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One “perk” that many law enforcement families see to the job is getting overtime which equals more each month. We all know that law enforcement officers aren’t paid their worth, so one way to offset that pay and bring in extra money each month is by working some overtime.
Overtime for law enforcement is NOT always a bad thing but overtime can truly suck you in if you let it (or your spouse let’s it).
It is so easy to say “oh we need an extra $300/month, no problem, I’ll just work a little overtime each week.” We have ALL been there.
But there can be some problems with always working overtime as a law enforcement officer and we cover those top reasons in today’s episode. Plus, one reason TO take overtime.
Problems with Overtime for Law Enforcement Officers:
First, let’s talk about the difference between scheduled overtime vs. unscheduled.
Unscheduled is when a police officer has to stay late or past their shift hours because they are tied up. They can’t just walk away from an arrest because their shift time is over. They have to complete any work they are in the middle of. I am not talking about unscheduled overtime in today’s episode.
Instead, we are talking about scheduled overtime where an officer is planning to stay at work an extra few hours, or planning to take on extra shifts or extra details.
Problem #1: The cycle of always needing more money.
It can seem great when you want to buy a new toy or big object and need only a little extra money per month to pay for it. But what if you have to pay for that object monthly for 5 years or 7 years?
It seems “easy” until you feel trapped into always having to work overtime to keep up with your spending.
Problem #2: Time away from your family.
Working more means being with your family less. Is your family okay with this? Have you had these conversations about constant overtime and less time together?
A lot of spouses can begin to have resentment of the job because all the load of home chores, kids, animals, etc are now on the spouse because the officer is working too much. Don’t let overtime cause other issues in your family because you are never together.
Problem #3: Having little to no boundaries.
If you are used to always saying “yes” to working more and never say “no” then people will expect this of you. You need to have boundaries as to how often you are willing to work overtime. If you and your family agree to one overtime shift per week then don’t go beyond that and be sure to say “no” when work asks.
The expectation will always be there that you will just pick up another shift or be the one available to work that extra detail if you don’t have boundaries in place.
Problem #4: The emotional and mental load=exhaustion.
If you (or your spouse) are constantly working then there is little to no time for decompression.
Decompression is VITAL for police officers. They need time to rest, sleep, process what they’ve seen on the job and do things AWAY from the job. If they are constantly working then they are not getting that.
It will create a heavy load which will lead to exhaustion and eventually burn out of the job. Is working constant overtime worth it?
Now I will say, many departments are short staffed and officers are already having to work more than usual. So if they have a choice, why choose to continue to work more and more?
The 1 Reason TO Take Overtime for Law Enforcement Officers
If you and your family or spouse CHOOSE to take overtime, then have a GOAL in mind, then I think overtime is okay. If it is to buy sparky objects or keep up with the Joneses ALL THE TIME, then that is the wrong reason and you probably need to re-evaluate your budget or spending.
But if you decide to have a GOAL to pay something off or need to save for something and it is TEMPORARY then I think working overtime is okay to do this. If you know exactly how much overtime you (or your spouse) needs to work in order to meet that goal and for how long, then I think it is okay to schedule planned overtime.
But if at any point, the officer is becoming burned out, tired, etc from too much overtime, then stop and have a conversation on how to re-evaluate.
If you need money-saving tips as a law enforcement family, be sure to check out this episode from Courtney at Heroes Financial Coaching.
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