Do You Choose Money Over Family?

I recently gave a lecture in which I asked the question, “Do You Choose Money Over Family?” Of course, everyone would answer with a resounding no. No one would ever admit to choosing money over family. Yet isn’t that exactly what we do when we choose to moonlight? Or work extra shifts?

That statement will ruffle the feathers of those who regularly work extra shifts, because we all think about moonlighting as a good thing. A way to earn extra money. Isn’t that good? How could extra money be a bad thing? But the time you use to moonlight is the same time you would have used as time with your family. You are trading time with your family for extra money you don’t actually need.

If you are feeling burned out, or your family is not seeing you enough, because you work too many hours already, or if your usual shift is covering afternoons and evenings, thus keeping you from seeing your family, then you are indeed choosing money over family if you choose to add moonlighting to your schedule.

I am amazed at the number of coaching clients I hear say their job is burning them out, yet they are taking on extra work moonlighting because they want to pay off their student loans quicker. If burnout is an issue you face, one of the solutions is to work fewer hours, not to add on more hours.

Could it be that the choices we have made, such as having a large mortgage, are driving us to make other bad decisions such as working extra shifts when what we actually need is some down time or family time?

I remember a conversation with a physician who had recently been in an automobile accident. This doctor was given time off to recover from multiple significant injuries, but she went back to work right away. When I saw her in the hospital making rounds, she looked awful. She had cuts and bruises that were not yet healed, she walked with a limp, and one arm didn’t work fluidly. I asked why she was not home recovering from her injuries. She told me she could not afford to take the time off. She had a really big house payment and needed to keep her production numbers up or she could lose the house. 

Her decision to purchase a house that was truly above her income level was coming back to haunt her. She needed time off to recover from her injuries but couldn’t take it because she had made herself house poor. There was no space in her budget for time off.

We should never put ourselves into a position where we feel we must go to work or we will lose the things we bought with borrowed money. This is a self-imposed malady. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Another doctor I knew who was in private practice and had the ability to set her own hours also struggled with this. She was upset because she wanted to be home for her daughter after school. I asked her why she didn’t just quit work a little early each day and go home to be with her daughter. Again, the answer was she could not afford to take those few hours off and lose the income it was generating.

Even the lowest paid specialties earn enough income to put them in the top 5% of income earners in the country. With that kind of income, we should never be struggling financially. Yet we constantly put ourselves in the position where we feel compelled to choose money over family.

What about committee meetings, board meetings, and various other things that are not required by our contract? 

If I leave my son’s soccer game early and miss his goal because of a trauma I needed to attend, he understands. He knows I have a very important job and sometimes lives are on the line; saving lives trumps watching him make a goal. 

But if he finds out I left early so I could attend a committee meeting, he is not so understanding. That meant I chose the meeting over watching his game. The meeting was not a life-threatening situation. If I missed the committee meeting nothing bad would happen. In fact, it is likely the committee would not even miss me. If I leave his game to attend the meeting, I would be choosing the committee over my family.

Remember, your kids grow up fast. If you have a ten-year old daughter, you might only have eight more summers before she leaves the nest. Do you really want to miss time with her for a committee meeting or to do an extra moonlighting shift just to boost your already high income? 

But, you may say, I can make $3,000 for just hanging around the hospital on Saturday. It’s easy money I don’t want to pass up. That is just another way to say you are choosing money over family. You make enough money working your regular job, but your family doesn’t see you enough. They need you to be with them on Saturday and not electively working extra hours.

You have actually set a price on spending time with your family by stating, “I willing to skip a Saturday with my family for $3,000.”

Most of the older docs have learned the lesson of time being more valuable than money. That is why they are paying younger docs to take their call on Saturday. The older docs want to spend the time with their family and they know young doctor’s family time can still be bought. So they offer mere money to cover their call and the money driven young doctors jump on the opportunity. 

Keep in mind that you already make plenty of money doing your regular hours. You do not need to work overtime to get ahead or reach financial independence. You do not need to get ahead faster than your regular salary will allow. Don’t find yourself lured to the rocks by the siren call of $3,000 for an extra day’s work. Go home and spend the time with your family and enjoy the much needed day off. You deserve it.

It is easier to pass up the ‘$3,000 opportunity’ if you always think in terms of annual income. If you earn $300,000 a year, will your life be noticeably better if you take that shift and make it $303,000 for the year? Will you actually notice it? I bet you and your family will notice the fun day you had together making memories if you pass up this extra work. Is a 1% change in gross income worth more than a day with your family?

If you find yourself drowning in debt, pick up a copy of The Doctors Guide to Eliminating Debt and get that monkey off your back. 

If you feel your medical practice is out of control, get a copy of The Doctors Guide to Starting Your Practice/Career Right and use the information to restart and improve your current job. There are always things you can do to make your job better. You don’t have to keep doing things the way they are currently being done if it’s not working out well. 

If you want something to change,

You have to change something.

Put your family first and you will have a wonderful life filled with great memories and still have plenty of money to afford it.

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