My Friend Just Got Offered 290k To Work In Iraq – Would You?

Plonkee inspired me the other day in writing “would you move for a lower cost of living? to craft up an “other side of the coin” post to ponder – How much would it cost for YOU to move to a war torn area for a year in search of big bucks?

A Tough Decision

My friend was making a decent 60k to do his I.T. job here in the states and was contacted by the Department of Defense to do the exact same job for $290,000, but the caveat was clearly that it was in Iraq.

It is/was an interesting situation to be in for sure.  The lure of 290k certainly has its justification, but at what price I thought.

I know we have soldiers over there doing it for much less in much more dangerous locations; yea, I wondered the same thing, how is there a “safe” spot to be in Iraq I thought.

That’s like saying there are some spots in the ocean that are wetter than the rest.  I’d be un-nerved either way. I have a TON of respect for our troops over there!

But as this relates to a financial situation I had to ask him about what his wife and kids thought of the situation.  I can tell you plain and simple that his wife didn’t like it.  She didn’t like it one bit.

I think that I am good at seeing both sides of the coin though:

Her Point

He has 3 kids and a wife to worry about at home.  I don’t recall if he said she is working now or not, but let us just assume that she isn’t for now.

At 290k she could probably afford to stay home if she wanted to, but clearly that’s not her concern.  He’s got a family to provide for and without him around in a worse case scenario there really isn’t a dollar value you can put on his replacement.

Furthermore, I’ve done the long-distance relationship thing and that doesn’t work. She’s mentioned that also. A year apart from your loved ones can really wear on you and can’t be predetermined what the end result will be.

His Point

He came from a company that recently went bankrupt.  He completely lost his retirement account to which he had 100k+ saved up.  He is 38 years old and has nothing to show for it.

He’s squeaking by on 60k a year in Seattle with a wife that isn’t working and 3 growing kids and doesn’t see a light at the end of any tunnels.  He’s got to start fresh and that’s a lot of bank to come up on.

His kids are starting middle and high school and eventually will have to get into college.  He wants to be able to pay for their college, and with nothing left for him afterwards, he’s looking out for his wife and himself.

One year there and he could be back to what he lost in his retirement account.  He’s pushing 40 now and the idea itself carries some weight, but I’m lost honestly.

I haven’t been put into that position to need to make that type of decision.  Right now, where I’m at currently, I can’t see going, even for that kind of $.  My wife and kids need me and even though I’ve got  a pretty decent insurance policy I just couldn’t do it.

My days would likely be spent 18 hours on the job and back to my re-enforced bunker to hide out until I went back to work.  Wouldn’t I?  Would it be that bad?  I don’t know.

I suppose I’d need some more info on the setup, but from what I’ve seen and heard there isn’t a lot of downtime or sight seeing.

You’d Be Helping Your Country

Yes, I buy that.  I would be and that would make me proud but it comes down to options. I have the option to move or not to move.  I have no clue about anything in regards to firearms or warzone tactics.  Is that risk worth taking?

I’m sure I could be trained and they likely would put me through a civilian “boot camp” of sorts, but still, the guys that are over there now are very well trained, I’d just be mediocrely trained.


It’s high risk for sure – especially not knowing what you’re getting in to, but money can make you do some very risky things, including putting your life on the line. What is your break point?

I can’t see myself bending for much more than $1MIL right now, but hell, even at that price I’d have my doubts.  Until it was actually put in front of me, I couldn’t actually wrap my head around it.

I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried to wrap my head around it and what the pros and cons are, but am still coming up empty.

What are your thoughts?  What would be your tipping point to considering heading to Iraq for a year without your family?

What would be enough to make you comfortable in doing so? Would your significant agree with you?


So I’ve gotten a handful of emails and comments in this section asking where to sign up for jobs like this and there are plenty of places to look for a job there – Google turns up a few:

Hope that helps those of you interested!

photos by: soldiersmediacenter

Filed Under: adviceCompensation


  • Well, I might do it for the fun of going to a foreign country, especially if it was a job that I essentially already do. But not many women or non-Americans are going to get contracts in Iraq. $290k is a lot of money, it basically implies that either the job is hard or that the conditions are rubbish. I think that if you didn’t get to experience any of the local society it would lose it’s appeal for me, naturally I’d prefer to avoid kidnapping and the like, particularly as I know that the British government never negotiates.

    plonkee’s last blog prices and growth

  • I have a son-in-law who was in Iraq for well over a year in the Army so I have heard first-hand accounts of what has happened.

    If this were my decision to make I would probably say yes, and my wife would go along. We have a very strong relationship, and even now I go away for months at a time. Depending on the strength of your relationship with your spouse it can work.

    Safety, well, that’s an interesting one. We have cities in the US that have more crime and conditions that are just as bad. Look at DC, Camden, NJ, it’s just as bad here in some places as over there. My perspective on death is that it’s not under my control. When it’s time to go, it’s time to go. You can die walking across the street.

    Children will defintely be affected, so it’s important to stay in touch via phone, video call, and the trip home if allowed.

    You will be making a huge sacrifice but the rewards can easily outway that, especially if you manage the money your earn wisely.

    Just my two cents.

    Money Intellect’s last blog post..What Can Willie Wonka Teach Us About Personal Finance?

  • Heck no! My brother-in-law just got offered the same thing. He is a petroleum engineer for Shell. Dude, he would prefer the lesser amount and stay with his family and friends without the risk of meeting the reaper!


  • A huge sacrifice for sure. To me it would be committing sucide! Those contractors over there are targets. They are not trained like the military, they are unarmed. YES THE MONEY IS GOOD IF YOU MAKE IT OUT ALIVE. My husband was sent over there(national guard)and its not pretty! My son now reserves comtiplated doing that sort of thing you friend is wanting to do(he served in full time army in Afganistan)but since has changed his mind, thank god!
    Can’t survive on $60,000 a year, I’m sorry I raised 4 kids on ALOT less than that! Move somewhere in the states where the cost of living isn’t so outragous!!
    There that was my opinion

  • Man… what a tough scenario……. it’d be hard to leave my wife for that long.

    Good post Hank.

    Kevin’s last blog post..Apple: 3 Million iPhones Sold In A Month, 60 Million Apps Sold

  • Hank, great post man. I would say if you had asked me that question a few years ago before I had a family I would say ‘Yes’ without a doubt. With a wife and baby on the way its a lot muddier of waters. Ive always had a certain amount of regret that I didnt enlist in the military for at least a while because I am a strong believer in it…and working for the government over there would be a way to help. As it is, I couldn’t leave my family, even for the money.

    Jesse’s last blog post..To SUV or not to SUV, that is the (cliche) question

  • Andrew

    I’m not married, so that part doesn’t factor into the equation for me, but for $290K I would go to Iraq for a year in a heart beat. It’s probably not taxed either since you’re in a war zone. 1 year of s*** which will help immensely for the rest of your life. If I were 40 and with no savings I would take the job even quicker! Does he want to work until he dies of old age?

  • I would never risk my life for money. I would never allow my husband to risk his.

    Vered’s last blog post..I Am Watching You

  • My family is the most important thing in the world to me. I would never intentionally put myself in danger for money (or anything else for that matter). You only get one life (on earth that is) – I say live life, glorify God in all you do, and let money fall where it may!

    Dusty’s last blog post..Yard Sale Success – 5 Tips to Making More Money

  • Sandy

    As a financial educator, I would advise him (along with his wife) to seek help with knowning the best way to living on the money he makes and becoming educated about financial matters (because knowledge is power), and stay safe for the sake of his wife and kids. No amount of money can replace him for his family.

  • @Plonkee – the “never negotiate” clause might be enough to make me think long and hard about it. I like the cash, but also like the idea that I have someone to back me in case. However, I do understand their stance as well and can see that side of the coin also.

