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OVERWORKED, OVERWHELMED & UNDERPAIDSimple Steps to Go from Stress to Success
By LOUIS BARAJAS
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2008 Louis Barajas
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOverworked, Overwhelmed, and Underpaid: The Trap of modern life
In this chapter you'll learn ...
* how we are working more, doing more, and getting paid less for it than ever;
* the symptoms that will let you know if you are overworked, overwhelmed, and/or underpaid;
* how changing the way you think is the first step out of the trap of being overworked, overwhelmed, and underpaid;
* the key to mastering your life is the three Ms: mind-set, money, and meaning; and
* how to develop the solutions, strategies, and systems that will take you from stress to success.
How much stress are you under these days? Does the idea of your financial future energize you? At work, are you using your talents to their fullest? Is your day filled with organized actions that move you ever closer to your goals while still leaving enough time for exercise, relaxation, family, and friends? Do you feel appreciated and well compensated for the job you are doing? Or like the rest of us, do you go through your days at what seems like hyper-speed, with at least five times more to do than any one person could ever get done, stuck in a job where you feel underutilized and under-compensated, massively stressed, ignoring the activities and people that are important for your health, sanity, and happiness?
Welcome to twenty-first-century America-the land of the trapped and the home of the stressed. Today it seems that no matter what our income or work situation, far too many of us are struggling, living lives of financial desperation. Desperation exists in neighborhoods where people drive nice cars, live in good-sized houses, take great vacations, and send their kids to private schools, but they are only a paycheck away from bankruptcy. We see desperation in couples where husband and wife each work two or three jobs just to make ends meet, or in single parents who feel trapped between providing financially for their children and spending time with them. Saddest of all, we see desperation in the people who start out with big hopes and dreams, only to wake up twenty years later realizing that time and life have passed them by. They've spent their years occupied with unfulfilling work that kept them from realizing their dreams or spending time with their family and friends.
As a Certified Financial Planner[TM] and an expert in humanity-based wealth planning, I have consulted for clients with incomes between tens of thousands and tens of millions of dollars, people with negative net worths and multimillionaires, blue-collar and white-collar workers, tradespeople and CEOs, and everyone in between. Most of them have walked into my office or talked with me at a presentation and described themselves with the same three words: overworked, overwhelmed, and underpaid.
Given what's happened in the United States workforce over the last quarter century, that's not surprising.
We are working more ... * According to information presented at the 1999 National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health Conference, people in the United States work approximately eight weeks longer per year than in 1969, but for roughly the same income (after adjusting for inflation).
* In 2002, women worked an average of 43.5 paid and unpaid hours per week, an increase of 4.5 hours since 1977. Mothers worked a little less, 41.2 hours. Men worked 49 paid and unpaid hours per week on average. Fathers actually worked longer: 50.4 hours per week.
* As of 2002, 78 percent of married workers were dual-earner couples (that is, both partners work). Together, dual-earner couples work an average of 91 hours per week-an increase of 10 hours per week since 1977.
* Nearly one-half (45 percent) of workers with families state that their jobs interfere with family life either "some" or "a lot." One-third (33 percent) of workers are in contact with work once or more a week outside normal work hours. In a 1998 "Family Matters" survey by the National Partnership for Women & Families, 70 percent of working fathers and mothers reported they didn't have enough time for their children.
* Americans work more hours per year than workers in any other country except New Zealand, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
* One in three U.S. workers-33 percent of the workforce-report feeling overworked as a chronic condition.
* According to a 2000 survey by the Radcliffe Public Policy Center with Harris Interactive, 70 percent of men ages 21 to 29 and 71 percent of men ages 30 to 40 report that they want to spend more time with their families and would sacrifice pay to do so.
* In a 2002 administrative staffing study, 32 percent of workers cited work-life balance as the top priority in their careers, followed by job security (22 percent) and competitive salary (18 percent).
We feel overwhelmed ...
* More than one-half (56 percent) of employees say they often or very often (1) have to work on too many tasks at the same time, and (2) are interrupted during the workday and feel overworked and overwhelmed as a result.
