Some people work to live and some people live to work, which one are you?
I recently found an interesting study done by the OECD showing how many hours employees work per year and how many hours they spend for personal care and leisure per day. The working hour average is roughly 35-37 hours per week and people in most countries use 60% of their time for personal care and leisure (but that includes sleeping and eating). Here are the results by country:
Number of Working Hours Per Year
Hours For Personal Care & Leisure Per Day
I was surprised to find my country, Canada, to be among the countries that work the most and spend the least amount of time for personal care & leisure. I thought that Canadians were better at finding a balance between work & living! I was also surprised to see that Germans do not work that many hours. It’s maybe because they have more weeks of vacation? I was really under the impression they were working more than us!
When I look at these two graphs, I feel blessed with my own situation: I work 4 days a week and my wife doesn’t have to work. We have clearly found a great balance between work and living!
Here’s a little bit of my personal situation
It hasn’t been that easy for me and I used to work a lot. In fact, I worked 35 hours/week while doing my bachelor degree full time and then, once I got my first full time job, I kept a side gig on weekends for three years in order to build a strong personal finance base. Here’s what I have done so far:
I’m 31, married with three kids. I have a bachelor’s degree, a CFP license, a trading license along with an MBA in financial services. I’ve been working in the financial industry for the past ten years (you got that: I completed most of my studies while working full time). You can tell that for a while, working was definitely more important than living. From 2003 to 2009, I completed all my studies and had two children at the same time.
Once I completed my MBA in 2009, I took a break and looked back at my life in general. I was happy with my job but the balance between work and life had been hit seriously. This is not really the life I wanted to have. Mind you, I had a new car, house and our kids weren’t missing anything. But still, we were working like crazy animals, rushing from 6am to midnight every day. This is was not I wanted for me and this is especially not what I wanted for my family.
This was a rough time for us as a couple and after a long discussion we decided to bring some balance between work and life. My wife quit her job to take care of our children and I reduced my working hours to 30hrs/week giving me 1 more day off to help her out. We made these changes because we had realized something: life is more important than work! Taking a cut in our household revenue was hard at first but we both knew that quality time was better than a big pay check.
Finding the Balance Between Work & Life
I guess that this is a very personal decision but I seriously think that we should all value more time spent with our family and friends than time spent at work. We all need a job to pay the bills but I don’t think we need THE JOB to be happy. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices over the past few years in order to earn a few promotions but I’ve stopped climbing the corporate ladder since 2009. I realized that once you have hit a certain level of income, the next earned dollar doesn’t add much to happiness.
You Have To Find Your Magic Number
Depending on your needs (and spending habits!), your magic income number may vary. Some of my friends are super happy earning 40K a year, I couldn’t live with that. My own magic number is a combination of two things as I’m not solely going after income:
#1 Making $100,000 per year.
#2 Working 4 days week.
I’ve found that with 100K (keep in mind that’s a household income since my wife doesn’t work), we can live comfortably with our children and offer them what they need (education, activities, etc). But I’ve also realized that I wanted to spend time with my wife and family and be there when it matters. In order to do that, I made the choice to work 4 days a week. At first, I took at salary drop of 80% in order to work 30 hours a week. Over time, I got a promotion where I could keep my 4 days but had to work 37.5 hours over these 4 days. I would rather put all my working hours into just four days as I truly enjoy my 3 day weekends with my family. If you want to know more about my story, I’ve written an eBook on how I managed to get a 6 figure income in 6 years of work. You can download it for free once you have registered to the Fabulously Broke Newsletter:
It’s Hard to Find The Balanced Work-Life and Own It
The most surprising thing we lived through when we decided to make big changes in our work-life household model was the reaction from others. Some people think I’m old school because my wife stays at home, others look at my wife like she doesn’t do anything with her life (I can’t tell you how many time we have heard remarks like “it must be pretty boring to stay at home, I wonder what you will do when your kids are all in school?” or the other “obvious question”: It’s nice that you stay home while you have a toddler, but what are you going to do next?
It seems that most people can’t understand that this is the lifestyle we have chosen and that there are other ways of gaining recognition than from work. I actually have a respectable job but I don’t get my biggest recognition from it. I achieve the “top of the line” in terms of self fulfillment when I can see my daughter dance or swim or when I coach my older son’s soccer team. This is what’s important in life. I know that my kids will remember their dad being around when they were young and also know that my boss won’t remember me being around late at work 10 years from now. Anyways, I’ll probably have another boss and working at another job in 10 years, so why bother trying to get recognition from them?
It’s not easy to face others that are not living the same lifestyle because they challenge you on your decisions. They make you doubt and feel “guilty”. But in the end, what matters the most, is that I’m happy and not stressed about waking up tomorrow morning!
Tell me, what’s your magic number? Have you been able to reach it?
Source of info: Work Life Balance report by OECD