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More Than a Job

Dennis Friedman, 4:06 am ET

WHEN I WALK AROUND my neighborhood, I see beautiful and expensive automobiles parked on the street. When I look at the garages where these cars should be parked, they’re full of stuff. I just can’t understand why someone would spend thousands of dollars on a vehicle and let it be exposed to theft, vandalism and severe weather, while their garage is used as a storage unit.

Even though I can still fit both our cars in our garage, I’m also guilty of using it for storing things I no longer have any use for. What do I have in our garage? Among the things you’ll find are hundreds of vinyl records, boxes of baseball cards, my late dog’s bowl and leash, and a 1978 payroll stub.

I admit most of the items are purely sentimental, but the old payroll stub isn’t. There’s a reason I held on to it for all these years. It wasn’t because of the huge amount of money I was making at the time. In fact, I was earning just $5.16 an hour, not a whole lot more than 1978’s federal minimum wage of $2.65—and less than I was earning in my previous job.

Still, when I received that payroll check, I knew it was something special. I didn’t just have a new job. For the first time as a college graduate with a history degree, I had a chance for a career. I’d just been hired by a large aerospace corporation with plenty of opportunities for advancement in an industry with seemingly unlimited growth potential.

I knew it would lead to a brighter future—and it did. The lesson I learned back then: When you’re starting out, sometimes the best job offer is the one that pays less.

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Ronald Wayne
Ronald Wayne
8 days ago

I was so eager to prove to my parents that I could make it as a newspaper journalist after graduating with my degree from Penn State in 1978 that I took the first offer, a weekly in a Pittsburgh suburb that paid just $2.75 an hour. It was more two hours from home so I had to get an efficiency apartment. In retrospect, I wish I had kept looking but the summer had passed and I worried Dad was right. I had chosen a glutted field with bad pay and worse hours. Luckily within just a few months, the editor (the only other full-time news person) left, and the general manager gave me the job with a $30 weekly increase! I was now at $3.50 an hour! I still have that pay stub! I learned everything about newspapers for the next 15 months until I found another newspaper job. And I loved living in the big city!

Jonathan Clements
Admin
Jonathan Clements
8 days ago
Reply to  Ronald Wayne

My first newspaper job — at age 19, before going to college — was at a tiny, biweekly newspaper in Potomac, Maryland. The pay was minimal, but the education I got was invaluable.

John McHugh
John McHugh
1 month ago

I did not find that job until 40, and then it changed my life.

Jerry Pinkard
Jerry Pinkard
1 month ago

Twice in my work career I took pay cuts to take jobs that I felt offered better experience and a better career. Both times it paid off. I probably had a better career than if I had taken the highest offer in either instance.

Charlie Warner Jr
Charlie Warner Jr
1 month ago

Good read Dennis and thanks for encouraging me to reflect back. I too am amazed what people pay for automobiles and the neglect that is given to some of these high ticket items. I recently read a recent article that Americans pay over 38 billion for storage units every year. While I’m sure there are some valid reasons for these units…much of it’s simple emotional storage that sooner or later will be discarded. To your point Dennis, my first job in 1969 was at Burger King making $1.15 hour, minimum wage was $1.65 although restaurants were not forced to comply. Looking back the real “pay” in that job was what I learned. Customer service, team work, friendships, real life experiences, hardships others faced was a true learning experience that established a foundation to build my future. I am blessed to have had the opportunity.

Ormode
Ormode
1 month ago

The price of records has tripled in the past three years, and what was a $3 record in the box under the dealer’s table is now a $10-12 record displayed in a plastic sleeve up top. Dealers are so desperate for inventory they’re buying collections they never would have touched. Time to cash in?
Baseball cards are also back in, even the mass-produced ones from the 90s, after the crash of 2008-16.

R Quinn
R Quinn
1 month ago

👍 My story is similar, except my first job was out of high school for $1.49 an hour also barely above minimum wage.

I think your main point is seeking opportunity and then doing your best to make the most out of it.

I fear if your story were written by a recent graduate, they would be complaining about the unfair wage offer, their loans, the working conditions and the fact the company didn’t pay its fair share.

An
An
1 month ago
Reply to  R Quinn

I think you have been listening to our politians too much and are starting to believe what they are saying about young people.

parkslope
parkslope
1 month ago
Reply to  R Quinn

I would like to think that Humble Dollar is an inviting website for financial information for people of all ages, but I’m afraid that your frequent criticisms of young folks might make them feel that they aren’t welcome here.

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