One of the life-changing idea that I’ve learned from the FIRE movement is the concept of Life Energy. (Read: My Step-By-Step Plan To Financial Freedom Using The FIRE Method).
It made me think about money very differently. I had always valued my time and I knew that time on earth is short. But I have never tied time with money in such a tangible way. Now I know what my one hour is worth in terms of money and what it means to my life.
WHAT IS LIFE ENERGY?
Life Energy is a formula for calculating life traded for money. The time and effort you put on getting money = Your Life Energy. You “pay” for money with your time.
If you are 35 years old, statistically you still have about 45 years left. You use half of the time for body maintenance: sleep, eat, bath, etc. So you will be left with 22.5 years to:
- Spend time with family & friends
- Indulge in you hobbies
- Contribute to the world
Now that you know that you are trading your life for money and that your time on earth is limited, you will think about spending money differently.
|AGE||AVERAGE REMAINING LIFE EXPECTANCY (YEARS)||AVERAGE REMAINING LIFE EXPECTANCY (HOURS)|
Source: Your Money Or Your Life page 77 (I have rounded the numbers of years for ease of reading)
WHY DO WE COUNT OUR LIFE ENERGY?
Our goal is to see how much your Life Energy (hour) is worth. To put it simply: what is your real hourly wage?
Once you figure that out, it:
- Makes you realise what you are REALLY getting paid
- Help you assess your current and future job Only when we know our real hourly wage, we know how to evaluate our job. If you get a job offer that doesn’t pay much more but may have much less work related expenses, you may get a higher hourly wage than your current job.
With this method, I have turned down a seemingly lucrative job offer and readjusted my consulting fee.
WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO?
This is the second step of the 9 STEPS TO FINANCIAL FREEDOM. The book told us to do two things:
- A) Count your REAL hourly wage Get the actual cost in time and money needed to maintain your job(s).
- B) Keep track of your money that goes out and in
In this article, we will focus on A
YOUR TYPICAL HOURLY WAGE (This is not accurate)If you earn $8000 a month and spend 200 hours working, you may think that your hourly wage is 8000 / 200 = $40 an hour
But that is not your REAL hourly wage. You have a lot of other expenditure related to work. If you didn’t have to work, you didn’t have to buy that over-priced meal near your office or go for a massage because you body ache from overworking.
HOW TO COUNT YOUR REAL HOURLY WAGE?
- Think of all the things that you need to spend on because of your work
- There are things that is common to everyone e.g transportation which is easy to spot
- But there may be others that is unique to you and some people e.g the gym near your office, daycare, etc. Ask yourself ““If I am not working on my current job, I wouldn’t need to spend on….”
- Write how much time AND money you spend on things related to your job
- Transportation: car loan, car maintenance, parking, toll, MRT, etc
- Work clothes: e.g a nice laptop bag
- Destress entertainment
- Escape entertainment
- Job related illness
- Others e.g daycare
To calculate your Life Energy = 60 minutes/ Real Hourly Wage
Though for me, ‘Life Energy (Per Minute)’ is too much calculation for me. I know my hourly wage cost RM X per hour. Give it an easy number, say RM 100. So when I buy a new dress that cost RM 100, I know it takes me an hour to work for it.
Here is an easy sample calculation from the book to get your started:
TYPICAL HOURLY WAGE: $1000/ 40 hours = $25 per hour
REAL HOURLY WAGE: $700/ 70 = $10 per hour
LIFE ENERGY = 60 minutes / Real Hourly Wage = 60/ 10 = 6
Every dollar spent represent 6 minutes of Life Energy. To put it simply, when you spend a dollar, you have to work 6 minutes.
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE
I cannot use my Life Energy as an example. I never held a traditional 9 to 5 job in my life and I am halfway through this financial journey. I work from home and I don’t own a car. I also am not stressed from my work so I don’t need to spend on entertainment to relieve me of stress.
Here’a an example of a corporate worker. Since I am doing it, I thought I’ll help a friend calculate her Life Energy instead. My friend is in her early thirties, single, lives about 30 minutes away from her office, and work for a large corporate company. Let’s call her Jane. This is her chart:
I did not ask for her salary (it’s rude, obviously). Let’s give it a RM 10,000.
Jane’s Typical Hourly Wage = RM 50 ringgit per hour
Jane’s Real Hourly Wage = RM 5.80 ringgit per hour
Jane’s Life Energy = 60 minutes / Real Hourly Wage = 60 / 5.8 = 10.3
Every dollar spent equals to Jane’s 10.3 minute of Life Energy (I will round it down to 10)
Jane needs to work for 1 hour to get ~6 Ringgit.
