Underwater welding pays good money, but you won’t be making six figures straight out of underwater welding school. Even if you achieve this income, you’ll need a plan in place to handle your expenses.
Your expenses can vary depending on if you work inland or offshore, so I’ll notate the categories that are location-specific. Underwater welders can rack up a significant amount of expenses if they choose not to keep track of their income. And the last thing you need are money troubles in a high-stress environment.
Underwater Welder Expenses
- Small diving/welding equipment repairs (if you own it)
- Debts (mortgage, underwater welding school, vehicle)
- Stimulants – Coffee, energy drinks, candy
- Travel expenses during breaks (souvenirs, train rides, etc.)*
- Food (offshore welder-divers eat catered food)**
- Gas, car expenses**
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good indicator of where the bulk of your expenses will go. Underwater welders who work inland have the same general expenses as any average Joe since they go to and from work daily.
This is one expense that I wanted to list separately due to its high importance in the diving world. Underwater welders face a lot of stress and pressure to perform. Rigorous safety standards, anal managers, dangerous working environments, low underwater visibility and intense loneliness can make a sane man go over the edge. It’s not a question of if, it’s what stress outlet you will choose.
Some stress relievers are more expensive than others, you may have to say no to those your friends are choosing. Heavy drinking, smoking and gambling are a detriment to your wallet and your job. Here’s a few of the most beneficial investments:
- Gym (as if you don’t get enough exercise)
- Video games (small doses)
- Fishing/Hunting (you know exactly where the fish live)
Cash Pool: Goals and Strategies to Financial Success
The Internet has a billion and one ways to save money, but I stick with the old-fashioned principles of Dave Ramsey. I’ll reiterate some of his principles below with minor modifications for welder-divers. He focuses on:
- Freedom from debt
- Budgeting simply
- Hard work
Saving for a Snowy Day
If you work offshore, you’ll probably face the challenge of saving for the off-season (usually between December and May). If you work inland, you’ll receive a steady paycheck, but life will hit you with unexpected expenses. Either way, you need an emergency fund.
1. Emergency Fund: Begin by saving – I recommend at least $2,000, but $1,000 is the minimum. Put it in your savings account and don’t touch it.
2. Pound Debt into Submission: If you have debt, it’s eating away at your thoughts and your freedom. Pick one loan that’s hurting you most (the higher the interest rate, the more it’s hurting you) and pay it off as quickly as possible. Also, set up automatic payments with your bills so you don’t forget them.
3. 3 Months (inland) or 9 months living expenses (offshore): Once you’ve paid off your loans, you can begin serious long-term financial planning in the “saving” realm. As mentioned above, offshore work is normally seasonal, so you’ll need more to get you by when work’s not available.
Once you’ve achieved step three, you’ll be able to settle into a more comfortable spending pattern. It’s important to set a monthly budget so that you can give a name to every coming in and out of your bank account. In addition, find a trusted accountability partner that can smack you over the head when you go over your budget. This may be a fellow diver, spouse or sibling.
Saving accounts bring in a bit of interest, but only enough to tide you over for a while. Eventually, you’ll want to make bigger investments with your leftover dough.
Side Business: Be it welding art, boat repair or pipework, you can invest in your own talents with a company of your own. You can operate it on your own time frame and work as little or as much as you desire. This is especially beneficial for offshore underwater welders.
Coding Certification: If you have the training, then pay for the certification. It’s more than a just a feather in your hat – it’s job security and income opportunity.
Company Investment: If you’re working for a larger company offshore like BP or Exxon, you’ll see firsthand how well they treat their employees and resources. Ask yourself: Is this a company worth investing in? If so, see if you can receive a discount as an employee.
Stocks/Bonds: Begin with a low-risk mutual fund, and add diversity with select stocks and bonds. If you’re working in another country, you have the opportunity to invest internationally and take advantage of higher interest rates. Check with your accountant first before you do this, though, since you may get taxed out the wazoo.
401k/IRA: Your maritime business may offer retirement investments for you. If so, take advantage (especially if they provide company matching).
Generosity Pays Back
I’ve warned my readers about the dangers of getting into underwater welding for the sole purpose of earning money. If you’re that greedy, find a job that has a bigger payoff and less bodily risk. During every stage of your diving career, it’s important to be generous with your finances.
As an underwater welder, your biggest asset isn’t your skills, it’s your coworkers and friends. They’re looking out for you – in and out of the water. As you give back to them, you’ll be rewarded with a stable, professional network and emotional stability.
- Buy a round of drinks for your team after work
- Pay for lunch with your boss
- Purchase a gift certificate for a coworker on their birthday
- Acquire a tool to make life easier for on a group project (if the company allows it)
Diver Financial Management Tools
I don’t want to leave you empty-handed, so here’s some of the best tools I’ve used to keep track and manage my finances. I hope they help you as a welder-diver.
Mint: The best online budget service available. Add all of your financial accounts (including loans), and set up your budget. Mint automatically categorizes and organizes your expenses and income.
Dave Ramsey’s Budget Forms: If you’re a “paper-and-pencil” person, or you just need help giving every dollar a name, these forms are perfect. Divers have a lot of work and little time – spend the time on numbers, not categories.
My Check Free: Pay all your e-bills in one location. Perfect for those times when you’re stuck offshore somewhere (as long as you have Wi-Fi).
Cost of Living Calculator: If you’re planning a big move to the coast or just an extended visit, you’ll need to figure out how much you can afford.
The Motley Fool: If you’re to the point of long-term investing, The Motley Fool has a plethora of advice on stocks, bonds, interest, and just about everything else.
Welder’s Buyer Guide: An overview of hundreds of welding companies that can give you the best bang for your buck. Trust me, there’s not just three or four companies out there supplying welders.
Commercial Diver’s Buyers Guide: And here’s the diver’s equivalent for your equipment needs. Similar to the Welder’s Buyer Guide, I would use this as a starting point, not a comprehensive resource.
What tools do you use? Share in the comments below!