I am not looking for a career, and here’s why

Published August 10, 2015   Posted in How to Think

I’ll be honest, I don’t want a career.  I am just not seeing the good in working for 30 or 40 years for nameless corporations in pursuit of a fancy title, a big salary or influence.  Ever since my wife and I decided to retire early, our pursuits have become significantly more short term.  30 year goals?  Ha!

Pinterest: Not looking for a career in corporate AmericaCareers are interesting things.  Many of us try to get into the best schools, rack up such and such degrees, get involved in x-number of extra curricular activities, score impressive internships through prestigious companies and organizations.

For what?  More times than not, these pursuits are doing nothing more than setting us up for a lifetime of work, of spending countless hours commuting into an office, spending thousands on our crazy-expensive automobiles and the gas required to move them, rewarding our hard work with expensive meals and other completely unnecessary luxuries, expensive vacations and big sprawling homes in big sprawling suburbs.

Careers are expensive

Some estimates put the average cost of our daily commute at $50,000 every 10 years.  Multiply that by a typical 30 year career and we are dropping close to $150,000 – and that is just the cost of getting to and from our office spaces. Other estimates are lower, but even these have Americans flirting with the $100,000 mark over the length of a career.

And that does not include the nearly 1700 hours that Americans spend at work every single year, trying to get ahead, longing for the weekend or the next vacation.  Increasingly, these hours are spent performing sedentary desk jobs that are contributing to the rise of obesity, heart disease and other medical problems resulting from a lack of physical activity.

Chose the right "Career"Even worse, far more Americans hate their jobs than like them.  A 2013 Gallup survey found only 30% of those surveyed feel inspired or satisfied with their jobs.  Even with perks like food, game rooms and other extravagant distractions designed to keep people at work, the majority of Americans simply do not like what they do.  They commute for the paycheck.

Jeez, that’s a hell of a lot to spend on a career.  Your health.  Your money.  Your livelihood.  Sometimes, your life.

Even with high salaries and company perks like food and beer on tap (yes, really), free on-site massages, “thinking rooms” with cool lights or aquariums, there is no replacing a job that you truly enjoy doing…and preferably one within walking distance or a short bike ride from your house.

Things that I no longer do for a career

Before we decided to retire early, I did the same things that so many other Americans do to get ahead at work.  Arrive early and leave late.  Always smile when the boss is around.  Never say no to anything.  Volunteer to work overtime, even when it’s unpaid.  Desire responsibility.

Honestly, it got exhausting.  Putting on a manufactured, half-assed “I love this place!” persona at an office building that you spend nearly half of your waking hours just isn’t worth it.  I’m done sucking up.  I’m done trying to impress managers.

What don’t I do any longer at work?

  • I don’t work overtime unless absolutely necessary – I never volunteer to work overtime, and when I do work it, it must be for a very, very good reason.  If it’s not, then I’m simply “busy”.
  • I no longer care about promotions – With retirement less than 2 years away, an extra promotion or two isn’t going to make the difference, and honestly, I am not looking for more responsibility.  I pity my manager.
  • I no longer care about raises – For the same reason that explains my indifference over promotions, I also don’t care about raises.  We generally save around 70% of our combined income and have already calculated our easy-out in 2017…even if I never get another raise.
  • I take my time with everything I do – I don’t care about being the fastest one out there any longer.  I don’t need to be the first one done (or even the 10th!).  Instead, I take my time and get it done right the first time, because in the end, it saves me heartache from re-work.
  • I no longer take my work home with me – This is a bit tougher because, well, I work from home!  When I’m done with work for the day, I’m done.  Email me if you like, but I’ll get around to responding when the next workday begins.
  • I don’t suck up – This is perhaps the most freeing part of this whole experience.  For the most part, I don’t care what my boss thinks of me.  My work ethic requires me to do the best job that I possibly can, but I no longer care about looking good in front of my manager.

What DO I do at work now that early retirement is well within reach?

