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I’ve Really, Really Screwed Up

You guys don’t know how much I’ve been trying to avoid writing this post. I thought if I didn’t say anything the problem would resolve itself, but this morning I realized it isn’t going away. For weeks I’ve been trying to quell the mini nervous breakdown building up in my brain, but there’s no avoiding it.

It is time to admit my stupidity in hopes of moving on – changing jobs was a total mistake.

The Switch

For a long time, I worked a demanding, high stress job as director of a group home. In April I added a part-time job to help pay off debt faster. By this summer, I was so burned out I felt like I couldn’t survive another day.

The opportunity arose to make my part time job a full time position. I would have complete freedom over my schedule. Working 4 days a week. No on call 24/7. I gave up a salary, but would earn more than three times my previous hourly rate for every hour I billed for therapy. It seemed absolutely perfect.

The month of August was great – I wasn’t stressed, I had more time for blogging, and I actually got to spend time with my son for a change. I even posted about liking my job for the first time in ages.

The Devil’s in the Details

Except there were some things no one told me. Like the fact that the pay is calculated in a very complicated way that doesn’t quite add up to the billable hour amount I was given. Or that if my billing wasn’t put into the system within a certain timeframe, I wouldn’t get paid until months down the road. (I don’t have any control over that; I don’t get to do my own billing.) OR the fact that I would be scheduled to see so many people without insurance.

When the other therapists were trying to convince me to come to this job full time, they mentioned that the first few pay periods were pretty rough. I was prepared for that. Now that I’m there and I’m freaking out, they’re telling me it’s more like the first YEAR before all the billing catches up and I start getting real paychecks. Thanks, assholes.

In my old job, I brought home $1075 every two weeks. I was paying my bills, making it through the pay period with no problems, and adding money to savings every chance I got. The extra money I earned from my part-time job helped me grow my emergency fund to over $2000 in about 9 months.

Since the switch? My paychecks have been anywhere from $330-$650, even though the number of hours I billed should have given me way more than I was making before. I met with the director of finance to find out the problem – basically, the system is so complicated that even HE couldn’t tell me why I’m not making any money. He kind of patted me on the shoulder and said it will get better.

My emergency fund is down to about $450. Every payday, I’ve had to transfer money out to make up for the lower pay. Right now there is enough in checking to cover my bills, but nothing for gas and groceries. And I’m faced with a debate. Do I siphon the last of my emergency fund, knowing I’ll come up short again next payday, or do I use a credit card and hope things get better at some point? Neither option should even be an option.

What Now?

I have spent the past few weeks searching desperately for a job. I even talked to my old boss about going back to the job from hell, though there aren’t any openings at the moment. I can’t even find anything to apply for that wouldn’t make the situation worse.

It’s kind of ironic that I worked so hard to build a safety net and make good choices, yet I’m sitting here with no safety net left. My income is all I have to depend on – I don’t have a spouse to pick up the slack. And I truly don’t know what to do right now. I have two college degrees, six years of experience in my field, and I am pretty much broke.

It makes me sick. I didn’t get here because of overspending or racking up debt. I got here by taking what I knew was a huge risk, one that I (mistakenly) thought would pay off in a big way. And I have no one to blame but myself.

I feel like I’m whining, and that’s not very exciting to read, so I’ll just stop. I’ve made this mess and now I have to figure out a way to clean it up.

About Andrea Whitmer

Andrea is a freelance web designer and single mom trying to maintain a sense of humor in an otherwise chaotic world. She blogs in hopes of helping others avoid the same mistakes she made in the past. Join in the discussion here on So Over This, or connect on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Google Plus. You can also subscribe to new posts via RSS so you never miss out!

Comments

  1. UG I'm so sorry it didn't work out.  You WILL figure something out though. 

  2. Erin Branscom says:

    I am so sorry!! That is terrible! I worked for a foster care company 5 years ago that had a system like that! I am working from home supplementing my income. Let me know if you are interested!
    http://www.healthybranscoms.com/2011/09/how-i-am-

  3. Andrea, it's clear: you're worth more to the world as a writer than as a social worker.  Not that you aren't a good social worker; you're just a hell of a writer, and writing seems to be something you enjoy far more.  Besides, the pay seems like it's better, as well.

    Keep on keepin' on.  I'd definitely go back to work on Monday and get a copy of the contract you signed when you switched jobs.  Give it to your dad, who seems to be in tune with this kind of stuff, to let him think it out for you.  

  4. That super sucks. I'm so sorry. It baffles me that people would play around with someone's livelihood like that. Don't feel bad about listening to what the other therapists told you, you have no control over that, and I know many of us would have done the same thing under stressful circumstances.

    Sending you good thoughts as you find the next steps.