* More than one-fourth (26 percent) of the American workforce does not take a vacation each year, and 46 percent of the workers who do feel overwhelmed by the work awaiting them. They talk about feeling as if they are "drowning" in accumulated work.
* The amount of time couples spend with their children on workdays has increased over the past twenty-five years, to 6.2 hours. What this means is that parents have less time for themselves-dads average 1.3 hours each day (down from 2.1 hours in 1977, and moms average less than an hour (0.9 hours, versus 1.6 hours in 1977). Is it any wonder families feel overwhelmed?
We are falling further behind financially ...
* Since 2001, real hourly wages rose only 3 percent for the middle-income worker, with none of this progress occurring after 2003.
* Every year, about 43 percent of American families spend more than they earn.
* Americans carry more than $700 billion in debt on bank credit cards and retail cards. At any one time, the average household has approximately $8,000 in credit card debt. In 2007, the delinquency rate for credit card accounts reached highs not seen in three years.
* According to statistics from the Federal Reserve, as of November 2007 American consumers owed $2.505 trillion, an increase of over $64 billion in one year. That total does not include mortgage debt.
* * *
Let me introduce you to two people who are "poster children" for this problem. Recently Marie and Jim came to my office in Southern California, to do some financial planning. Jim is a junior high school science teacher, and Marie works as a manager for a construction company. They have a daughter, and Jim is paying child support for a son from his previous marriage.
Marie and Jim arrived thirty minutes late for their appointment. They rushed in with many apologies; there had been a problem with after-school care for their daughter, and they'd had to drop her off at Marie's mother's house. Jim's car was in the shop that day, and Marie had been stuck at the office with a work issue, so they'd left later than they planned. To top it all off, the interstate had been backed up for more than five miles.
When they finally sat down in my office, Jim was grumpy and Marie tight-lipped. I asked them why they had come to see me. Jim started to talk about saving for retirement and the kids' college education, but Marie interrupted him.
"To tell the truth, Louis, what we'd really like to do is leave L.A., move to the outskirts where homes are less expensive, and see if we can get our lives back," she said grimly. "We're both spending way too much time at work, and I feel like half of my work is just pushing paper rather than managing. And even though I've taken on a lot more responsibility at my job, I'm still getting paid the same. Jim's paycheck as a teacher has always been low, so we're managing to get by but not putting anything aside for a rainy day, let alone retirement or college."
Jim nodded. "I like my job and don't want to leave teaching, but we just never seem to have enough time or money. The only time we spend with our kids is when we're driving them to after-school or weekend activities. We get home and fix dinner, and then I grade papers while Marie works on her company's books. We both fall into bed at midnight exhausted. We haven't had dinner together or gone to a movie in months, much less taken a vacation. We want out of the rat race!"
Marie and Jim are typical of the middle-class people we think of as overworked, overwhelmed, and underpaid. But over the years, I have discovered this kind of stress is no stranger to the "McMansion" or the executive office. As an author and financial expert, I work with several Fortune 500 companies that sponsor my workshops in financial education and planning for underserved populations. I've been able to spend time with upper-level executives as well as the heads of public relations firms, professionals in the news media, and officers of many nonprofit organizations. Whenever I mentioned that I was working on a book about being overworked, overwhelmed, and underpaid, people of all income levels would say, "That's me!"
One very successful woman, Susan, head of a PR firm, lived in Texas with her husband and two daughters. The previous year, she'd been recognized as one of the top female entrepreneurs in her area. She had a staff of ten young go-getters and a stable of high-profile clients-yet she told me she felt as overworked, overwhelmed, and overpaid as the people in my seminars.
"I'm working all the time and making six figures, but I'm feeling a lot of pressure for traveling so much," she said. "I can't spend time with my husband and daughters. My job seems to be mostly putting out fires rather than doing the things I really enjoy. I find myself thinking, I'm not getting paid enough to do this! And it's not just me-it's everyone in my firm. When we get together at lunch, all we talk about is being overworked, overwhelmed, and underpaid."
Even those fortunate individuals at the level where you would think they "have it all," don't. I recently read an article about the highest-ranking executive producer for a national news program. She's in her early forties, single, at the absolute top of her profession, and well paid-but she talked about working long hours, feeling overwhelmed, and having no life outside of work. "I don't know if this job is worth giving up my life," she admitted.
