How to Make Money » Career

This Is Why You’re Screwed

Okay, it’s not you that’s screwed. After all, you’re reading this blog, and probably many others. And, hopefully you’re implementing the ideas you read about. But most people are screwed. Let me tell you a story to illustrate why.
For those of you who haven’t bothered to read the nice little bio dealie at the bottom of my posts, I’m a salesman for a major snack food company. My job consists of driving a big truck around filled with the snack in question and selling product into both grocery stores and convenience stores.

One of my customers runs a small convenience store. This store isn’t very impressive, but it does a reasonable amount of business. Every single time I show up at this store, the owner is working. Recently I was bugging him about working too much. His response was that he worked every day. His store is open 14 hours a day and between him and his wife, one of them is there all the time. He usually works at least 10 hours a day, each and every day.
He has no hobbies. He goes home, eats, relaxes for an hour or so and then goes to bed. Then he gets up the next day and repeats the process. He lives frugally, in a house that’s been fully paid off for years. Although I don’t know any exact numbers, I suspect his business is pretty profitable. After all, he doesn’t have any employees to pay.

How Hard Are You Working?

This shopkeeper isn’t alone. There are thousands of other people, in all sorts of other industries, who are working just as hard.
Meanwhile, let’s compare my store owner friend to some of the people you or I know. And because people like to hate on teachers, let’s look at some of them as examples. (Relax teachers, I still love you.)
Teachers get over 2 months off, thanks to summer holidays and various breaks. They get every single weekend off, and are generally away from school by 4:30 in the afternoon. I know a few teachers, and guess how many of them of them are working on some sort of sideline business in their spare time? If you guessed less than 1, you’d be very warm.
I’m picking on teachers here, somewhat unfairly. There are all sorts of people who have spare time and fail to do something productive with it. And naturally, they’re filled with all sorts of excuses. They work hard, they deserve time off. They make enough to be comfortable, so why bother doing anything extra? Or, which has to be my favourite argument, they make $25 an hour at their day job, so it would be pointless to work at something else making $15 an hour.
All these are is excuses. It’s time for action.

What Are You Waiting For?

If you’re one of those people who’s just putting in their 40 hours a week, you need a wake up call.
You have one of two options. You can either work your tail off at work, or start a side hustle. And, unless you’re a commissioned salesperson, I’d strongly urge you to put your efforts into a side hustle. In most situations, the only person you’re benefiting by working extra hard at work is the owner. Sure, you could get that promotion, but often more goes into that decision than just work ethic.
You’ll hear a lot of talk about frugality, especially in certain corners of the personal finance blogosphere. I’m not going to argue with frugality, since I’m generally a pretty frugal guy. My 27 inch TV from 10 years ago isn’t drawing a lot of compliments, but it works fine. I spend about $10 a year on alcoholic beverages. I can go on, but you get the point that I’m not anti-frugality.
Well, except for toilet paper. I buy the good toilet paper.
While frugality is a smart strategy, it has its limits. You can only cut so much. Meanwhile, extra income is only limited to the amount of time you’re able to put in. And, as you start to invest that extra income, it’ll compound over time. Compound interest is pretty outstanding.
As they say, the opportunities are endless. I don’t care what your skill set is, you’ve got some skill that people are willing to exchange money for. Every night you spend sitting around and watching TV is a night wasted. And you better get started soon, because there are some people who are working much harder than you. They’ll have the money, and you’ll be wondering what happened. Don’t let that happen to you.


  1. cashflowmantra

    Here, here to the good toilet paper. I do want to add to your statement about extra income. It isn’t even limited to the amount of time you can put in. You can begin to leverage other people’s time by employing them to do work for you and make even more income. You can multiply your time this way.

  2. Andrew

    I have a number of teachers in my family and social circle. While you’re right in thinking that they often are able to leave the school at 4.30p — especially in this era of non-existent funding for extra curricular activities — you’re dead wrong in thinking they go home without work. Many of them spend their evenings grading and doing lesson prep. The prep time that many of them used to get in the AM is time they’re also now expected to be available to students and parents, so if they planned on that time to prepare for their day, they may get a rude awakening.

