“I’m the Vice President for two financial companies.”
Do you like it?
Both answers are lies to a degree. I am not my job and given the opportunity I would be doing something else. Yet we say these things to make small talk function. In order to generally feel good about nodding along with acquaintances while the other person shrugs and speaks.
My name is Eli and it is true that I have held the title of “Vice President.” Yet that certainly is not what I do or who I am. So much so, as you might have guessed by the article’s title, that I recently negotiated for a pay cut.
Considering today’s uncertain economic times, why would anyone do such a thing? Well that’s a good question and I’m glad you asked. If you’d be kind enough to stick around I’ll field an answer.
First my negotiation; with the exception of my employer not actually being named “employer” here is the actual verbiage of my pay cut proposal:
As you know, I’m coming upon one year of employment at your firm – during which time you have been both reasonable and fair. Usually this is about the point where an astute employee would figure to negotiate for a pay raise. They would emphasize their skills and how they’ve progressed, the value they add and goals achieved, along with the justified compensation range of their peers – the whole lot. While I certainly believe all those things apply to me and more, I’d like to take a slightly different approach. Here’s my proposal:
76% of my current salary in exchange for all Mondays and Fridays off, commencing presently
Vacation days remain the same
Now I should underscore that this request comes from neither discontent nor recklessness. Rather, life is finite and I simply want to try my hand at a variety of endeavors. One undertaking will be to begin a blog, but most of my future happenings are not yet known.
I believe this arrangement will allow for solid productivity while simultaneously offering a lower fixed cost outflow for you and your business. More specifically, there is considerable research that suggests output does not diminish commensurately with attendance. On the business front, a lower salary would enable even greater budgetary flexibility for your firm.
I appreciate your consideration and look forward to your response.
Now I’m not necessarily a Robert Frost devotee, but I was hopeful that this pay cut proposal would make all the difference (negotiating for a pay cut is the path less traveled by and it’s made all the difference and all that jazz).
So did I loathe my job and simply felt compelled to reduce my time there? Not really. It wasn’t about hating my job. Incidentally – depending on how you feel about free golf and unlimited ham samples – it’s been the best occupation of the 10 or so income producing opportunities I’ve had. Plus the prospects were solid: above average salary, vacation, bonus, a subject matter I enjoyed, benefits, the works.
Yet nobody reads about the guy who spends 40 years in an office and retires comfortably. Or even the over achiever that “just” works 20 years for that matter. (Where’s the circus training and base jumping?) Sure it’s the “safe” route, but it might be the larger sacrifice. If the work doesn’t drive you, then the apparent “security” turns into handcuffs. What you’re ensuring is not only a future but more aptly you’re securing yourself away from adventure, unknown, opportunity, passion and freedom.
Admittedly it’s not for everyone, but it’d be a shame if you “died with your music still in you;” with a song still to be sung – and all because your office chair had a cushy back.
It’s not as if I wanted to sleep until noon 4 days a week or eat cereal in my PJ’s while watching the Price is Right. (Ok, so the second one could happen on occasion) The real reason is that I want to take advantage of the most important resource I have – time. Which, incidentally, gives me the opportunity to contribute to this website and write to you lovely folks.
Now a common argument that I expect to hear is that I’m “leaving money on the table.” That – especially at such a young age – I’m foolishly tossing aside the immense compounding runway (time to invest) that sits before me. Yet that’s always true.
Throughout your life you’re always “leaving money on the table.” If you didn’t see a coupon in your local newspaper. If you buy the brand name instead of the generic. If you choose to eat at Chipotle over Taco Bell. (Or for that matter if you choose Taco Bell over making plain white rice at home.) In each instance you’re “leaving money on the table.” You’re making a conscience decision to trade more money than is necessary for something that goes beyond your bare requirements.
In reality you’re just trading one thing for another; an additional piece of cotton (money) for something you want. When I choose to buy Chipotle (CMG) over Taco Bell (YUM) I’m simply trading a few extra dollars for what I perceive to be a better meal. Sure, I could go with Taco Bell, have a meal and save a buck or two. For that matter I could always cook at home. Yet I’m willing to make that trade – dollars for delicious – a day or two per week and frequently twice on Sundays. Similarly, the same holds true with trading more time for a pay cut – it’s simply a recharacterization of wants.
Whether today, next decade or in 35 years, once you stop (or slow down) employment you are always “leaving money on the table.” The point isn’t to work until your fatality; seeing how much cash your urn would fit. Rather the point is to achieve enough – both in a financial and personal sense. The end game isn’t the largest number you can think of, it’s the freedom to do what you please.
Further, I would contend that the usefulness of money decreases as you obtain more of it. In fact, depending upon your situation, more money could actually be a hindrance if you exchange it for too much time or use it to buy too many trinkets to keep track of.
For me, the decision to propose a pay cut in exchange for more discretionary time all came down to this single Benjamin Franklin quote: “some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.” I wasn’t ready to settle before trying my hand at a variety of endeavors.
So what was my employer’s response?
They said “no.”
They said I was too valuable and they weren’t looking for me to work less or get paid less. Indeed, they indicated that eventually they would like to pay me more and had no interest in discovering my capabilities as a well-rested, multi-faceted citizen.
So what did I do? I thought about the bigger risk and responded. Then I considered the possibility that my reading audience would enjoy a good cliff hanger and said: “stay tuned for my next post to find out my decision.”