirement, or are we crazy?

Let us know on Facebook. We’ll put any feedback in a future article.

Investing With As Little As $1/Day

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Let’s do this in two minutes.

Here’s some quick math to help you with your investing goals. No bullshit, no preamble. Share this with your friends to show them how easy retirement and investing can be. At 29, I’m better prepared than some 50-year-olds I know. Here’s how.

The math here assumes you’re 30 and will invest small amounts steadily until 65. That’s 35 years of growth. I invest aggressively in index funds, and I’ve been averaging around 7% annually. Let’s see what investing tiny amounts every day can do from 30-65 at 7% growth.

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• $1/day (or $365/year) = $53,988 at 65
• $2/day (or $730/year) = $107,976 at 65
• $5/day (or $1,825/year) = $269,942 at 65
• $10/day (or $3,650/year) = $539,884 at 65
• $20/day (or $7,300/year) = $1,079,768 at 65

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That’s bonkers, right? Every $1/day you put away can add $50,000+ to your retirement account? Time to bust out the ol’ piggy bank!

As for what to invest in, I can only tell you what my money’s in: the RBC U.S. Index Fund. (I also recommend TD U.S. Index Fund – e, which offers similar results, but with a lower MER.)

Depending on your goals, you might want to invest differently, so investigate options yourself and see if you can find better. All I know is I don’t worry about retirement anymore. With ~$20,000 in that index fund already and $10/day contributions, I’m anticipating ~$740,000 at 65.

Ready to do this? Calculate your numbers here, and comment with your findings below!

Not bad for a 2-minute read, huh?