Will I Ever Go Back To Work?
It must happen to anyone who leaves the workforce for a significant length of time — You begin to ponder that big question: “Will I ever go back to work?”
For me, a year has passed since I collected that last paycheck. I’m a happier person for it. I’m less stressed than before, and I like my life a lot better. Now, I spend my days working on projects (like this blog) that really matter to me.
That said, to be completely honest — I still ask myself the question. “Will I ever go back?”
Believe it or not, working actually has certain advantages. Ones that might be overlooked by people on the road to FIRE.
Thankfully, Mr. Tako is here to remind you of why work is so AWESOME!
OK OK, maybe ‘awesome’ isn’t the right word, but working full-time does have some big advantages…
Advantage #1: Peace Of Mind
Now that I don’t collect a regular bi-weekly paycheck, the vast majority of my income is now derived from investments.
In a calm, peaceful world, I would expect those investments to continue generating earnings well into the future. Except in the real world (where the rest of us live), shit happens…all…the…time!
The investing world is fraught with peril, and anyone who’s invested through the past few decades knows: Any random bozo clown thing can happen.
This provides a nice segue into the first big advantage that returning to work might provide — income stability. The Big Fat Paycheck that more than covers your expenses.
The financial markets may wiggle and wobble around constantly, but as long you have a job you’ll know where your next meal is coming from. That stability provides great “peace of mind”.
Being financially independent, I rely on my investments for income. If an investment cuts dividends, it’s entirely possible I could run out of cash during a downturn…or even worse, be forced to sell assets to pay the bills!!!
(Note: I’m not actually worried about this happening, but it is theoretically possible.)
“Peace of mind” is especially tricky for stock investors — equity markets are notoriously volatile, making for a wild ride. Not everyone can sleep well at night knowing their net worth might fluctuate plus or minus 50% on any given day.
For those people, going back to work might just be the right strategy.
The reality is, working doesn’t really solve the problem either. Life is inherently unstable. When the next recession hits, it’s very possible your employer will cut positions and lay people off. Suddenly that false peace of mind is gone.
Its happened to me…more than once.
Advantage #2: Socialization
I’ve mentioned this advantage in one of my previous posts, but it’s worth mentioning here again. Early retired life is quiet.
During the day, most people are going to be working standard 8am to 6pm work shifts, and then commuting home. Very few people will have the time or energy to do fun stuff with you during the day. After work, they probably won’t have a lot of time either.
Most of my friends only have time to play on the weekends. Occasionally we meet up for lunch, but that’s actually pretty rare.
If you live in a suburban neighborhood like I do, the streets are completely empty during the day. It’s like a scene from some kind of apocalypse movie….minus the zombies of course.
Being free from the constraints of work leaves a ton of time to yourself. Alone with your own thoughts…
If you’re the kind of person who thrives on social interaction, you might have a problem with so much quiet. (It does make trips to the grocery store MUCH faster though.)
I’m the rare sort of person that likes the quiet, but I understand this doesn’t suit everybody.
If the voices in your head can’t fill that socialization need, head back to work!
Advantage #3: Direction (Or Purpose)
A lot of people might be offended by this, but in my experience many humans are NOT self directed. If left alone, they accomplish nothing. They literally need someone to give them direction.
Back when I was working, I used to manage small teams of 7 to 9 people. I frequently got to see this behavior in action — Some individuals were industrious and they sought-out new work (or fixed problems) when they finished their current tasks. Other individuals just web surfed or played cell phone games until new tasks were assigned.
Which kind of person are you?
If you’re the latter, going back to work (or staying working) might be the best strategy for you. Funny movies like Office Space might praise a life of “doing nothing”, but it can lead to depression, obesity, and other health problems. Staying active is a major component of longevity and health.
I’ve written a lot about finding a
porpoise purpose outside of work, because I strongly believe in keeping busy.
Work can help people feel fulfilled and provide a sense of value. Without direction (or purpose), these kinds of ‘soft’ rewards are hard to create outside of the workplace.
Advantage #4: Workplace Perks
When you work in the sausage factory, there’s almost always a discount on sausage.
In fact, nearly every company I’ve ever worked for had some kind of workplace perk — like discounts or deals on company products.
By far, these perks are one of the funnest parts of being a employee. Who doesn’t feel awesome getting special discounts only available to a select few people?
