Earn up to $150 an Hour as the CFO of your Personal Finances

This is a guest post by Steven Arnott, a fellow reader and author of The Snowman’s Guide to Personal Finance: A simple approach to managing your money. You can find more of Steven’s work at snowmansguide.com or by following him on Twitter (@snowmans_guide).

This article provides step by step instructions to earn between $60 to $150 an hour working for yourself. As the CFO of your personal finances, you can find ways to spend less and earn more. Opportunities include:

  1. Confirm if each expense is bringing you enough value to continue – ($100 / hour)
  2. For expenses you value, see if you can negotiate a lower cost – ($60 / hour)
  3. Negotiate a raise – ($150 / hour)
  4. Find a new position with a higher salary – ($125 / hour)
  5. Take any reduced spending or increased earnings from above and pay off debt – ($150 / hour)
  6. Take any reduced spending or increased earnings from above and invest – ($60 / hour)

With cost of living up (e.g., education, housing, food, childcare) and wages fairly flat, more and more people are turning to side hustles to make up the difference. Side hustles typically involve providing a service (e.g., freelance writing, driving, dog walking) for someone else. But an often-overlooked side hustle that has tremendous potential is to provide a service to yourself. You can earn $60 to $150 an hour serving as your own CFO.

Taking the CFO position

If you were hired as the CFO for a company, you may start with a few of the following tasks:

  1. Review the financial statements to understand the health of the company (e.g., are they earning more than they’re spending, how much money is in the bank)
  2. Ask the department heads if there are ways to spend less (e.g., bundling orders, changing vendors)
  3. Ask the department heads if there are ways to sell more (e.g., a new pricing strategy, cross-selling to existing clients)

If you’re not interested, and potentially not yet qualified to be the CFO of a company, you may be excited to hear that you can make similar money by being your own CFO. The job isn’t much different, however instead of the company benefiting from your hard work, you realize the value. Tasks can include:

  1. Reviewing your own finances to understand your financial health (e.g., how much you own and owe, how much you earn and spend)
  2. Revisit your expenses (e.g., negotiate your bills, lower the interest you’re paying on any debt, cancel subscriptions you’re not using enough, minimize the taxes you pay)
  3. Increase your earnings potential (e.g., negotiate a raise, set aside savings and look to invest)

Your earning potential as CFO

Let’s look at the type of hourly earnings you could expect for some of the activities. Before we begin, I’ll admit that for many, the benefit of a side hustle is to earn money today. Some of the tasks below will provide an immediate return, while others will take time to pay off. Each of the steps you’re able to take will set you up for a more stable financial future, allowing you to spend your time on what you enjoy.

Revisit your expenses

We often spend money out of habit rather than conscious thought. Two ways that you can ensure you’re getting the most for your money are:

  1. Confirm if each expense is bringing you enough value to continue – ($100 / hour)
    • Steps:
      • Gather your credit card and bank statements for the last 3 months. (30 minutes)
      • Review each expense and reflect on whether it was worth the cost. (1 hour)
      • Identify a list of any expenses you’d like to cut back on. (30 minutes)
      • Add a description of how you’ll reduce that cost going forward. (1 hour)
        • You could share with your friends that you’re saving money the next time they invite you for a dinner out. Or arrange a rotation where you each host a dinner at home.
    • Calculation:
      • People are often shocked at how much they spend on a monthly basis on small purchases. Dining out and transportation are some of the most frequent areas.
      • If you can identify $25 a month in expenses that you can live without and put a plan in place to avoid them going forward, you’ll save $300 a year.
      • With an upfront investment of 3 hours of your time, you’ll be well paid for your efforts.
  2. For expenses you value, see if you can negotiate a lower cost – ($60 / hour)
    • Steps:
      • Use the same monthly statements from above to identify your recurring payments. Examples include:
        • cell phone
        • car or home insurance
        • internet
        • bank fees
        • cable – if you haven’t cut the cord just yet
      • Research current offers from competitors of your current provider. (1 hour)
      • Find or draft a script of what you’ll ask on the phone. (1 hour)
        • Remit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, has championed this idea for years and provides many scripts on his website.
      • Call each provider to see if there is a lower cost service, bundle, or loyalty discount they can provide. It’s important here not to add services you don’t already have and need. (2 hours – try to find something else to work on in case you’re placed on hold, but don’t let this discourage you)
    • Calculation:
      • There are several ways to lower your costs here. You could:
        • reduce the services you’re receiving if a lower package will still meet your needs.
        • switch to a competitor for a lower price.
        • negotiate a lower rate with your current provider for the same service.
      • If you’re able to reduce your monthly costs by $20 you’ll have $240 more each year. This earns you $60 for each hour of your efforts in the first year alone.

An important note is that this job isn’t a one-time engagement. As you adjust to your new spending habits, revisit your expenses again from time to time. The goal is to make sure you’re getting the most from your money, and spending on activities that will bring you the most fulfilling life.