    @Money Intellect – I’ve known a handful of folks that have gone over and back as well. It really does have a lot to do with your relationship. I don’t see my family being as accepting even if the money was right; I do applaud your bravery. It’s a good point about the cities that have trouble as well, but I can assure you that you won’t find most people there at night.

    @Tony – Amazing what they’re offering, eh?

    @danandmarsh – I also was raised on far less than that amount. It’s amazing the cost of living differences (mainly housing) that sticks it to you in the big city. He’s got a 60 mile drive each way to work as well, so the 120 mile round trip even with the commuter van he rides eats up 2.5 hours a day at minimum. It’s hard to find 60k doing the same thing in a lower cost of living area though.

    @Kevin – thanks for the comment, indeed tough.

    @Jesse – Absolutely a different scenario. I had the same idea back in 2003 – when my first child was on the way it really does muddy the waters on what you WANT to do and what you SHOULD be doing. Who’s right? In the eye of the beholder I reckon…

    @Andrew – I applaud your bravery as well! Yes, 290k is likely not taxed and you’ve probably got all the room/board over there paid for so it is likely in your pocket $ as well (as long as you have a pocket to put it in when/if you return)!

    @Vered – There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a free country after all. 🙂

    @Dusty – It’s a hard road to tow for sure and that’s part of the exercise I was trying to put myself through. IS there any number? A million? A billion? It’s tough to say until you’re actually put in that position.

    @Sandy – Thanks for stopping by – I agree that he should look at maximizing the $ that he has, maybe look for work closer to home, put his time and money to better use, but again, it’s a scenario that I wouldn’t have a solid answer to unless I were faced with it.

  • HIB

    It certainly depends on your current situation. I entertain the thought of moving over there if I was single. With a wife and 3 kids, taking a job in Iraq for a year is a really tough decision. I think I would consider moving to a less expensive city first, but that’s my opinion.

    HIB’s last blog post..Cool Links for Week of August 11th

  • It wouldn’t be worth it to me. I can make more money, not more time.

    Writer Dad’s last blog post..Here is a Macbook, Go Make Your Million.

  • Hi Hank

    I’m not sure their is any amount of money that would make it worth my while to risk my life in this way (I have 3 kids and a wife to think of). I think this is a single person’s job.

    If he’s considering being away from his family for a whole year why not thow all his spare time into developing some kind of internet-based income (blogging, niche marketing, whatever). If he has a background in IT and could devote a good chunk of time each day to it he should be able to make a difference to his income over a year.

    Trying to do two jobs at once is difficult but at least he would be home with his wife and family (you can take a weekend off from internet marketing but it’s a bit harder if you’re in Iraq). Also, if you make some kind of income on the internet it could carry on for a number of years or be a skill that you could apply to other business ventures/jobs.

    I have experience of taking up contract work a long way from home (although not in a war zone) and looking back I don’t think it was worth it. We spent more money because we were unhappy and it got me used to an unsustainable income (around £100,000pa). I was also getting paid just for what I knew so career development was zero.

    Having said all of that it is a difficult one, and everyone’s opinion on something like this is going to be different.


  • 290K not taxed? Sign me up.

    No seriously, send me an e-mail. I’d go in a heartbeat.

    No kids, no wife, and I love my country. and IT.

    Interested in Seattle ~


    DebtKid’s last blog post..What Am I?

  • Wow. That is really something to think about. The money would surely be tempting but with 2 small daughters at home…I just couldn’t do it. Man, if I were single I would already have been on the plane.

    Cool post and I love the blog.


  • Sandy

    TEdwards – I totally agree.

    One issue to consider even if you are single, is the effect on your parents. As someone who lost a sibling who was at the age of 37, I know what my parents went through and that is the worst pain in the world – the loss of a child – even an adult child.

  • @HiB – I’m in the same situation. Kids and wives make it exponentially more difficult to decide!

    @WriterDad – Very good point.

    @Neil – Absolutely a viable alternative. Internet income is helping me to add a few things to my budget that I hadn’t in the past for sure. I’ll run it past him.

    @DebtKid – I applaud your bravery as well (and desire for IT.) 🙂

    @T Edwards – Thanks for the props, and like the other folks on the thread, the kids at home seem to be a big reason to stay at home. Unfortunately, many of the troops over there now are in the same situation, and in tougher conditions also.

    @Sandy – I can imagine the pain also; the thought of having my kids go before me really tears me up.

  • A co-worker’s husband recently returned from a one year contract in Iraq. While it was tough on them, he had two 10 day visits home in that year. He made great money, spoke with his wife at least once every day on cell phones, and had access to email, web cams, and other means of communications with his wife and children.

    He even had a MySpace page where he posted updates and pictures. Was the job scary? Yes. But, it’s not like he falls of the face of the earth for a year.

    Momma’s last blog post..Publix – Where Shopping Is A Pleasure

  • If was young and single, the answer is simple: of course!

    For me, I’d answer heck no just as easily if I was in his shoes today. There is plenty of time to prepare his kids to take responsibility for their education. Community college and then UW tuition is very affordable. His children could easy pay their way through school if they stayed at home.

    Trading an entire year of his family’s life simply isn’t worth the 100K+ he’ll be allowed to keep after the government skims the top off of his paycheck.

    Aaron Stroud’s last blog post..The real cost of that hamburger, movie, or kid

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  • Ryan

    A friend of mine left the NYPD to go to Iraq (’04) to help train their police. His first three years was teaching basic police tactics but now teaches crime scene investigation in a class room. It’s all class room work and he works in a very secure area. He tells me it’s like working on a US military base in Germany or Japan. All earning are completely tax free.
    His salary was / is…
    Year 1 = $185,000
    Year 2 = $225,000
    Year 3 = $275,000
    Year 4 and current year pay = $315,000
    Year 5 if he chooses to renew = $380,000
    He’s 44 years old and not married. He will renew for Year 5 and hopes to get a Year 6 offer for probably mid $400s. All his living expenses are paid for over there so 99% of what he makes goes into savings. At the end of year 5 he’ll have made almost $1.4 Million.

  • Maybe if I could carry a gun……..I don’t know. That is one year of your life that you will never have back and sounds like you will be working the majority of the day with barely any leisure time?

    Maybe if I had friends to go with I would consider.

    Zombie Money’s last blog post..Zombie Free Items Wednesday! FREE Starbucks gift card!

  • @Momma – Agreed, but I feel it is a tolerance that people are born with and very difficult to actually have to learn.

    @Aaron – Rumor has it that Uncle Sam doesn’t skim off the top of Iraq service salaries, but I applaud your bravery!

    @Ryan – Wow! That’s absolutely staggering to think of that kind of $ that can be made there – but it IS tough and dangerous and it’s good to see they’re rewarding people for putting their lives on the line!

    @Zombie – I believe there are plenty of ways to inquire about work there for you and your buddies – one I came across was: – Sounds dangerous, but I applaud your bravery!

  • We really shouldn’t be afraid of going over to Iraq for work just because it’s “Iraq” or just because it’s “the middle east”. That’s just a close-minded ridiuclous approach. It’s actually a real country with real people who live their lives everyday. I would definitely consider this as it’s a move to secure a future for my family – but it depends on the location they put me in. There are plenty of “safe” areas in Iraq. Generally none of them are around US soldiers, nor around some key hot spots or big cities. But there’s a likely chance that your buddy could be placed in some region that may be quiet, residential, and potentially known for it’s beauty (hypothetically). And the tax implications make it that much more attractive.

    Here’s a thought – if you were an Iraqi-American regular guy, would you visit your family back home? OF COURSE! The whole country isn’t a war zone – just the hot spots are.

