There's a high demand for physical jobs worldwide, and many of these jobs can pay exceptionally well. Think of jobs like oil rig worker, underwater welder/construction, working in war zones as a contractor, and more. These jobs can be incredibly demanding, and they aren't for the feint of heart. But if you're willing to work hard, and put in the sweat equity, the financial payoff can be rewarding.
But there is a big downside - too many people in these jobs don't plan for the future. While the money is great, it typically doesn't last. Either you can't do the job anymore, or the jobs in that field dry up.
So, what can you do? Should you avoid the work?
If you want to take on a physically demanding job because of the pay - more power to you! But please make sure you plan ahead and understand what you're getting into. Especially avoid the de-railers we discuss further on.
Let's break it down on how you can prepare.
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Understanding The Physical Job Dynamic
Physical jobs are in demand because they are hard work. And they pay really well because they are hard work (and likely dangerous). In many cases, these jobs are not in desirable areas as well (remote areas, war zones, underwater/at sea, in shady areas of town).
As a result of all these factors, the average length of time people work in these types of jobs is just 4 years. That's average!
That means, you can expect to earn a high wage, but likely not for very long. And it can vary greatly by industry. However, most tenures hover around that four year mark.
- Oil and Gas Workers: 4.6 Years
- Construction Workers: 4 Years
- Farming, Fishing, Forestry Workers: 4.1 Years
You can read the full breakdown of tenure from this BLS report.
What Kind Of Pay Are We Talking About Here?
So, what kind of pay makes this type of work worthwhile? It can really vary greatly, but here's some ideas:
- Oil and Gas Rig Workers: $100,000/yr (and they typically work 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off, so 50% of the year)
- Alaskan Fisherman: $15,000/mo (they can earn $45,000 for the 3 month crab season)
- Commercial Diver: $93,000/yr (also typically work one month on, one month off)
- Military Warzone Contractors: $150,000/yr
As you can see, these jobs all pay much higher than the median U.S. income of $59,000. And given that most of these jobs cater to younger, single adults, it can be a huge windfall to earn this in a short period of time.
This can definitely put you in an above-average net worth as a millennial.
The Big De-railer: Keeping Up With The Joneses
However, all of these jobs come with a big downside. Sadly, too many people in these industries spend all their money quickly. They buy fancy cars, go out and party, and live life extremely when they aren't working (which can be 50% of the time).
It's not uncommon to see people in these jobs broke again when they get back to work. And they start a cycle of needing the high pay to support a frivolous lifestyle outside of work (which also doesn't help their health).
As you think about these career choices, you need to also think about your mental fortitude to avoid these surroundings. When all your work friends are buying cars, drinking, and even doing drugs, can you step away and not get involved?
When friends and family hear about your job, see your money, will you be able to say no to handouts and gifts?
And will you be able to avoid your own lifestyle inflation that could sneak up on you just because...
These are all things you need to think about if you take a career in any of these fields.
How Can You Plan For The Future?
So, what can you do to plan for the future if you're going to take one of these high paying jobs? It's actually not hard, but it is a mental change - and that can be challenging.
1. Save, Save, Save
The biggest thing you can do is save money - and save a lot of it. The great thing about most of these jobs and industries is that you cost of living is taken care of while you're at work. Your food, lodging, and more is paid for by your employer. So, not only do you earn a high salary, but you should have minimal expenses while working.
You should look at saving 50-75% of your pay while working, if not more. And you should save it automatically out of each paycheck, and into an account that's hard to get to.
For example, you can open an savings account at an online bank, and automatically have 75% of your paycheck deposited to it. You can put the other 25% into your checking account.
Check out these options to get started:
2. Eliminate Your Housing
If you're working in a field where your employer will cover your housing while you work, see what you can do to minimize or eliminate your housing while you're off work.
For example, could you stay with your parents, or rent a room from a friend for really cheap?
For most people, housing is their biggest monthly expense. Given that you might go months without needing housing, why pay for something you don't need?
Look at options to minimize or eliminate this expense to save more money for the future.
3. Take Advantage Of Your Employer's 401k Plan
If you employer offers a 401k (which most do), take advantage to the max. I'm not talking about simply contributing up to your employer's match - I'm talking about maxing out your contribution.
You can contribute $18,000 in 2017, and $18,500 in 2018 - shoot for that number. You can be really rich if you always max your 401k contributions.
By contributing a lot to your 401k, not only are you saving for the future, but you can lower your tax bill as well!
4. Be Careful About Your "Friends"
As we mentioned above, you need to be careful about who you spend time with. Not only are there are lot of people who blow their money very quickly, but there are others who will hit you up for your money.
I'm not here to tell you to leave all your friends, ignore all your work people, and be a hermit, but honestly, I've seen it too many times where even the best intentioned people get caught up in the mix.
I strongly advise that you don't hang out with work people outside of work, and keep a low profile when you're earning good money.
5. Plan Your Exit
Finally, you need to plan your exit on your own terms, and be prepared if something does happen. Sadly, the reason you're getting paid so much for these jobs is because they are dangerous. You could die, but it's more likely you could simply be injured and can't work.
Or, if you do it for long enough, you might simply get too old to do the job.
So, plan your exit on your terms.
Make sure you have life insurance to protect your family (check out the comparison here), disability insurance if you get injured, and a savings plan if you simply can't work and need to change careers.
You should also consider what your next job is going to be? Let's say you simply can't do the job anymore - what work are you going to do until retirement?
Don't leave these things up to chance - really think about it up front so you can have a smooth transition later.
Getting a high paying physical job can be lucrative, but it comes with risks - not just death and disability. Too many people take these jobs, earn great money, and still end up broke.
If you're going to take the risk, you need to take the steps necessary to protect your reward. It's possible to use these jobs to make huge progress on your life goals (such as paying off debt, saving for retirement, buying a house, etc).
Just make sure that you're smart about the choices you make, and plan accordingly.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.