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Friday, October 20, 2017

Bad jobs worse than no job

A University of Manchester study shows that having a bad job is worse than not having a job. Unemployment is stressful, but the stress of having a bad job negatively impacts your health even more. The lowest stress factors were for those with good jobs.

Not that long ago it was expected that everyone would have a crappy job at some point in their life. Most people expected that it would be temporary until they were promoted to something better. It was looked at as paying your dues. Now people get bad jobs and stay there. My father-in-law started working for a company cleaning glassware in the lab. He only had a high school education. By the time he retired he ran his own chemistry department and had multiple patents. That type of upward mobility is rare these days.

So how do you avoid the pitfalls of a bad job, yet still survive? In some countries it's easy to stay on the dole for a very long time. That can be a trap too. Remember, the best health outcome is generally for people who have good jobs. The longer you are out of the work, the less likely it is you'll be able to land a good job.

If you have a crappy job, focus all your efforts on getting a better job. Be prepared to change companies. You might have to move. Whatever you do, don't get settled into that bad job. Avoid decisions that may require you to hold onto that bad job, like taking on too much debt. People can put up with a lot of they feel they are making progress towards something better.

However, be prepared to quit. There are a lot of unhealthy jobs out there. Either the job itself is dangerous and unhealthy, or the work environment is psychologically toxic. If you hate your boss and co-workers so much that you want to shoot them all, leave.

I know a lot of people who have either been forced into early retirement, or discovered their pension is inadequate for their lifestyle. A lot of people end up working crappy jobs later in life. That just plain sucks. There are strategies around that.

Savings are great, if you've got them. Unfortunately, often times any savings are wiped out in the months leading up to retirement. Medical disability retirement is notorious for that, especially in the US. A person has a medical condition, so in the months and years leading up to their forced retirement, they work less. Less money ends up in the pension fund. Then they get sicker or injured and out of pocket medical expenses drain what savings they have. They may even have to pay for a lawyer to get their benefits.

Companies often find ways to get rid of people before they reach retirement age. A good friend of mine in his late 50s just got let go. There's one business in the area that is so bad that when someone actually makes it to retirement it's a surprise.

So what do you do when you find yourself in that situation? My friend who was let go has savings and few debts. His wife still has a good job. He's got time to find a new job he likes and would be more than happy to make half what he was making in his old job. His lifestyle won't change much.

The other option is to downsize aggressively. Reduce your living expenses to the point where you don't have to stress about the bills. One guy I know lived pretty hard and fast after a divorce and blew through his savings in two years. Now all he has is his small pension. These days he works out in the gym, plays his guitar with friends, and takes his dog for long walks in the woods. It's cheap, he's in good condition, and his mental state is better than it's been in years. He'd rather live that way than work a crappy job for more money.

There's a certain stigma to being unemployed, but it's healthier than a crappy job. A lot of so called unemployed people are still very busy. They may barter their time and skills for things they need. Many work odd jobs off the books. Are they gaming the system? Maybe, but nothing like the millions of dollars big business gets in tax breaks and subsidies from the government.

Your health is at stake here. Don't get trapped in a crappy job until it kills you.



  1. Um, here's the rub with that advice. The place you work at is the best paying, with the best benefits employer in the area for your skill set. Management are a bunch of A-holes. So what are you going to tell the spouse and kids when you quit? Sorry, we will now be living in the car while everyone goes hungry on minimum wage. I don't think so. You grit your teeth do your job and wait for retirement. Your advice is good IF there are other employers in the area that have similar wages and benefits.

    1. You grit your teeth and keep at it, but remember,it takes a toll on you. In fact, it could kill you long before retirement age. Even if you do make it there, you could be a worn out husk.

      The logical thing would be to move. I know that's not easy. I didn't move.

      My wife quit a good paying job with no warning one day. That day it occurred to her that her health problems were causing her to make mistakes. At the time we had a daughter and a granddaughter living with us because my daughter was going through a divorce. It was a tight year, but I never resented her leaving her good paying job. Her health was more important.

      These aren't easy choices. However, we now have medical studies showing how a bad job stresses the body.

  2. "Pension"? What's that? Never worked anywhere that offered a pension, but always worked in private sector. Retired now, no house, car, or credit card pymts. Living small.

    1. You might be living small, but I bet you are living well.

    2. That is how my retirement (less retirement, more I just stopped going to work) is going. Zero debt service. I've never made so little and had so much.

    3. It's hard to put a price on freedom.

  3. I worked a bad job for twenty years, but it paid well and I had a family to support. The boss was a sociopathic monster. I'm sure it took years off the end of my life. I just figured it was a sacrifice I had to make to keep everything else on an even keel. Now that I know what it's like to enjoy every day, I wonder if I didn't make a big mistake.

    1. You know what they say about hindsight. I've walked away from bad bosses in the past.

      You did what you felt you had to do, but I'm sure you paid a price for it.

  4. I think one of the problems these days, is that if people don't get to do things "my way" it's bad job. Used to be that a job was a job, and we were glad to have it. Lots of folks these days "don't do that kind of work" rather than "I'll take it." Any honest work is better than no work, in my opinion.

    1. There are tough uncomfortable jobs, but that doesn't make them bad. I've had rough jobs, but worked with good people under good bosses. That makes all the difference.

      Working for horrible people doing useless underpaid work takes a toll. I don't blame anyone from not wanting to do it.