    InvestmentPlayground’s last blog post..The Benefits of Being An Entrepreneur

  • Woow, that is a tough call. If I were in his shoes, 38, no retirement, 3 kids and making $60,000 I would go. But in my shoes, nope! I am young, I am still at school and I have time to save the money.

    Orange’s last blog post..Millionaire Matchmaking

  • I couldn’t do it. That’s a lot of money, but so far away from family and friends. I guess it would probably make you really appreciate your life, family, friends, house, and everything else when you came back after a year. $290k makes you think some other “work” is involved. Does Iraq have a state tax or federal tax rate?

    Scott @ The Passive Dad’s last blog post..Alternative Income Idea: Stringing Tennis Rackets

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  • Definitely a difficult call and I feel for anyone making that tough of a decision. As for me, I can’t say any salary is worth dying for, no matter how much I was offered. Yet, I’m not in his situation.

    If Hank’s potential job doesn’t involve entering a combat unit, I could see some small justification for going.

    Either way, best of luck and let us know what you decide.

  • Don

    Hello. I am actually really interested in this type of job. I work in the IT field as well. How do you find these types of jobs? Thanks for your time!

  • fran

    If you dont go I will go in your place no problem

  • @InvestmentPlayground – very good point. We shouldn’t just go because it is “Iraq” but it is similar to any scenario where you go ANYPLACE dangerous. There are risks. I wouldn’t want to take a job in Compton, California either for similar reasons. I hear you on the cultural pieces, people are people, agreed. But the danger still exists that people take into account.

    @Orange – Indeed. Different strokes for different folks.

    @Scott – I have heard government jobs aren’t taxed, or very little, so close to the whole amount would be bagged.

    @Matt – it’s not actually me that got the offer, my buddy did – but yea, the combat zone issue would come in. I haven’t heard news on that front, but it carries a lot of weight indeed.

    @Don and @fran – there are plenty of places to look for a job there – google turns up a few:

  • Darrell

    I’m in Afghanistan, for less where can I apply for this job at!!

  • Tomas Garcia

    Im exmilitary from Spanihs forces, i dont maind to go back./ just ledt me know

  • Betty Doyle

    It is a hard thing to do but I would do it if I were given the chance. My daugther went and is now back and set for life. It is very hard to stay away for a year. But it can be done. And well worth the effort.
    We have no promise of tomorrow no matter where we are. If someone feels good about doing something then they should do it.

  • Bluesman

    I just read your problem on the front of msn, I would think that your relationship would be fine. Is Your life worth $290,000 that’s up to you. Now if something did happen, how would your wife and kids survive if something terrible did happen? I am kind of in the same boat, I have 3 little girls 4,3,1 and another due in January. I am the sole provider and will make about $70,000. If something happened to me they would be lost and the damage to the family could be lifelong. Is THAT worth $290,000 to you? To me I don’t think so…

  • T. Wynn

    Don’t be such a wuss. It is not that bad over there especially for US civilians. I’ve been there before and I’m going again next month with a wife and 2 kids. And I’m going for less than 290K. If I was offered 290K, I’d be over there for 5 years straight without coming home to see the family.

  • Brad


    Im a US Marine who has been fortunate enough to deploy to Iraq. My time over there have really made it an eye opener for me. I can tell you from first hand experience that as a contractor you are not in that much danger. Granted there are a few select spots that suck now but your not training Iraqs then your gonna be on a nice comfortable base with a really good chow hall. You probably have more of a chance getting killed in america then over there. As for family yea its a difficult thing, all i can say is these opportunities arent gonna be around for ever but if you have a strong family like i do, it will work out.

  • James Weber

    If he doesn’t want to go I will. I am a father of seven and the cost of raising them through college is larger than most can even imagine. My family is behind me 100% so sign me up! It is a family decision not one to be made by one person.

    So Hank, what does your FAMILY say?

    If you want I will even go with you to help assist you in your promise to return home in a year.


  • @All – It’s funny, I’m 50/50 on the situation myself. This really is a case of my friend going over there, not “my friend” going over there. I’d have to see the money to make my decision, but yes, I do love my family also. Right now I make a pretty good living that can cover my 2 kids and wife, and have a good nest egg growing, so I don’t see a need to put myself in harms way. However, that’s the point of a blog, to raise awareness and discussion, not everyone will have the same decision on a topic…

  • Steven

    He drives 120 miles a day to go to work? For all the people worried about safety in Iraq, I’ll point out that there is a fair amount of risk exposure in that kind of commute. More people die every year on the highway in my state, than Americans have died in Iraq of all causes since the invasion.

    The issue to me is entirely a question of valuing priorities, which is an intensely personal decision. I wouldn’t take a job that had me commuting for 2 1/2 hours a day. That’s more than 25% of the time I actually am on the clock. 5 years of commuting and you’ve been away from home about the same amount of time you would be gone with a year of foreign service (not counting time sleeping).

    Thinking about it, he’s home much more if he takes the one year overseas assignment, then takes the next 4 years off and stays at home with the family. The money works out about the same over the 5 year period.

  • Hank,I’d like too say that only you and your wife know your true financial situation,First you and your wife should sit down and agree together that this is what is best for your family.You must set your goals and stay focused on the true reason you have taken this job,The question is after you complete this one year will you be able too let that kind of money go?I do believe that if you keep god first,your wife,your kids then everything will work out for you.Remember you can never get time back so get over there do the job and get back home too your family,This can be a great thing for your family but it also could cause more problems.The more you make,The more you spend.If your relationship is strong you can do this,some of those jobs you can see your family 4 times out of a year and some only 2 times.This can give your wife the chance too travel too met you in Spain,or Germany and then your next leave you could come home.There are the pros and cons but if you do right by god and your family this could really be a blessing.Everyone feel Iraq is dangerous But we are living in danger in the Unites States.Get you a web Cam and talk too your family daily .Phone calls,,Praying and you will be okay.I am talking from experience.I have been living this life for some years now ,and I have a beautiful relationship.prayer and preserverance is the key.God knows your heart so do whats best for your family.You and your wife make this decision!!! My prayers are with you and yours.

  • Ana

    My husband is over seas on a contract job right now. We had a big decision to make because just like you things got really bad and we were barely making ends meet. We have paid off all our debts and cars. We actually have savings. It’s hard without him here. I do everything by myself and I have a 19 month year old which I have been raising on my own for almost a year. I have been so busy that time has really gone by quite fast. My husband on the other hand is miserable because he misses us very much. He has been in the military before so he was prepared. He has almost been shot twice. Although you are putting yourself in danger, I believe when it’s your time, its your time. There is nothing you can do about it. Its a sacrifice we had to make for our family. But, now my husband is getting much better job offers and he is worth so much more. Its a year sacrifice. We have knocked off years of worries and we have built a future for ourselves. Everything in life requires some sacrifice. And as long as you go into this with good intentions then I think you have alot to think about. Good Luck! Wish you the best.

  • ddd

    the whole point of all this crap is that we work hard now so things wont get harder later, our soldiers are over there right now doing way more dangerous jobs for around 45k a year, i,ve been in the military and although hard and dangerous, how dare us get scared about doing somehting safer and get paid 8 times as much as our average 20 year old over there that cant even buy a beer, i believe we need to be a bit braver America….

  • John Childs

    Where do I apply?

  • Ron

    Why leave your family and risk your life for money!!! you can make it right here….I did!!! Stay with your family!!! I’ll show you haow to make it on the money your making now!!!

  • T.Acey

    If you’re going is just for the money and nothing else aside from the fact what the money can buy or do I would definitely not advise you to go.