  5. Sorry to hear it isn't working out Andrea. I hope the situation gets sorted out quickly!

  6. How many months do you think you can last in the current situation and how many hours are you working a week now?  Taking your coworkers at your word, maybe it's just a temporary drop in pay.  If that's the case, can you get a part time job, at least until these paychecks start hitting in all of their glory?  
    You might have to tread water for a while, but hopefully the paychecks start to catch up to what you are owed… then you can scale back on the PT job, or quit it.  Build up the blog too; eventually it will smooth over the lean months for you (but right now I'd probably concentrate on earning something PT).

    • I work 35-40 hours a week right now. I would gladly take on a PT job if I could find one; I've been looking since early September and can't even find anything to apply for. 

      I could probably do this until the end of the year if I pull money from my Roth, but obviously I don't want to do that. Otherwise if I use credit cards I could probably make it through November. Blogging has been supplementing all along, but I've barely made a dime this month. 

  7. Oh my gosh…a year is a LONG time to go without getting legitimate paychecks. A few pay periods sounds totally doable, but that is really different than a year :/ I hope something works out soon!

  8. You should feel proud of yourself for taking a risk that was aimed at improving life for you and your son. Things will work out :)

  9. I;ll echo the people who say don't beat yourself up for taking the risk. Life is about taking risks, but not all risks pay off right away, if at all. However, the director of finance, or someone with the company you are working for, needs to be able to explain to you why your checks are so small if your billable hour rate is x and you're working y hours. They also need to be held accountable for getting billing in on time if that's not something you're allowed to do for yourself. 
    If you can't find someone at the company who can actually explain it to you, you might want to consider talking not just to your father but to someone at Legal Aid. Essentially withholding the money you have earned for a year is not acceptable.

  10. Admitting you made a mistake is the first step to curing the problem.  See if you can do anything to change the pay situation.

  11. CommmonCents says:

    Ah man I am so sorry to hear about it. The fact that the Director doesn't know what's going on is BS and you should demand to find it out! 

  12. Ugh.  Sorry to hear that–I hope that everything turns out great for you.  You deserve it.  I live in a small town myself so I know how hard it is to find any job–nothing is ever plentiful and most companies think anyone applying for part time aren't worth the hassel as "they already have a job' (at least it's like that here).  I wish nothing but the best for you and will think some happy thoughts for you.  Too bad you don't live out here–they are actually looking for people out here (or were last I looked)

  13. fuuuuu I am so sorry to hear this =( That's basically what happened to me in my old job. Originally I was working part-time, and then they promised me higher pay and all these benefits when I switched to full-time… but then I didn't get a raise and I basically hated my life because the hours were so shitty.

    I think a new job is your best option, so keep looking. Do what you need to do with emergency fund & credit cards in the meantime. It sucks, but it's your only option right now.

  14. Do you still enjoy the job (besides current pay situation)? If so maybe try sticking out a bit longer before jumping ship. Look into other things on the side. Like its been said you are a great writer maybe freelance article writing or plr writing. Create another website to promote your services.

    I'm sure things will work out, you have a large community of support here backing you up.

    • I really don't. At 18, I really wanted to be a therapist, but the longer I do it, the more I realize it's not what I'm cut out to do. I love the schedule but I hate the actual work. So I don't know where to go from here. It's not really possible to completely change careers – I'm pretty much stuck with what I've got.

      • your still very young, never to late. I changed careers at 42. You can do it and what I have realized in the short time Ive known you is that you are a smart girl. Im sure you will come up with a solution and like I said you will have lots of help if needed.

  15. Well, this is a hard situation all over. It's good that you've come to terms with the possibility that you've screwed up, but remember that plans are more than the "now" picture, and that perhaps this fail is part of a bigger epic win down the road.

    Regardless, I agree that if you have agreed to a pay scale, whether its them messing up or their system, it is very very closely threading on the illegal side of things. Pay withholdings have very specific requirements (mostly just for state type withholdings), and if the company owes you money and they are not paying it, or claiming that your hours are not compensable, that's a violation of the DOL regulations, and they could be in very deep trouble if so. 

    If you don't enjoy the job, I have to disagree you're stuck in a career path. A social worker's type of job is something that can be applied to many more stable fields. Best of luck. Don't beat yourself over it! It is a mistake, and a single mistake wont kill you. Not all risks pay up (that's why they are risks!), and you can at least say you tried. Time to move into better things. 

  16. Don't be so hard on yourself.  Clearly you were misled and most people would have made the same job change given the facts you had.  You got great advice so far, but I wanted to send a virtual hug!

  17. Ugh.  The people who advised you duped you no?  If that's true then they sound like bad people who I wouldn't want to work with no matter what.  Even once the money catches up I'd still be looking to get out of there.  They're willing to swindle you once, they'd be willing to do it again.  I had business partners swindle me in the past and I just drop 'em, never trust them again.

  18. The exact same thing happened to me 3 years ago. I was devastated, could see no hope for the future and was questioning everything about my life. After being turned down for part time jobs and not receiving any responses to full time jobs I was pursuing, I finally accepted where I was at and made arrangements to get by.

