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What made you cynical/clear-eyed about work?
Old 09-09-2019, 12:13 PM   #1
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What made you cynical/clear-eyed about work?

Gen X-er here, so cynicism is my beat. Here's what made me realize I should save early and often. How about you?

- The White House talked about trickle-down Reaganomics while New England's manufacturing sector was gasping for air. My father was an independent technician for factories in NE; his contracts morphed from lucrative system design/install into penny-pinching repair jobs. As the factories closed, he worried about staying in the black. Lots of tense dinner times.

- I was offered my first post-collegiate F/T job at a private law school for $19,500/yr. Once I accepted, the manager backpedaled and said the position was budgeted for $19,000. Really?!? The difference was 1.5 months of rent for me; how much of an impact could it have made on the school?

- I got a clerical job at Harvard in the year that they froze the clerical/technical pensions and launched a 401K. Current endowment at Harvard: $38.3 billion. The pension for this low-paid, largely female workforce was never going to break them.

- Listening to lots of disaffected music from Thatcher's Britain. As Morrissey said:

"And if you must, go to work, tomorrow
Well, if I were you I wouldn't bother
For there are brighter sides to life
And I should know, because I've seen them, but not very often"
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Old 09-09-2019, 01:13 PM   #2
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We waited quite late to start getting out of debt and save for ER, but at about the same time I had a couple of opportunities to apply for promotions. They involved increasing my work hours from 40-60 per week for a minimal salary increase. Also lots of on-call work. All the other co-workers in these positions had maxed out their comp. hours and vacation because they could never take enough time off.

I declined and was very glad to get out while I could...
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Old 09-09-2019, 01:13 PM   #3
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My Dad, a metallurgical engineer, worked for the same steel company almost his entire career. (The exception was a few months with another company, which didn't work out, and then he returned.) He was running the Chicago district when the company was acquired and subsequently "demoted" by the new management, I didn't even know there was such a thing. He was 54 years old.

Mom and Dad were always LBYM types. Dad decided to try a new career as a financial advisor and went with the firm where he had his investments, but in a branch near Myrtle Beach, SC. He and Mom rented a small condo for a year and then bought with cash. The second career didn't work out but they had significant savings and no mortgage, they had each other, and they had a country club membership so they could golf every day. That's about all they needed. (Mom died 3 years ago but Dad is still alive and solvent; he sold the house at a nice price and is in a nice Independent Living facility.)

It was truly a lesson in the value of LBYM and not assuming the company would love you forever.
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Old 09-09-2019, 03:36 PM   #4
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I was always LBYM because my farmer parents paid the boys for chores but refused to give the girls anything, even for the same chores including bucking bales onto the wagon and into the barn. I squeezed every penny I earned from babysitting other people's children and mowing a neighbor's lawn. After college, my first job was teaching in a high school and the district withheld 10% automatically for the pension. When I moved to a private sector j*b after 6 years, I had no problem automatically saving 15%+ per paycheck.

What made us cynical about w*rk happened 8 years later while we were w*rking for a startup. DH and I joined 2 other guys in the startup, a few years later the 4 of us decided we wanted to expand quicker but would need more cash. We presented our business plan to a couple of VC guys and got they agreed to join us. All 6 of us were supposed to be equal partners. Within 3 years, just as profits were starting to take off thanks to lots of sacrifice on all our parts, the two VC guys, without warning or explanation, hired security guards specifically to escort DH and I out of the building even though we did nothing wrong. Although we hired a lawyer, we had no success getting deferred salaries, vacation time pay, leased equipment, or our j*bs back. Within 1 year they had to declare bankruptcy because DH and I were the brains behind the company. Karma can be a real b*tch! From that time forward, we swore we would have no loyalty to a j*b.
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Old 09-09-2019, 04:02 PM   #5
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What made you cynical/clear-eyed about work?

Growing up watching "working people."
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Old 09-09-2019, 04:08 PM   #6
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I remember my first job after college.
I was doing a similar job to another co-worker and after working 1 year we both got a $200 a month raise. I decided to see how much better I could do if I worked really hard the next year. Ended up spending 7 months on the road, worked ungodly hours, at the end of the year I was throwing up each morning and each night. Got a $200 raise, same as the other guy...
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Old 09-09-2019, 04:22 PM   #7
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[QUOTE=Boose;2295127]Gen X-er here, so cynicism is my beat. Here's what made me realize I should save early and often. How about you?

- The White House talked about trickle-down Reaganomics while New England's manufacturing sector was gasping for air. My father was an independent technician for factories in NE; his contracts morphed from lucrative system design/install into penny-pinching repair jobs. As the factories closed, he worried about staying in the black. Lots of tense dinner times.