I used to work in the online travel industry, and one of the best workplace perks we received was discounted hotel rooms. Those discounts amounted to 20-40% off retail pricing! That’s essentially wholesale price. I used to stay at 5-star hotels for 3-star prices!
Other workplace perks could include free resources like training, tools, software, or use of company machinery. Sometimes employees even receive access to beta versions of new products not yet released to the public, or access to prime deals.
Speaking of prime…I wonder if Amazon employees get free Amazon Prime?
Advantage #5: Insurance Benefits
In the United States, insurance and healthcare is a friggin disaster. Despite new legislation (the ACA), health care premiums continue to rise at rates much faster than inflation.
While these rate increases are specific to locations, insurance companies, and individuals; I’ve never heard of increases just matching inflation. It’s clear, healthcare costs are rising ridiculously fast in the United States, while most employees only see token annual salary increases.
Working full-time provides big advantages when it comes to healthcare — Full-time employees usually receive benefits that significantly reduce the cost of health insurance. Compared to ACA health plans, employer subsidized health plans are an incredible deal…one that’s worth thousands of dollars per year.
Think carefully about this advantage. Unless you intend to engage in medical tourism, your health care costs are likely to continue rising.
The Tako family currently receives our health care through Mrs. Tako’s employer. This is great for the moment…while she’s working. But, once she quits we’re going to have to purchase a high-deductible health plan. I’ve already determined that we can stomach a lot of increases given our investment income level, but that buffer won’t last forever.
While I firmly believe that Financial Independence is something everyone should strive for, leaving the workplace might not be the right move for everyone.
The modern workplace does have benefits. Whether those benefits outweigh the costs is entirely up to you. Like plants, some people will thrive in one environment, while others might shrivel up and die.
It’s a very personal decision.
In my case, I’m not going back anytime soon. The cost of my time is worth more than anything the advantages provide — I’m a self directed individual that doesn’t need a lot of socialization. Workplace perks don’t really matter to me, and I’m confident I can handle whatever stock market fluctuations occur. While healthcare is a concern, we have plans to mitigate or at least avoid the issue.
But nothing will ever be 100% certain. Life is just too random. Its taken time, but I’ve now made peace with that fact.
The only stability in life is the one you build for yourself…which is exactly why I don’t condone quitting until you’re ready to catch the wave.
33 thoughts on “Will I Ever Go Back To Work?”
I think #5 is the biggie! The prospect of losing heavily discounted healthcare might delay my complete exit of the workforce for a few years. I could definitely see myself trying to get a part time job that included benefits instead of totally quitting. We’ll see what happens to the ACA!
My healthcare premiums actually went down last year. I have no idea why as they don’t explain it to you, but I found it strange indeed. I don’t think it’s because my employer decided to increase their subsidy either and everything else remained the same.
Very interesting on the part of most people not being self-directed. Sometimes I get myself in a bubble as just about everybody I work with is self-directed, which is why I have a harder time understanding how people who are FI get bored. I’m in the camp that thinks if I didn’t work I’d probably get involved in so many projects that one day I’d wake up and wonder how I had time to actually get work done during the day!
Too many projects and not enough time to get them all done? Sounds like me!
I think that this question will remain with you for a few more years, and then all of a sudden you will realize you haven’t had this question for a couple of years and realize you are indeed, well and truly an early retire!
Work is so ingrained into our lives that really accepting the notion of never having to work again will take some time. More than a year, apparently.
But count your blessings. In Belgium most will not have the opportunity to ask themselves this question. High taxes make it a lot more difficult to amass a big stash, on the plus side, our social security system offers perks so you do not need a big, big stash to retire on. But the downside of this is that you need to remain IN the system. You either have to be an employee, own your own business, be unemployed or deemed medically unfit to work. Unemployed is a possibility but off course the government (since they pay you benefits) has agencies whose purpose it is to get your lazy ass back to work. And being pestered by them is not my idea of a fun retirement. So part time work (or less) would be the ideal solution. Plan A would be to work a bit less than 5 months in a year and have about 1000 euro a month from it. Plan B would be to work 3 months a year, make 1200 a 1400 euro while working, and then have unemployment benefits of 500 euro for the remaining months.
Not bad, but as you see, we will always have to work a bit ..
Great things to think about. For me – the prospect of losing that regular pay check and all those little (and big) perks is tough to imagine leaving – even though I really don’t NEED them. They’re still awfully nice to have.