    My first mantra was "at least I have a job and am not unemployed". I repeated it 100 times a day. I paid what I could, charged some on my credit cards and when I got really desperate, borrowed from my father. I hated borrowing and kept it to the bare minimum but I had no choice. This lasted for an entire year until I demanded fair pay from my company. I still hated the work but at least they gave me enough to pay my monthly expenses.

    Three years later I am still in the industry but doing something completely different at a company I had once quit when I was silly and didn't understand the value of an employer who cares about their employees. I am making enough money to live and actually save.

    My point is, the experience I gained at the crappy company allowed me to move on to a much better job. People who care about you really do want to help. This situation will not change over night but it *will* change. The experience changed me in so many ways – for the better. I'm on the other side where life is better and I know you will be too.

  19. That's tough.

    Have you tried going to your manager (or the finance director) and letting them know how difficult this is for you and that it's a major dissatisfier for you?  Good managers want happy, productive employees, and moving the discussion from the system they use to pay people (which they clearly don't understand and cannot fix) to "I am unhappy with this job because I have not been paid properly" might get things moving in the right direction.

    • That's a little complicated because I don't exactly have a supervisor. I mean I do, but not in the traditional sense. We are basically in a group practice, with each of us having autonomy and control of our own schedule/workload/caseload/etc. I have made it clear to the administrative assistant who does our scheduling that I'm not a fan of the way the payroll system is set up for us, and her response was, "You have to be patient. If you aren't able to wait until everything smooths out, this may not be the position for you." Some people have a very hard time understanding a company that doesn't care if its employees quit in droves, but after 3 years I've realized they truly don't care. If we all quit, they'll just find more people (it's happened before). If we're all unhappy, they're not going to try to keep us. I've never seen anything so dysfunctional.

  20. That sucks Andrea – talk about a rock and a hard place. I guess sometimes risks don't work out and there's no way to tell until after the fact. Sorry you're going through such a rough and stressful time – but I really do believe it will all work you. You'll find a way through this!

  21. Geez. That's horrible. I can think of a lot of terrible things to say for those finance people, but I will resist typing it out. Hope you get it figured out soon!

  22. Sorry to hear this has happened to you. Things will work out it may just take a bit of time unfortunately. 

    This is a timely post because I have been thinking of switching jobs lately but I have been hesitating because I don't want to lose the good stuff I have right now. It is so hard to know isn't it?!

  23. Ron Jenkins says:

    I am currently on Social Security Disability. I had back surgery in April 2008 and missed between 6 and 8 months of work with no income. Needless to say I used all of my savings, 401k and sold some of the stuff I had that would sell easily. Thinking when I got back to work I could make it up. In April of 2009 the company put me off work on a medical leave due to some changes they made in manufacturing. I tried for 3 to 4 months to get back on doing what they told me I had to do. Mainly getting restrictions removed that I had on my back. All said and done, the company Doctor put a bunch of restrictions on me. More than I had originally.So I ended up filing for disability which went back to my last day worked in April of 2009. I got my disability right off and got approved on October 1, 2009. I got my first check in December of 2009. So, I ended up going another 8 months with no income.I can certainly understand, not having enough money to pay bills. I get $1601.00 monthly from Social Security. So I went from about a $52,000.00 a year income to about $19,000.00 a year. Also have to figure in the almost 16 months out of 2008 and 2009 that I had no income. It has been a long hard road but with a little luck I should be about breaking even every month in the first quarter of 2012. At times it seems like a hopeless situation but I do try to remain grateful for what I do have. I guess I don't have any answers to all the questions people have about unemployment, minimum wage and changing jobs or situations that affect your income. Fortunately, I still have my house and have been able to keep health insurance. Which my COBRA was almost $500.00 monthly and now with Medicare and supplemental insurance it is only about $350.00. My house payment is $535.00 per month and my utilities run anywhere from about $300.00 to $500.00 per month.So as you can see I either don't get by or just barely. I have no credit anymore so credit cards or buying a car or anything that requires more money that I have on hand is out of the question. I worked hard most of my life and will be 60 years old in January. So, I
    just get by on what I've got, sit a home a lot and try not to get
    discouraged with life. What is really frustrating is I can't even find a part time job, I make too much money to qualify for any kind of grant to go to school or get any other kind of help and most of all I'm basically too crippled up to do much of anything. I don't own a car anymore but do have a motorcycle. Which is the only thing I have left that give me any enjoyment out of life. But it does make winter time a little rough.I just try to to the next right thing, help as many people as I can and just live one day at a time. I know $1600.00 is more money that a lot of people make a month and believe me I thank God everyday for what I've got. This probably makes no sense at all. All I know is that I just have to do the best I can, put one foot in front of the other and enjoy the small things in life.

  24. Good luck finding something else. I hate when things fall apart, but unfortunately, it's part of life. Sometimes you have to take something you're not crazy about to pay the bills. Over time, you can transition into something better for you. Good luck

    • I was so confused when I got the notification for a comment on this post… This is nearly a year old! Luckily I'm self-employed now and don't have to deal with any of this crap. :)

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