    I was in the service of my country for six years in the military and many times during this period had been in place in situations where I could have lost my limbs or at worst my life all for a few hundred dollars a month. My thinking was I’ll get out of the military and find one of those jobs working for the government where I can make plenty of money for the opportunity to be in the same danger of life and limb situation. I tried to get one of those big moneymaking jobs, but I had no luck, but I know people who did have the opportunity to make the big money and all the ones I knew it did not do them much good some of them ended up in divorce after their wives spent all their money while they were away. Some picked up bad habits and lost their money. Habits such as gambling alcoholism and drug addiction.

    I would have no objections to going,but for the money to be the reason it is not worth going to Iraq. My experience in life has been that money is easy to make, and it’s easy to go.

  • sikenberg

    I am currently a contractor in Iraq. I am single with no kids. The people I work with have families and I think it is very selfish of them to come over here and risk their life for money. For the people trying to compare Iraq to common everyday crime and danger in the US–don’t even go there. We don’t usually have mortar or rocket attacks in the US. Yes, you might die driving into work or have someone shoot you but how about a few thousand people who surround your base and try to kill you on a daily basis? The money isn’t worth it if you have loved ones at home. Also, I hear the same story over and over again…”I couldn’t find a job in the US”, “I need the money”, “It’s just one year”, “It’s really not that dangerous”. And then after the first year they realize that all the money they were supposed to be saving was spent in the course of the year and they end up staying another year and another year. Some people seem to stay here for several years because they can’t find another job in the US.I have one coworker who has been here 4 years, is still in debt and still has 2 mortgages on her house. These stories are common over here.

  • jon

    Stay in the US!!

    Money is great, but even better is being physically there for your kids in the morning. That you cannot put a price tag on. Money comes and goes, this isnt the only option and not the best at that. If it was a popular choice the salary wouldnt be what it is. Its that number, 290k, for a reason, because without it, you wont do it… sitting at your kids afterschool activities you will never have the thought ” I wish I was in Iraq” sitting in Iraq looking into a web cam you’ll wish “I just wanna be there for 5 minutes” – time is the real money, its not 290k, its a year in the life of your family, keep the value where it should be.

  • Ivan

    Could I get some info about where to apply for these positions?

  • Morgan

    I’m in the army and I’ve spent a year in Iraq allready. I think given the option this guy has and knowing what I know from first hand experience, I would do it. An IT contractor is probubly NOT going to find himself in dangerous situations at all. He’s going to be inside the wire for the entire year. Anytime he leaves the wire it will probubly be in a helicopter, or at least in a heavily armored vehicle with a gun truck escort. I doubt his living conditions will be all that bad either. He’s probubly going to work ALOT, but for 290k what do you expect? I think he should do it. If he’s smart with that money he can set himself up for the rest of his life. The one year is a big sacrifice but it would be worth it I think

  • William Moore

    For $290,000 per year, it sounds like dangererous work in the streets of Iraq. Things have calmed down quiet a bit there since the surge; however, make no mistake it only takes one wrong second in one wrong place. It you are working on a Forward Operating Base (FOB) and not “required” to travel or work outside the FOB into the unknow streets of Iraq, chances are you will be ok. Yet even on the FOB they do get missle, mortar and small arms attacks regularly, men and women have died even without leaving the FOB. (PTSD) Post Dramatic Stress Disorder (google and research, it will hit you one way or another), is not only military, it affects anyone who works in a life threatening area for so long. There are a lot of contractors making a lot of money in that country, but keep in mind you will put in roughly double time every week (burn out quickly). Most contractors I have met over there work 12 hour, seven days a week (minimum) with no break insight until they reach the point of thier vacation which goes extremely quick. Figure 145,000 a year, you will work that many hours, (2 years rolled into 1). Taxes, I believe is 70,000 before they start taxing you, some contractors due pay taxes on every penny they make over there (research contract). Being over there myself for a total of 27 months, marital separation is the worse, danger is second with living conditions ranking up there. Calling is expensive, messenger is free with internet access, question is will you have that. It comes down to a personal and family decision (you will never make it without the support of your family), review your offer and ensure you know all the details of what they expect of you. Money is great but is it truely worth it to you and your family to endure the hardship of separation and the danger of losing your life. Being military myself and had my time over there; as a civilian, I would jump on it only if I was certain I would stay on a FOB. Working off that FOB you will probably find yourself in a situation where the US military is not there to protect you not to mention the deadly road side bombs.
    Sincerely Chief Warrant Officer William Moore, US Army

  • William Moore

    For $290,000 per year, it sounds like dangererous work in the streets of Iraq. Things have calmed down quiet a bit there since the surge; however, make no mistake it only takes one wrong second in one wrong place. It you are working on a Forward Operating Base (FOB) and not “required” to travel or work outside the FOB into the unknow streets of Iraq, chances are you will be ok. Yet even on the FOB they do get missle, mortar and small arms attacks regularly, men and women have died even without leaving the FOB. (PTSD) Post Tramatic Stress Disorder (google and research, it will hit you one way or another), is not only military, it affects anyone who works in a life threatening area for so long. There are a lot of contractors making a lot of money in that country, but keep in mind you will put in roughly double time every week (burn out quickly). Most contractors I have met over there work 12 hour, seven days a week (minimum) with no break insight until they reach the point of thier vacation which goes extremely quick. Figure 145,000 a year, you will work that many hours, (2 years rolled into 1). Taxes, I believe is 70,000 before they start taxing you, some contractors due pay taxes on every penny they make over there (research contract). Being over there myself for a total of 27 months, marital separation is the worse, danger is second with living conditions ranking up there. Calling is expensive, messenger is free with internet access, question is will you have that. It comes down to a personal and family decision (you will never make it without the support of your family), review your offer and ensure you know all the details of what they expect of you. Money is great but is it truely worth it to you and your family to endure the hardship of separation and the danger of losing your life. Being military myself and had my time over there; as a civilian, I would jump on it only if I was certain I would stay on a FOB. Working off that FOB you will probably find yourself in a situation where the US military is not there to protect you not to mention the deadly road side bombs.
    Sincerely Chief Warrant Officer William Moore, US Army

  • KC

    YES , I would do it , there are dangers everywhere even back in the states plus if time over there is 12 months and 1 day his yrs. pay is tax free. Just had a couple freinds return from over there {contractors} and 2 buds in the U.S.Army both on fourth tour’s.

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  • Ralph Lauren

    Men and Women are serving in Irag and Afghanistan for no compensation.
    A position for 300 K plus in the United States is rare unless a Surgeon/Lawyer/CEO/Media etc.
    Either take the position or don’t! I consider you to be blessed by being offered such a high paying position to do key management responsibilites.
    This is not a difficult decison, if you have a supportive family. In one year you will be able to provide for your children’s future the way that you would like to do.

  • methbuster20

    money aint everything family is

  • B_N

    You “do don’t do it” people citing family breakdowns (my word for what I see written) kill me. I’ll wager it’s no different than a sailor on a 7-8 month deployment, with a few extra months added in, never mind the career sailor that nearly every year leaves his family to deploy overseas!

    I see no difference between a career sailor & these 1 year “deployments’, really, aside from the extra money.

    And ALL of Irag isn’t “hot”, Just like all of DC, LA, NYC, etc, aren’t “hot” & riddled with crime.

    I’d go in a minute married or not, family or not if it was indeed tax free or mostly tax free. You’d have to do the match to make sure financially your ALLOT better of than working in the US of A for that same year.

    I’m also sure the Gov’t isn’t going to “recruit” people to go over “there” & leave them unprotected!

