In probably the last year or two I’ve started to recognize the term “side hustle” on a number of the sites I frequent. It’s become quite popular, in fact.
So what exactly are we talking about when we say ‘side hustle’?
A side hustle is a fancy term for a [insert whatever amount of time commitment] job. My top frustration with the talk of a ‘side hustle’ is how it’s being toted, in some places, as an easy commitment of your time to make additional money. I think this misunderstanding drives a lot of people away from the idea of taking on additional work because they think it must be boring, unskilled tasks that no one would otherwise want to take on for ‘real work.’ (Note: Again, not everyone sells a side hustle as this sort of labor, but I see it and I’m sure I’m not the only one.)
There are some stories of pretty great side hustles. The ones I notice most are when people take on a side job that interests them (writing, baking, etc.). There also doesn’t seem to be a limit on available side job opportunities. If you are lost for ideas you can do what I did and Google “Side jobs for [insert an interest, profession, or skill].”
If you need or want to make extra money, opportunities are out there but it will take a commitment of your time and energy.
Yesterday, I spoke about my relatively low income and how it’s become more of a frustration for me. Like Erin Lowry and her article How I Went From Making $23K to $100K in Just 4 Years I, too, get sick of scrapping by. For this reason, I wanted to share the end results of my “side hustle” aka getting paid to go to school to compensate for the low pay at my current position. However, before delving into my current finances, I know it helps to share my background as well. Different areas of employment offer different incentives and pay; those occupations also require different educational backgrounds and skills. These factors cannot be overlooked in any conversation regarding money.
2003 to 2007: United States Marine Corps
I’m using numbers from the DFAS website as I cannot get Marine Online to view my historical pay and I no longer have the bank accounts I had back then. There are numerous allowances one can receive: basic allowance for subsistence, basic allowance for housing, clothing allowance, hazardous duty pay, etc. which is why I just wanted to focus on just basic pay numbers.
- 2003 E-1 w/less than 4 months of service= $1,064.70/month
- Joined in July: Approximate basic pay for 5.5 months $5,855.85
- 2007 E-4 over 3 years of service=$1,883.10/month
- Left the Marine Corps in July: Approximate pay for 6.5 $12,240.50
2007-2009: Kay Jewelers
- $10.50 an hour/typical hours worked: 30
2011: Unpaid internship with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service
- $0.00 (16 hour a week commitment/10 weeks)
2013: Working for Public Health
- $48,942 is the listed annual salary
- I worked there for 6 months so my salary was $24,471 (40 hr week commitment)
2013-2017: Working at a 4-yr Institution of Higher Learning
- 2013 ($15.63 hour/$32,500 annual)
- Approximate 2 months worked=$5,000
- 1st pay increase ($15.94 hour/$33,155 annual)
- 2nd pay increase ($16.31 hour/$33,924 annual)
As you can see my pay has not been substantial. My side hustle of using GI Bill benefits, by comparison, has greatly provided for my family and I. Below are the numbers from my direct payments. I received 36 months of the Montgomery GI Bill that was enhanced by paying into the $600 Buy Up program and having the Marine Corps College Fund. I’ve also already received most of my 12 months of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
It’s important to keep in mind the Montgomery GI Bill is paid to students and students still make their tuition payments to their respective institutions. The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays out tuition and fees, a book stipend, and a housing allowance for eligible persons. Percentages vary from 40% to 100%. (By the way, if I made a mistake about the two January 2011 payments my apologies. I cannot open up eBenefits to ensure I didn’t make a transcribing error when I downloaded information from the site and entered it into Excel. It’s quite a long time ago and I no longer have the same bank account my GI Bill benefits went to at that time.)
My Post-9/11 GI Bill provided greatly for me. The amount of housing I’ve received alone make a monumental difference in allowing me to stay in my current place of employment as long as I have.
The amount paid to Arizona State University is as follows:
To make it easier to consume together, here’s my significant “side hustle” from 2008 to 2012 and 2014 to 2016.
The reason I’m ok calling my education a side hustle is there are plenty of service members and veterans who end up not using their GI Bill entitlement. It’s the same thing from a payment perspective as not taking any other sort of odd job you are qualified to do but choose not to do. You are not taking advantageous of an opportunity to get paid for your time and effort. (For my veterans reading this article, you have 15 years from separating from active duty to use your Post-9/11 GI Bill. Do not let it go to waste.)
The money I’ve received from my paycheck versus my GI Bill entitlement is more important in the fact I pay into the Arizona State Retirement System. Over 11% of my income is taken out for retirement and while my employer also pays the same amount, it’s hard to have this much money taken out as the only regular income my family receives. When I worked for the Public Health and was later not offered full-time employment, I had to make the hard decision to withdraw my money and pay the penalties for early withdrawal. At the time, the state’s unemployment system was three months behind and after already coping with a yearlong deployment my savings account was not sufficient to survive the second bout of unemployment. Ironically, I gained employment again at the time I was finally eligible for unemployment benefits.
In a short while, I will find myself ending my journey in my current place of employment. At this time, I need more freedom in my take home pay which can only be offered by a company that utilizes a 401(k) and I also want a work environment that lets me be more flexible in my hours. My daughter is still young so working around her school commitment is a high priority in my life. The reality of our family situation is also why I’m being a bit more honest about my pay. I recognized the hard way your traditional job does not easily pay the bills (and for the wants that naturally we all have as people). I used a great tool available to me and was paid to attend school. Thankfully, I enjoy learning so my side hustle wasn’t a chore although completing papers late into the night after working all day wasn’t fun.
My diligence paid off. My side hustle earned me a total of three degrees and gave me extra money in the bank at the times I needed it most. The best part is my GI Bill benefits, as opposed to my income, is also non-taxable.
Down the road I know I will become better at advocating for myself and hopefully in sharing my story today, others feel inspired to assess their current situation and future goals. Money is an important part of that personal assessment.
We shouldn’t be afraid to ask for financial compensation but also be willing to take steps to accomplish our end goals when traditional routes just don’t cut it.