Hope for your financial life and beyond

Is the Effort to Get Rich Worth It? (Proverbs 23:4-5)

Hidden Nuggets Series #5 – “Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.”   Proverbs 23:4-5

What’s the most hours you have ever worked in a week?

hard work to get richOne college summer, I regularly put in 80-hour workweeks shuttling between two jobs. I arrived at the construction site each morning at 7:00 and clawed my way through a grueling 9-hr. day until 4 pm.

In the next hour, I would grab a quick bite to eat, while driving to my night job as a lifeguard. From hammer to whistle, the norm that summer was 13-hr. weekdays. And, to top it off, I added more lifeguard time on the weekends.

The Effort to Get Rich

Was the effort that summer worth it? In retrospect, probably. I learned a lot about work ethic, time management and discipline. Plus, I needed the money for my car payment, work and school clothes and textbooks for my courses in the fall. And it was for only three months.

But there was a great personal cost for all my efforts:

  • My social life was nonexistent.
  • I never could recharge properly because I didn’t get enough quality sleep.
  • Lack of exercise and bad diet contributed to low energy levels.
  • Gas and tool purchases ate a lot of money.
  • Meeting the expectations of two employers caused higher stress levels.

In short, it wore me out.

In the personal finance blogosphere, we continually promote ways to make more and spend less with the hopes of becoming financially independent one day (i.e. rich). We realize a person can’t make more unless they work more, so we are constantly looking for ways to advance in our career or fill up the extra hours of our day with “side hustles” (def. – a way to earn money other than one’s day job). Our 9 to 5 quickly becomes a 5 am to 9 pm., day in and day out.

The Bible offers a warning against this scenario, as it basically suggests overworking to get rich is not worth it because of the fleeting nature of money. It’s here for a time and then gone, slipping through the very fingers that clutch so hard to retain it. The worst part is that we know the detrimental effects of overworking, yet we do it anyway. The side effects do not deter us because the lure of money captivates us to overlook them.

At what point is getting rich worth the trouble? Are the costs going to sufficiently repay the effort?  I guess that’s an individual call. The only way I’d put in 80-hr. workweeks again is if it were desperation time…like a had-to-put-food-on-the-table-for-the-family-to-survive situation. Otherwise, I consider the costs too great to pursue, with that level of intensity, for something that inevitably doesn’t last.

Questions: What is your work tolerance level? What’s the fallout (side effects) of overworking in your life? Do you think the effort to get rich is worth it?

Image at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Next Post: Are You Setting Your Kids Up For Success?

Prior Post: I Can’t Jump Anymore – Adjusting to Changes

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Comments

  1. Hello, I liked your article, it has helped me a lot in this respect and from today
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    Your site, and put into practice what you teach on your site!
    thank you

  2. I work 9 hours a day and i little of freelancing whenever the opportunity comes up, so my weekends are basically the days i get freedom to socialize. Therefore considering the longer hours i invested during college years, yes i agree that the efforts given to get rich is worth. Have you heard that people who become wealth stays awake while others are sleeping?

  3. I am not willing to sacrifice my happiness in order to get rich. In the end, I just want to live simply, debt free, and be happy.
    Michelle recently posted…September Income RecapMy Profile

  4. Ann Financial says:

    I think the biblical quote perfectly fits in this situation. Sometimes, we can get so caught up in the rewards of working (money) that we often try to ignore or fight the costs (our health and even happiness). There must he a happy medium in my opinion. When I realize that I may be overworking (this happens a lot unfortunately for me) I try to push back somewhat from the expectations of what I am supposed to do, and while my managers may not be entirely happy at the time, in the long term, a happy employee benefits the company as a whole, which I try to focus on.

    http://fastlanetofinancialfreedom.blogspot.com/

    • “…a happy employee benefits the company as a whole…” That’s a great point Ann! I would not want my employees stressed out and dreading work because I was insisting they work longer hours and ignore their families or other personal interests. There has to be a balance like you said.

  5. Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    When I first bought my practice, I was managing two offices 70 miles apart and commuting 2-3 days a week. It was usually 12-13 hours days,which isn’t maybe so much when you consider an 80 hour work week, but the mental aspect took the rest of my time. I attribute our getting into so much credit card debt during this time to my lack of attention and trying to fill some sort of void that work never could.

