Taking an Undesirable “Beater Job” to Pay Off Debt Faster

 

beater carcp2

If you’re familiar with Dave Ramsey and other personal finance writers you’ve heard of the value of driving a ‘beater car’ for getting out of debt.

What is a Beater Job?

When I talk about a ‘beater job’, I’m not talking about a side hustle or part-time work. I’m referring to a full-time, 9-to-5, ‘career job’.  If you’re in deep, massive, six-figure debt, like yours truly, you may find yourself having to decide how much your current job is really worth to your financial future. Should you jump into a not so great position just for more money to pay your debt faster?   

My current job is not perfect, but there are aspects of it that I actually enjoy. I’ve been working with some cool people lately, etc. I’ve never been abused or yelled at here. My managers have been good to me. There is flexibility, and relatively good work-life balance, except for crazy deadline crunches where I get really stressed out. Even though I am underpaid (according to recruiters that I talk to), I have great benefits. Those benefits saved my financial neck during my recent medical ordeal.

However, higher salaries always look good when there never seems to be enough in your paycheck to pay everything that needs to be paid. When it comes to work, mo’ money can often mean mo’ problems and stress.

So, what is a beater job?

office-space-milton
[Photo credit: movie ‘Office Space’ 1999]

Much like a beater car, a beater job has the following characteristics:

ONE – More money! This is the sole purpose of taking this job. It’s all about having more money to throw at the debt. Every dollar shaves time off the debtor’s prison sentence.

TWO – It’s not pretty. A beater job is not an attractive job that will have your friends and professional colleagues green with envy. Some people may shake their heads with confusion about why you don’t have a ‘better’ job with a more prestigious sounding company. The environment is unattractive. Think beige cubicles and bad lighting.

THREE – It’s old. It has an outdated job title. It’s stagnant, in an old industry, with old technology, old processes. It is an old company past its prime. You won’t be learning anything cutting edge. Instead you’ll learn how to cut corners.

FOUR – It’s strictly temporary. This is a job you go into with a plan. There is no intent to keep this job beyond a specific period of time (e.g. 1 to 3 years). It’s only meant to get you from point A to point B on your financial roadmap. After this time, you trade it in for something better.

FIVE – It offers less comfort. It may have mediocre, or even poor benefits. There may be less autonomy and more micromanagement or, conversely, you may have no oversight or support at all.

SIX – It offers less security and is more stressful to deal with. It may be a higher risk environment that’s low on job security and high on employee turnover.  This place may not be one of the most ethical companies to work for. Of course you don’t want to ever get into anything dangerous or illegal, but this company and/or job may be a bit more shady than you’d like.

SEVEN – It’s soul-sucking.  Enough said.

 

Female student worrying about money.

Should I take a ‘beater job’?

I have been thinking about what I would do if I had the opportunity to take a higher paying ‘beater job’. A while back, I applied for one at another company that is very similar to what I am doing now, just at a more senior level. Assuming that I was super aggressive about debt repayment, with the higher salary I could (theoretically) pay off my student loan debt in 3 years instead of 5!  That’s two full years off my debt sentence!!

I rapidly  breezed through multiple phone interviews. I was a great fit for the role (by skill set), but un/fortunately I did not get the job.   Well I assume I didn’t, anyway. Companies simply ignore candidates that they lose interest in so I never heard anything. Rude!

Why? I think it’s because the co-worker that I would be working most closely with…  Well, we mixed like bleach and ammonia. It was basically a personality mismatch from minute one of the face-to-face interviews.  I remember in one of my first interviews with HR, the rep mentioned that they were having a hard time filling this role, now I know a big part of the reason why, although there were some other reasons that I learned about throughout the interviews as well.

I’m relieved that I didn’t get the offer because I was really, really torn about if I would accept or not. There were several big red flags warning me against working there. I know that I would not have enjoyed it, but the money could have shaved off up to TWO YEARS of debt repayment, after which I would be free to do whatever I like without the millstone of debt around my neck.

This experience does have me thinking about being more active in exploring options…

**

PS:  Crap. Before I posted this, I got notified that I’m still being considered for this job (after radio silence for three weeks) and have two more interviews to go through.  After a lot of back and forth, I’ve decided to continue with the interviews to see what happens…

There is no guarantee by any means that I will be offered this job. However, if I am offered the job, the temptation will be great to take it even though it could end up being a bad move. Well, let’s see where things go…

Anyone been in a similar situation? What did you do?