I do my work, I do it well, and I spend the rest of my time enjoying my life.  No more worry over what my annual performance review is going to look like.  No more jealousy over fancy job titles.  I do my job, then I stop.

Early retirement is the best decision that I’ve ever made.

What is the alternative to a career?

Like competing in the Iron Man competition, that answer is simple, but can be tough to achieve.  Instead of finding a job to support your desired lifestyle, flip that equation over and try again.  Find your true calling in life first and then design a lifestyle around that.

Forget high salaries.  Salaries are deceptively comforting, but wind up burying millions of Americans under mountains of debt because they believed that their salaries supported clown-like spending and the rampant acquisition of gratuitous crap, big houses and expensive cars.

You see, jobs are easy to change out, but altering your lifestyle is much more difficult.  When people put their wants and desires in life first, they trap themselves into a situation that requires quite a bit of cash to support that extravagant lifestyle.  As a result, people become much more accepting of long commutes, unpaid overtime and working an unsatisfying job – for the sake of that paycheck.  People’s lifestyles are hurting them, and a paycheck is the crutch they need.

Let’s stop this madness once and for all.  Let’s stop working for a paycheck and start working for us, doing something that we love to do, get satisfaction out of and genuinely smile when thinking about.  This would be a much happier and healthier place for all of us.

And who wouldn’t like to see a few less cars on the road?

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29 responses to “I am not looking for a career, and here’s why”

  1. Great post Steve. Unfortunately I’m in the “accumulate wealth as fast as possible phase” and have quite a few years left. Your list of things you no longer do, is my list of what I do most days 🙂 I’ve constantly debated taking a lower paying / lower stress job, but I don’t think I’ll every be completely “happy” working for someone else. That’s why I’m sticking with my path right now. It’s a much faster route to FI, but comes with some BS like pretending to care more than I do, overtime, stress, etc. I don’t HATE my job, but it’s definitely a pain in the neck. The pay increases have been pretty decent, and if I want to go work from home or another state for a few days – no one really cares. And flexibility is huge for me when it comes to a day job.

    • Steve says:

      Hey Fervent! There is a lot to be said about making the absolute most you can while you’re still working. Like you, I don’t think that I’ll be happy working a job for someone else – like, ever. At least not on a full time basis. If you’re like that too, then making the most money that you possibly can to retire as early as possible is probably the smart thing to do.

      As always, thanks for reading! 🙂

    • Stockbeard says:

      I’m with you both, Steve and FF! I totally relate to the article (as often with your posts, Steve!), but I’m also in aggressive accumulating mode, where I’m willing to sacrifice a bit if it means I’ll be out of the rat race sooner.

      I know many people advocate for taking it a bit slower, enjoy life even if it means delaying the early retirement bliss, but my mind is just wired in a way that early retirement is now my main goal, and therefore gets my entire focus.

      • Steve says:

        In some ways I’m there with you, Stockbeard. At this point I certainly wouldn’t take a step back either, and I’m glad that I chose the career that I did because of its income potential. If early retirement wasn’t my goal, however, there’s no way I’d work in IT! 😉

  2. I’m slowly edging towards this type of mindset. When I first started corporate 3 years ago, I was gunho about advancing in my career. Yes, I still want to advance in my career, but I’ve also realized it’s for the purpose of advancing our FI. My hubby and I have been talking about and I think we loosely agree on 40 being our exit from mandatory employment. A lot of factors could affect this exit. From my side, my parents are the biggest factor, since when I hit 40, they will in retirement age and will depend on my brother and I to support them. So, it might a bit after 40 for me, but at least there’s a long term goal in mind.

    • Steve says:

      Hi Savvy,

      Looks like you’ve got a perfectly reasonable and achievable goal to look forward to. 40 was my original goal as well, believe it or not.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. I’ve never really had a specific career in mind. That probably saved me a lot of sanity when I had to go on disability. Now I work customer service from home.

    The problem with careers is that you start to define yourself by them — and by your advancement in the field. Work is a tool to get you where you need to be financially. Define yourself by what you do outside work, and you’ll probably be a lot happier.

