The Money Dock: by Bosun Alex Kempin
July was a crazy month for my partner and I. After 3.6 years on board and 4.5 months of straight lockdown, we quit our jobs and were off to sunny Turkey.
As yachties do, we traveled with two suitcases, a 7-foot surfboard bag, and two kitesurfing bags totaling about 100kg. At the airport desk, sweating and desperately hoping the baggage cost that flashed on the screen was in pesos and not U.S. dollars, I swiped my credit card for the first time since lockdown. (It was in USD and I was half tempted to leave the surfboards at the airport.)
Sitting on the plane and thinking back to the baggage cost, I thought back on an article I had written that discussed the notion that time equals money. How many hours had I worked to pay for that extra baggage?
It’s not an exact science -- especially for yachties -- but I figured it cost me roughly two days of work, or 16 hours, to lug my surfboards with me to Turkey. But it was totally worth it. My girlfriend and I would happily work those hours again since these items give us such joy.
A yachtie who earns $48,000 per year earns $4,000 a month, $1,000 a week, $200 per work day or $20 an hour. (This assumes a 50-hour work week, which I know isn’t typical in yachting but it makes for a nice example.) So $20 equals one working hour.
If a big night out with crew mates costs $350, that’s 17.5 working hours. Is it worth it? That $600 handbag is equal to 30 hours of work. Is it worth it? A new $1,200 drone is about 60 hours. Is it worth it?
I often use this formula to decide whether something is worth my time. And it depends. Does it bring pleasure? Does it meet some need I have decided for myself? Only I can answer those questions.
I know I run the risk of sounding like a school principal, but despite that, I actually spend quite freely. Although I’m unemployed at the moment, I have just bought a motorcycle. I made this decision quickly and confidently because I know what I value, buy quality items with a long-term view, and had especially saved for it.
The money in yachting comes fast and hard, and there is a correlation between how quickly money is made versus how quickly it’s spent. But the spending habits of some yacht crew damage their future financial security and can trap them in jobs they’d rather not be in.
The reality is we trade time for money. A common phrase among social media finance fans is “Each dollar you spend today is a dollar you won’t have tomorrow.” Although it sounds a bit basic, the core message is important. Each dollar we spend means giving up more of our time in the future to regain that dollar.
To be financially successful and claw back our personal time, our perspective of spending needs to change. Although I know some super savers, generally speaking, saving is not popular among yachties.
Yachting is known for being lucrative yet typically short-lived, and it would be a tragedy to not take advantage of these few lucrative years. I often talk with crew who feel trapped in yachting due to previous financial mistakes. It’s fantastic they realize this and seek change. We need to master our money, not the other way around.
I am not for one second suggesting yacht crew should not live freely and have rich experiences. Rather, I implore all yachties to use the “money equals time” formula to discover what is worth spending on, and then to find balance between spending and saving so they can ensure financial stability.
Bosun Alex Kempin has worked on yachts for more than three years and combines his passion for personal finance and his degree in psychology to share personal finance information for yacht crew at themoneydock.com or themoneydock on social media. Comments are welcome below.