Why I Turned Down a Six Figure Job Offer

I turned down a six figure job recently that I was uniquely suited to be an excellent candidate for.  Although no offer was officially given, I feel it still counts as turning it down.  The opportunity was presented by a key decision maker in the hiring process, after having a discussion with other key decision makers.  I quickly turned down this opportunity in this initial conversation, and to most outsiders I think this move may look crazy. To others it looks like I am of the “just doesn’t want to work” class.  Here’s the rationale for why I turned down a high paying job.

The Good:

This would be a stable job with a six figure income, a significant bonus target, and all the normal corporate benefits.  I have never had a job with benefits before, so it would be interesting to have employer sponsored health insurance, a 401K match, an HSA, and all the other cool benefits. I’ve never had a matching 401K and I believe this company matches 6%.  I would max out my Roth 401K which would give me the max match of around $6,000 per year.  I wouldn’t have to travel for work. This job would be a challenge and give me the opportunity to work on some of my weaker points as an employee and leader.    In addition to being the leader for the project I normally work on, this role is also responsible for supervising other contractors on different projects throughout the plant during non outage times.  This role involves a ton of planning, budgeting, and projecting, which are all strong areas for me. It is also the primary leadership role in the area I have been working in for 15 years (and in varying leadership positions for 12 years). I am appreciative that I was considered for this role.

A big plus this job would have is that it would put me in a position where I think I could leverage my career to climb the corporate ladder at the plant. I would be on the younger end of people with this level of responsibility in the plant and I could chart a course towards upper management.  That’s the dream right?

The Bad:

The Job is Year Round:

Currently I work seasonal refueling outages at nuclear power plants.  This year I worked 17 weeks and earned approx. $50,000.  This means that I had 35 solid weeks “off”.  If I were to take this job I would be working 50 weeks out of the year.  From a time freedom quotient, this is moving in the wrong direction.  For next year I plan to work closer to 24 weeks, then drop down to under 15 weeks for 2023 and 2024. 2025 should be between 0 and 8 weeks.  Very few people in our western job culture get more than 4 weeks off per year, and over 8 is an extreme rarity.

I’ve been killing the job culture since day 1.  I am 100% against the concept of a 9 to 5 year round job working for someone else. It is the highest risk, highest taxed form of living and is unnatural through the entire history of man.  The industrial revolution spiked average working hours to over 70 per week, and then they dramatically fell between 1870 and 1940, then stabilized at 40 for the last 80 years.  There is nothing special about a 40 hour work week.  We just haven’t had the will needed to challenge it en masse, perhaps until today. I strongly believe that the 15 hour work week that Keynes postulated in his 1930 essay “possibilities for our grandchildren” is a real possibility, and it would be against this belief if I signed up for a career that required a 40 hour weekly schedule.

Anyways, this job would normally be on a 4 10s schedule, which I like the concept of a 4 day work week, but I find 10 hour shifts to be an over bearing artificial construct.  The days are too long and it steals the ability to function significantly on the working days.  If it were a 4 7s schedule I could see this being a better work life balance.  I have no desire to work 6AM to 430PM.  I am against the concept of a 40 hour work week.  Actually, I believe the start time for this position might be 530, which is even worse. I could go for 8 AM to 3 PM, I think that would be a doable schedule.

 

This job is a project manager job, with a supervisor pay scale:

The responsibility level of this particular job in the department is much higher than “related positions”. This is a supervisor role, yet is responsible for a highly specific project that has over 150 contractors working for the position. This is a high stress job. I don’t know the exact pay scale for this role, however I know that it is not far off from the scale of some individual contributors at the plant, but this job comes with a much higher responsibility level. No other person on site is responsible for anywhere near the total number of “new to nuclear” contractors as this role has.  This role is substantially underpaid and under classified for what it is.    This next outage this project will most likely have 100 new to nuclear people working on it.

This Job Has Dwindling Support:

When I first started working for this project, there was a day shift lead, a night shift lead, and an overall project manager.  A few years ago the day shift lead retired and the plant never replaced that position, putting more pressure on the PM.  This would have been the point in time to bring in someone to shadow the PM and be a backup, but they chose for several outages to not do this. It wasn’t a problem with staffing after the first outage, it was a calculated decision to reduce resource costs.  This increased risk to the project and ensured the PM had a higher work load.

