“Simon Says” – The Golden Cage

Greetings budget connoisseurs (especially those who may be starting or thinking of budgeting)

I decided to write a bit about something that I am quite familiar with… more than I would like it to be. My hope is that it may give a small amount of insight about FIFO work to the people who read this blog.

FIFO you ask? If you don’t know what FIFO means or stands for… please let me explain. Fly In Fly Out… meaning… travel to and from the job site in which you work is via a flight. There are a few types of jobs that use this method… mainly mining… which is what I am involved in. Now before you switch off, thinking that this does not apply to you and there is little info you can gain from reading further; stay with me for a minute longer. I am a new and avid supporter of budgeting; more to the point… my new budget is an avid supporter of me/my family. Don’t think for one minute that because I’m making “the big bucks” in a mining type gig that I didn’t need to have a budget. Trust me… my financial odyssey couldn’t be further from the truth!

Piqued your interest? Allow me to elaborate…

As I said before I work a mining gig and I fly in and out to work/home. My pay is good, no doubt; but there are great sacrifices that come with the pay cheque. It is my firm opinion that FIFO work is not a wise long-term career choice, you get in, achieve what you set out to do, then get out. Being isolated for extended periods of time from family and friends is extremely difficult and can lead to life changing personal/social/relationship issues. I have watched plenty of people young and old get a job “in the mines” to make their millions, only to be worse off 1, 2, 3, 4+ years later. As the Saying goes “everything has a price”

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? “But you make so much money” you say? “How can you possibly spend it all and not save some of it?” “You don’t need a budget… you need a bucket” (personal favourite that one!). Or my all-time favourite “If I earned as much money as you, I’d be set for life”. Ever heard the song by the late Notorious B.I.G “Mo Money Mo Problems…” There is something in that for all of us. Don’t get me wrong, I am not whining about having money problems. Money can make life much easier when used wisely and appropriately. My problem has always been the “wisely” and “appropriately” part of it. In my experience I have found unless you are truly disciplined and very determined, then the more money you make the more money you spend and the more problems you get. Slowly at first your lifestyle costs start to take an upward climb… bigger…better… newer… faster… in all aspects of life. Houses…cars…toys… gadgets…equipment, you name it … there is always someone with something better and like a pack of sheep you find yourself following the herd, keeping up with the Jones’s and not being content with what you have? I did… I have lived it. I have wasted foolish amounts of money on pointless crap I didn’t need, I find it embarrassing to admit this… but it is the truth. It is my truth & I had to face it with honesty and courage to change my situation.

I have worked in FIFO positions in a few countries around the world, and have met many different people in these roles. Many of them share one thing in common, not all, certainly a majority of them. They are trapped in a high paying job that they cannot leave due to the amazingly high cost of their chosen home lifestyle. Now all of this is a choice, no arguments there. However the FIFO gig seems to have a way of easing you into a false sense of security… whispering softly in your ear like the seductress she is “the big money will always be there.” Yet she can be hard task master and extremely unforgiving. I have found the further you get down that road… the less and less you think about “getting out” and the more and more the call of the almighty dollar appeals. There are many and varied reasons for this, I’m not going to get into the whole mental/psychological reasons. I might save that for a later article…

One thing I will say, in my experience guilt is a big one … guilt for not spending the time with your family and friends you should be. Guilt for not being there for the kids when you should have. Guilt for missing all the birthdays, events and shows. So what do you do to try to make up for it? You make sure your family wants for nothing! You try to compensate by providing them a great life full of material luxuries, I am slowly realizing that money can never buy lost time with family. Unfortunately too late… but I have a plan. I have an escape route and if I continue with my new budgetary constraints… I will make it out! I am already on the way, it is slow progress but progress none the less. In my world there are no get rich quick plans out there that are sustainable, it takes hard work and sacrifice; regardless of the type of job you have or size of your pay cheque.