  • Big Mattock

    I was called to a 12 month tour in November 2001… Right after 9-11-01…
    I heard some of the same crybaby comments from some of our deploying soldiers when we found out we were activated as I see on this message board… Some said, “I just signed up for the bonus money”, “I just thought it was one weekend a month, and two-weeks a year”, “I needed money for college”, and so on… Yes, it is a National Guard unit. You know what… people like that don’t deserve to breathe the same air that I breathe. I signed up, never got a bonus… But I did it because I wanted my family to grow up in a free country, where people can take their freedom for granted, and piss and moan when the price of gas increases, whine about how they wouldn’t put their life on the line for only $290k, sterotype single unmarried people as expendible because they don’t have kids like us married folks

  • $p00k

    I’m an American and served my country in the United States Air Force for just over 6 years. I’ve been a civilian for 3 years now, and have spent the overwhelming majority of it working in the Middle East for 4 times my stateside salary. I have a new full-size truck paid for, I have a boat paid for, I have a 2nd mortgage paid for, and I have investments such as IRA’s and a company-matched 401(k).

    Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, I’m not happy. I work 84-92 hours EVERY week (barring 1, 3 week vacation each year), which means I work 7 days per week. That means I have very little time for MY INTERESTS. Also, I’m over 7,000 miles from my girlfriend, my brother, and almost that far from my parents…so I get to see everyone once a year…whoop-tee-doo.

    I have less than 40 days left here, and no matter where I end up, my girlfriend WILL be with me, at least initially. I say initially because, I can only hope that I haven’t become the cynical person on the outside, that I feel on the inside. I’ve lost my zest for life because I have no life (here) outside of work.

    I made some bad financial decisions (buying a truck I couldn’t afford, buying a condo I couldn’t afford, etc) because I valued the opinion of people that didn’t have my best interests in mind. As a result, I’ve significantly lowered my number of close friends, and have promised myself that I have and will continue to learn from my mistakes.

    I have been offered $400k for a year in Iraq, and responded by saying, “I wish you the best of luck on finding your candidate”. Fact is, money cannot buy happiness. I thought it could. I learned otherwise.

    In less than 40 days, I will be holding my girlfriend when she goes to sleep at night, and I will be the first person she sees when she wakes up with her beautiful, sleepy smile. Money can’t buy that folks…

  • Suziq

    I have a bunch of friends over there working as civilian contractors. I myself keep debating it back and forth… If I could just put up with the hours (12 a day, 365) and the location, it would be incredible. When I was in Iraq last year I met a ton of civilians working over there, making quadruple what I did, and they were better protected too.

    I say do it. In the long run, 12 months away isn’t too bad, and that much money could create a safety buffer for the future.

  • Dizmo

    Do it. Do it. Do it.
    Is it really that dangerous over there? If you look at the stats, it’s probably more dangerous to drive around at 1am on a Friday or Saturday night in the U.S.
    You have to find out where exactly you’d be going and how dangerous that area is. It’s not just about “helping your country” it’s also about helping the Iraqis too.
    Anyway, it’s an IT job…”If you’re not required to carry a gun, odds are you’ll have no reason to need a gun.” ergo, it’s probably a safe area.
    A guy also has to look at his own life experiences. How cool it would be to experience a whole different world and culture. It’s only a year. The man’s 38 years old – how much has he really done with his life? Sure he has a wife and 3 kids, but you do what you gotta do. With the amount of technology these days, I’m sure he could talk to his family every night. I have about 35 friends in Iraq in the various military services and I talk to them more than I talk to my own neighbors. They love it over there. I play XBOX 360 against some of them (that means they have an XBOX over there, I have one in my living room, and we play each other).
    For 290k? That’s FIVE YEARS OF INCOME. In this volatile economy…that’s a pretty sweet deal. Who cares about the money. Life is about the experiences. The money we make along the way is just a bonus. Assuming communication can be almost daily, the family will get by. If there’s 200k troops in Iraq plus those in Afghanistan, plus all the other places in the world we have troops, I’d say if all those families get through, you’ll get through it. You’re not going to miss you kid’s birth, first word, first step, first day of school, or any graduations.
    Do it. Do it. Do it.

  • $p00k

    Dizmo (and everyone else),
    I know full well that not everyone will agree with my opinion, but I feel compelled to share it because I’ve “been there, done that” in this situation.

    “Is it really that dangerous over there? If you look at the stats, it’s probably more dangerous to drive around at 1am on a Friday or Saturday night in the U.S.”

    I have no problem admitting that you’re just as likely to be shot, raped, or mugged in the most dangerous areas of the top 5 most populous cities in the US, than you are dying in Iraq. The problem I have is people using that as part of a justification for going into Iraq for work. What most people are forgetting is that the overwhelming majority WOULD be much safer staying at home considering that very few of us live in these aforementioned dangerous areas.

    “You have to find out where exactly you’d be going and how dangerous that area is.”

    This mentality is the same one used by people trying to time the stock market to make the most money from their investment. For example, the “Green Zone” in Iraq was a VERY safe area compared to others, until the day before I got there. Fact is, there’s no way to gauge how dangerous an area WILL BE, based on how safe it has been historically…

    “Anyway, it’s an IT job…”If you’re not required to carry a gun, odds are you’ll have no reason to need a gun.” ergo, it’s probably a safe area.”

    What I didn’t explain earlier that needs explanation now is whether you’re working an IT job or assigned to a Blackwater PSD, you ARE vulnerable to various small arms fire, RPG’s, mortars, rockets, etc. It’s not like you have an impenetrable forcefield around you…even steel-reinforced concrete bunkers are little better than a notebook to some of the ammo fired at us. As I was trying to sleep, a barrage of 33 Chinese rockets was launched on us…so did it matter that I had an M9, AK-47, grenades, etc? Absolutely NOT. You can’t kill what you can’t see. War is NOT fair, and if you haven’t lived it, I don’t expect you to know. I would advise ANYONE that is considering going to a war zone to assess your priorities before you accept an offer.

    Listen, we need people there to get the job done, but it unnerves me to see people comment as if they’ve been there and lived it, when they really have no idea. Yes, $290k is a lot of money to a lot of people. Some people genuinely need it (and can make it over a much longer timeframe, God willing) and some people will find a way to justify the risk to themselves and their family. My last word to those people are to realize that you have your whole life to make that money, and you are guaranteed NOTHING more than the very second you’re experiencing right now. Would you be happy with your decision if you didn’t make it back, or if your loved one(s) passed before you could tell them goodbye? We (as a nation) need to put a lower emphasis on material things, and the highest emphasis on family.

  • Thomas A Richer

    You better look again, if you worked 18 hours a day here. What would your pay be? Maybe 16 a day. I do not think they are offering enough.

  • Dizmo

    ooh, good point.
    Well, let’s do the math. 60k per year at 2000 hours (40 hours a week for 50 weeks) wold be $30 per hour. So, at 18 hours a day, 5 days a week for 52 weeks would be $140,400. At 18 hours a day 7 days a week for 52 weeks, that’d be $196,560. One more – $30 per hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year = $262,080.
    I guess you could say they’d be paying you $33.20 per hour for one full year.
    Kinda neat to think about.

    By the way Spook, I have been there and done that. As has my sister, brother, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and all of my closest friends…I just chose to leave it out because it wasn’t needed to make my point.

  • Former Marine

    What other jobs are available over seas. It would be very tempting. I say go for it as long as you believe your marriage is strong.

  • Mike

    Its alot of money they offered, my thoughts are: is it tax free? I’m canadian and alot of overseas contracts offered here are tax free. Is it actually dangerous work? i mean apart from the fact your in iraq, i lived and worked in sudan for 2 years and had to travel from kartoum to many “hotspots” in the country and never really ran into any problems that where life threatening. If your bascially stationed in a secure area and do all your work and living in the same place i would say its something to consider if your that hard up. Although i will point out that i am single and do not have to worry about family if something did happen too me. Final word though if you have serious doubts about your saftey , don’t do it.