WADR, I grew up in Massachusetts, manufacturing there died when the textile industry went south in the early 1900's. Foundries died a little later. By the time Reagan was president, there was very little manufacturing there.
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Old 09-09-2019, 04:49 PM   #8
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Whoa! You mean Mega Corp does not have our best interests at heart?
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Old 09-09-2019, 06:22 PM   #9
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Here's what made me realize I should save early and often. How about you?
I grew up in a family without any money.
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What made you cynical/clear-eyed about work?
Old 09-10-2019, 04:14 AM   #10
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What made you cynical/clear-eyed about work?

Just read your employee manual. It likely indicates you work for an At-Will employer who can let you go at any time for no reason at all, you have no contract, no pension, no union to protect you and you get tiny raises because any growth is instead going to pay for health care. Only a fool would be loyal to such an organization. The only logical choice is to do what’s best for your career, strategically biding your time, saving a large % of your income for retirement and FU money, building your resume and skill set and references so that you can jump ship immediately when you find a better opportunity.
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Old 09-10-2019, 04:58 AM   #11
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I was laid off from my first job only months after graduating (the company folded due to lack of funding). I didn’t even have time to get fooled by the promises of a good job. I quickly realized that I should not count on work income for the long haul. Save a lot and steadily replace work income with passive income. That was the strategy I had in place only 4 years into my career.
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Old 09-10-2019, 05:58 AM   #12
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I grew up in a family without any money.
I can't equal joeea's conciseness, alas, so I'll just expand ....

It wasn't cynicism nor realism. It was fear, plain and simple. My parents were Depression Era and terrified of financial insecurity. They both had stories of hardship during the Depression, and of rationing (and army service) during WW2. My father was a unionized employee, and more than once was on strike (although I do not remember his being laid off). I remember my mother's doubling canned food purchases before a probable strike. My mother kept the budget, extremely strictly, and could account for every penny. However, this was the high point of unionization, and I believe, looking back, we WERE financially secure.

Nevertheless, I grew up fearful of economic insecurity and had a savings account before a checking account. My major, both undergraduate and graduate, was History and I took its lessons to heart: don't believe Walt Disney ' "Anything your heart desires, your dreams will come true." I wasn't much of a risk taker, for better or worse! I took a "good enough" job before graduation that DID turn out to be good enough!

I pretty quickly decided that I was going to prioritize life outside of work over life inside of work. I WAS very clear-eyed about that and kept checking back with myself - "are you ok with the amount of money you are making, with your not-so-significant position." I worked to make my job work for me as far as I could. In the end, it turned out to be the right decision for me.
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Old 09-10-2019, 06:11 AM   #13
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Whoa! You mean Mega Corp does not have our best interests at heart?
I hate to break it to you, but the people in HR aren't your friends, either!

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It wasn't cynicism nor realism. It was fear, plain and simple. <snip>Nevertheless, I grew up fearful of economic insecurity and had a savings account before a checking account.
My entire adult life I was driven by a fear of ending up old and poor. I'm not sure why- the elderly in my family seemed to be getting by OK. I think it was taking the bus in and out of downtown Cincinnati for my first job and seeing that the poor areas had a lot of elderly. Presumably most of them had married and had children, but they were living in a dodgy area. What did they do all day? What if they needed dental care? Did they have enough food? I knew I didn't want to live like that and it was up to me (and luck or the Grace of God, depending on your persuasion) to provide for my own future.

Forty-four years later, I've outlived a husband and an ex-husband and have a wonderful son who's said he'd take me in if I couldn't live by myself. Bless him, but that won't be necessary.
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Old 09-10-2019, 09:45 AM   #14
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I learned a long time ago from my father that a person should always work for himself or herself. When I took my first job he reminded me, "You may be employed by MegaCorp, but always work for yourself."

That job with MegaCorp proved him right as I saw many people who worked very hard only to be put-down by company politics, made miserable by an incompetent boss, past over for the promise of a bright shiny new hire, or kicked under the bus because they could not pull a miracle out of their hat.

Thank goodness for LBYM and investments.
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Old 09-10-2019, 12:31 PM   #15
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It was my second job out of grad school.

