Work: How much do you really earn?

You work to make money, but after you've forked out for travel, tights and lashings of cappuccino, just how much is left? The answer may surprise you, says HESTER LACEY
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Work is not just about salary cheques. Having a career involves paying out. Begin a list of the price you have to pay for earning your living and it will stretch out endlessly. Start with train or bus or Tube tickets, or petrol money and parking fees to get you into work in the first place. Then there are suits, shirts, shoes, briefcases, handbags so that you look the part. Childminders, nannies, cleaners and gardeners keep things going at home while you are out earning the money to pay them. And on top of these are a host of other incidental costs: ready meals because there's no time to peel potatoes; buckets of trendy cappuccino to get you going in the morning; massage and aromatherapy to wind you down at the end of the day. It's a wonder anyone can actually afford to go to the office.

Even the highest in the land are not exempt. Tony Blair has to spend from his own pocket for many Downing Street functions because of strict rules on spending taxpayers' money on entertaining, while Cherie has run through an alleged fortune on improving her image: designer clothes and a personal hairdresser who travels with her on high-profile trips. To this list she will now have to add a whole new wardrobe of maternity gear. Both of the Blairs (his salary is pounds 109,768, hers has reputedly hit pounds 250,000 in the past) hastily denied griping about forking out, after receiving a distinctly unsympathetic response. Because paying to work is something that we all do.

"I spend a lot of money on doing my job, but it's not just money, it's time," says Anna, in her 30s, who works in marketing. "I have to achieve the right look, I can't wear the same outfit two days running or even in the same week, and I have to look up-to-date. I can't dress at Marks & Spencer. It's no good me telling clients I can market their products to young people if I look tired and down-at-heel. I have to pay out, yes, but what I'm really paying for is my clients' confidence in me."

Rachel Lally's priorities are rather different. Rachel, 31, works for the Maternity Alliance, a charity that campaigns for working mothers. She has two children, aged eight and 10, and is a single mother. "I have a lovely childminder who I pay by the hour," she says. "She picks the children up from school and looks after them. But a quarter of my income, sometimes nearer a third, goes on chidcare. My options are grim all round; I can claim income support, or take a different job that doesn't take me far from home so I don't need childcare, or I can go out and work and pay for it financially and emotionally."

Rachel's situation won't change for the next five years or so. "I think the children need to be 12 or 13 to be home on their own for three hours after school," she says. "I am permanently skint."

Khalid Aziz, 46, chair of The Aziz Corporation, which specialises in media and presentation skills, trains others in keeping their image up to the mark, and he practises what he preaches. "It's increasingly important to look the part," he says. "It only takes 30 seconds from meeting you for someone to have made up their mind what you are like, and that all stems from appearance." Some costs, though, he feels are over-inflated. "We are exhorted to use public transport but it is extremely expensive, and there is no market force operating to keep prices down - in fact it is getting more expensive. It used to be that if you travelled first class at off-peak times there were reduced fares, but not any more." But in the main he is resigned to forking out. "You have to do what you have to do."

Rufus Olins, the editor of Management Today magazine, believes that staff have a good idea of how much working will cost them and that they should budget accordingly. "Incidental costs are something that everyone needs to take into account when they take on a job or career," he says. "If you need to look presentable then you know you will have to spend on your wardrobe." British workers, he says, actually escape lightly compared to their European counterparts. "There are different attitudes in different countries and in France and Italy they spend more time and money on their appearance than we do here."

Mr Olins is sympathetic to the pressures on working parents. "This is not an issue to do with vanity but to do with necessity. You can end up spending the majority of your salary on childcare. It's a very serious issue: people who want to work to keep their career developing while their children are young can end up virtually working for nothing just to stay in the game." But in general, he thinks we should be prepared to put a reasonably cheerful face on forking out. "Lots of the things that are part of the cost of working are things that people actually enjoy. The division is blurred: for example that cappuccino and croissant for breakfast on the way in are delicious, but your employer isn't obliging you to eat them."

Also, adds Rufus Olins optimistically, if you can get high enough up the ladder you can ditch at least some of the costs of going to work. "A recent issue of Vanity Fair magazine featured the most powerful people in the new economy, people like Bill Gates and the founders of Yahoo," he says. Become a real power-broker and you can dress and behave as you damn well like and you don't have to waste a penny of your fortune trying to impress anyone else.

KHALID AZIZ

A SPECIALIST in media and presentation skills, Khalid Aziz, 46, is chairman of The Aziz Corporation (tel: 01962 774766). He lives in Micheldever, Hampshire. His latest book, Presenting to Win! will be published on 1 January. A typical week for Khalid:

Petrol: pounds 80.75

Average for three first class return train tickets to London: pounds 142.20

Parking in London: up to pounds 35 a day

Tubes and taxis: around pounds 175

Lunches: Pret a Manger sushi at around pounds 5 per time, coffees at pounds 1.50 each or, if entertaining, pounds 40-pounds 70 for lunch for two

Haircut: pounds 21 (monthly)

Books: pounds 15-pounds 45

TOTAL: around pounds 500

Khalid says: "I found the act of jotting everything down is really quite frightening; I've realised that when I have to travel to London, which is around three times a week, it can cost me anything up to pounds 150 a day just to be in the city. I travel first class because I work on the train." He has other expenses too, as well as the basic weeklies: "Looking smart is a must. Shirts come from Hilditch & Key at pounds 48 each and are replaced frequently. Ties cost at least pounds 25 and sometimes more, and most will take one trip to the dry-cleaners before they are thrown out. When it comes to suits, you have to buy quality. That means tailors such as Gieves and Hawkes and never less than pounds 500 per suit."

NINA RICHARDS

BUSINESS WOMAN, Nina Richards, 33, runs her own PR agency, Wizard (tel: 0171 491 7300), which specialises in beauty, home and lifestyle products. It's important for her to maintain a smart appearance. Nina, who lives in London, kept a financial diary for a week:

Petrol: pounds 4.80

Taxis: pounds 80

Entertaining: around pounds 180

Tights: pounds 40

Dry cleaning: pounds 30

Clothes: averages at pounds 150, plus around pounds 40 on accessories.

Make-up/skincare etc: nothing! I use my clients' products

Sundries: bits and pieces from cappuccino to cotton wool pounds 25

Hair: would be pounds 100 for regular blowdrying, but get complimentary deal with one of my clients

Massage: pounds 45

Flowers: pounds 25

TOTAL: pounds 694.80

Nina says: "All these really are essentials, and I actually think that I spend less than many people who work in the same field as me. Having said that, I was surprised when I totalled everything up. I can't believe the amount I spend on tights. In my opinion the government should pay for tights. I suppose I don't begrudge what I spend; in a way, the fact that it's all for work is a good excuse! But I think men have a much easier time than women when it comes to looking good. All they have to do is wear the same suit a thousand times with a different tie. It does seem rather unfair."

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