    Those two months they get off in the summer? They’re expected to take at least some of that time to upgrade their skills at their own expense.

    You’re also mistaken if you think that many of them don’t have side jobs, especially the younger ones. There are a lot of teachers tutoring, teaching music lessons, working retail gigs, painting houses and mowing lawns. I’m not sure how big your sample size is, but it doesn’t seem too representative from my experience.

    • Nelson Smith

      I compliment every teacher who has a side gig.

      However, in an age of strong teacher unions and tenure for everyone who manages to last a couple of years at a school, I doubt getting a side gig is very important to most.

      Saying that, teachers were just an example. Everybody should be working on something in their spare time, I don’t care what your profession.

  3. SavingMentor

    I thought this post was spot on in encouraging people to get a side gig if they want to get ahead. I really enjoyed the personal shop owner story as well. Very well written.

    The only thing I don’t get is apparently the premise of the post “But most people are screwed. Let me tell you a story to illustrate why.”

    You mentioned it in the first paragraph and then never referenced it again and never explained why people who don’t work a side gig are screwed – just that they SHOULD work a side gig. Who says they aren’t making ends meet just fine as-is and that they won’t be able to retire comfortably? Why are they screwed?

    • Nelson Smith

      The point was, no matter your industry, there are people who are working much harder than you. Hard work = more opportunities, income, etc.

      There are a lot of people who only work 40 hours a week and don’t have enough to retire comfortably. I’d rather work 50 and remove all doubt. Plus, life will be more comfortable in the meantime.

  4. Financial Samurai

    Love it! Everything is relative, and you don’t keep up, buh bye.

    But, the government is great at handouts in the US, so it’s all good baby!

  5. Yang

    I applaud your intention to inspire people to start side gigs for extra income. However, I found your example of “lazy” teachers to be totally unfair. Students leave at the ring of the last bell, teachers don’t. There are a lot of prep work to do, parents to call, classroom to tidy up and homework to grade. That’s on a normal day. Let’s not even talk about the burning of the midnight oil during report card time.

    If you believe that teachers can just wake up in the morning and improvise an entire day of lessons than either you think teachers can do the impossible or maybe you had a lazy teacher when you were younger. You are a smart guy writing for an intelligent and wonderful blog so I don’t think it’s the latter.

  6. GReg

    BWHAHAHA! My wife is a teacher. Worst. Job. Ever. Most people have no idea how ridiculous difficult and draining their jobs are. Read any teaching forum online…

    And who wants to work 70 hour weeks? I’d rather have work life balance. Time spent riding my bike is worth more than any amount of money.

    • JM

      My experience with teachers is that they do not live in the real world where regular folk work 5 days a week and least 50 hours a week. Regular folk get there holiday of 3 weeks off a year.

      Teachers don’t work a full days get NID days, 2 weeks at Christmas and Easter and at least 2 months during the summer.

      And they will tell you even if you don’t want to hear how stressful they find there work. Like my job is not stressful sure it is I just don’t whine about it.

      If you don’t like your job find something you do like!

      Enough said

      • GReg

        Wow. Poor grammar and spelling mistakes. I can see why you don’t like teachers.

        • JM


          I love teachers just not the one’s that whine and think they are hard done by. Which is the majority of them!

          Teachers are not the only one’s that do real work.

          Maybe your just to close to it GReg!

  7. Krantcents

    I am a teacher and most of the teachers I know are grading papers in the evening for several hours. Not all teachers take the summer off either. I understand your point of either make your career worthwhile or find a side hustle. I think if you like what you do, you will be good at it and the money follows.

    • Nelson Smith

      At least Krantcents got the point of the post. Thanks.

  8. David Leonhardt

    Yes. Yes. Yes. Everybody should have multiple sources of income. When you have a “job”, you basically have a single client. You’ve thrown all your eggs into one basket. That is a pretty desperate situation by my accounting. My solar blog is all about my latest side hustle. I’ll be feeding the grid and earning some money for it – just a little at first, but once the system is paid for, the revenue will form a nice little bit of “pension”.