Negotiate your salary

The unemployment rate in Canada is at its lowest rate since the 1970s. A low unemployment rate typically gives employees more power because employers need to compete to attract talent. With job vacancies above 500,000 in Canada, there’s a lot of competition for the right people. Two ways that you can take advantage of this situation are to:

  1. Negotiate a raise – ($150 / hour)
    • Steps:
    • Calculation:
      • Data from PayScale shows that 39% of those who asked for a raise received what they asked for and 31% received less. This leaves 30% who didn’t receive a raise.
      • If you don’t receive a raise, remain patient and ask for a time to revisit the discussion in the future. In addition, ask if there are any specific outcomes your boss needs to see before they’d be able to give you a raise.
      • A 10% raise on an income of $40,000 is $4,000. Assuming a 50% chance at receiving the raise, your hourly wage for negotiating your salary works out to $150.
  2. Find a new position with a higher salary – ($125 / hour)
    • First a note of caution. Money is only one piece of the equation when it comes to your job. If you enjoy the people you work with and you’re fulfilled at the end of each day then this option may not be for you. Compare the expected change in salary with the other changes to your lifestyle to see if it’s worthwhile.
    • Steps:
      • Research roles in your field to understand what the market is currently paying and what roles would align with your skills and interests. Look at job postings, speak with recruiters and speak with colleagues in the industry. (10 hours)
      • Research best practices for finding a new job. (2 hour)
      • Update your resume. (4 hours)
      • Reach out to your network in the industry and directly to recruiters to avoid submitting a cold resume as often as possible. (5 hours)
      • Research best practices for interviewing. (2 hours)
      • Prepare for interviews. (5 hours)
      • Complete interviews with prospective employers where you feel there’s a good match. (5 hours)
      • Research best practices for negotiating your starting salary. (2 hours)
      • Rehearse how you’ll open the discussion. (2 hours)
      • Rehearse your response to common questions or challenges you may face. (3 hours)
    • Calculation:
      • Data from a 2018 Global News article suggests an average wage increase of 10% to 15% is reasonable to expect when changing jobs (provided you’re past an entry level position).
      • A 12.5% raise on an income of $40,000 is $5,000. While going on the job search is a large commitment of time (40 hours or more) the potential payoff is significant. If you can achieve a switch with 40 hours of work, your hourly wage would be $125.
      • Remember this calculation is only looking at the first year’s increase in earnings. However, you’ll continue to benefit from your newly earned income well into the future.

Pay off debt

  1. Take any reduced spending or increased earnings from above and pay down high interest debt – ($150 / hour)
    • Steps:
      • Calculate any extra money you’ll have on a monthly basis from steps you’ve taken above. (1 hour)
      • Sign into your online bank account and set up a transfer to move the amount you calculated above to your loan account (e.g., student loan, credit card) every month. (30 mins)
    • Calculation:
      • If you have a $15,000 student loan at 5% interest or a $5,000 credit card balance at 15% interest, you’re paying $750 a year in interest costs.
      • By applying $50 a month extra towards these debts, you’ll cut down the time to pay them back and the total interest.
      • If you increase from paying $200 a month today to paying $250 (the $50 we mentioned), you’d save $250 in interest on the credit card and $750 on the student loan. An hourly wage of over $150 for setting up the transfer.

You can apply this strategy to a mortgage, personal line of credit or any other loan to reduce the interest you’re paying. Any dollar saved is a dollar earned.

Invest your savings

Finally, if you have existing savings, or for the money you’ve identified through steps above, compound growth can provide the financial security you’re after.

  1. Take any reduced spending or increased earnings from above and invest – ($60 / hour)
    • Steps:
      • Calculate any extra money you’ll have on a monthly basis from steps you’ve taken above and add it to any savings you have that you don’t need for the foreseeable future. (90 minutes)
      • Read the easy way to start investing today. (30 minutes)
      • Complete additional research on the options of interest to you. (2 hours)
      • Open an account. (1 hour)
      • Complete an initial deposit for any savings you have today and set up a transfer to move the amount you calculated above to your new account each month. (1 hour)
    • Calculation:
      • A reasonable expectation for a medium risk investment would be to earn 5% on average over an extended period.
      • If you invest $50 a month for 5 years at 5%, you’d have over $3,400. $3,000 of that you set aside yourself and $400 came from growth on the investment. With 6 hours work to set up an account and transfer, you’ve earned $60 an hour for your efforts.

Closing Remarks

My goal for this article was to provide realistic examples of how to improve your financial situation through becoming your own CFO. While you may feel some examples are worth more or less than I’ve suggested, I hope the underlying message carries through. There are lots of personal finance topics to help you lower your expenses or increase your income. A short list of additional areas to explore includes:

  1. Lowering your taxes by learning about the Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) or Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).
  2. Lowering your taxes by understanding common credits and rebates you may be eligible for when filing your taxes.
  3. Receiving grants from the government to help pay for your child’s education through a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP).
  4. Checking with your employer if they offer a retirement plan, and contributing to it if they match your deposits.

Each new article and idea will have an associated return on the time you invest as we’ve calculated for many examples above. If you enjoyed this post and would like to check out more of my work, I’d invite you to drop by snowmansguide.com once you’ve finished up here.

What steps do you take with your money that provide a great return on the time invested?

Become the CFO of your Personal Finances

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4 Comments

  1. Maria @ Handful of Thoughts on February 22, 2020 at 4:14 am

    Love this concept. I have often done many of these activities, but have never thought of the return investment on my time. May be something worth calculating in the future.

    • Steven on February 22, 2020 at 8:29 am

      Thanks Maria! With so much competing for our time, I’ve been trying to find ways to show the value of personal finance to help more people benefit. I’d be curious to see the numbers as people apply this concept to their lives.

  2. Tricia on February 22, 2020 at 9:11 am

    We just changed the service provider for our home alarm. Yearly savings of $220, and we found a local company that actually answers the phone when we call instead of being on hold for 1/2 hour. That money now gets funneled into our savings account.
    It’s easy to not think of what you are spending…and easier to put off getting your information together to objectively look at the numbers.

    • Steven on February 22, 2020 at 11:28 am

      Glad to hear the savings came along with better service. When I recently switched cell phone plans I saved $20 a month and now receive more data. It took 90 minutes on the phone across 2 days, but was well worth it in the first year alone.

      You’re absolutely right that it’s too easy to put off objectively looking at the numbers. But maybe $150 an hour will help more consider it.

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