Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Paycheck to Paycheck

It's Wild Ride Wednesday! Each week I share another story from our crazy life.

When Tom and I were first married, he worked for a sound engineering and design company. Shortly before the wedding, the business changed hands and we were a bit apprehensive about Tom’s job security. Change can be scary.

Our concerns were squelched when upon returning to work after our honeymoon, Tom was given a $3,000 a year pay increase. I came into the marriage with my son Dallas, and it was important to Tom that I be a stay-at-home mom. We were thrilled that our gross base income would be $18,500 per year!

I was able to earn a few extra dollars a month by watching a couple of kids in our home. I got pregnant with Drew right away and I felt so blessed to be at home—enjoying every stage of Dallas’s development and every moment of my pregnancy.

It didn’t take long, however, for us to realize that the new owners of the company my husband worked for were following an interesting business model. Paying their employees was apparently optional.

Money was tight, as is often the case for a young company, and the paychecks started coming later and later. I’d call Tom on payday and ask if he’d be getting a check. More often than not he’d say, “Not today, but they’re hoping to cover payroll early next week”.

When we complained about the lack of timely pay disbursements, we were told that the company was a “ministry” and worrying about money meant we clearly “lacked faith”. Tom was told that it wasn’t the business owner’s fault that Tom married a “woman who already had a child”, and that I should get a job.

I went on scavenger hunts in my own apartment in search of enough lost change to buy a box of macaroni and cheese. I searched under couch cushions and behind furniture and bedposts. Every dime I made from baby-sitting paid for gas to get to and from the job that was becoming more and more stressful—what with not getting paid and all.

One day the owner of the company mandated that once a week for six weeks all the employees would come to his home to view a series of videos. Would we be paid for our time? No! Our attendance, however, was required.

We arrived at the boss’s home at the appointed hour and all the employees and their spouses (I think there were about ten of us) sat down in front of the television. The videos featured a Christian teacher who taught lessons in finances!

Now we were forced to get together once a week with a company president who couldn’t make payroll, so we could watch videos of a man teaching us how to handle money? Is this the guy whose principles they followed? If so, I wasn’t terribly impressed.

You might assume that this was a good thing because we were all learning to be better stewards of the monies that came in. The purpose, we discovered, was to make sure we were all tithing on the gross (not the net) so that God would multiply the dollars and bless the business. The boss was implying that the financial troubles of the company were brought on by the lack of faithfulness among the individual employees!

One payday I called Tom to ask the now familiar question I already had the answer to—would he be bringing a paycheck home? He told me we’d have to wait at least a week because the owner’s wife (who was the bookkeeper) was on vacation—in Australia! There was no money to pay the employees, but there was money for a trip to another hemisphere?

That, I believe, was the first time Tom really saw me completely lose my temper!

I think Tom worked for that company for another year or so. As is always the case, hindsight is 20/20, and we are able to look back and appreciate those really tough financial struggles. They bonded us and taught us that money really does NOT buy happiness.

Oh, and we learned to do our homework about a company before taking a job with them!

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing that people can treat others the way they do. I'm glad they are in your past!