  9. amy

    So your saying we should all be like the shopowner who works 70+ hours a week, hardly sees his wife and has no down time or fun. I would say it is the shopkeeper who is skrewed especially if he doesn’t HAVE to live like that.

    • Nelson Smith

      Fair enough. He values hard work, and you value your friends and family. Who’s right? Maybe you both are.

      • Jake

        No, the shopowner is wrong, and soon he’ll be dead wrong. So what that his house is paid off, he has no debt? When he’s dead it will all be for nothing. Amy is absolutely right – find the perfect balance, earn enough to enjoy your hobbies, go out, spend a little, do something fun (free or paid). Of course if you’re not making enough, get a side gig. But if you are and are happy, then enjoy your time off – heck, even work for free for personal enrichment.

        I find your post a little too focused on the thing that should matter less: money, and not on the thing that matters most: time.

  10. 20's Finances

    That’s what I keep telling my wife. I am working on building an online business (it just happens to be a hobby as well). 🙂 I think this is really important. I am probably one of the busiest people I know (on paper at least), but I find time for it all (somehow). I work full-time, go to grad school, and now blog. Anyone can do it.

    • Outliermodel

      I definitely agree with you on that – I think Nelson hits the point that we are not conditioned to go beyond what is necessary to make a living.
      Recently I have taken up many side projects (thanks to the encouragement of my amazing partner) and although none are revenue generators yet, hopefully they will lead there.

      My question: how do you stay motivated? All my friends can’t figure out why I am always so busy and I get sucked into thinking I do too much and that I should relax more. How do you overcome that?

  11. Steve

    I’d be willing to bet that there are more people that are totally screwed by not knowing where they are spending their money than by not making enough. The point is to live within your means. That can be done either by making more (as your post suggests) or by spending less – which requires knowing what you’re spending, and where you’re spending it.

  12. Grady Pruitt

    Yeah… Seems like your example of a teacher was a little off 😀 My mom worked for the school system, and I can tell you, there was a lot more done outside of school. Also, I know a couple of teachers that wait tables, because I work with them, so some do work outside of the education system.

    Still, you’re point about frugality is spot on. You can save a lot by being frugal, but at some point, you need to find ways to expand your income.

    Thanks for your comment!

  13. Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey

    I don’t equate working hard to the number of hours you do your job or the number of jobs you have in your hands. I believe that success does not mean working long hours but working smart, planned and organized.

  14. Wojo

    I have never, ever bought into the concept that you somehow MUST work more than 40 hours to be successful. A quote from REWORK comes to mind:

    “…workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done.”

    • Nelson Smith

      I’m all for efficiency. If there’s a way to get done work faster, you should do it.

      But I think your argument of only working 40 hours a week is way off. Why work 40 when you could earn 25% more working 50? Most people have trouble making ends meet, yet balk at the idea of working a side hustle. I work 50 and still have plenty of time to watch sports and hang out with my friends.

  15. Nelson Smith

    I’m going to address all the commenters who thought I was bashing teachers separately.

    I think, that as a group, teachers work hard. I also think that, as a group, IT guys work hard, as do janitors, bankers, and every other industry you can list. I wasn’t trying to call anybody lazy.

    However, you cannot argue the amount of downtime teachers have. I’m not trying to begrudge them for having it, since we all had the same opportunity to go into the profession. All that downtime presents itself with a great opportunity to make extra money. Or, it can be spent catching up on episodes of CSI. Too often, people of every profession spend too much time on the latter.

    Work hard. That was the point of this post. It wasn’t to bash teachers.

  16. Chris Eaker

    I like my free time. Life’s too short to always be doing something productive. Enjoy your free time.

  17. Rachelle

    Both my mom and sister are teachers…and quite frankly when I hear them whine about how hard their work is…I think wow that sure sounds like a first world problem. I’d feel really sorry about your stressful job, if I didn’t have work that’s about 2000% more stressful than yours. Just wait until you get a phone call about one of your tenants stabbing another or evict a couple families per month.

