Personal Finance

Is Desperation Required To Be An Employee?

It’s been over a month since Telly left a comment.  Knowing that she’s partial to posts about working 9-5 and employment issues, this is my humble attempt to get her to start visiting / commenting again.  If this doesn’t work, I may start posting pictures of my underwear like SquawkFox does.

In one of his books about real estate, John T. Reed advises that you should only hire resident managers who really need the income.  He recounts that he’s had people that are doing it as a side-job for a little extra cash, and without fail when a big annoyance came up they’d quit.  He found people who couldn’t make ends meet without the extra income from running his buildings were likely to stick around longer and put up with more.

I think he’s definitely on to something in terms of resident managers.  I was thinking about trying to find a small building in Waterloo that I could manage (up to 24 units maybe).  It seemed like a good way to stretch my graduate student funding further, and get more experience in an area that I hope to invest in personally in the future (multi-unit buildings).

He’s right though that if all my expenses were being covered by the university, it wouldn’t take too much of an ongoing issue before I said “forget this!” and moved back to a regular apartment.

Beyond the real estate consideration, I think this is probably true for most employment.  Lottery winners typically say they’re going to keep their jobs, but end up quitting.  There could be a number of explanations for this, but perhaps the next time they hit a “pull your hair out” moment at work, their winnings allow them to tell their employer what to do with the job.

For some time now, I’ve had enough in savings that I can live for a period of time without working.  I’ve often told friends and family that this brings me great comfort, as I’m not afraid of getting fired and am willing to push back on unreasonable employer demands.  It makes sense that this would lead to shorter employment terms than someone who isn’t in this position.

I read an article about a retired man who worked at Home Depot.  The company loved him (and other guys like him) as they worked for a reasonable amount of money, were personable and knowledgeable and had a good work ethic.  In the article he recounted telling his manager that he’d be away for a month the following summer.  When the manager told him he wasn’t sure if that would be possible, the older man respond “No, you don’t understand.  I’m telling you I won’t be here.  If you want me to keep working here once I get back, that’s fine.  If you don’t want me to, that’s ok too”.

I see all sort of signs with most companies that they count of employee desperation.  Perhaps encouraging your employees to dig themselves into debt with consumer purchases and always keep their lifestyle costs a little bit higher than their income is a good way to ensure a submissive, consistent workforce.

Have there been jobs you have kept or quit that your savings (or lack thereof) heavily influenced that decision?

15 replies on “Is Desperation Required To Be An Employee?”

I really hope Telly comments…

The lottery winner story is funny – I’ve thought the exact same thing. If I had 5 million in the bank how many snowy, cold commutes would I do?

That said, I think most of us “workers” definitely work longer hours than we like and do repetitive jobs for the money. If I were ‘retired’ (and not super rich) I wouldn’t be against continuing my job on a part-time contract basis – ie work 10 weeks a year or something like that. It would be enough to be interesting but not enough to be a drag.


Yeah, I’ve been in the position in the past where I’ve said to people “Well, what are they going to do; fire me?” In most cases, I didn’t have an Emergency Fund to back me up but I was highly employable at the time.

Of course, currently the financial situation and my maturity as I have grown older means I’m not as cocky as I once was. Anyway, the good thing is, I love my current job so that’s all good.

Have you really seen employers encouraging people to buy things? Suits and cars maybe, I guess. I do see a lot of panic and desperation among coworkers though, for sure, which is a shame.

I doubt I’d even hand in my notice in person if I won the lottery. Anyone who stumbles on with four lousy weeks of vacation a year and all the red tape and hassles when they have millions in the bank is entirely insane, in my mind.

I LOVE that home depot story. I’m more or less in the same boat as that guy (and yourself) – if they’re honestly telling me there’s no way I could take time off to attend a family event, well I have the money to tell them where to go.

Sales managers have told me that they actively encourage their sales staff to buy “stuff” so they constantly have to sell to keep up with their debt.

I am not sure desparation is required but too much comfort can be a real annoyance to employers.

I think there is a lot of truth to your point about desperation. My realtor told me that whenever possible he rents his investment houses to single mothers. I doubt it’s out of the goodness of his heart.

Most retailers offer employees a discount, so that they could shop cheaply at the store. In reality however, this increases employees expenses.

However if you really really loved what you did, even if you had a trillion dollars, then you’d still go to work. You might end up owning your own business in the field, but you’d still be working.

Guinness: I haven’t actually seen that happen (just seems like it might be a good idea for some employers). TMW has seen it though, so I guess it happens.

SquawkFox: I’ll let you know (it depends on whether we hear from Telly or not 😉 ).

BloggingBanks: You and Mike make a good point that you’d still want to “work”. I think in both cases, you’d be doing something different than what you’re doing to earn a living now, right? Less time, more fulfilling, a different role or something.

Cheap – I’m not really sure if would actually work at all if I didn’t have to. However, if I was in a situation where I was retired and didn’t have enough to do/enough structure then maybe doing a bit of work might improve my life a bit.

And you’re right – I’d be a lot more choosy about what I worked on.

I can tell you if I won the lotto I would not go back to my current job. My husband, on the other hand, would. That’s how you can tell if you really love your job.

I think a lot of people get locked down in a job because of a mortgage. Right now I’m in a job that I like but my manager is the worse one I have ever had, I think about leaving sometimes but comparable jobs I have been offered the last couple of yours were 40% less pay, 2 weeks less vacation and a worse pension plan and benefits. So for now I stay, but I keep reminding myself and my wife that in 4 years when the mortgage is gone, that will be a game changer.

With that said if I won the lottery I would be out of there! But I would definitely keep doing something like offering to help at my kids school, volunteer in the community, etc.

Ahhh, the freedom that money can buy. I’ve known a few people in the position of the Home Depot guy, and that is where I want to be – working because I want to, not because I need to.

I had a junior high school teacher who was in that position: he was teaching comp classes because he liked them (though I don’t believe he really loved jr high kids, they’re so hormonal!)

I’m surprised that he was around for as long as he was, especially given administration headaches, but you could tell that he loved the subject and his classes which made a huge difference in how well his students performed. It’s pretty nifty to have a teacher who would teach whether or not they had a financial need to do so.

Once a former boss told me that he only employed “hungry people”. He meant that the employee should be passionate about his work, blah, blah blah.

I think you are right. Most of these guys want desperate people. People who won’t be able to stand up to the nonsensical things bosses all over the world are known to do.

Or a golden handcuff.

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