  • Been There Done That

    Run the Numbers first….Let me walk you thru this…

    Only the first $80K is tax free….so the other $210K is taxed just like everybody else. Assume 30% tax rate or $63K off the top. So he’s making after taxes $147K + $80K = $227K. Room and board is provided. He may also get some per diem on top of his salary but will leave that out. It’s just gravy anyways.

    He’s working 12-16 hours a day, 7 days a week, so in reality they are getting 2 years out of him over there. So he’s making about $113K per year. Take $113K and divide it by 2688 hours ( 8 hrs a day x 7 days a week x 48 weeks a year (4 weeks vacation).
    In actuality, he’s making about $42 per hour. Add in the intangibles such as risk of death, away from family, less than stellar conditions, etc and you have to ask yourself…..Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?
    For some it is, but you have very few peoples signing up for a second tour.
    My situation was similar except I was paid $260K in 2004.

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  • Bob

    A few random notes:

    Americans pay tax on anything over the $84K Federal Income Tax exemption.
    Canadians pay no tax on income earned outside the country to the Canadian Govt., but they and other non-coalition country citizens have about zero chance of getting hired, most contracts required U.S. citizenship.

    You will work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. WTF do you want leisure time for anyway, it goes faster this way. (Trust me)
    If you can make it through the first 3-4 months you should be able to complete your 1 yr. contract. Some have it, some don’t. Anyway, if you quit after 6 months you still made $145K.

    IT guys work on secure bases. You have a better chance of getting killed walking through the ghetto stateside.

    Hank, you’re not getting any younger. This is a chance to visit that most exclusive of environments, a war zone, and get paid almost $300K for it.

    DO IT, DO IT, DO IT!!!

  • I can appreatiate all of the input, BUT for me this is a fall down on yours knees a talk to GOD. Even if you are not a spiritual person speak to God and I beleive your answer will come i time. If you don’t have the luxury of time them don’t. This is not an overnite decision. Good luck I know that you will do the right thing.

  • Curtis

    Get For real!! Let’s get serious about something in life and that is LIFE! I was a soldier that deployed twice to Iraq and each time I said as soon as I retire I was coming back as a civilian to get me some of that contractor’s pay. I retired, waited until my medical/physical was completed and received my disability rating from the VA and got on the second thing smoking headed to Iraq/Afghanistan. My brothers and sisters said that I shouldn’t go, stay home, don’t leave your family, it’s dangerous over there. My answer to it all was “bump-that”. While waiting for my medical to be finalized I can’t count the number of innocent people that were robbed, or homes broken into in my town. I can’t count the number of people (some innocent some not) that were killed or maimed. You can walk into your local mom and pop’s store and walk right in on an idiot that’s robbing the place. Then there you are in a life or death situation praying that no one does anything that may cause everyone else to get hurt or even worse KILLED. And here you were just going to get a gallon of milk for your kid’s morning cereal. At least in Iraq you know that there is an inherent risk with the environment. In the states you have a limited “guard up” at all times but you never expect anything drastic to happen. That is when the idiots make you a victim. In Iraq/Afghanistan every contractor is there for one or two things; to make as much money as he can as fast and as LEGAL as he can or he is there to truly do his/her part for the country. You know that over half of the people you see on the compound carry weapons and are not going to do anything to harm you. In the states if you see a person with a weapon other than a law enforcement agent there is a good chance that person may have some ill intents for someone and possibly you included. If a contractor gets into any scuffles or anything that makes the employer looks bad he is on the first thing smoking back to the states. Say goodbye to that high paying job and hello unemployment line. A contractor knows that there is a possibility that the living arrangement is not going to be the Holiday Inn, but that goes with the job. If you and your IMMEDIATE family sit down, talk about it and plan it right you can have a fairly good deployment. If you talk about the reasons while you are going and plan your time as best as possible then you can rest better knowing that your life is going to be a little better when your deployment ends. All contractors get a 2-3 week break after their six months of deployment. This could be a vacation for the family by having the spouse meet them in Europe or some other wishful place. YOUR ticket is already paid for by your employer. Again, talk to you immediate family and “bump” what everyone else is saying. You only have your life to live. When you get back look at how much you were able to do for your family financially. My bank account is getting bigger erveryday. BUMP THE REST of them.

  • William

    I am a DoD contractor working in Kuwait / Iraq, obviously I would take the job… I already have. I have been working over in the southwest Asia /Middle East for the last four years. I understand that you have a family but just because you are signing a year contract does not mean that you will have to go a whole year without seeing them. I get 4 weeks off a year which I strategically place so I don’t miss too many big events back home. I would also recommend that you take some time to speak with people who have been or are currently working in Iraq. Things really have gotten better. The money is great and will have huge benefits for you down the road if you are even remotely smart with your money. Most people are terrified of going to Iraq because they are terrified of the unknown.

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  • Mark

    There is NO amount of money that would convince me to do the evil work of the US government and the current administration. Anyone who is swayed by a mere sum of $290k to support/contribute the murderous wrath that US war machine is commiting in Iraq should be ashamed of themselves.

  • Dizmo

    Well, if you pay taxes, then you are contributing to the all mighty, all powerful “US war machine”…

  • Brian

    I would go, in the blink of an eye. Where do I sign up?

  • Liz

    Why would you want to be part of murder and treason?

  • Dizmo

    I believe he meant he would go and be on the side of the Americans, not the terrorists.

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  • Canadian Doug

    A mugger points a gun at Jack Benny, and demands, “Your money or your life?”
    The mugger says, “Well?”
    Jack says, “I’m thinking about it.”

    A mugger points a gun at Jack Benny, and demands, “Your money or your life?”
    Jack responds, “My life, of course! I need my money for my old age!”

    Those of you under 30 (40?) may not get the above, but never mind.

    Hank: Great post! Thanks.

    Obviously this is a very personal decision, and there are a huge number of factors to be considered, many of which have been addressed thoroughly and well (from both sides) in these comments, and a few of which have not.

    As an IT worker, likely confined to the Green Zone or an FOB and working 12/7, I suspect the physical safety risk would be minimal – maybe not much worse than two hours a day on the freeway. On the other hand, this negates any potential benefits of seeing the world, experiencing another culture, etc., as he will likely never get off the base. I agree with other commenters that daily audio and video communication with his family can and should be a given.

    The impact on his mental and emotional health (and thus ultimately his physical health), however, may be severe. I think you can put up with a lot of stress at work if you know that at the end of the day you can go home to spend time with people you love, and to activities and interests you enjoy. What I think he should expect if he goes to Iraq is a dramatic increase in both the level and duration of stress he experiences, combined with a dramatic reduction in the opportunities for him to find relief from that stress. I would strongly recommend against going if he has any history of difficulty dealing with stress, or of addiction or substance abuse, depression or other mental/emotional health issues, or heart problems. Even if he is physically and emotionally healthy, he should have a stress management plan worked out before he goes.

    I think a key factor which hasn’t been adequately addressed in the preceding comments – probably because we don’t have any information about it – is the nature of his relationships with his wife and kids.

    Who is he to his kids? Is he the guy they go to when they have a problem, the guy who gives them understanding, support, encouragement, guidance, and, when necessary, discipline? Is he a guy they can talk with, hang out with, share activities and experiences with? Or is he just the guy who pays the bills and sometimes shows up at the dinner table? If it’s the latter, he can pay the bills from any office, whether that office is in the den, in downtown Seattle, or in Iraq. If it’s the former, his contributions in those other areas may be more important for his kids’ long-term well-being than any financial contribution.

    You can substitute “wife” for “kids” for all of the above paragraph, except for the “discipline” part, and maybe substituting “help” for “guidance”.