I graduated from grad school in 2010. I had spent 4 years working prior to grad school so had some work experience. That first job out of grad school was great. I had great coworkers, great boss, did interesting work, had a positive experience at megacorp. I also had gotten promoted and saw some positive things happening in my career. But I wasn't being paid marker value for my role. The promotion I mentioned came with a zero dollar raise. Things had also started to shift at work otherwise. We were reorged under a manager who was just awful and had HR complaints filed against her regularly. I also had direct reports making more money than me. I went from being rated at the top of the performance review bell curve overnight. The only thing that changed was the boss. So I went out and got a new job that paid me more of what I was worth. Same industry, smaller firm (still very large) with all of its operations located in my city. I thought it would be a place to grow professionally and advance for years to come.

Boy was I wrong. My boss left in 3 months. His replacement came in 3 months later and left after six weeks. Half the team I was on turned over by end of year. The manager I ended up reporting through wasn't accountable about anything. She deflected responsibility and threw direct reports (including me) under the bus regularly to make herself look better. Even though the real problem was that she herself did not know anything about what anyone on her team actually did day to day. Problems would arise that would end up getting escalated to her and she would get into meetings and just have no clue about anything - in many cases on topics she had been briefed on many times. So in those cases she was either lying or stupid. There were other political things that went on in that role as well. Backstabbing, avoiding doing the right thing (things that industry peers were doing) out of laziness and then rationalizing them to senior leadership by saying "we weren't there yet" because we were smaller than the biggest companies in the industry, even though we were bigger than 90% of companies in the industry.

The thing that took the cake though was watching one of my peers (we had the same boss) talk down to, curse at, and act in hostile and belligerent manner towards one if my direct reports and tell her (and me) that if it wasnt for him we wouldn't have jobs and that we weren't capable of understanding the work he did. All the while, this peer of mine was the laughing stock of the larger department we worked in. No one respected him. As a company, strategic decisions at the department level were made to minimize the negative impact this guy could have on the organization. I am also fairly convinced that the smaller team I was on had such a negative reputation that it impacted my ability to get another job within the company. That may just me being overly cynical, but it is hard to say with the level of dysfunction in that role.

My boss couldn't see it, or she did and ignored it. The combination of these things burned me and I still havent recovered. I would spend most mornings sitting in my car, sometimes for over an hour, dreading going in. The job itself was not hard and I was rarely overly busy. But the culture was so toxic.

Last summer I was finally able to find a comparable paying job, and have a better boss, better coworkers and am in a better environment overall. But my career ambition is largely dead.

My wife is in school and looking to become a nurse practitioner in a couple years. After that I am going go look into a career change. Most likely for less money, but by the time she is done with school and I actually make the change we will be in our early 40s with no debt (except for mortgage) and (hopefully) close to 500k in retirement assets based on our current contributions. I may stick out the current path an extra year or two to bank some extra cash, but I have zero interest in investing heavily in corporate America beyond what I have to. I'd rather earn less and do something more fulfilling once we get over this last major financial hurdle (wife's schooling).
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Old 09-10-2019, 12:43 PM   #16
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My parents retired a little early (60 & 54) - and watching them relax and have fun was the motivation I needed to plan accordingly! I have too many things I want to do, and the work things just gets in the way!
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Old 09-10-2019, 05:49 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pellice View Post
I can't equal joeea's conciseness, alas, so I'll just expand ....

It wasn't cynicism nor realism. It was fear, plain and simple. My parents were Depression Era and terrified of financial insecurity. They both had stories of hardship during the Depression, and of rationing (and army service) during WW2. .....
++ Exactly my situation.

I always saved as those stories made quite an impression on me.
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Old 09-10-2019, 06:48 PM   #18
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CardsFan, where in Mass did you grow up? I was in Franklin. My great-grandmother's and great-uncle's jobs at American Felt were gone in the early 1970s. But my dad was doing work with Foster Grant, Borden, Vlasic Pickle, Red Hed and Dryvit into the 1980s - among other manufacturers. My favorite was Entenmann's - Dad always brought home a fresh box of eclairs.
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Old 09-10-2019, 07:31 PM   #19
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I grew up in a family without any money.
Ditto...then left home at 17 with a hope and a prayer.
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Old 09-10-2019, 08:46 PM   #20
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CardsFan, where in Mass did you grow up? I was in Franklin. My great-grandmother's and great-uncle's jobs at American Felt were gone in the early 1970s. But my dad was doing work with Foster Grant, Borden, Vlasic Pickle, Red Hed and Dryvit into the 1980s - among other manufacturers. My favorite was Entenmann's - Dad always brought home a fresh box of eclairs.
Grew up on the South Shore, but had family in Fitchburg and the surrounding areas. The big days of manufacturing in New England were gone before the 70's. Yes, there was still some, but the one's you list were minor players compared to the mills and foundries 50 years earlier.
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