September 21, 2014 0 Comments Experience Working in Alberta's Oilfield, Thoughts and Feelings Working in Alberta

Financial and Work Instability; Make good money one day, lose it the next

When people think of high-paying work, especially that of the oil and gas industry or construction here in Alberta, it is true that you make good money, but the catch is you’ll make it only when you’re working. There are numerous drivers of this instability, such as industry activity, the amount of work your company has arranged, weather, your coworkers, personal health, and a few others.

My income ever since moving here has fluctuated widely. I’ve seen paycheques all the way from around $400 to $4000 (after taxes). Over the course of the year it is still better than in many places, but planning your life and finances around such inconsistency is a pain- and the main reason many people come here, make money, but end up broke. It is also not uncommon to hear people say they made gold in one area one winter and peanuts in the other. One should not worry so much about hourly wages, but rather the hours of work one receives, as that is of much more critical importance. One making only $25/hour can make $12,000 through a good busy month.

This past August I made roughly $7900. For this month (September) I estimate $4000-5000. April – July I averaged around $4500-5000 a month… October will be very questionable depending on when winter hits, and then I anticipate a waiting period before I transition into the oilfield again as the seasonal layoff occurs. I’ll incur heavy financial losses depending on how long this period is… and this is how many people lose money in the inconsistency- incurring costs during time of no work, wiping out savings collected during the busy times.

Perhaps my own personal worry is having my timeline pushed back admist the instability. As previously mentioned in my posts, I originally told myself to be in a condo, Porsche, and completed education by the time I was 22-23 (1-2 years from now). While this is theoretically possible, it is very easy to fail if I am not careful with my money… I can make good money, but too many wrong moves and I won’t see it again. Finances aside, there are many other ways to lose money:

(1) sexual frustrations and lack of love

Women are a rarity out in the field, and online dating sites are clustered with ones who just want attention and waste time. Working 12+ hour days sometimes for weeks straight makes it extremely difficult to meet anyone, especially being new in the province and in town. Drinking makes it somewhat easier to meet someone, but the random making out with girls in the bars is only for fun and hardly ever gets anywhere. Even if you do meet someone to grow a like for, there are few women who have the discipline to keep their hearts for you and not another man while you are away.

(2)  loneliness

Though I am biased because I come from a cultural background that shames on blue-collar work even if it does have better job prospects and money, a common issue is being isolated from family. It is difficult to keep friends and good acquientences you meet throughout your travels; many just don’t want to remain in touch. People come and go all the time. A social divide gradually occurs those who’ve made money and those still sitting at home, and even if you try to reach out and help, they still refuse to work or keep in touch.

(3) drugs

This is mostly self-explanatory, but given the stress and emotional distress we go through, many fall to hard drugs to cope…

Perhaps my greatest concern is having my personal timeline pushed back. When I was 17, I wanted my university degree by the time I was 19. I fell one year behind schedule, and eventually became trapped in Alberta after making the mistake of venturing into Fort McMurray unarmed (i.e. with no trade and no work pre-arranged). I since then have recovered such financial losses incurred while wasting my time up there. Then I wanted to be in a property, Porsche, and completed education by the time I was 22-23. While there is still time to reach this objective, it is heavily dependent on myself making the correct decisions. The most critical one at this time would to go find the right work for this winter, working 300-400 hours a month and collecting as much money as possible and investing it. It is theoretically possible to make 70-80 grand over a winter if one keeps busy enough. Then sometime late next year I do not see a reason the house and nice car should be unachievable, providing I also remain emotionally steady.

And then there’s the fear of being trapped forever and just be spinning my wheels. I could be young- 25 and driving a nice R8 or Lambo cursing down downtown Vancouver near the water through a sunset, or I could just end up uneducated/no trade and broke.