    Your description of his wife’s position – strongly against – leads me to believe that she views his contribution to the family as much more than financial. (Although if her objection is mainly based on the physical safety risk, I suspect that risk is greatly exaggerated in her mind.) I’d be interested to know what his kids think (if they’ve been told about it); they’re old enough to have a voice in this too.

    Regardless of the nature of the relationship, I do agree that a long-term, long-distance separation is a major risk for any relationship; you never know what will happen. I think the risk is even greater when the separation involves a lot of stress. I wrote above about the increased stress he will have to deal with, but his wife will no doubt feel a marked increase in stress also, both from his absence and from the responsibility of running the household without him. (Further increased, of course, if she is worried about his safety.) It should come as no surprise that one of the most effective stress relievers is sex; the combination of loneliness and unrelieved stress has led many people to do things they never thought they would. (There’s a reason hookers hang out around army bases.) But even in the absence of adultery, stress can trigger many other relationship-threatening phenomena, such as substance abuse, mental or physical illness, or even violence. Noone knows how they will react to extreme or prolonged stress until they are subjected to it.

    Going to Iraq over his wife’s objections would just add that much more “relationship risk”. He may see it as providing for his family’s future, but his wife (and kids) may see it as abandonment. He may want that $290K to send his kids to college, but if it results in the breakdown of the family unit, he may end up spending it on counselling, rehab programs and legal fees instead. (Kids aren’t immune to stress, and short of a direct threat to their life, family breakup is about the most stressful thing that can happen to them.)

    I am concerned that your friend’s recent financial disaster – losing his retirement savings – is distorting his perspective on this issue. You said, “One year there and he could be back to what he lost.” If he had never had it in the first place, would he feel the same way? If he had had zero savings five years ago, zero savings two years ago, and zero savings now, would he feel a sudden, urgent
    need to go to Iraq for $290K? What’s past is past; the future is a clean slate. “He is 38 years old and has nothing to show for it.” Not true; he has a wife, three kids, marketable skills and experience, and hopefully some sense of values that extends beyond his bank account. But in any case, he is where he is. What’s important is charting the best way forward from here; how he got here is relevant only insofar as it illuminates the way forward.

    I say this in part because I think there may be more going on here than money. If he sees his main mission in life as financially providing for his family’s present and future needs – as many men do – then he may feel the loss of his savings as a personal failure (even though it was apparently due to events beyond his control). He may see this job in Iraq as a chance to “correct” his “failure”, and restore his wounded pride. He may feel the need to “prove” to his family (and himself) that he really isn’t a failure after all. His desire to go to Iraq may have as much to do with his need for redemption and self-respect as with the real needs of his family. It is important that he not let his own needs and emotional state blind him to what is truly best for the future of all concerned.

    I agree with other commenters that it is possible (though not easy) to run a household and raise happy, healthy kids on $60K a year. His kids would certainly be neither the first nor the last to have to work to pay for their college education; many who have done so regard it as a valuable experience. As for retirement, if your kids feel that you were always there for them, then they will be there for you when you need them. If they feel you weren’t there for them, they won’t be there for you. Which retirement would you rather have: one which is financially comfortable, but where your kids bleed you for money and only visit (grudgingly) on holidays? Or one which is financially meager, but where your kids are there for you every day and happily attend to your needs? The former is what you’ll get if you support your kids financially but not emotionally; the latter is what you’ll get by giving them your time, your attention, your care and concern, and your active presence and interest in their lives.

    My bottom line is this: a happy, healthy, loving family, and the time and good health to enjoy them, are worth more than any amount of money. If he has those things now, and can continue to have them at $60Kpa, he should count his blessings and not risk them all by going to Iraq.

    If, on the other hand, his marriage is strained, his relationships with his kids distant, if he really is “just the guy who pays the bills”, then maybe Iraq is where he should be. If his only significant contribution to the family is going to be financial, he might as well maximize it. Of course, if the marriage is already in trouble, leaving for a year against his wife’s wishes isn’t going to help; but in that case I would also question whether her objection to his going is partly due to trust issues. Maybe she doesn’t trust that he’ll be faithful, or that he’ll ever come back to her – or maybe she doesn’t trust herself. Maybe she’s afraid that she’ll actually feel glad he’s gone. But a trial separation, as it were, can be a good thing; maybe they will discover they really are better off apart – or maybe they will rediscover what brought them together in the first place. The impact on the kids will be much less if he hasn’t been an integral part of their lives up to now.

    Of course, I recognize that few if any people will completely match these caricatures; the “superdad/husband” or “just the guy who pays the bills.” Most people, your friend no doubt included, will fall somewhere in between. It’s up to your friend to evaluate what he’s risking, how high the risk, and whether the reward is worth that risk. I would caution that men generally overestimate the value of their financial contribution, and underestimate the value of the other stuff. I would suggest that if he’s generally happy with his life other than his financial situation, he should try to find a way to live with the financial situation rather than putting everything else at risk.

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  • There are obvious pros and cons. I spent a lot of time in the Middle East when I was in the military, and there are some incredibly dangerous situations, and many that are benign and actually enjoyable. There is certainly an amount of risk one has to be willing to take, but beyond that, there are other considerations such as being away from family and friends, living in less than desirable conditions, absence of most conveniences we take for granted, etc. I considered taking a 6 figure job in the Middle East after I separated from the military, but in the end I decided I would much prefer closing that chapter in my book and moving forward with life. I have no regrets.

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  • There’s probably a very good reason the job pays so well. If you need the cash and can accept the risk AND mitigate the risks by getting a truckload of life insurance, then go for it.

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  • tom feldsten

    I am struggling with the same choice right now, though at $200K/yr. I have been offered the position, have passed the medical requirements, and have spent the last couple of days contemplating. No kids, but a wife who is supportive of whatever we decide. We’re a strong couple, and are not particularly concerned about our relationship lasting, for we know that it will. Not interested in new cars or homes, but in getting rid of $90K in student debt. Position is in the Green Zone. What do you think?

  • Jim

    I have been considering this same situation you discuss. I have friends working in Iraq and have highly recommended it. I currently have a programming job where I sit at home and write code for about $80k, a wife, and 3 kids (2 at home).

    With a mortgage, car notes, credit cards, with things not looking like there is any light at the end of the tunnel, I am investigating these opportunities heavily. I am able to deal with just about any living conditions, and am heavily experienced in IT, telecom, datacomm, and engineering.

    My wife and I have agreed that this would be a worthwhile adventure, and in regards to my parents, my father is interested in doing this as well. He is in a position to make far more than me, and we both are good at “roughing it.”

    I loved finding your blog to get some insight on the situation and get a lot of peoples views, I hope it gives me some food for thought.


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  • @tom feldsten – it really comes down to the understanding between you and your wife. If she’s onboard with it, I think you’re more than half way to a decision. Please do let us know what you decide!

    @Jim – what programming language would you be using?

  • Jim

    @Hank – I am fluent in ASP, C#, Perl, PHP, TCL, VB, C++ and others, but I typically write in TCL or XO-TCL

    Jim’s last blog post..Why digital media is NOT the wave of the future.

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  • the money sound good but location I am not sure. 🙁

  • Interesting dilemma. 290K may sound like a lot of money, but it is only about 200K after taxes. This is a very important calculation to think about. If I were in his shoes, I’d do it in a heart beat. It’s not like he’s roaming the fields in harms way.

    The jump from 60K to 290K is just too great to ignore. The way to think about it is that 290K equals 5 years of work at 60K. Any spread greater than 2 years is worth it in my opinion, especially if 290K is NOT guaranteed for years on out.

    Financial Samurai

  • SPOOK – Great post buddy. thanks for your perspective.

    290K changes people’s lives who only make 60K. It’s worth it for a year, but not more.

