Bucks Versus Bahamas

Six straight days and nights of freezing rain. (I’m picturing a beach. I’m picturing a cobalt sky. I’m feeling the swaying of the hammock – and yours truly in occupancy.)

A grueling schedule. (Clients and writing. Networking and writing. Tax prep and writing.) But then, isn’t that simply about making a living?

My college kids back in school at last – credit card charges and empty gas tank to show for it.

And if you offered me a choice between an all expense paid vacation versus a guaranteed increase in compensation?

Right now?

Your Money or Your Life?

Your money or your life? Hold on. It’s not so simple!

Sure, I could use a vacation. A year? It sounds heavenly, doesn’t it? But all it would take is a month to make me a new woman! And yes, if I could, I would even take my college kids somewhere abroad (if they wished). Taking them on vacation is something I’ve been unable to do in all the years since divorce.

Yet as weary as my brain (and body) may feel at times, it’s nothing new for any working parent. It’s nothing new for most working adults these days – who juggle long hours, multiple jobs, a little moonlighting and constantly looking.

But the working mother in particular – who is often harder on herself when it comes to domestic duty than any appraisal of professional performance – what would she choose if she had the option? Bucks or the Bahamas? Or perhaps she’d prefer a mountain cabin to the beach?

Mothers and Money

But whatever the age of your kids and the stage of life in which you find yourself, if offered a choice between a year’s vacation or a 20% raise, it seems that most of you – shall I make that “us?” – would pick the additional compensation.

Last week, Forbes featured an article on working mothers and compensation, specifically citing data from a survey referenced in Working Mother.

I wasn’t surprised to see the numbers, clearly showing that Money-Earning Mum would take a raise over vacation more often than the other way around.

Jenna Goudreau’s article points out that the nationwide survey used a sample of 822 working mothers, and a hypothetical 20% raise versus a year of vacation. The results?

According to a new survey by Working Mother magazine and Chase Slate, most (61%) working moms would take the salary bump.

In reading the referenced findings in more detail, summarized on Working Woman, it seems that the survey “drew” respondents who were both career and family-focused. Might I add that Chase (Credit Card) Slate sponsored the survey? So how representative is this data? Were we to have a larger sample (and more diverse?) – in age, earnings, marital status – how then might the results skew?

Ages and Stages: Single Moms, Older Moms

A broader (non self-selecting?) sample would be useful, as would additional data which includes number of children, ages of children, age range and stage of career for the mothers, not to mention their marital status which seems to me to be a significant (missing) factor.

Industries, job classifications, and managerial levels (or lack thereof) would also be relevant.

We all know that women on average earn roughly 80 cents on the male dollar, so naturally a little “extra” would go far. And it’s only natural that we have evolving priorities as our families grow – including higher costs. But depending on our earnings (and whether or not we’re carrying the load solo), is the collision of work and “life” about juggling and extras, or covering the necessities – which requires more money?

I am not surprised by the findings; I’m only surprised the percentage isn’t higher. Doesn’t more money buy us more time? And doesn’t that time ease our juggling and stress?

More Data?

One child, two parents, both salaried with benefits – whatever their ages?

That’s a different scenario from the same couple as older parents, with all things being equal, and very different if they have three or four children to support.

One parent, in her 30s or 40s, with children she’s managing as a single mother?

She may crave some downtime – desperately – but I suspect she’ll be driven by the far more pressing need for additional compensation.

That same parent in her 50s or older? With high school students prepping for college, or college students in need of an infusion of cash for books and fees, not to mention tuition? Young adults who may be settling back into the family home – with financial strains of their own, and possibly kids?

Take the money and run might be the preference! But I imagine that additional compensation  is the only reasonable path for most working parents.

Incidentally, both articles are worth your reading, touching on issues of women increasingly taking responsibility for family finances, and wanting more money-savvy children as part of the process.

So what would it be if you had the choice? A big bump in salary or a year’s paid vacation? And what stage in life are you at, that explains your choice?


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© D. A. Wolf



  1. says

    In 2009 right before getting married, I actually took a 20% decrease in pay because I decided to work 80% time. Time was definitely more important to me than money, and I think the new schedule made me a better, more focused employee with fewer outside distractions while I was at work.

  2. Curtis says

    Economically how can you argue with the 20% raise in that, even if you do not get another raise, you have an extra years salary in 5 years and two in 10 years. In essence vacation quality time and life just lasts as long as the vacation, whereas the raise increases quality or can 365 days of the year.

    I agree it also speaks to the economics in that women do make less than men and the current economy and wages are in poor shape. If however one has few economic obligations, has more money than they need, is going through a buddhist phase or is a big Kerouac fan she/he make take the 1 year paid vacation.

    The reality is too often in America there is goal, money and career driven decsion making where we forget what is really important or we have to work 4 times harder than our parents just to survive. In the process we need to determine whether we are working for the rights reasons or the new GI Joe with the Kung Fu Grip or bigger badder loaded SUV.

  3. says

    We, my husband and I, took a 60% decrease in income last year, sold the big house, and rid ourselves of almost all our household goods, then took off in an RV. So I know what I’d do because I’ve done it.

    We owned a business, made a very healthy income, but tired of the stress of that, the employees, the upkeep on the house and the property. We literally simplified. We are both 55. He is retired from the USAF, so has good retirement and benefits.

    We do some on-line work, I blog and photograph and write beyond that.

    We’ve spent our time, since last May, traveling slowly up the Pacific Coast. Now we have a part time gig in Oregon, which we’re enjoying for a while.

    I miss the home and the decorating and the friends and family – but the flip side is we’re taking time to see the country, to visit our children (8 of them – 6 in the states), and really, really live simply.

    Have we made the right decision? not sure. Are we foolish to be squandering some of our last 10-15 years of earning ability? Might be. Are we wise to be doing this before we’re too old to be able to physically do it? Maybe.

    We’re taking it as it comes. We refer to this period as a composting period too. Confident most of the time that we’ll take up a new path career/work-wise – just want to know what that is.

    And yes, we are acutely aware how fortunate we are to have the choice. We took a Funding Your Wanderlust class before leaving, as well as reading many books on the lifestyle (gypsy – vagabonding) and heard over and over that the loss of health care involved in quitting one’s job held most people back.

  4. says

    Much as I believe recharging the internal batteries is vitally important for self preservation, in this economy….take the bucks! But be sure to try and squeeze some mental health time in somewhere along the line to help make life more enjoyable. We can always live vicariously through House Hunters International, right? xoxox

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