    Now that I’m about to really be making money with the practice, I’m selling it. Mentally, it just isn’t worth it anymore. I do work about 3 days a week and find time to blog, but it seems like barely working compared to what I used to do. I think anyone can be superhuman for a while as long as you have an ultimate goal, like retiring in 5 years or buying something big in cash, but if you are working just to keep making money for the sake of making money, it’s a recipe for disaster. Not to mention that one day you wake up old and missed your kids growing up and time making memories with your family.

    • “…if you are working just to keep making money for the sake of making money, it’s a recipe for disaster.” That sums it up great Kim! Life can’t be just about making money.

  6. Brian,

    Good question. My opinion is that no, it’s not worth it to get rich. What instead I believe is worth it is changing your entire mindset so that you don’t need all those money and gadgets to feel rich. What is the goal anyway? It seems like it’s to feel rich and live this awesome lifestyle that we crave. If we no longer desire that lifestyle, but instead desire things like time with family and friends and experiences, that’s something worth striving for. Running the rat race of more money and more stuff just isn’t worth it in my mind.

    I’m into living below my means and yes, I think the sacrifice is worth it.

    Take care,

    • Thanks for stopping by Kraig and sharing that. I think there are many who share those same sentiments. For me it’s all about one’s motivation and the lengths one will go to get what they want. I don’t have an issue with a goal to become rich as long as a) it’s kept in perspective and b) other important life issues (like family and friends) are not discarded because of overworking.

  7. Holly Johnson says:

    When I was working 9-5, freelance writing, and blogging, my life really sucked. I have no idea how many hours I worked, but I would have to guess that I was easily working 70-80 hours per week or more. I had no quality of life and was usually miserable. Sure, I was making a lot of money by *doing it all* but it really wasn’t worth it.

    • “I had no quality of life and was usually miserable.” That’s no way to live day in and day out, but so many people do. Glad you recognized that and found an alternative route to take.

  8. TacklingOurDebt says:

    I had a similar work experience to your summer in college. Years ago when I was still in my corporate job we had a huge project going on at work and a number of us were involved. The project had very tight deadlines. We started working on it on January 2nd and didn’t finish until May 1st. During that time there were many week days that I left the house at 7 AM worked until 3 AM went home, slept a bit, showered, changed my clothes and was back on the road at 7 AM.

    Even though the OT pay was excellent, I didn’t choose to work all those hours. It was expected of us. And at first it was fun.

    But I remember around April I started to feel kinda strange but I couldn’t figure out why. I had this lump in my throat, and it was like I couldn’t swallow properly. Then I started getting depressed and grumpy. It wasn’t until the end of April that I realized I was completely burnt out. Fortunately that stint only lasted for 4 months. Would I do it again today? I’d have to say maybe. It was definitely nice to make that much money in such a short period of time.

    • Wow..what an experience! Thanks for sharing that. I could see how that much effort might manifest itself in physical symptoms. Good that you were able to recognize it as burnout before it got any worse. It seems in the comment thread that most would commit to overworking for a short period of time if forced to or to achieve a goal. The extra money one can bring in is definitely a perk worth considering. It’s all a matter of weighing the costs I suppose for each individual.

  9. I also think the reasoning behind why one wants to be rich should be taken into consideration, as well. Personally, I’d like to be rich so that I can donate as much of it as possible. I want to make sure that the money I earn will make a significant difference to my community.

    But I do agree, balance is necessary. It can be easy to get bitter when one has to work 80+ hours a week. I think we (myself included) all need a reminder that money doesn’t solve everything.

    • I may have said this somewhere here before, but one of my favorite financial related quotes is from the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie: “Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community.” So, I’m to be generous and give to those in need. That’s a great motivation to increase one’s wealth.

  10. I just wrote something about that last week. For me I need a lot of daily balance, so killing myself to work just to make a few extra bucks a month is not worth it. I mean you sacrifice so much when you work too much-family, friends, health, etc. What’s it all worth in the end? I have worked my butt off in some scenarios where it’s short term and I’m saving up for specific goals, like when I was getting ready to move to seattle with no job in 1995, so I worked almost two full time jobs. But I only did that for 4 months or so to save as much as I could. In that instance it was worth it.