    It must be nice to have weekends and evenings off, I wouldn’t know I’m busy growing my business. If I reported myself to the Labour Board they’d skewer me, there’s not an employee on earth that works more hours than I do.

    Seriously folks, you need a side gig. I’d never have just one customer. It’s stupid. I continually hear excuses about how you need more time to watch tv and relax. These people then try to borrow money from me because of their sad sack situation. It’s not about the money either. When I was in school I worked for $3 an hour for this guy painting in my spare time. It’s about how much I would have made if I hadn’t been working for him. ($0)

    Great Post Dude

    • Jake

      Who the heck are you to tell anyone they “need” a side gig???

      Your choice is to work over play.

      My choice is to play over work.

      After my 90-hour-a-week working dad died this year (he was 83, still busting his tail, got hit by a car and WHAM), I realized, what a waste. What an absolute waste of a beautiful and smart human being. If only he stopped for one second and smelled the fresh air around him instead of constantly working, our bond would’ve been greater.

      So, here’s a tip: enjoy what you do but you shouldn’t stress it on others that its the only way (because it works for you).

  18. Kathleen

    I understand the point of your post; however, I think you did yourself and your point a disservice in using teachers as an example. I have taught for almost 40 years and I cannot think of a time when I worked less than 10 hours per day. Now I am retired and teach only part-time (16 hours per week in a classroom working with adult special education and at least 20 more hours per week on lesson plans, research, designing materials, reading to stay up-to-date in my field, etc.). Oh, and did I mention that I am paid only for the classroom time at not much more than minimum wage and receive no benefits, no sick leave, and no paid vacation time? By targeting one group, you distracted your readers from your central point.

  19. Julie Gaudet

    This is one of the better articles I’ve read in awhile because it hits the nail right on the head. Year’s ago a single income worked for a family but now it is tough to get by on two incomes and it is only getting worse. I read a book Multiple Streams of Income by Robert G. Allen (Mar 17, 2000) and although it was written over 10 years ago the message is not loss. You will need ~ 7 sources of income to run an average family… and the date prediction on this is coming down on us quickly. Thanks Nelson for the swift kick in the pants to all of us reading. Hopefully this expands through to those not reading and gets them moving too!

  20. sealander

    I have considered from time to time whether a second job would be a worthwhile use of my time. I usually reject the notion because of the following:
    If you include commuting, my main job takes up around 52 hours already.
    Although there’s some flexibility, I have to be in the office during set hours. With the majority of part time work I’ve looked at the employers reserve the right to vary the hours, and in most cases the hours set conflict with the time I need to be at the office. I seldom see any jobs advertised that are restricted to weekends or evenings.
    I don’t know what the US situation is, but in NZ second jobs are taxed at a higher secondary tax rate. If you get the paperwork right it is all supposed to even out but seems rather complex to manage.
    I figure I get better use out of my free time doing things that mean I save more money, like growing vegetables and fruit, preserving it, and knitting a sweater instead of buying one.

  21. Anoymous

    A side business such as a gumball machine. YOu fill it once a week or so and that is it. WHen you go to fill it, take the money. After expensives, the money left over is yours. Not very hard or time consuming.

    Purchase dividend paying stocks or REITS at a good price. You just sit back and the money comes in like clockwork every month or 3 months. It might not be big but better than nothing.

  22. Xavier

    Hard work is the basis of success .It doesn’t matters how much technically advanced humans become .The basic rules of life will be same and working hard for success is one of them

  23. Stewy

    You just have to live across the road from a school for a couple of years to see the truth. Before I retired, I could see teacher’s cars at the school before I left for work and still there when I got home. They were also there up to two weeks after school let out for the summer, and two weeks in August before it started back up. Report card time comes along and the cars were there in the evening, not to mention for all kinds of after school sports etc. I worked at a hospital for 37 years and I made time for a part time job. Teachers do not have any time left for that. Please quit bashing teachers.

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