(A “behind the scenes” guest post by Greg Johnson)
A few months ago, J. Money posted about the 6 Best (And Highest Paying Jobs) in America. I was completely shocked to find that my line of work wasn’t at the top of that list. Shocked, I tell you!
I mean, I wear a suit and tie to work every day. I am well-known in my community. Often times, my picture may be in the newspaper for attending various fundraisers or for donating to different charities. You can find me driving brand new black Cadillacs on a regular basis. On Thursdays, I even wear my super special cuff-links. Glamorous, right?
Then, I got to thinking about all the unsexy parts of my job that probably kept it off the list. Behind all of this glitz and glam, my job does have a few more… uh… disturbing requirements. You know, the whole wiping up somebody’s doody after they’ve expired. Or maybe those 3 A.M. phone calls I get where I’m required to drag my keister out of bed to collect splattered body parts off the freeway. There may be some who don’t consider replacing another person’s blood with formaldehyde to be much of a perk either. It was then that I came to terms with the fact that being a mortician may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Behind the Scenes with a Living Grim Reaper
While embalming dead bodies may not be your idea of a great gig, being a funeral director really is an interesting job. The pay is decent – I make about $60,000 a year – but it requires a lot of sacrifice to earn that money. Luckily, I work for people who do a great job taking care of their employees. Being that funeral homes are typically very small businesses, many funeral directors do not have the opportunity to enroll in a company sponsored health insurance plan or contribute to a 401k. Our company offers both, so I am thankful for that. I also get 20 days of “Paid Time Off” which is nice.
Although it may seem like my only job is to stand around and chat with people during a visitation, the truth is that by the time you see me there, all of the hard work has already been done. Being a mortician requires a keen eye for detail, the ability to work under a deadline, and the ability to organize multiple tasks all at once. It also requires one to work with all types of different personalities under immense stress… and to do it in a compassionate way.
Oh yeah, then there is the part about making dead people look – well – as close to not dead as possible.
In addition, most people forget how crazy a mortician’s work schedule can be. It is not uncommon for me to put in over 50+ hours a week… plus some weekends and holidays. Aside from a select few other jobs, most people never have to worry about getting woken up at 3:00 A.M. to be called in to work. Few people understand what it is like to be called away from your family’s Christmas dinner – or your daughter’s birthday party – in order to go and take care of somebody else’s family. As much as I’ve tried to spread the word, people just don’t seem to want to die between the hours of 8-5, Monday through Friday!!! I mean, what gives?!? Seriously, how rude can you be? ;)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining here. Obviously, somebody has died and I take my responsibilities to each family very seriously. I really do feel honored when somebody trusts me enough to take care of their deceased loved one. Furthermore, I knew all of these things before I chose to be a funeral director. Yet, sometimes while preparing the badly decomposed body of a person who was found weeks after their death, I begin to wonder what in the heck I was thinking about when I went back to mortuary school. There has to be easier ways to make a living, right?
On the flip side, there is a lot of personal satisfaction that I get from being able to help people at one of the worst moments of their life. Not everybody has a job where they get to come home feeling warm and fuzzy because their work has made an impact on somebody else’s life. That is a good feeling, and I get to experience it on almost a daily basis.
What Does This Have to do With Personal Finance?
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of things in the funeral business. I have learned a lot about running a business. I’ve also learned how to handle all types of personalities. I’ve even learned the proper technique for lint rolling a corpse. While that is all great, this is a personal finance website. So, here are a few things about personal finance that I’ve learned from working in the funeral business.
1) Buy Yo Self Some Life Insurance, Fool!
Since you are reading this, I’m assuming that you do breathe, right? You have blood pumping through your veins. You are currently a living human being with thoughts, desires, and dreams. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but one day all of that will stop. Yes, unfortunately, being alive also means that someday you will die. Death will eventually come calling for you regardless of how hard you try to ignore or avoid it. However, you can prepare your family financially for this certainty. Buy yourself some life insurance NOW!
Not only can life insurance help with your final expenses, but it will provide your family with funds to live on should you lose your income because… well… you died. For those of you who already have life insurance, make sure that your beneficiary information is up to date. Your current wife might be mildly upset if your ex-wife received your $100,000 life insurance payout simply because you were too lazy to change the beneficiary info. Don’t be a boso. Do it today.
2) Money is a Tool for Earning Freedom
Occasionally, I think it is helpful for all of us to ask ourselves why we are working. Unfortunately, I think we lose sight of our ultimate goals and instead find ourselves focused solely on the money. We forget about what is truly important to us. We end up working longer and harder than is necessary in order to earn ever-increasing amounts of money – which we use to buy stuff that our family really doesn’t need. But, how much money is enough? We forget that money itself has no real value. The value of money resides in what it can do to help you reach your goals. Yet, we sometimes sacrifice more than we need to in order to obtain it.
Of course, not having to worry about money can help to create security for your family. It can provide you with the opportunity to spend more time doing the things you love – which, to me, is truly freedom. Remember this: rich people die too. When you find yourself working to become rich, ask yourself why you want to be rich in the first place. You may be closer to what you truly want than you ever realized. With that being said…
3) Time is Our Most Precious Asset
It took me a long time to realize this, but time is really the only thing we have that truly matters. We can’t make more of it. Once it is gone, we can never get it back. For me, working around death is a constant reminder of this fact. Furthermore, because of the schedule that I work, I’ve learned that my family time is extremely important to me. My children are growing up right before my eyes, which occasionally makes me question whether or not the long and odd hours are worth it. At the moment, that answer is still yes. Still, as I mentioned earlier, sometimes we don’t realize how close we already are to having what we truly want.
Constantly working around death tends to put things into perspective. I hope this look behind the scenes has been useful and entertaining. If you have any questions or just need somebody to play a totally boss Grim Reaper at your next costume party, fire away in the comments below!
Greg Johnson is a proud husband, father, and debt crusader who is in the process of becoming debt free. Along with his wife, he co-founded the blog Club Thrifty, where they encourage people to “Stop spending. Start living.”
[Photo credit: Andrea Schaffer]