No matter what your current income or job level, perhaps you, too, are one of the millions who go through the days, weeks, months, and years feeling stressed and dissatisfied, working too much and getting paid too little, but with little or no clue of how to change it. See which of the following statements apply to you:
You are overworked if ...
* You always work more than forty hours per week.
* You haven't taken a vacation in the past year. Even if you do take a vacation, you can't relax because they are always calling you for an emergency, or you feel guilty for not calling to check in.
* You feel that your boss/co-workers/clients don't appreciate your efforts.
* Because of work, you have missed more than one important event with your family (recital, sports, church, etc.).
* Your family doesn't understand when you tell them you don't spend time at home because you are working hard for them.
* You've thought about quitting at least once in the past month.
You are overwhelmed if ...
* It seems that the more work you accomplish, the more work there is. You've missed at least one major deadline in the past six months.
* You don't have enough time to spend with your family and friends. You and your spouse always intend to have a date night, but a work or home emergency always seems to come up whenever you make plans.
* When you think of everything you have to get done, you feel tired or anxious.
* Your stress level has affected your health. You keep putting off visits to the dentist or optometrist because you don't have the time (or money) to go.
* You're always putting out fires and never fully preparing for anything.
* You feel that you are working harder than ever just to stay even.
You are underpaid if ...
* You put in a significant amount of unpaid overtime.
* You feel more stressed about finances than you did five years ago. You sometimes have bad dreams or nightmares concerning your finances or your work.
* Your work doesn't utilize your talents and abilities to their fullest extent.
* You are doing more work today and getting paid less for it, or you don't feel you are compensated well enough for the level of work you provide.
* You start saving money for an important goal, but you always end up spending it on some unexpected emergency.
* No matter how much you make, you can't get ahead financially.
When you are overworked, overwhelmed, and underpaid, it is as though you are in a tiny box with walls composed of fear, complexity, confusion, and frustration. All you can do is beat on the walls or walk from one side of the box to the other, since it's better to have the illusion of progress than no movement at all. But here's the truth: you're in a box of your own making, and pacing around inside the box isn't going to get you where you want to go. In the next three chapters you'll find specific tools and techniques to help you go from being overworked, overwhelmed, and underpaid to being balanced, in control, and well compensated for meaningful work. But these tools and techniques require that you first change the way you think and feel. Once you do so, the changes you wish to make in your work, your time, and your priorities will be a lot easier than you may believe at this moment.
Mind-set, Money, and Meaning
Going from stress to success in your finances and your life starts with internal changes, not external ones. The first area where you must put your efforts is the one between your ears. Do you know (or have you read about) people who have very few resources, yet they are immensely happy? Or others who work fifteen-hour days, love what they do, and still manage to have a great family life? I believe it's because they are rich in internal resources. They have mastered what I call the three Ms: mind-set, money, and meaning.
You can know all the things you need to do to change, but unless you have the right mind-set you won't believe you can do them. You have to believe that change is possible, and that making changes will help you be happier, more fulfilled, and more successful. Through the years I have found that I could try to teach people about financial success, but unless they had the right mind-set they wouldn't be able to absorb the information. Most of this book is focused on helping you develop the right mind-set to be able to move from stress to success.
The second M is to understand that your beliefs about money will dramatically affect the level of success you will allow yourself to have. Each of us has beliefs about money that either support us or prevent us from taking care of what we have and earning more. All too often our beliefs hold us back. If you believe money is the root of all evil, for instance, then subconsciously you'll end up sabotaging your efforts to become wealthy. If you believe that money is the be-all, end-all, then you'll spend your life chasing money, instead of realizing that what you really want is what you believe money will give you-security, significance, approval, and friendship. And if you don't feel you're worthy of the money you make, then you're likely to ask for less than your work is worth and resent it when you're not paid as much as you deserve. Your beliefs about money will determine how happy or conflicted you are about your wealth or lack of it.
Excerpted from OVERWORKED, OVERWHELMED & UNDERPAID by LOUIS BARAJAS Copyright © 2008 by Louis Barajas. Excerpted by permission.
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