Every 1 ringgit Jane spends equals to ~10 minutes of her life.
It means every RM 10 Jane spends, she trades 1 hour of her life for it.
What Jane thought about her real hourly wage:
Jane had been on high-stress job and spend a lot of time at work. After learning about her real hourly wage, she was disappointed and felt that her wage is like fast food restaurant part-time worker.
Now, she is planning to reduce her expenses related to work e.g stop buying work clothes that she doesn’t need and bring lunch to work (something she had wanted to do for a long time).
She also got a copy of Your Money Or Your Life to learn more about money (and life) management.
LIFE ENERGY VS EARNINGS: What is your real hourly wage?
Now, it’s your turn to count your real hourly wage.
Think about the below questions. These are things that you will not do/ pay if not for your work
- How long does it take for you to go to and back from work?
- If you drive to work: what’s your monthly car loan repayment, toll, parking,
- If you take public transport to work, how much does MRT/Bus/Taxi cost you
- Work clothes
- How long does it take you to get ready to work?
- How much do you spend on to look good at work? Include clothing, makeup, bag, saloon visit
- How much time do you spend on meals?
- How much do you spend on meals while at work or because of work? e.g meals, coffee to keep you awake, takeaway because you’re too tired to cook
- Destress entertainment
- How much time do you spend to destress? e.g includes ranting about your work
- How much do you spend on to de-stress? e.g Netflix subsription, massage, etc
- Escape entertainment (holiday that you take to getaway from work)
- How many hours do you spend on a holiday to getaway from work so that you can recover from burnout?
- How much does it cost?
- Note: Divide that holiday to 52 weeks
- Job related illness
- How many hours are you unwell because of work e.g migraine from stress
- How much do you spend on medication/doctor fees?
- How much time do you spend on other things related to work e.g gathering you attend for networking, books you read to improve your skills, hiring help to clean the house, taking your kids to daycare etc
- How much do you spend on those?
This is the PDF chart that I created to help me and my friends count my Life Energy.
You can download it here: ‘Life Energy vs Earnings’ in PDF file
Or you can do it here: https://yourmoneyoryourlife.com/life-energy-calculator/
MY THOUGHTS WHEN I COUNT MY LIFE ENERGY
I feel incredibly grateful that my work related expenses is very low. I don’t have to spend on:
- Commuting (I work from home)
- Fancy work clothes (I wear what I have)
- Expensive meals (I eat home-cooked meals)
I realise this is why I am able to save about 50% of my income (more or less depending on the month). I also know how to evaluate a job offer.
I am quite happy with my real hourly rate. With that number, I am aware of the cost to my life when spending money. But humans are greedy creatures. It makes me want to increase my real hourly wage even more…
HOW I USE THIS METHOD TO TURN DOWN A JOB OFFER
I had a job offer (head of a new cooking school in Kuala Lumpur city centre) that looked rather lucrative. I’m given a base salary and I will also have a commission on the sales.
At a glance, I can potentially earn 2 to 3 times my current income from my cooking class. But looking at the hours that I need to put in and other cost that is involved, it is not much at the end.
I will have other work costs:
- MRT/ GRAB taxi to work
- New work clothes
- Time/tuition to learn Mandarin (Which is required)
- Massage to relief body ache from long working hours
- Destress time
In short, I will be paying a high Life Energy in exchange of money for this job.
On the other hand, my current job as cooking instructor at my own school, New Malaysian Kitchen, gives me flexibility of time and joy; working hours are short. I’m not stressed at work. After and In between classes, I have the time and freedom to do consulting work and writing for my blogs.
While my income is less, my real hourly wage is high. Hence, my Life Energy I spend on my current work is much lower.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NEXT: Count YOUR Life Energy
I encourage you to calculate your real hourly wage using this chart. A lot of people I talk to are afraid to do this step; they don’t want to feel bad about their finance.
But only when you know, you can do something about it. FIRE’s financial motto is “No shame, no blame”.
So these are the steps you need to take next:
- Find one hour that you’re free
- Fill up you Life Energy vs Salary chart to find your Life Energy (Download the chart here)
This chart is a powerful tool to help you evaluate your current work, future job offers, and any business/freelance work that you have.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Are you afraid to know your real hourly rate? If you took the challenge, how do you feel about your new REAL hourly rate? What will you do about it? Let me know at the comments below!