That’s a tough question! A lot of considerations that are hard to truly conceptualize until I’m actually an early retiree, something that once experienced I will understand more. I plan to have plenty of cushion which will afford me peace of mind (I think…), with new hobbies and projects I will have the socialization I need to replace work socialization (I think…), with a young family, volunteering more and hobbies I will have the direction and purpose I need (I think…), I might be able to retain some workplace perks although my wife wouldn’t and hers include nice discounts on hotels too, and there will always be some concern with health insurance although that can be stymied by a solid cushion (I think…).
Similar to you though, I can’t imagine the benefits of early retirement not offsetting the benefits of work! I love posts like these, thanks!
Glad you enjoy them Green Swan! Please come back again soon!
Number 3 is huge. It seems like so many people look forward to getting out of work without having a plan for what they are going to do with that free time. Having no direction can be absolutely devastating. It is so important to figure out a new direction before you actually leave your job.
Number 5 is big for me as well. I had back problems in high school and before the ACA insurance companies refused to offer me any sort of coverage because of pre-existing conditions. I could only have insurance if I had a job that offered insurance. The ACA corrected that to allow me to pay (even if it is a large amount) for my own insurance, but it looks like the ACA could be repealed sometime soon. Depending on what it is replaced with, I could end up needing to keep a job just for insurance purposes.
Nice article. The question of returning passes on after a while.
But that feeling of directionless after FIRE… I still struggle with it here in year three – it’s like being at an intersection where seemingly dozens of roads all intersect at the same place.
Since you asked, Amazon employees don’t get free prime memberships.
Good to know…but kindof shitty for Amazon employees.
I’m just here for the discount sausages. 😉
There are definitely some things I’ll miss when I take leave from my job. Reimbursed travel to a conference or two of my choice will be chief among them. Also, the social aspect you highlighted.
When I do resign, I’ll treat it as a career sabbatical. I’m taking time off for a family adventure, and we’ll determine whether or not to make it permanent at a later point in time.
Very smart way to go about it. You actually came up in my conversation with Mrs. Tako last night. The kind of job you do has a lot of meaning…more so than just creating a widget. If I was to place a bet, I would guess you’ll be back at it after a few years of “Sabbatical”.
I had a flex schedule during the holidays where I basically only worked two days over a two week span of time. It. Was. Awesome. I got a taste of what freedom would look like, and I loved it. Believe it or not, I was actually super busy around the house doing little projects and working on the blog. I still felt like I had a shortage of time at the end of the day, but man, I was so happy and satisfied.
But this is a good point. Obviously there are good things about 9-to-5 jobs or people wouldn’t keep doing them.
Freedom is pretty awesome, and you sound like the kind of person who would keep yourself busy. Not everyone is like that of course!
Here is another one I worry about:
If you have kids, kids who are young or were non existent during your accumulation phase and both parents retire early how do you teach your child the work ethic of having to stick it out at things that aren’t always fun? If they have never seen either parent in the workforce will that out then at a disadvantage when the time comes for them to step up to the plate?
I have a different point of view…one where slogging it out at a job you hate isn’t ‘work ethic’. It’s misery.
Instead, I want to teach my boys about entrepreneurship, building wealth and finding real freedom in life. But to each their own.
Mrs BITA: I think in today’s world, where most people I know have a “side gig” in addition to their corporate job, you might not necessarily showing the wrong things to your kid by quitting corporate early, as long as you still lead a productive life? I’ve wondered about that myself to be honest, and, as long as I have my side gig (a blog), my kids will know that my job is something media related 🙂
it’s segue, not segway 😉
Also, according to Quora, Amazon employees do not get free prime.
Thanks for the correction Stockbeard!
I’ve pondered the same question. But so far I’m never bored and have been busier than when I was working. While early retirement is awesome for me, I can see it being a bad fit for someone who isn’t self motivated.
I could live like this indefinitely. But if the market tanked, and stocks went on super sale, I might be tempted to do some contracting so I could buy some cheap stocks 🙂
Nice post – you almost had me convinced that I’ll go back to work after leaving in a few years! 😉
Actually, you nailed a lot of important points in here and, from the money aspect, the health insurance benefit is one that most of us would see as the most valuable.
I already have so many things I want to focus on when I reach FI that I don’t think I’ll go back. However, my wife will probably either continue to work part-time or will do volunteer work.
On the other hand, if I become a part-time Walmart greeter, maybe I can pass out flyers pointing customers to my blog… genius!!!
