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Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Plan for Getting Out

Posted by Tim Stobbs on October 21, 2015

Recently I had a frank discussion with my boss about the fact I’m around two years out from leaving the company.  I didn’t provide an exact date, but we did discussion his question “How do I get you to stay around longer?”  I bluntly answered at the time “Working less. Like a lot less.”  So we started an investigation into options on how to get that done.

Unfortunately I came to realize just how hostile my workplace policies are towards part time work.  While I give my workplace full credit for being open to discussing the idea of part time work in actual practice the policies aren’t much good beyond getting perhaps 80% to 90% time rather than the full 100% of full time work.  I ran multiple potential scenarios on to see if 60% was doable, but most of the time the overall costs to the company made the option of doing this hard to justify as the polices are stuck in thinking of bodies not dollars.

In the end, I just went with the path of least resistance.  I’ll keep my current 90% time and then use our existing flexible benefit, which is equal to 3% of my pay, to fund a bit extra time to further reduce my working hours starting in 2016. The flexible account doesn’t require any additional approvals…I can just pick the option and be done with it.  Three percent sounds like a tiny bit, but when you start to add up all the time I already don’t work I started to realize something important…I don’t work that much.

The math goes something like this.  A standard 52 week year has about 260 potential working days (52 x 5 working days).  Yet I also get 12 days of stat holidays a year, so that real total is now 248 working days.  I currently get the following time off 4 weeks of vacation (20 days), 13 Banked Days off, and if I use the flexible benefit another 7.8 days or 40.8 days off when you add it up.  Yet because I work 90% time, those totals get scaled down by 10% to 36.7 days off, but in exchange I get another 26 days off.  Oh, I get another 3 family days a year that don’t scale on top of that.  So grand total that works out to 36.7+26+3 or 65.7 days off.  So out of the total working days of 248 in a year I’m not working about 26.5% of the time starting in 2016 or inverting the result I will only work 182.3 days next year.  So out of total year of 365 days that means I only work about half the time (yes I love my workplace for time off…it was one of the major reasons I came to the company).

So bluntly, I came to realize I really don’t need to reduce hours any further since I already don’t really work that much.  Instead I’ll keep up this nice coasting pace for the next year or two and just leave when I hit my savings target.  Isn’t it funny how when you go looking for something, you come to realize how valuable what you already have is.

Hell Can Freeze Over?!?

Posted by Tim Stobbs on May 29, 2015

Much to my shock and utter amazement after delaying the decision for four months the senior management at my employer decided to grant us bonuses for last year.  This is of course after they gave us our usual raise and then took it away earlier this year.  Yup, I know this doesn’t make any sense to me either.

In the end, they decided we just qualified to get them and through some fairly complex calculations I got roughly a bonus roughly equal to 5% of my annual salary.  To say this was unexpected doesn’t begin to cover it. As I pointed out to a co-worker of mine I gave the odds of me getting a bonus as a snowflake spontaneously forming in hell.  Not impossible, just very unlikely.

While I’m being generally being a good boy with the extra money and the vast majority of it will be moved into RRSP accounts.  So between this bonus and my tax refund I’ve had an insane month for income.  I’ll give you all the details later this weekend as I finally get caught up on my net worth posts.

Then I decided to spend a small portion on the windfall on something that I would enjoy: I bought a new laptop.  You see I had previously bought a little netbook computer to do my writing on since I wanted something portable and lightweight…which did work fine for a number of years.  Then I changed to a different writing program that was designed to support larger writing projects (aka books) late last year.  Yet there was a problem…the new program was a bitch to use on my netbook since the display was fairly small.  While I could have just put up with it I thought I would be purely selfish and just buy what I want.

