FIFO work comes at a heavy cost, away from your family for weeks on end missing Christmas and birthdays, working 12.5 hour days in 45-degree heat, 130 decibel noise, dust, constant danger around machinery, the loneliness – there are times the income hardly seems worth it.
Still, there is not much sympathy for FIFO workers, plagued by stereotypes, expectations, occupational and societal pressures, not to mention the advice givers – often those who’ve never walked a mile in your shoes.
For the FIFO workers who’ve made mistakes, it’s never what someone sets out to do – being on a great income doesn’t make someone a financial expert.
Most FIFO workers I know started out with hopes and dreams, they weren’t going to get caught up in it, they were there to set themselves up…
- They knew they may never earn money like this again
- They were going to make the most of the opportunity
- They would stay grounded
- They accept it’s a means to an end
- They’re not going back to a 9 – 5 job after this, this will put them into a business or early retirement.
However, managing expectations, coupled with occupational pressures, can jeopardise the best of intentions.
I know FIFO workers who’ve made the most of it, others that didn’t and many more still in the fray.
- The social pressures come in all forms, to do the right thing or to do whatever the hell you want because it’s your money and you work bloody hard for it.
- For those with families, wanting the best for them can be a double-edged sword, we see FIFO families become accustomed to a high standard of living and find it difficult to give it away, even if the partner working FIFO wants to.
- Redundancies are a constant concern, with the gap between jobs uncertain and equivalent earnings not guaranteed. For older FIFO workers who could struggle to find new employment, the gap before super is accessible (currently 60) can be 5 to 10 years.
Then there’s the financial realities of earning a high income – a high percentage lost to tax, access to high borrowings (which need to be balanced against future income certainty), to invest or not, personal insurances, estate planning – and with limited downtime, hectic timetables and physical exhaustion, who has the energy to invest in structuring finances.
Forgetting the pressures for a moment, the defining difference between the FIFO workers that make the most of it, and the ones that don’t, is whether they fall into the trap of thinking the situation is normal.
According to Nicole Ashby, Director of FIFO Families Pty Ltd “We are very passionate about saying to people this may not be a long-term thing, make the most of it, make sure you speak to a financial advisor, talk to your partner, set goals, and be realistic about it”
It’s a problem that impacts more than FIFO workers, Australians struggle to take the necessary steps today so they can reap the rewards in years to come.
However, planning for tomorrow needs to be a priority for those working in cyclic sectors such as mining and resources, where salaries treble or quadruple during the glorious peaks, and workforces half when it slows.
While there are challenges that face FIFO workers, anyone in any industry who can earn three-to-four times the average Australian income has an incredible opportunity to achieve in 4 to 7 years, what can take the average Australian decades (if at all).
…and if you are a FIFO worker, you have this incredible opportunity.
Yes, it means shouldering the challenges and pressures of FIFO work, but if you can, and have the strength and discipline to remain focused on tomorrow, life after FIFO can be an incredible one.
My FIFO experience centres around the workers I have had the pleasure of advising. According to my clients the greatest benefit they gain, outside of the financial gains, is the confidence from having their goals defined and clear expectations set for achieving them.