Thursday, February 14, 2013

You Can't Have It All

In the United Kingdom Mrs. Moneypenny is a well known and respected columnist for the Financial Times. She has recently published a new book, “Career Advice for Ambitious Women.” In this book she provides a great deal of advice to women on subjects from dress and deportment to qualifications and financial literacy. However, she considers the most important advice she can give ambitious women is this, “You can’t have it all, at least not all at the same time.” This advice particularly concerns women who want both a family and a successful career. Mrs. Moneypenny knows whereof she speaks. She has a MBA and a Ph.D. She was a successful investment banker. She has been described as, “as a multi-talented superwoman,” yet she has regrets. She feels as though she neglected her three children and her health.

She begins the little interview (link at the bottom of the article) with a reflection on the London Olympics. She greatly admired the success of the American swim team. Their haul of Olympic medals was simply amazing. They dominated the world. However, she observed these young athletes have not lived normal lives. They have sacrificed their childhood, friendships, and even their own families to be the best at what they do. Mrs. Moneypenny then states a truth that applies to both men and women. There are only 168 hours in a week. She sleeps 7 hours a night, probably about average. That leaves her with 119 hours in a week. This is also true for you. It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO of a major corporation or an unemployed factory worker. You both get the same amount of time.

In suburban Washington, D.C. it is common for both partners in a marriage to have full time jobs. Just about nobody in this area works an 8 hour day. Commutes of 45 minutes or longer are common. Let’s say Jack and Jane work 9 hours a day, take a half hour for lunch, and have a round trip daily commute time of 1 ½ hours. That is an 11 hour day. That leave our typical urban professional with 64 hours a week to do the shopping, cook the meals, take their two kids, Brandon and Jennifer to swimming lessons, ballet lessons, soccer league, karate lessons, and private tutoring for Brandon. He seems to be slipping a bit in his studies. Let’s say that will cost Jack and Jane another 21 hours a week each. If they attend church, which is unlikely; that will cost Jack and Jane a minimum of 4 hours a week.

We are now down to 39 hours a week or less of flex time. If you want to be a star Olympic athlete or a successful investment banker a 45 hour week isn’t going to cut it. This is also true for a successful attorney looking to rack up billable hours on the road to a partnership or a successful small businessman. Now we are talking about a minimum 60 hour work week, six ten hour days or more.

That leaves 24 hours a week for higher educational degrees, the gym, the golf course, TV, beer, and life’s little emergencies like flat tires and trips to the emergency room. Brandon wants to be a stunt man. He didn’t quite jump the ditch at the bottom of their yard with his bike.

Something has got to give. You can’t have it all. If husband or wife really wants to succeed at their profession some compromises will be required. Most of the financial teachers recommend a formal monthly budget to control the flow of money in a couple’s life. I think maybe another budget is required, a time budget. This budget will need to be reviewed pretty often, as either husband or wife feel they are getting the short end of the stick as their children and the demands of their professions change with time.

I have added Mrs. Moneypenny’s column to my favorites. It’s the good stuff.

Mrs. Moneypenny’s Financial Times Column

The Daily Ticker Interview

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