So this is my first post on the shiny new machine and my dear god it is a HELL of a lot faster than my old one.  It’s sort of nice not to upgrade for a few years so when you finally do it becomes a bit of shock to get eight times the RAM, double the processor speed and nearly five times the hard drive of your previous machine.  Yes I’m having a geek moment and I’m enjoying it. ;)

A History of Labour – Part VII

Posted by Tim Stobbs on May 15, 2015

Consulting WorldMoney Really Isn’t Everything (Year 7 and 8 A.D. – After Degree)

I typically find most people are not really willing to stand up for what they believe is right.  They get so sucked into the game of earning more, getting more stuff that they end up in such a tight financial situation that even the thought of taking a pay cut on purpose is alien to them.  I’m not one of those people.

Despite making a disgusting amount of money in my previous job.  Literally some years I was making just under $90K/year with bonuses, it wasn’t what I needed at that point in my life.  If you have read my previously long winded post about my first son’s birth you know he had been born 10 weeks premature and spent over 60 days in the hospital prior to coming home.  After that my wife and I made the conscious choice to seek out a job closer to our families.

I did actually try and almost got a transfer within my current company at the time to a sales job in Regina.  Yet I lost out in the end, since they managed to high the competition’s salesman instead.  I even told the manager I understand it.  The guy required almost no training as he knew the clients and all the industries…of course he was the better choice than me.

But when push came to shove and my father asked to pass along my resume to a consulting firm he knew I said sure why not.  Then the next week I had a causal conversation with one of managers from that company.  After that I had fully expected to go through a full interview, but instead they phoned me up with an offer.  Just one problem…they couldn’t get close to what I was making now.  I had to take a $20K/year pay cut to move back near my family.  I signed the offer with sigh.  It was only money after all and Regina at the time had fairly affordable cost of living.

The decision ended up being a good one as I also got the opportunity to work on preliminary engineering work on a clean coal project being proposed in Saskatchewan (yes, THAT project that just came online here in 2014).  It was extremely interesting work and right up my alley since many of the potential technologies were based on an amine system, which I had just spent the last few years troubleshooting so I provided some more common sense adjustments to few things that would help things out when it got to being operational.

Overall I actually enjoyed the work at this job.  I also made several good friends while working this job so the co-workers were excellent as well.  I just hit one major problem with the job over the years….the work load was extremely variable.

How much?  Imagine your worse, most busy well EVER that have that occur every few months.  But then also include a few weeks here and there were you are so dead for work you are actually cleaning up all your files, your inbox gets empty and you surf the internet a LOT and still don’t have much to do.  That part really sucked.  I learned I don’t do boring at work….like ever!

During one of these particular low spots in work I was sent out to one of the company’s east coast offices to help them for three weeks.  While I was out there I would also tour a power plant with a FGD (Flue Gas Desulphurization) system which would be a helpful bit of professional development as some of the clean coal designs we were looking at included such a treatment system.

Yet my first job out there for a week, I never met the client and I did all the work on the computer….in summary it pissed me off to no end that I could have done the entire job from my desk back in Regina.  Ugh, but most managers didn’t really get working remotely yet, so I was stuck in a hotel.

In the end, I found the extreme swings of the workload frustrating to me.  I genuinely prefer to have a more steady workload so after putting up with this for a few years I was in the mood to seek out something new, but I had not even starting looking for a new job when an email from my father showed in my personal email.  It was a posting from his company and the job description looked like it had been written just for me. (Aside: my father’s interest in my career stems from the fact we both have the same degree, so he tends to know what I would be interested in and keeps a lazy eye out for those sort of jobs.  So when he hears about one that he thinks I might like, he sends me the posting.)

I figured why not and then applied for the job.  I was off to anther adventure.

Summary

Lessons Learned

  • Money is nice, but don’t underestimate the value of other things like living closer to family and don’t forget the cost of living in a location matters a lot when it comes to a salary. So $70K in a smaller city may be close to $90K in Calgary after housing costs.
  • Know your personal work style and make sure you gets jobs that align to that.  Otherwise you will be unhappy.

Financial

  • Despite the pay cut, we did just fine. We cleared the last of our student debt with the move to Regina and managed to only have a mortgage of $150,000 on the house.  Which is a major reason I’m so far along as I am in my plan.  I didn’t overpay on housing.