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My Under Earning Journey – Part 1

My Under Earning Journey - Part 1

Let me tell you about my Under Earning Journey

In the many years since I left New Zealand, I have lived in a good number of cities and countries and done even more jobs than I can remember. All of the jobs that I’ve worked in might make a good post (or series of posts) in itself! Over this time I have come to recognise that I have a wide range of skills and can apply myself to a lot of different types of jobs (but not sales, I’m really bad at doing sales jobs!), that I can become an essential member of a team, and that I can lead my own teams.

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

I have done everything from Hospitality work, to care work, to office work, to teaching work, to massage work, to running my own businesses to working freelance for other business owners. I have done telesales jobs (I really hate telesales jobs!), bar work, worked as a chef, managed coffee shops and restaurants, been an office manager, done SEO work… Like I said this is a post or series in itself… But I really hate sales jobs!

Anyway, over this time I have earned ok money at times, terrible money at other times, and rarely no money (except in sales jobs!). In 23 years, I have failed to pay off my student loan, in fact, it has more than doubled since I left. A lot of this doubling was from interest and penalties. I managed to get a big chunk of it ‘forgiven’ or ‘written off’, but it’s still double what I started with, and it still didn’t give me a usable qualification!

While this has been happening, I’ve seen my friends have better lifestyles than me, travel more than me, settle down and buy houses and second houses… While I am still more or less broke month to month, no closer to paying off my debts (yes I also have other debts, not just that student loan), I don’t own any property. I don’t have any investments, my laptop is 6 years old and my phone is about the same age… (I’m getting pretty good at replacing batteries now).

I’ve tried to change my destiny and even made a few forays into investing. Like the time I decided I would put £20 into Bitcoins every month. That lasted one month! I used the Bitcoin ATM at the Google Campus in London. It was a bit of a pain in the ass, to be honest. And that was the only time I did it. Then some years later I remembered about it and checked on the value of my 0.2 of a bitcoin and it was worth £2000 at that moment! If only I’ve followed my plan and invested £20 per month for a full year, I’d be looking at a lot more money!

I tried to log into the app to access my new-found wealth. And the app was no longer live on my phone or on the app store… And neither was my 0.2 of a Bitcoin!

I did spend some time trying to track down the founder of the app. The founder had been involved in some stupidly fraudulent activity, been caught and had gone to prison. Bye-bye, forever Bitcoins!

Bitcoin recently passed $40,000 per coin, so my 0.2 of a coin would have been worth $8,000 or £5,900, which just goes to show that I wasn’t completely mad with my idea, I just wasn’t careful enough to look after it.

Be Careful Investing in Bitcoin
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This was a learning experience for me. Always keep your investments secure! Even if they’re only worth £20 at first…

So where am I going with this rather rambling piece of writing?

I am an Under-Earner.

Plain and simple!

Thus Begins my Under Earning Journey

A number of years ago a friend invited me to a group that met in the basement of a church somewhere in the centre of London. It had worn, beige carpet in the hallways and painted plaster walls in the rooms. We all sat in a circle and introduce ourselves. My turn came around, ‘My name is Simon and I’m an Under-earner’

I sat through one meeting, shared honestly, read the literature and thought to myself, ‘Wow, I am an under-earner!’

But instead of turning up to meetings every week for the rest of my life, I figured that I’d just go out and earn more money!

Great plan, of course, but not so simple!

Sooner or later I forgot that I was an under earner, it was just that the economy wasn’t so great, that I hadn’t chosen the best line of work to go into, that my business just needed more tweaking… That I just couldn’t earn enough!

Time passed, we decided to leave the UK, we went to Thailand for 6 months, then to Greece. In Thailand it really wasn’t about working, we had some saving and some income from renting our house in London (well, not OUR house, this was the house we bought in South East London when my wife sold her flat in North West London, so really it was and still is her house, but she agreed to share the money with me for the first two years of our sabbatical).

Once we had settled in Greece I found work teaching English as a foreign language. Greece is one of the cheapest countries in Western (and probably Southern) Europe, but it’s still not Asia-cheap, and the wages in Greece are also some of the worst in Western (and probably Southern) Europe too. So I entered this low-wage cycle yet again.

Over time I moved my teaching work online, but there is an upper limit with online teaching too. I was still not earning enough to really feel comfortable, to pay off my debts, to save and invest money. I still had no plan for ever retiring. It was still some form of living paycheck-to-paycheck.

And then, of course, Covid came along and messed things up. The corporate massage business that I had built up over years and managed to keep running in the UK from afar was suddenly dead in the water. You can’t deliver massage during a pandemic.