The plant night shift lead on this project will likely retire soon.  The contract company and the internal oversight program tied to the project both have been leaking experienced leadership for years.  This job is going to get more difficult, and if I were to take this job I would not have me in the role I am currently in as a contractor. I have been training people to take my job since I got it, but typically I only have them for 2 or 3 outages and then they are off to bigger and better things.

This Job Is In A Highly Restrictive Environment:

Nuclear power is special and part of that is the heavy regulatory burden.  My first concern is access authorization. As a contractor for the last 15 years I have seen people denied access for all sorts of reasons due to background checks, drug screens, failed tests (You need 80% to pass every test), and even credit reports.  Even having something pending can result in not receiving access, even though you have not been found guilty of any crime. With how slow our courts are, this could mean losing your job while working there because of a pending issue.  My wife’s aunt has had a pending assault charge for the past 6 months.  She did not assault anyone, yet is stuck in limbo, I am guessing an employee at this plant would be unable to go to work, and most likely would be replaced. I understand the need for security and to ensure the people who work at the plant are trustworthy. I think the methods used to do this are taking things way too far and they use a chainsaw instead of a scalpel.  As an individual it worries me that any legal issue would cause a loss of income, but it greatly worries me if I would be in charge of a project that needs to hire 150 people during the tightest job market since the end of WW2.  This barrier is too restrictive. I understand this is at the NRC level and not the plant level.

Obviously drug testing is a thing at nuclear plants.  For most of human history drug testing wasn’t a thing, and these plants were not built by 100% sober men.  The idea that a positive marijuana test can be career ending is beyond insane.  I’ve seen it happen many times.  Marijuana is legal in Michigan for recreational use.  Marijuana can show up in uranalysis for over 30 days after inhalation and is NOT a proper method of determining impairment. This once again greatly reduces our candidate pool. Once again, I understand this is at the NRC level and not the plant level.

What about firearms or accessories?  Having a bullet in your bag, or even your car could result in termination and possible criminal penalties.  I’ve been to dozens of plants and all have different methods for handling this. Only 2 different plants I have gone to actively try to prevent firearms from being accidently taken into the plant.  I would wager 99.99999995% of weapons taken into nuclear plants are accidental.  These 2 plants have tables set out directly in front of the access check point. In order to proceed you are required to do a self check of your bags before going to the check point. If you have a problem, return to your vehicle, then come back when you have resolved the problem.  The majority of plants, including this one, do not do this, and yes I have suggested it at this plant.  Every year at least one person accidently brings a weapon or ammo into the metal detectors and ends their career.

The next part of this is punishment for mistakes.  I made an error in judgment a few years ago that in all reality created no risk, no hazards, no possible negative consequences, and was intended to help another individual, and I was given 2 days off without pay. I was also worried for days that I was going to be fired, and not welcomed back at the plant.  This isn’t one of those “don’t tempt me with a good time” punishments either.  I needed that income to live off of.  Working outages is about overtime money, and I lost 25 hours of OT pay in one of the three weeks that I could get it during that refueling cycle.  In the 15 years I have worked at this plant I am one of only 3 people who I can think of who have received time off without pay as a punishment. The other people either caused substantial rework, or a near miss that could have severely injured someone.  I am under no circumstances going to allow 100% of my income, my livelihood to be tied to a company that would do that. Yes, officially the 2 days without pay came from my contract company, but there is involvement from the site with these type of things. Should I be holding resentment for losing a couple grand 4 years ago? probably not, but it hurt, I learned a lesson and that lesson is that this organization isn’t concerned about my livelihood and I need to have diversification of income.

I’ve already transitioned from my mindset being 90% get stuff done and 10% CYA (cover your ass) to 60% CYA and 40% getting things done and it drives me crazy. If I were to go into this role I would most likely need to be at 95% CYA and 5% getting things done.  I like to make things happen. The higher up you get at this place the less you are making things happen and the more CYA you are doing.  I worked with an Engineer once who kept a log of every file he reviewed in an excel spreadsheet, logging the time and any significant details. He reviewed hundreds of files a day; CYA.

This Job Has A High Opportunity Cost:

The primary opportunity cost of taking this job would be I would have no large blocks of time to build my real estate portfolio.  I think I might be able to do 1 house a year, but the scale of the rehabs would have to go way down, so my ROIs would as well.  Doing 1 house instead of 3 makes a massive difference.

