Money Isn’t Everything

I’m a big fan of money, which if you’ve read any of my 175 posts to date, you would already know that lol.  Sometimes opportunities come along to make a bit of extra money that you have to turn down and it hurts,  a lot.  Over the last 10 years I have turned down well north of $100,000 in work, usually because it requires traveling for long periods of time or traveling at the last minute, as you can imagine either is difficult to do with a family.  Just a few days ago I turned down an opportunity where I could have earned around $6,000 in two weeks…ouch. Money isn’t everything and sometimes you have to turn it down.

The Opportunity:

One of my employers called me up for emergent work, for which I am a subject matter expert in.  The site in question needed me to work as a technician and not a supervisor, but I would still be paid at my normal supervisor rate to go, plus a generous Per Diem and Travel In/Out rate.  The site found out during their online surveillances that they needed to perform this work, which had not been planned for. Nuclear plant outages are typically scheduled for around 30 days out of an 18 month fuel cycle.  Any delays cost the plant roughly $1.5 – 2 million per day, depending on what the plant normally produces. Because of this when unplanned problems occur, they are willing to do what it takes, which usually includes throwing around a lot of money to get the problem solved as efficiently as possible.

They wanted people to travel that day, but since I already had a job scheduled to take me through the end of the week they would have brought me in on the following Monday.  The work would last through the week of Thanksgiving and into the following week.  The work itself is fairly enjoyable, but tough, and with a 6 12s schedule.

So why not go if I enjoy the work and can make a ton of money in a short period of time?

1. Happy Wife Happy Life:

My wife works and we have 4 kids, ages 2, 4, 7, and 12. In order to make everything work from her work schedule to picking up and dropping off kids from school and watching the little kids, it is very difficult to travel without a couple weeks notice to get everything lined up.    If I were to leave on literally zero notice it basically throws everything in her court and tells her, “Your problem, deal with it.”

Of course Thanksgiving coming up is another major factor.  I missed Thanksgiving the year before last and already missed Halloween this year.  In addition to not being there for the festivities, I’m also not there for the supportive role of managing the children and helping with running to the store and things like that while she cooks Thanksgiving diner for the whole extended family (usually around 14 people).

2.  Strife with other employers:

The employer I work for for snow removal at my local plant was originally going to let me come in late based on a job I had lined up that fell through. I called them up to let them know what was going on and not only were they willing to bring my start date back to the original schedule, they brought it back further to bring me in a week early, starting on Nov 30, giving me an extra week of work I didn’t think I would be able to get.  I’m sure they would be willing to push it back a week to the original schedule for me to work this emergent job where I would make over 3X more in a week, but with how flexible they have already been it doesn’t feel right to ask them to adjust any more.

The emergent work is most likely a one time thing for that utility, while this snow removal job is a much longer job that I can most likely come back to every year.  It would be penny wise and pound foolish for me to jeopardize my snow removal job by showing them that they are not a priority.

3. Potential Problems With The Job:

One thing I’ve learned in this industry is whenever there is emergent work, it typically comes with poor planning, rushing, and unforeseen problems.  I don’t think the site, or even the utility in question has ever performed this task before and I think that their unit is very likely to run into some problems that can’t be solved easily.  I think when they go to start this evolution the problem they will run into is due to kicking this maintenance task down the road for many years. Although I am being told I would be brought in as a tech, I am sure my role would change once we ran into problems, and I doubt my rate would change based on that. I think there is a good chance the scope of work could extend for several weeks, which would further jeopardize the snow removal job I have lined up, and make things very difficult for Mrs. C. at home.

4. Poor Planning on Your Part Doesn’t Necessitate An Emergency On My Part:

The thing is if the people who ran these plants put a bit more forethought into planning maintenance fewer of these emergent work situations would come up. There is an immense pressure on utilities to do the bare minimum to stay within tech spec to get the unit up and running.  With cheaper electricity rates and lower than projected demands many of these plants, and especially those on single unit sites are struggling to remain economically viable.  This puts the people in charge on a short term incentive, which means work that should be done, but doesn’t have to be done right now gets put on the back burner, until they can’t delay it any more. While I appreciate being able to exploit the opportunities for emergent work when they come up, I greatly prefer work that is planned and scheduled.  Long term these plants need to adjust their focus back to the long term health of the plant, and not just on “can it run safely for the next 18 months?” Yes, I know that by not going to this job I will have ZERO effect on the long term culture of how these plants operate, but at the same time for my work/life balance I need to be able to say no to last minute jobs when they are highly inconvenient.

Money Isn’t Everything:

Sometimes the money just isn’t worth it. There will be times when something that sounds like a great deal comes along, but you must weigh the opportunity costs as well.  One of the beautiful things about working as a migrant nuclear worker is that I have options.  I have three primary employers that are all trying to get me to work more for them and are willing to be flexible with me to help me out with my scheduling, even when it involves my other employers.  Hey, it’s good to be wanted! It would certainly be nice to throw a couple decent checks in the bank right now to cap off the year, but sometimes things just don’t work out and money isn’t everything.

Have you ever had to turn down a job that sounded really good on paper, but it just didn’t fit into your life at the time? 


John C. started Action Economics in 2013 as a way to gain more knowledge on personal financial planning and to share that knowledge with others. Action Economics focuses on paying off the house, reducing taxes, and building wealth. John uses the free tool Personal Capital to track his net worth and posts quarterly updates on his finances. Check out the Action Economics archives section for all past posts.

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