Monday, July 9, 2018

Swimming Lesson Economics

When people discover you have five children, they immediately gasp and lament how expensive children are. I generally shrug. Children are about as expensive as you allow them to be. Yes, there are definitely expenses that add up over time and birthing them safely is a humdinger of an expense, but most childhood "requirements" are nice options if you can afford it, but otherwise it's really not a big deal to skip when you can't afford it.

And then there are swimming lessons. Swimming seems like an important life skill that should be prioritized if at all possible.

Our history with swimming lessons is a bit fraught. We do not have a pool. Our neighborhood does not have a pool. The nearest available pool is at the local rec center, which requires a membership to use. Swimming has not been a regular part of our lives. Money and time. Money and time. One reason I sprung for the summer rec membership is to help get my kids in a pool more often.

The rec center offers swimming lessons without a membership, but they aren't very good since it is generally one 16yo girl paired with five or six swimmers for 30 minutes. Lots of blowing bubbles in the water, not a lot of stroke instruction. With a price tag of $90 a child, it's not a good deal. We have resorted to them over the years, but I'd rather find something better.

The majority of the private lesson instructors in this area requires that you have access to a pool. As I said, we do not have access to a pool. Once I scheduled lessons with a woman who was highly recommended who told me she could arrange pool access for us. She charged $100 per kid with a four to one ratio. She cancelled the Friday afternoon before the Monday the lessons were supposed to start because she could *not* arrange pool access for us. This happened to be the same week Marian was born. I might have cried.

Fast forward a couple-three years and I found a woman who offered lessons at her house every June, and only in June, for $100 a child with a two to one ratio. It was a drive--35 minutes--but swimming lessons, right? The week went well and I felt I had finally found a solution to the swimming lesson problem. Come the following March, she sent out an email declaring she was no longer offering lessons because she was expanding her regular work. The swimming lesson problem was not solved.

Last year, I couldn't even think about lessons. I told the children I'd think about it in September after the baby was born and look into off season lessons. I did not look into off season lessons.

This year back at the beginning of April, my sister happened to mention a swim school in her neighborhood. She thought I knew about it. I did not know about it. It runs all day long, all summer long.

The school was almost full for the summer, but by some miracle, the instructor had one four slot set of lessons available in the morning for a week in July. *This* week in July. It costs $125 a child. I was lucky to get them signed up. Every available slot was gone by the end of April. It felt like divine intervention. The schedule could not have been better.

The set up of this swim school is that the owner of the pool is a swim coach. He employs his swimmers to work one on one with each student. There are only four students and four teachers in the pool at a time. Since I have four children in need of lessons, we nicely consume exactly one session all for ourselves.

As I drove over this morning, it occurred to me that he makes $500 for each and every full session since that is what the lessons in this full section are costing me. My mind boggled with the possibilities. If you run 30 minute sessions back to back for eight hours, you can gross 80 thousand dollars over the course of the ten week summer swim season. It was amazing to consider.

My mind immediately jumped to my former wage. I earned around 42K in take home money working full time, 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year. Could you really make more money giving swimming lessons over the summer? Also why aren't I a stronger swimmer and have a pool and only work 10 weeks a year?

It turns out he does not run back to back sessions, but a new sessions starts every 45 minutes. This is only 10 sessions a day for a total of 50 thousand dollars, gross, over the summer.

I do not know how much he pays his teachers, but they are teenagers. They cannot be demanding top dollar, I wouldn't think. I would guess his expenses can't be more than half his gross. Don't you think a teenager would work for $500 a week giving swim lessons? That sounds like a generous wage to me, but I don't know about modern expectations.

An easy speculation, making a ton of assumptions, is that he clears, after payroll, taxes and other expenses, between 20 and 25 thousand dollars a summer or approximately half of my professional working wage. Wow. He could tweak his setup and make more if he wanted. He could squeeze in more lessons or employ fewer teachers by offering a 2-1 ratio instead of one on one. He could do some of the teaching himself. He could only employ one other person, have a 2-1 ratio, teach, and clear as much money as I made working all year round.

You really can make a livable, if not extravagant, wage giving swimming lessons during the summer and do nothing else. The mind boggles again. All you have to do is know how to swim well enough to coach, have a steady supply of teenagers wanting to be Michael Phelps, have your own backyard pool, and live in a climbing suburb full of parents for whom swimming lessons is a non-negotiable. Easy, right?

As for me, giving all my many children access to swimming lessons has turned out to be very expensive, indeed. 


Meredith said...

I would guess his liability insurance is a significant expense, though.

Jenny said...

I was wondering about the liability insurance. Do you think you'd need insurance over and above the liability of just having the pool? Would teaching lessons require extra insurance? I don't know. But yes, insurance is definitely an expense.