We talk a lot about saving money, but there's another big way to improve your personal finances: Make more money. Working a second job can be a good way to do that, and a new study finds workers with two jobs perform just as well as colleagues with one job.
But moonlighting comes at the expense of personal and family time, the study published in the Journal of Business and Psychology finds. The study, led by Brian Webster, an assistant professor of management at Ball State University, looked at the job performance and engagement of a sample of bartenders and teachers who moonlighted in a range of jobs.
Webster believes successful moonlighters understand their employers expect them to be focused at work.
"There seems to be that recognition that if I'm at work and I'm doing this, I'm going to perform adequately," he said.
If people can't perform, they leave. Webster noted the study didn't look at people who used to moonlight, but stopped.
This is good news for employers, who can count on their workers being focused, but that extra time and energy has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere tends to be family, the study finds. Only about 4.9% of workers have multiple jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but over the course of a lifetime, many people could find themselves moonlighting, Webster said.
So how can moonlighters find a healthy balance?
How moonlighting affects you
People moonlight for two reasons, Webster said: To make more money or to do something they enjoy, like an accountant teaching a class on weekends. Warren Robbins, senior sales associate for Policygenius, found himself needing to do the former in 2015, when he took a job as a bartender while working full-time at a health insurance company.
Robbins had just learned his partner, now his wife, was pregnant. The pregnancy wasn't planned, and the two decided they needed more money.
His solution was to take a second job. Robbins worked 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at his day job and took on two overnight shifts at a bar, from Saturday night into Sunday and Sunday night into Monday at 4 a.m.
"My sleep schedule was all messed up," he said.
The beginning of the week was tough, Robbins said. He would sleep all day Sunday after getting off work early that morning, work a night shift at the bar and then get to the office on maybe four hours of sleep.
His focus and drive at work suffered. So did his personal life.
"It was tough," Robbins said. "I never saw my wife, and if I did, it was after work on a weekday. We never got to spend quality time."
The only moments he could take for himself were during closing time, when he would pour himself a Guinness, lock the door and count the money as the sun rose.
How to find balance
Moonlighting can be stressful, but there are ways to make it better, said Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Mental Health America. The first is to get enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation can take a toll on your mental and physical health, he said.
Also, take time each day to rest and recharge to relieve any stress from work.
"It's free to sit back for 15 minutes and just rest," Gionfriddo said. "It's free to spend 20 minutes and take a walk."
Find even a short amount of time for something you want to do, whether it's family or a hobby, as a break from people telling you what to do, he said. If work becomes life and life becomes work, you can lose sight of who you are and who you want to be.
It's important to be able to say why you're working so hard, whether it's to save for a trip, or support your family or retire early, he said.
"If you lose purpose in what you're doing, then you're in a real downward spiral that can lead to some real serious mental health problems," Gionfriddo said.
You may not notice the signs of a problem, he said. You don't necessarily have to feel suicidal to be clinically depressed.
If you feel excessively tired, or your eating habits suffer, those could be signs your mental health is suffering, Gionfriddo said.
"A lot of these things happen on a continuum," he said. "It's not that one day I have depression and the day before I didn't."
The Mental Health America website has free and anonymous screening tools that can tell you whether it's likely you have a mental health condition like depression or anxiety. The tools also offer more information on mental health conditions, referrals to services, self-help tools and engagement with other people who may have the same condition.
If you do have a diagnosable condition, the law offers protections against being fired or disciplined for that condition, Gionfriddo said.
"There's no shame in having a mental health condition or concern, even a diagnosed one," he said. "In fact, the sooner you seek help for it if you think you need help, the quicker your recovery and the more likely your recovery is going to be."
Before moonlighting, you may want to talk to your boss to see if your current schedule can bend enough to take on a second job, Webster said, or try to find a second job flexible enough that it won't strain your existing schedule too much. You may also want to look for a second job that complements your existing job.
"If you enjoy what you do, the two jobs might benefit or contribute to each other in some way," he said.
Robbins only moonlighted for three months. The birth of his son made his second job impossible. He wouldn't moonlight again, given the choice.
"It was this period where you would get revived just to get depleted again," he said. "I would never do that again."
A second job isn't the only way to boost your savings. Try making these small changes.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact them online.