    • Steve says:

      That’s a good point, Abigail. People do tend to define themselves by their careers. I’ve done that before, too, in all honestly. That’s a mistake I won’t make again! 🙂

  4. Steve I definitely agree if your already on the verge of having the cash needed to quit working. We’re still building that snowball though, so I’m maximizing the career as much as possible.

    If it weren’t for the promotions over the past several years we wouldn’t be anywhere close to this stage of the game. I’m hoping for at least 2 more big ones before we’re ready to bail.

    • Steve says:

      It’s true that when early retirement is your goal, just plowing through a career and making the most of it is a tried-and-true strategy. Looks like you’re doing just that! 🙂

  5. TheMoneyMine says:

    We are well aligned on one thing: I never bring work home! And never did.
    I rarely reply to emails during vacation either. I recently left on vacation for 3 weeks, some colleagues and suppliers went getting worried but I told them if it was really urgent they could call my cell. Guess what? No-one called! Humans are designed to work around constraints, vacation and week-ends are no different.

    In the meantime at my current job, interesting things keep coming up, promotions and increases keep rolling and I think my company knows how to keep me motivated. So as long as this goes, I’ll keep enjoying the benefits and it brings me closer to FI quicker!

    • Steve says:

      It’s interesting how many organizations out there expect their employees to at least check in while at home or on vacations. It’s about exerting control over their workforce. In the past, I’ve been known to check in as well, but that’s a habit that I’ve quickly broken!

  6. Jason says:

    This is an interesting post and something I struggle with. I am one of the 30% of people who like and get inspired from their job. I love the fact that my job changes daily, I get to meet interesting people, travel to places for work (yes I love to talk shop), teach what I want, set my own schedule, and get to think for a living. At the same time, I have the FI bug. I want to be debt free and choose to work or not. Work is such an important part of who I am I am not sure I will ever give it up fully because I enjoy it. It is an conundrum that I think a lot about. Even this morning as I was walking my dog I thought about FI, my number for FI, and what I would do when I hit that number? I admire those that have a much less convoluted plan than I do.

    • Steve says:

      It’s certainly not a bad thing to like your job, that’s for sure – it makes your working years much more easy and less frustrating.

      In reality, there’s no hard and fast rule that you have to “retire” after becoming Financially Independent. But it does mean you can take time off virtually whenever you want and travel through Europe, or go to South America, or hell, just stay home and chill at your place for a while, any time that you want.

      Think of it in terms of the flexibility that it offers rather than an indication that you should quit. To me, being FI and quitting are mutually exclusive.

  7. Mr. SSC says:

    Man, you nailed it on so many levels! I love my new job in so many of those ways, because after getting this position, I am fine if I didn’t get another raise. I don’t want the responsibility of a promotion. Overtime, ha! This ties in with this company having desktops, so I turn it off when I leave and walk away. Unless I’m drilling a well, then I can get calls outside the office, but I’m okay with that, it’s exciting! Since I’m not trying to climb any ladders, I’ve found a nice balance of diplomacy and honesty, but sucking up, blech. 🙂 I’ll take more money if they want to offer it up, and I do everything well and don’t half ass it, but I am fine where I am currently.
    I can’t wait to get to our FFLC date, but until then I am SO glad I’m at my current company for so many reasons.

    • Steve says:

      Looks like you’ve settled into a nice working environment and have the right attitude about your work-life balance. I suppose that working from home gives me a similar situation. Sometimes when I get into those moments where I REALLY just want to retire, I have to re-ground myself and admit to myself how nice my situation is at the moment. 🙂

  8. Nice post Steve. 2 years is going to be here before you know it.

    I am definitely in accumulation mode and for a while was hating my job. For me the day job is a means to an end.

    Ideally I would love to leave the work force, but I also have some pretty ambitious goals, and currently I have been able to increase my value much faster in the work place than outside of it.

    However, I continue to make optimizations to the career. Over the past 7 years I have:

    1 – dumped the 3-4 hour commute and replaced it with a 5-10 minute one. Still trying to get my commute down to a few steps from my bed and into my office. All in good time.