In one of the countries I worked in I met a young local guy (driver for the company I worked for) who had just got married. He had a saying that he used to say to some of the expats that flew over and worked in his country. When I first met him, he introduced himself and said “Welcome to the Golden Cage, it is as beautiful as it is terrible”. I didn’t get it… I was in a foreign country and mildly freaking out. I had just got married myself 1 month prior and about 3 days after returning from my honeymoon left my beautiful bride to work in a foreign country that did not have the best reputation when it came to the security of westerners. I think back about it now and I think I understand what he meant. I believe he had seen so many guys like me take these really high paying tax free jobs, and get so comfortable with the money over time, they simply could not give it up. It truly can be a “Golden Cage” You’re making insane amounts of money… more than you could ever in your home country in the same job which seems golden… but you slowly become trapped. Some faster than others depending on the size of your ego. All that glitters is not gold, in this case never a truer word spoken. It is my belief that FIFO work can truly be a Golden cage if you don’t have a plan and don’t have set defined goals. You can make well above the average wage… quickly… it’s what you are doing with that money that makes all the difference as to how long you will be locked in the golden cage for. I am in no way trying to turn you off taking a FIFO gig, I would be a hypocrite of the worse sort if I did. I am merely saying that in my opinion and experience “IF” you decide to go work in “the mines”/FIFO and you want to succeed you must have a plan. Then you must follow the plan without exception.

I am finding out this is not just related to FIFO jobs… but all jobs and even life in general.

From a financial point of view, what are the goals in taking a FIFO gig? Most people would say “make shit tons of money and set myself up for life.” I have met the odd person who loved the type of work, camp environment and remote locations… very few and “ODD” is the functional word. If you want to do just that, make lots of money; then you better have a plan. A budget will be the first and most important part of this, take it from me… had I had one 15 years ago… I would not be here rambling on to you now telling tales of drunkenness and cruelty… (Even though I don’t drink and am an all-round self-professed nice person)

I have said before that budgeting is a new thing to me, as I sit and write this I am about 6 months into the start of my budget and escape plan. I am no budgeting/finance expert, quite the opposite, but I can tell you the people at Adelaide budgeting that I found to help me start a household budget and formulate an exit strategy are. Now I dare say you’re thinking I am on the Adelaide Budgeting Payroll, if you knew Andrew and Alyssa you would laugh your ass off… me on their payroll? It’s simply not in their budget! I am happy to share with you my experience completely free of charge because I have found it to be life changing, and sound advice is powerful stuff!

Do you know how liberating it is to finally see light at the end of the tunnel? To be told that if you want to give up your job one day… if you stick to this plan you will be able to in X amount of years? That you will no longer be locked in the “golden cage” and there is a defined and real plan to “break out”. I hope you now start to see why I feel the way I do about Adelaide Budgeting’s Services. For me… they are the formulators of financial escape plans to save me from a life of slavery and servitude to the almighty dollar. Even if you work a standard 9 to 5… and your pay check isn’t anywhere near the 6 figure mark…. I would say to you they can quite possibly provide an even more effective service to you if you wish to attain some sort of financial freedom or retire before the age of 200 (going by the current rate the Australian government keeps extending the retirement age).

So here I sit… at work… I’m looking down the barrel of a 3 week hitch… its 10:00 pm and I have to get up in 6 hours… unless I get called out of bed for some sort of horseshit breakdown… lucky me hey? Strangely I am OK with it and realize I am lucky… I put myself here…I have a plan and I will get myself out.

I’m sure I sound like the career choices I have made have left me with some regrets, there’s no denying that. But it has also allowed me to live a pretty full life so far, full of many experiences most people simply never get the chance to have. Has it been worth the cost? I don’t know… I honestly can’t answer that yet, I’ll Kodak it and let you know (take a picture and let it develop).

Finally I want to share with you a recent thought I had about the guy I met in the foreign country that said “Welcome to the golden cage, it is as beautiful as it is terrible”. There was another thing we had in common that I simply did not realize at the time (freaking out and all) or even think about till many years later. If you think about it… marriage can be described just as accurately using the same statement… “Welcome to the golden cage, it is as beautiful as it is terrible”… we had both just gotten married in the past month… Food for thought dear reader (all two of you, plus your cats)…I will leave you to think about it while I go call my wife and tell her how happy I am to be married to such a wonderful woman.

Take care, be safe and have a plan, (lest you become part of someone else’s).

Regards

SS

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

“Simon Says” is a real client of Adelaide Budgeting who chooses to remain anonymous to protect their families privacy.  Simon may not even be called Simon, but something else instead…

From time to time Simon has emailed us with great content which is not only relevant to their own situation but to that of every single Australian when it comes to budgeting, cashflow, spending & over-spending.  Simon is passionate about the awareness around Afterpay and the power it has over consumers who sign up to “debt” and purchase things without the use of cash that can result in consumers over-spending, spending money they don’t have, without the capacity to repay.

There is a Simon in all of us… we hope you have enjoyed the reading as much as we have enjoyed the feedback and encourage you all to share part of Simons epiphanies along the way.  Andrew & Alyssa Mates, Adelaide Budgeting.