But I had taken on a life coach some months prior to this to help me sort my life out, and one day, during our session, she said to me ‘There is a book I want you to read, I think you are an under-earner’

Naturally, I was surprised to hear this, after all, there was a global pandemic raging and I just wasn’t earning enough!

But I also remembered that meeting in the church basement, ‘Under Earners Anonymous’ and knew that she was right.

So I started to read the book. It held a lot of valuable insights and information, but the biggest one for me was the revelation that under-earning is tied to self-worth.

That people who don’t value themselves also don’t expect or demand to be paid their true worth. They will consciously or unconsciously choose to work in jobs or industries that don’t pay very well… Hospitality and catering? Care work? The Caring professions? Hmmm…

I wondered if it had anything to do with me being terrible at commission-based sales work? I was literally the worst-performing member of my team, and I think I only really made a sale when someone took pity on me. I think the company only kept me on because I was a nice guy and basically always turned up and put the hours in.

I didn’t think that I undervalue myself, but the more I read the more I realised it was true. It’s a difficult thing to admit to myself and to write here. But it made sense. I didn’t know ‘why’ I undervalued myself, but the evidence was there that I did. My friends from New Zealand, who had smoked just as much weed as me, had been similarly disinterested in studying, also travelled in their early 20’s, who had partied with me and gone clubbing, had for the large part gone on to get educated and qualified (usually after returning home to New Zealand) had stopped smoking the wacky-backy, gotten real jobs with decent pay and yes you guessed it, bought themselves homes!

Even my brother, who comes from the same parents and had as close as possible to the same upbringing as me, the same unconscious mental programming as me, and nearly smoked as much weed as me… Has gone on to run a successful business and buy a number of properties, and now lives in a massive mansion (by my standards at least) surrounded by windows looking out into the beautiful native bush in West Auckland. While I live in rented accommodation on a Greek island. Ok, so I choose the Greek island over living in West Auckland, but my landlord owns the house and he can take it back easily enough.

So what is my point? I have made choices in my life that lead me to this place. At this time I have a limited income, no savings, no investments (Ok, I started to put a little spare change into cryptocurrencies and a few stocks, but we’re talking a couple of hundred dollars max) no property, and a substantially negative net-worth… (but not as much of a hole as some people might be in).

My values have led me to this point. But values can change, especially once they have been revealed to be detrimental to one’s happiness and success.

So I guess that this is my declaration to the world (and anyone who cares to read) that I’m an under-earner, but hopefully one in recovery!

I will soon be this frog with loads of money!
Image by 🎄Merry Christmas 🎄 from Pixabay

My goal is to not only increase my income and pay off my debts, but to build a plan for retirement, to save, to invest, to own property of my own someday. Ideally in New Zealand (and yes I’ve seen all of the Reddit posts about New Zealand property being stupidly expensive, but I’ve been living in London for most of the last 20 years, so I know what stupidly expensive property looks like!)

How will I achieve these goals? Good question!

I’m still an English teacher, there is still a global pandemic raging.

I have failed at business plenty of times.

Did I tell you how I set up an online facemask shop and only made two sales? Both times I had to refund the customer because of problems with delivery. So I’m officially the only person to NOT make money from selling facemasks during a global pandemic!

I am now spending all of my free time and brain cells writing on a blog about my travel experiences. Not exactly a winning plan is it?

But I am also working on my self-worth, trying to make better decisions about what I spend my money on, budgeting fiercely while trying not to alienate my wife. She comes from a much more monied background than I do and has earned much better than I have in her professional life. This is code for saying that we have very different spending habits and priorities!

Will I succeed? I have no idea! But I hope so. Hope isn’t enough of course, so I am also working towards success!

One way is using the app You Need A Budget, it’s a different way of budgeting. Instead of assigning all of your monthly income to different categories in advance, you assign money by priority as you go through the month, with the most important categories filled first, and the less necessary items fulfilled later. It’s already made a difference in just a few months of using it.

I have also joined a writers group called Ninja Writers. It has a number of different tracks aimed at helping writers become working writers. Of course, I’m still struggling with the idea of being a good enough writer to be paid to write or earning an income from writing, but it’s a start.

I guess this might be a rather long process, but I think I’m going to write about it as I progress down the path. Perhaps my under earning journey might help someone on their path too.

I’ve made a resource list for anyone who is interested:

(and since I’m trying to overcome under-earning, I might put some affiliate links on them to try to earn a little coin)

Overcoming Underearning by Barbara Stanny

YNAB budgeting app

Ninja Writers Club


Other books that are meant to be great but I haven’t read yet:

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S Clarson

Money Is My Friend by Phil Laut

Start Late, Finish Rich by David Bach


The next part of My Under Earning Journey – is coming soon!

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