    2 – gained more and more autonomy. I hate macro management.

    3 – increased my income by 21% a year on average since entering the workforce after college.

    4 – like you I started putting barriers around my time. It’s actually crazy that I have managed to work less this year (40-50 hours a week vs. last year 70-90 hours a week) and make more money.

    5 – get promotions that involve no management of people. I have no interest in managing people. I would much rather be a one man band.

    6 – take more vacation. In the past I had never took more than a 3-day weekend here or there. This month the wife and I are heading off on an 11 day road trip.

    So, I am not looking for a career per se. More so just trying to optimize this cash cow as best I can while still working in the confines of a “Day Job.”


    • Steve says:

      Good on you, Dominic! I definitely agree that you will maximize your accumulation of sweet, sweet cash being inside the workforce than outside, and it sounds like you’re increasingly making the best of it and working more efficiently (working smart, not working hard). Well done!

  9. Man, this is one of those posts that’s tough to read because you are shining a spotlight on all the habits we wish we didn’t have to have. Basically everything you said you don’t do anymore — we still do those things. Our jobs have such a big slice of our pay tied up in year-end lump sums, that we have no choice but to always appear to go above and beyond. It’s super exhausting, and it’s soul-sucking. Our big concern is that, even though we’ll still be retiring extremely early, it won’t be early enough to prevent irreversible damage from stressful careers. But unless we want to uproot our lives and move somewhere else, or push our FI plan waaaaaaaaay back, we have no choice to keep at it. Our solace is that it’s only a little over two more years, which we think we can get through. Sigh…

    • Steve says:

      It is interesting the way that this whole early retirement business works. Although both of us will be retiring far, far, FAR sooner than the majority of people out there, we also get that “hurry up and get here!” attitude too. The closer our FI date gets, the further away it seems. If our FI dates were another 20 years down the road, we probably wouldn’t be thinking about it too much. But, they are right around the corner, and it’s always in the back of our minds.

      I completely understand regarding end-of-year bonuses and other incentives. That does indeed have a motivating factor in how you go about doing your job. Believe me that if I were in your position, I’d probably be doing the same thing – or at least trying my very best. It definitely sounds like we are both frustrated with jobs in general, and we’re just trying to get through the last leg of this race before we finally hit the finish line.

      In truth, our FI date was so important to us that we changed our retirement lifestyles to move our date up. But, after reading a little bit more about your potential retirement plans, I think you guys are going to have an awesome time. 🙂

  10. […] quite yet, the minute that my wife and I became financially independent earlier in the year, my work life suddenly changed, and it became epically […]

  11. […] rate up to 97%.  In the event that we experience the 3%, we’ll find temporary jobs.  Careers are replaceable.  So are jobs.  Not too worried about […]

  12. […] related post: I am not looking for a career, and here’s why […]

  13. Yong says:

    Really enjoyed your article Steve. I’m going through many of the same attitude adjustments at work as I get within 18 months of retirement. It is quite a profound change when you aren’t bucking for the next promotion. I still do my job to the best of my abilility but I’m not doing it to please anyone. Its just too bad that I didn’t stumble onto this concept of early retirement until I was in mid 40s.

  14. Javier says:

    Great post. Had I seen these 15 years earlier I would be retiring right about now. As it is there is a FIRE going on anyway.

  15. financeswithpurpose says:

    Well said. I missed my grandmother’s final Thanksgiving, final Christmas, and some quality time I could have spent with her that last year. Then we went through my father’s passing, and, while I took lots of time near the end, I looked back at the time poured into my job and realized: it just isn’t worth it. Not the money. Not the title. Not the prestige. Not the influence. Relationships are more important.

    So it became easy for me to refocus my life. And that’s what I’m in the process of doing. Like you, I blog about it, because it helps encourage me – and hopefully I can encourage others, much like you! – towards a more fulfilling life. Kudos to you, sir! You are an encouragement.

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