I thought I had won the lottery when in 1989 I got my first full-time radio job as a News Anchor/Reporter at 1460 CJOY and CKLA 106.1 in Guelph, Ontario.
At a yearly salary of $15,000 I thought I was loaded, so I made a plan of how I was going to spend my winnings.
This was the most money I had ever made and I was ready to use that chunk of cash to make some purchases I needed after spending three years in jeans as a college student.
- Two pairs of pants from one of my favourite stores Kettle Creek
- Two Polo-N.Y shirts
- Two pairs of shoes
This line up of clothing would surely dress me for success.
2. Magazine Subscriptions
- Psychology Today
- Saturday Night
These magazines, along with a subscription to my local newspaper, would keep me informed, help my news writing and possibly offer some ideas that I could localize for a news story.
3. Pay T.V.
The television universe was expanding in Ontario beyond 30 channels and viewers had to pay for it. Along with CBC TV, the big three American networks and the new very cool all news American channel CNN, I would keep in touch with what was going on in the world.
4. Blank normal bias 90 minute cassette tapes
The cassettes would be recorded to air check my sound, and to collect the best stories and newscasts to send to other radio stations for possible work.
5. A telephone
I can’t remember what kind of a phone I was looking for. It would have been a landline because mobile phones were not in my world at this point.
6. Music lessons
I wanted to be like Jack Benny and play the clarinet.
Then reality set in
Math and finances were never my strong point and I didn’t realize that after taxes were taken off my paycheque I wouldn’t be left with much.
Doing the math, 15,000 x 26 pays a year works out to an average of about $526 a pay. When you factored in taxes it worked out to around $450. If you want to break it down even further, it worked out to $5.60 an hour.
The average yearly salary in Canada in 1989 was about $24,000 so I was already way below the average.
I was living out a saying I had heard, ‘the only thing I could do with my take home pay, was take it home.’
After coming to terms with my wants and needs I made another list. This one reflected the priorities of a married third year college student who had gotten into the housing market.
- Mortgage on a house
- No music lessons.
- I didn’t buy the phone I was looking for.
- I bought cassettes when they were on special and I needed them. I also re-used old ones and found scrap ones at the radio station.
- I decided to buy the occasional magazine when I saw a good one.
- I started saving for my khakis and polos and waited for sales.
- Regular cable would have to do. I could listen to CNN from the scrambled channel.
2. Second car
- We were working different shifts and needed two cars.
- Money went to car payments, gas, insurance and maintenance.
3. House repairs
- We needed a new kitchen floor and appliances.
We were told at school that going into this business there wasn’t a lot of money to be made.
That became evident early on while driving into work for my overnight part-time deejay shift. An Arby’s fast food location advertised that they were hiring. The pay was $4.50 an hour. I was making $4.00 an hour at my overnight deejay shift with dreams of stardom at a major market radio station.
Dreams don’t pay more
I would later leave the CJOY/CKLA job after finding another job that paid two thousand dollars more, was Monday to Friday and a news anchor position.
A job that was a one hour commute from home.
Before saying yes I never considered the drain a two hour commute would have on mind and body. Also, I never added up the wear and tear on the car, which probably ate up the increase of my new salary.
Passionate? Crazy? Bit of both?
Would I do it again? Of course!