Starting my career as a transit operator was an exhilarating experience.  Freshly stepping into a brand new line of work, I was excited about the earning potential I now possessed. Being a mere 20-year-old, I could push my limits and work as much overtime as my body could handle.

Little did I realize, I would stumble upon numerous financial pitfalls that would haunt me for years to come.

Here are four crucial financial mistakes to steer clear of as you start your career as a Bus Operator.


AVOID| Falling In Love With Overtime

I loved overtime! At one point in my transit career, my overtime rate was nearly $50 an hour. Hard to resist right? Perhaps, however, if age has taught me anything, overtime is not a sustainable way to generate additional income. You’ll be a dog chasing its tail forever.

Though the extra money was great, it was only for the short term and in return created more problems than it solved. Things like owing taxes every year come to mind. Overtime can unintentionally cause you to live above your means due to the idea of what you can earn vs what you actually earn. Furthermore, transit jobs, in general, are already hard on your body. Outside of pilots and truck drivers, no other industry has the sort of scheduling that we do. Working a lot of overtime will cause you to burn out much quicker. This will result in a lack of patience, constant fatigue, and an overall disgruntled attitude because you’ll feel like you are always at work.

Work overtime with a purpose. Avoid the habit of using it to handle bills such as rent and car notes. I’ve learned this is an unsustainable formula because these debts come monthly. This will cause you to have to work overtime more than you may like on a recurring basis, why? Because the bills are reoccurring. When you do work overtime, work with a dedicated goal, one that is not recurring, for example, holiday shopping or new investments. Learn to manage your time and bills off of your base salary, leveraging overtime for things you want, not things you need.


AVOID|Focusing On Salary Increases During CBA Negotiations

While more money is great and I would never tell anyone to walk away from money on the table, having that be the primary focus of a Union negotiation can be costly. Benefits and perks, come in many different forms and shapes, and there is no shortage of money on this planet. Instead of becoming enslaved by the pursuit of a dollar increase, learn to harness the full potential of the transit platform. By doing so, you can attain things that money alone cannot buy, such as time and company culture. In simplistic terms, a mere dollar raise would only translate to an additional $34 per week after taxes. Considering this, it may not be worthwhile if it means sacrificing something even more valuable in the process.


AVOID|Putting Your Retirement on Autopilot

In short, pensions only benefit those who plan on staying in one place for 30 years, not to mention it could take a decade in some cases to even qualify. Do not fall victim to the pension proposition. Anyone who has ever invested money in any capacity will tell you it’s a terrible idea because it potentially leaves your retirement in the hands of a completely different party. You would be surprised how many operators want to explore different options or career paths, but can’t for fear of losing the retirement they’ve invested in. Control your retirement through various options and personal investments, in this way, you can create your own retirement plan.

You will be solicited by various partners, banks, and credit unions all offering you different money management options to manage your retirement. Avoid them. Control your retirement and invest your own money. When you control your money you can control your future. When you can control your future you can control your present.


Avoid| Buying Things You don’t need

There is an old saying –“Just because we can buy it, doesn’t mean we should buy it”. Unfortunately, a lot of newer operators buy items and create debts that they don’t need. This causes you to have to be a “slave to your schedule”.  The goal of transit is to work smart, not hard. Avoid purchasing liabilities that will force you to continue to work at levels or hours you do not desire.

You would be surprised at the number of operators who want to leave their jobs. Dozens, if not hundreds. However, they can’t, because they cannot afford to. This is how bad operators are born. The worst worker in the world is an unhappy one. Do your best to avoid being the operator who has to work here because they have no other options. You will become miserable. Avoid car loans and a home purchase (not a real estate investment) until you are 100% sure this is what you want to do for the next phase of your life. It will be much harder to get out of these sorts of things than it was to get in.

There are so many perks to being an operator if you play the long game and manage your money smart. Controlling your money means you can control your time, and controlling your time means you can control your freedom. I believe that we as operators have about 10-12 years before things start to decline. When you control your financial future, driving a bus is one of the best jobs you can have– and you can do that by making smart choices.

Money is a great hammer, but do not allow it to turn you into the nail. Purchase things that save or make you money in the long run.


To sum it up, the key takeaway from this article is to make wise investments that align with your financial capabilities, regardless of whether you like driving public transportation or not. By doing so, you will have the necessary financial stability and independence to shape and advance your career.

Remember money is a great worker, terrible boss.