Haha! You crack me up Jim. Let me know what Walmart you work at and I’ll come say ‘hi’.
Great post Mr Tako.
I think it is certainly the quiet that trips up many retirees when they first hop off the hamster wheel. Unemployment television is enough to drive anybody into the streets or the local Mall or wherever, but in the absence of even surburban zombies to play with many find it isolating.
I work 1260 hrs. / year. I can drop to about 1020 and still get health insurance, for which my choice is a 90% coverage, $450 deductible, free generic drugs at Costco, free dental with $1500.00 per year at 100% coverage, and vision. Plus a few other things. I am close to retirement, but the other half still has a job . . . but the insurance is not as good. Things for us to think about – cut back hours, collect SS, collect pension?? Work and healthcare are important – but what one chooses is not always something which can be changed later on. Oh well!
Like financial freedom sloth I think this is a phase you go through in early retirement. Humans are highly adaptable but tend to fear change. Our brains are hardwired to create barriers and fears to these transitions. The reality is the same benefits you outline for employment are also possible in retirement if you know where to look and how to structure things. Where they are not there are new advantages like the ability to structure income around tax laws or travel whenever you desire. It’s about finding what you want and then structuring whatever life is around those things.
It’s been nearly 3.5 years since I left a traditional 9-5 work day. It was really weird the first couple days. Fast forward to today and time is flying by, but with much less stress. 🙂
You bring up some great points here, so it’s good to never say NEVER! While I don’t anticipate going back to work ever (in a traditional sense), if the purpose is strong enough, who knows. Plus, I’m pretty sure once my kids hit their teen years, they aren’t going to want to hang out with Dad as much anymore. 😉
You never know…you seem like a pretty cool dad Michael!
Nice to see the pros and the cons of retirement. I used to think about those things a lot when I first retired, but the longer I’m retired the less I feel the pull of going back to work. And I get that retirement may not be a good fit for extraverted, non self starter people, but for me (I’m fairly extroverted) what worked was reaching out to communities of like minded people (FI community, fiction writers, the non-profit I volunteer for) to build passion projects together. That helps to get rid of the lack of human interaction and gives you purpose. Going back to a job just to have a forced purpose won’t help. If you were unhappy before, quitting and going back isn’t going to suddenly make you happy. I also think developing entrepreneurial skills are useful since jobs aren’t as reliable as they use to be. You’re always at the mercy of the employers. That being said, people who like their jobs or can go back and find jobs they like (even if they take a pay cut), working might be a good fit for them. Not everyone has to be fully retired and working on their own projects.
It’s working out great for me though! Some days are busier than when I was working but WAY more awesome 🙂
It definitely looks like the whole gig worked out for you FIRECracker! 😉 Great perspective on this!
An engagement we love should be part of our lives. And that is what work is all about. Sometimes retirement brings a monotonicity in life that we admire only for a short period of time. So, going back to work, or at least doing something we love is definitely necessary for our well-being. As mentioned accurately in this article, having a social life helps us lead more happy lives.
I left the corporate world four years ago at the age of 39. As of one year ago, I went back to my career part time. I work only 2-3 days per week, and I have less responsibility, so very little stress, but I get to keep my skills up. I agree with the social aspect and I like being part of a team. I also love the paychecks. Since rental income covers my living expenses, all of my income can go into a travel fund. 🙂
However, I disagree with benefits. I hope I will never have to ‘accept’ benefits including health care and PTO. These are golden handcuffs to me. I want to work on my terms. Since I don’t have kids, working part time has really been the best balance. “Retirement” isn’t a word I can relate to anymore, but I have plenty of time to work on meaningful personal endeavors. Full time work just doesn’t work with my physiology. I also never work Mondays. 🙂
Additionally, I’m female and I have an engineering degree and I’m in a pretty cool field with a lot of innovation. My dad busted his butt to pay for my degree and I graduated number one in my class. There are girls in India who can’t even attend school because they are walking 6 miles a day just to get water. I would feel too guilty to waste my degree, but I do enjoy the freedom of being financially flexible.
Sometimes even the best thought out plans don’t work when you plan on not working.
Nothing wrong with going back to work either even if it’s part time.
Being an extrovert without children, I definitely worry about that aspect. Thankfully (ha), that won’t be a problem for a long time, but it is definitely something to consider seriously when designing your life.