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.