    • There are times in life where we have to extend ourselves beyond the “normal” limits of work. Your case where you were facing a big move and had some financial goals in mind is a great example. At some point, there has to be the balance that you mentioned and which can be very hard to find especially since our culture puts the pressure on us to be upwardly mobile. You asked “What’s it all worth in the end?” Not much, if you’ve sacrificed friendships, health and family.

  11. Honestly I have been thinking about this quite a bit. I have been working my 9-5 (which including commuting takes between 50-60 hours out of my week), I’ve been working the blog (which takes about 15-30 hours a week depending what’s going on), and I’ve been trying to maintain a rental property (which takes a lot of time all at once – right now! our renter moves in this week). All in all, I really don’t know how long I can maintain this schedule. I heard a great message on Sunday about Christianity and money and it really made me realize I need to balance (and constantly think about) my priorities. It’s important to be financially sound, but it’s equally important to trust God that you don’t have to burn the candle at both ends to make life work.

    • Balance is such a big issue DC! I’m glad you brought this up. While we are instructed to be good stewards of the life God gives us, at some point we tip the scales and try to cram too much into our lives. I’ve found when I do that, it creates nothing but chaos and stress in my life. And unfortunately, many of our money decisions are a result of a lack of trust in God that he will provide for our needs.

  12. CanadianBudgetBinder says:

    Awesome post and so very true. When is enough is enough? Sometimes we lose site when money is rolling in, nothing else matters but more more more more….. it becomes a game of beat the month, beat the year but we end up beating ourselves up. I work full-time and I do blog but I don’t blog for money (not yet at least) so it’s just a fun hobby. I’d much rather enjoy what I’ve been given and enjoy my life each day then to have to work myself into the ground just to beat the month. No pain no gain, too much gain can leave you with pain for the rest of your life. Cheers

    • What’s that old saying, “Enough is just a little bit more.” 🙂 When I first started budgeting, I used to get caught up in the “beat the month” game. I would always try to see if I could outdo the month before. I’m all for continual improvement but it can become obsessive to the point it is detrimental to yourself. I realized this when I started walking around wearing clothes with holes in them because I didn’t want to spend the money from the clothing budget. Not the best approach.

  13. Alexa Mason says:

    I understand that overworking yourself is not ideal. But, what if you are working 80+ hours a week for awhile so that one day you can escape a day job you hate to work on business you love. I don’t necessarily work 80+ hours a week for money I do it to escape a day job that makes me absolutely miserable and pays me peanuts.

    • It’s a great point Alexa. I’ve seen you talk about your transition and think it’s a great goal. I think we have all been through seasons of our life where working long hours was necessary to achieve some short-term outcome. But I wouldn’t want it to become the norm over many years.

      The big key (that I really didn’t expand on) is our motivation. Why are we working 80-hr. weeks? Find the answer to that and we will know if the effort is worth it or not.

  14. FI Pilgrim says:

    Great post Brian, life can fly by us if we aren’t careful, especially if we are overly occupied with work. And many of us take a “kill ourselves now, have time for other things later” approach to wealth building, and we don’t invest properly in other important areas.

    • Thank you. Time does fly by and I’m realizing that more and more as my kids grow up. Blink and they are a teenager, or so it seems. While I’m all for planning for the future, I don’t want to miss opportunities in the present to use my time in beneficial ways.

  15. Can’t do 80 hours a week again unless I was broke. Did it for two years in NYC right out of college and that’s it.

    I really like the 20 hour a week plan. It’s the most efficient and balanced IMO.

    • I concur Sam…only in a desperate situation would I put myself through that again.

      • I wrote a long post today chronicling my path since college. Tiring to think about, but now I think working all those hours was worth it due to the freedoms now.

        • Thanks for coming back to share that Sam. When I was writing this, the thought occurred to me that maybe the answer to this question depends upon where a person is at in their financial journey. In other words, are they at the beginning of it, in the middle or basically at the end – looking backwards into history at how the hard work has produced the present freedom in their life that you described and now enjoy. I didn’t quite have the time to flesh it out in my mind then. I speculate that those who have worked hard (maybe overworked at bit) and now enjoy financial freedom would say that the effort was worth it. Those at the beginning or in the middle of their journey would be less likely to answer that it is because they haven’t realized the benefits of their effort yet. They are killing themselves to get there and it doesn’t seem like they ever will. So they have a more negative viewpoint into the topic. I don’t know…I could be off in that assertion, but that’s my hunch.

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