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“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW)

10 comments

  1. Paul M. · December 21, 2015

    In England we have the saying “better the devil you know”. The decision to take a beater job depends on how tolerant you are of working in a place that could be dreadful, if you end up with a very nasty person supervising you, whether it’s a micromanager, a compulsive critic or one of those subtle, passive aggressive bullies who can be vicious in a very sly way.
    I believe, from my limited knowledge of you as a person, that you would be OK taking one and would just remind yourself, if ever the going got tough, that you had a game plan. I think you would end up being OK and, even if you got a nasty person in your workplace, you would develop a strategy to handle it and that person would gradually become less important.
    So good luck if you do take one and please keep us posted.
    Paul M., London.

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  2. doubledebtsinglewoman · December 21, 2015

    Thanks for your comment, Paul. Yes, it’s a lot to think about. I’m really going to try to not run myself in circles until I know whether I’m getting an offer or not. I’ll be sure to keep you guys posted either way.

    Like

  3. Maria · December 22, 2015

    Yey, new post! So happy to “hear” from you!

    It just depends on so much. If the worse conditions, fewer benefits and general soul suckiness of the beater job damages your health, it could end up costing you as much or more both financially and time wise. And even if not, I would be extremely wary of risking my health and well-being. But then again, maybe all things considered it’s still a worse deal health wise to have to pay down debt for 5 more years instead of 3. Once you consider all the facts at hand, maybe it will be quite clear what the best choice is likely to be, but maybe you’ll just have to make an educated guess. As you know, we can never really predict how our co-workers or boss will treat us and things like that.

    Maybe a job you like for 5 years is worse than a job that’s ok for 3 years. But maybe a job you’re ok with for 5 years is better than a job you don’t like for 3 years? You know yourself best of course.

    Maria

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  4. thesingledollar · December 27, 2015

    I’m so glad to see you posting again! I missed your voice. As to the question: No, I wouldn’t take it if it were phrased like you lay it out. It’s one thing to take a job you’re not into for a year or two, but another thing to take that job when it seems dead-end and also unstable (that is, what happens if you lose the beater job after six months or a year?) I think that with that job there’d be a real risk of your not making your debt payoff goals (through job loss or just through misery) and then the question is, what do you do after that? Would the job you’d take set you up to launch into something else more interesting to you? Or would it just end your career in that sector altogether?

    Like

    • doubledebtsinglewoman · December 31, 2015

      Thanks! It’s good to be back. The other job wouldn’t be a total lemon/beater. I would say it would be as dead-end and stable as my current position after all the changes that went down earlier this year. People are still being let go company-wide, just in smaller numbers now. The other job would likely consist of a heavier workload and less flexibility. When I do some basic calculations, I’m not sure if the pay increase would be worth it. It would not be a great launchpad to another job (apart from the salary increase) because I’d be working with fewer tools and using fewer skills. So that could make it harder to find a better role when I left there.. Good points!

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  5. thesingledollar · December 27, 2015

    PS: While I’d skip *this* particular job due to the red flags you mention, there’s no reason you can’t be looking for better-paying work from within your current role. If you find something you like better that’s higher-paying, great! And you can still take time off the repayment. If you don’t, then at least you’re not miserable every day at work.

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    • doubledebtsinglewoman · December 31, 2015

      I was thinking about this too. A better job could come along next year that pays almost as much as this possible one. It would be more of a win-win.

      Like

  6. Karen · December 28, 2015

    Hi! I’ve been a lurker around your site, checking in every once in a while to see a new post. However, I’m coming out of the shadows on this one, because it’s a topic I feel pretty strongly about. Don’t underestimate the soul-grinding power of “beater jobs”. Even if you tell yourself you are just doing it for the money, you still have to do it. Day after day. And unless you are very strong, that can eat at you after a while, and have a serious impact on your mental health. I’ve had a job like that, a few years back – and it taught me I was nowhere near as tough as I thought I was. The second thing I would consider is how well can you bounce back after – is this job going to “look bad” on your resume, maybe harming future prospects? Will you be able to stay current and learn the skills you need to find a better job?

    At the end of the day, however, you are the one in possession of all the facts. If you have a good exit strategy and you think you can take it, go for it.

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  7. doubledebtsinglewoman · December 31, 2015

    Hi Karen! Welcome. Thanks for leaving Lurkerville. 🙂 Yes, you bring up a very important consideration. I’ve been thinking about this as well. I don’t want to risk my health (physical and mental) more than I have to. Your comment about your beater job experience sounds like it would make for a good blog post. 🙂 Thanks for the words of caution and encouragement. More to think about…

    Like

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