  • I’m confused why they need IT contractors in the hot zone over there; they have ex-pilots flying unmanned drones in Afghanistan and Iraq from Las Vegas. Can’t they do IT from the states or even Kuwait or something, outside the hot zone? There have certainly been plenty of contractor fatalities in Iraq, but I question what sort of peril he’ll be in outside the transport in/out. Has he had an opportunity to weigh these factors? Without more info in hand it would be tough to say yes or no, but if the guy’s gonna be hangin’ in the green zone punchin keys, maybe not a bad deal for a year or two.

  • I wouldn’t want to go Iraq for money unless I was in a really tight situation where money is more important than anything else like when a family had a medical condition that needed the money to survive.

  • Definitely not. He would leave his family and miss a year of his children growing up. $60k/year is pretty good.

  • i think $100k/year is more pretty.

  • I think it all depends on how much the money means to you for you to take the risk. If say I need it desperately to pay debts or to save someone then I would do it.

  • If you have dependents like kids, you would not do it just for money.

  • i think it is just money..

    what is important are the moments with your family…
    .-= Jobs in Iraq´s last blog ..Getting a High Paying Job in Iraq Or Afghanistan Making $4000+ a Week =-.

  • This is a really interesting question. One, the money would be great, but the separation would be real tough. In addition, we have lots of military guys over there making a whole lot less than that. I personally, I don’t think I could do it. In the end you have to ask yourself what are you willing to do for money, I don’t think I am willing to that long away from my family. I would rather be poor with them than rich without them. Thats where I think I come down on the issue.
    .-= DiscipleshipGuy´s last blog ..Month 1 – Bible Reading Plan Update =-.

  • It all boils down to how important money is to you. I don’t think the war is that great so I would put my family first.

  • airmen frist class Helton


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  • If I think it will help my country, I would do it but if not, I don’t think the money is worth it.

  • No way I would go. At one time maybe I would be thinking of my country and how proud my dad would be. But now, there’s no idealism left and I’ve not enough confidence in politicians to sacrifice my life and my family’s wellbeing.

    As for money, it’s not enough.

  • myinvestingblog

    You've got a great point Cruise Control…

  • That is a very tempting offer. For a while there, we considered it…my husband got laid off, I lost my work, and we have 5 kids. Someone offered him a construction position over in Iraq; we discussed it, and it may have been our only option at that time, but luckily I found work here, so we didn't have to send him to a warzone.

  • GPS

    The money is great. But putting my family through this is just not worth it. If I had no family, then I would do it. But then, if I have no family, maybe I don't need the money. The war is just a mistake so there's nothing proud about it.

  • Future contractor

    Yeah, my dad is over in Afghanistan as a i.t. tech and he loves it. I guess it depends on the person. Now he's helping me get over there with a job and i'm only 24 and I dont have kids or a wife so the benefits would be great for me. On the other hand, the risk is a little scary but with my dad working there, AND my step mom, I'll be able to have family near. Easy way to become an millionaire possibly but does have 2 cons per pro in this situation for your friend.

  • Money is good but life is more than money. Cruise Control is right.

  • It would be a hard decision to leave your family and friends for an extended period of time, but then the money is very desirable. It honestly would take me many months to decide if I could take such a job.

  • Blabblabh

    Just so you know overseas teh first 90K is tax free. So his take home pay would be much greater overseas then it would be here.

  • Seewcrazy

    Please reconsider if you are thinking of going to Iraq for a contractor.  My son is retired Air Force, and has been to Iraq 5 times since he retired as a contractor.  However it is at this point, that he says he will NOT go back.  He says he is willing to go to Afghanistan, but no way he will return to Iraq.  The draw is makign it too dangerous to be a contractor there. 

    Contractors will have no protections from the U.S. government.  This is why the negotations broke down,and the decisions was made to pull ALL military out.  We were willing to leave trainers, but the Iraqis refused to give them protections.  So you can only imagine what it would be like as a civilian.  I am including a link which will give you a lot of information on being a contractor.  Some of it will disturb you.  I say educate yoruself, before you make any decisions.  Forewarned is forearmed. 

    AIG « Overseas Civilian Contractors

  • shamrock

    My husband has been doing this for 5 years.  Is it hard?  Yes.  Is it worth it?  Yes.  The job is affording us opportunities that i can’t see us having in other circumstances.   And the situation isn’t quite as you describe – sometimes he worked a 12 hour day, but currently he works the same 8 hours he’d be working stateside.  He has a social life, and we communicate daily.

    Things you should know – your standard stateside insurance policy probably has a “war clause”, and wouldn’t pay a dime should you be killed on a foreign soil military base.  Enter the Defense Base Act, which requires a certain level of coverage for civilian contractors.

    Taxes are a pain in the rear, but you get almost 100K tax free if you meet certain requirements.

    You don’t get to come home weekends, you may go 6-9 months without seeing your family.  It’s not an easy life.  But it does have benefits.

  • Nogear

    First I don’t know of anyone making $290k in Iraq and yes I left there when we pulled out in December and I’m now in Kuwait.  I retire when I get home in August ’12 and I’ve already excepted a job offer for Afghanistan in leaving in October. My specialty is highly sought after (Intelligence Analyst) and I had multiple offers but none of them came close to $290k. I believe that number is a bit exaggerated.  $110-130k would be more in line with the IT folks I know, personally I might add.

    As far as the danger goes I think the media blows it a bit out of proportion. Between Iraq and Afghanistan in 10 years of war we’ve lost around the same number of people as we did on the last day, yes day, of World War I.  So comparatively speaking it’s not bad. Of course, it really comes down to what you perceive to be dangerous.  I jump out of planes so I don’t think it’s dangerous either though I know a lot of you probably think it is.

    You can also parlay a job with a company overseas to a job back in the states and still make more money than the norm because of the experience you gained while overseas.  Chances to make good money doesn’t come along every day so jump on it while you can.

  • Staceylee

    your comment brought tears to my eyes!
    my boyfriend has been offered a job in Iraq – and i’m doing all the research i can before he goes. Of course i’m not happy with it – but given our desperate financial situation – i see why he wants to do it – even if its just for a year or two. 
    It would put our lives on track pretty much for the rest of our lives, get us out of debt and give us the opportunity to get married and have kids.
    Would i give him up for 6 weeks on 6 weeks off in a dangerous place for that? No. 
    I’d rather struggle along with him by my side then go through the stress and worry and loneliness each day he’s away.
    thank you for your comment – i will pass this article onto him 🙂

  • ehisnoni

    dodogodssolution. you save me! I lost my job, and I could not find any for months. I could not take care of my bills, and I almost lost my home because I was some months behind in mortgage payments, until a close friend told me to contact you. Within days, I received a call from a well established company, and after a couple of interviews I was offered a General Manager position with an excellent salary, and benefits. Thank you very much for your Work Spell. You are the Real

    dodogodssolution his email address is

  • Kickinkim

    $p00k I love your comment 🙂 I have a husband that was in the army for 12 years and has now done 4 years in Iraq as a cpo but is currently looking to do at least another 4 years. What is it all worth? I believe life is here to be enjoyed and that doesn’t have to cost loads of money. He recently bought a range rover and I sent it back and bought an Eco car lol as I felt like an idiot driving road in a posh, over the top, pole up your ass car. I just don’t see the attraction. But I will support him no matter what he decided I wish he would choose his wife, children, family and friends over his choice of job. I also understand he is a solider and that is a hard thing to leave behind so in time hopefully he will see the other way to live and be like minded to yourself. I’m am also very proud of what he has achieved Iraq, afghan, NI, etc but I also believe that us women are here bearing the scars as well and having to help sometimes very scared men. It’s a very hard life and I wouldn’t want my daughter to do what I have done. But fingers crossed he sees the light to what life is really about and that’s family.

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