When a Part-Time Job Beats a Full-Time Job

The following guest post was submitted by Neal Frankle, CFP.  Check out the footer of this post for more information on Neal, and his website.

Lots of people have been laid-off recently.  As a result, they’re looking for any kind of work they can find. I respect people who are willing to do whatever they can to support themselves and their family. But sometimes the “cure” compounds the problem.  Let me explain by way of example.

Mike was a writer and like many in his field, he was laid off several months ago.  Jenny, his wife became the sole support for the family.  Mike looked for work every day but after 4 months still came up empty handed.  The pressure was mounting – financially and emotionally. The couple was facing the real possibility of losing their home.

Finally, Jenny confronted Mike and made it very clear that she expected him to do whatever it took to make money – regardless of what work it was or where he found it.

Mike understood Jenny.  Later that day, he saw a “help wanted” sign at the local book store and applied for a full-time job.  He wanted to do whatever he could to bring home as much money as possible. Mike didn’t get the full-time gig but was offered some hours on the weekend.  That was the best thing that could have happened for Mike and Jenny.

Some questions you might be asking yourself about now might include:

“Does Neal have something against Mike?”  or “Is Neal out of his mind?” or “Does Neal have something against bookstores?”  The answer is “no” to all three questions.

It would have been …..eh……”silly”….. for Mike to take the full-time job and I’ll explain why.

The bookstore was offering him less than $12 per hour. So even if he worked full-time, he would not have earned enough to hold on to the house.  The $12 hour job was a financial placebo for Jenny.  And to make matters worse, he would have been stuck in that job forever because he wouldn’t have the time to look for better opportunities.

Here’s the approach I suggest if you are out of work and facing similar difficulties:

  1. Don’t panic.

If you do, you’ll end up making decisions out of fear and ones you’ll likely soon regret. This is the time when you need all your genius brain power.  Cool down.

  1. Be rational & get the facts.

How much money does it cost your family to live each month?  Do you have any savings?  What else can you cut to reduce your cost of living? (Hint: if its not food, shelter or medical expenses, it can be cut.)  How much longer can you hold out?  How likely is it that you’ll find work in your own profession?

When Mike and Jenny did this, they concluded that they had enough money to hold on to the house for another 5 months.  They figured that even if Mike took the low-paying job, they would only be able to hold on to the house for 3 additional months.  So they had to decide between:

a)      Taking a chance that Mike would find work in his area of expertise and therefore creating the possibility that they might hold on to their home.  If not, they’d be out in 5 months.

b)      Working at the bookstore and almost surely lose their home in 8 months.

  1. Make a decision and execute it. The couple decided that Mike would work on the weekends at the bookstore.  This allowed him to earn some money while at the same time, have the opportunity to look for better paying jobs during the week.  They understood that they had nothing to lose by going this route – and they were right. If Mike doesn’t find a higher paying job in 5 months, he’ll go back to the bookstore or pizza parlor or whatever and take any and all work he can.

When you are facing extreme financial pressure, don’t grasp at the first apparent solution.  Take the time to examine all the facts and try to think outside the box.  You may find that the best solution is not always the most apparent.

Have you ever been in a similar situation?  Do you think that Mike should have taken any job possible?

About the author: Neal Frankle found himself in a financially fragile situation at the age of 17. Both his parents passed away while he was still in high school, leaving behind a small insurance settlement. Neal sought out a financial advisor to help him invest his nest egg so that it would help put him through college. Instead, the advisor charted a self-serving course and was on the verge of burning through the money when Neal realized what was happened and fired him just in time to avoid losing everything.

The experience had a deep impact on Neal and formed in him a lifelong desire to help people learn to make smart financial decisions. Today, with more than twenty-five years of experience in the financial services industry, Neal is an author and avid blogger. Subscribe to his blog at www.wealthpilgrim.com.


  1. I actually switched to full time and I don’t necesarily regret it because I’ve had time to concentrate more on my blog and also to spend more time with friends and family.

    Just recently I seen my full time co workers have one day out of the week cut out from their schedule.

    All in all I am happy with part time work. I am revising my resume to land a full time job but it will definitely take time for that.

  2. Yes the worst thing you could do is panic and take the first full time job that comes along.

    I believe one of the reasons that there are so many unhappy people working in organisations is because they are too fearful to quit and look for something better, just in case it doesn’t work out.

    Adding that extra breathing space you would have from a part time job could help expand the search for a better more fulfilling job.

  3. I’m kind of stuck in a rut with one client. I took them on back in the day because of volume work. However, since this client makes up 1/3 of my income, I have to keep them. I wish I had a little more time to look for something else, though, rather than doing the high volume work required. The good news, though, is that when my husband is done with school and HE gets work, I’ll be in a position to move on…

  4. I’m a freelance girl and when times get tough, it is really hard not to take the “first things that come along” even though they are not up to my clent standard. I’ve found if i can just hold out for a little while, and do something to bring in extra money (sell plants, have a yard sale,sell books at half.com) something I can feel good about working with WILL come along.
    Panic is bad- but proper planning and patience circumvents panic.
    Great post

  5. When my husband was laid off years ago, I was unhappy with the fact that he could not seem to find employment. Money was not the issue.

    The issue was that he was lounging around the house while I have to commute and work all day. This went on for a year. But when he start working part-time, I felt better. I finally felt like I have a partner again instead of a grown child.

  6. I happen to have 3 part time job in addition to my full time job. This is what I need to do right now, and though it sounds like a lot, it all works out really well. (One of my jobs is for just 3 weeks out of the year – in May, October and February.) I agree with Small Steps, the worst thing is to get in the rut of not leaving the house. Getting a part time job not only helps with some cash, but it also gives you some motivation and gets you out of that funk. Not working at all can be really depressing. On top of that, a part time job can help you make connections. In your example, the writer might meet some people who could help him by working at the bookstore. It expands your network.

  7. Most people ask themselves the question how can I simplify my life and live on less, to me that’s the wrong question, my question is how can I make more and work less? Keep in mind the mind always finds what it seeks, the key is in the question, ask the right questions and you will get the right answers.

  8. Gary, I think you may an excellent point. I never thought about the wider social impact and I appreciate you thinking about it.

    Tom – Glad things are working out.
    Tammy – thx for your comments.You are right…..the planning could really take care of many of these problems. Thx.

    Small Steps – I get it. It’s important that our partners behave like…..partners. Glad he got on board!

    Miranda – sounds like you have a plan. I hope it won’t take too long. How much longer does your husband have in school?

    Dawn – wow…..I am inspired by your dedication. I agree with the motivational side of just getting out there. Good point! Thanks

  9. Actually, this could be a win win situation for Mike. Use his resources (books) to increase his financial and entrepreneurial prowess!

    Glad they’re happy though.