My average house has $40,000 invested total, I add $25,000 in “sweat equity”, and I ultimately cash flow $400 per month with no cash left in the deal after a cash out refinance.  So doing 3 deals a year is equal to $75,000 in equity build and almost $15,000 per year in recurring cash flow per year. Cutting to a single deal that allows only $5,000 of sweat equity and $250 a month in cash flow is a big slow down.

The overall goal is to transition from W2 income to Schedule E real estate income.  I want to reduce my W2 hours and be more focused on real estate. We also should be able to “level up” soon into commercial/multi-family properties.

My rentals don’t care if I got high 29 days ago.  My rentals don’t care if I broke my leg. My rentals don’t care if I’m accused of something, or imprisoned, hell, my rentals don’t care if I’m dead, they will still keep sending in checks to the house.  My rentals build wealth in 4 ways (appreciation, cash flow, mortgage paydown, and tax savings), are massive inflation hedges, and most importantly don’t require me to exchange my time for money on an ongoing basis. They also will provide income and assets for my family long after I am gone.  With a W2 job the pay stops the second I stop, so why would I invest 2,000+ hours of my time, my most precious asset into a W2 job?

The secondary opportunity cost would be my other contracting jobs. Those would go away. Currently my W2 income is 2/3 my home plant and 1/3 my travel jobs.  If I took this job I would lose those travel jobs and consolidate a higher percentage of my income into a singular employer. I want my income to be diversified.

The third opportunity cost is my position with my contract employer.  For the past several years there’s been a dangling carrot of me moving into a staff position with this employer.  If / when my PM retires, there is a good possibility I would be on the short list for taking that spot.  This would be a corporate job with benefits, but would still have large blocks of time off as it would revolve around the refueling outages.

The fourth opportunity cost is my focus.  My focus now is on my rental portfolio AND launching my children on the course of financial freedom *insert shameless plug here* Check out my book For My Children’s Children: A practical guide for building generational wealth.  If I had to work a 2,000 hour+ per year managerial level job in this environment I would not have the time nor focus to research and implement methods for my children to build wealth and launch from my household prepared to win.

Taxation:

W2 jobs are the worst type of income.  W2 jobs are taxed the most and when you stop working them, the money goes away.  With real estate income I don’t pay payroll taxes, I get a 20% QBI deduction, can deduct all my expenses, including the phantom expense of depreciation, and I can build wealth through appreciation and leverage.

A marginal $10,000 in W2 income adds $2,200 in federal tax, $765 in payroll taxes, and $425 in state income taxes, for $3,390 total. A marginal $10,000 in rental income will typically be offset by $2,800 in depreciation. The remaining taxable $7,200 will then be reduced by the 20% QBI to $5,760.  This will be taxed at 22% federal; and 4.25% state, (no payroll taxes) for total taxes of $1,512.  I pay less than half the taxes on rental income as I do on W2 income. 

The cash out refinances are also tax free money. After rehabbing a house and waiting 6 months I do a cash out refinance based on the new appraisal.  This typically pays back all the money I put into the house and then some.  For example on the house I just finished I have $46,000 into it and it should appraise at $80,000. If this happens, after paying $3,000 in closing costs I will get a tax free check for $11,000.   Doesn’t taking cash out reduce my cash flow? Of course.  By taking the $11,000 I can in cash the 15 year mortgage at 3.5% will increase by $79 a month.  I will still cash flow $350+ per month on the house, have no money in it and have received that $11,000 tax free.

I Don’t Need To Earn Six Figures:

The bottom line is that we all have trade offs in life, and I’ve put myself in a position where I don’t need the money that much and this job is a better fit for someone who does.  This job will be a great opportunity for someone…but not me.  The whole purpose of my journey to financial independence is to have options.  The option to turn down more money in exchange for time, sanity, and focus is something that most people never have the ability to do.  My other economic activities are more important. My kids are more important. My mental health is more important. I do want to work, just not on their terms.  I want to work on my terms and on projects that will provide consistent economic benefits. I want to plant trees, not chop firewood.

Have you ever turned down a high paying job? How did you feel about it then and would you make that same decision again?

 

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 is the author of the book For My Children's Children: A Practical Guide For Building Generational Wealth.

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