I spend a lot of time writing about the virtues of early retirement from full-time work and enjoying my days without a schedule, drinking coffee outside of our Airstream at 9am and pondering what the hell I’m going to do that day.
That’s mainly because I derive very little satisfaction out of my job. In fact, any job.
I’ve written thousands of words and hundreds of blog posts that crap on the concept of jobs and mindless work and prop up the idea of travel as if it were this amorphous fog of brilliance. It’s what smart people do, and anyone who feels differently must have something wrong with them.
Of course I don’t believe that to be true, and I’d like to take a few minutes and tell you that there’s nothing wrong with liking your full-time job or hating to travel. Really, there isn’t!
And, there is a larger point behind the position that I’m coming from in this discussion.
There is nothing wrong with liking a full-time job
This is so important that it bears mentioning again (and again). It’s wonderful to love what you do (I wish I did). It’s great to love your job (again, I wish I did). There is nothing wrong with you if you don’t want to quit your job at 35 and retire early to travel the country.
I’ve written before that early retirement isn’t for everyone, and I truly do mean that.
What I write about on this blog is what works FOR ME. I personally want to retire early and travel the country in our Airstream with my wife and two rescued dogs. That’s what makes us tick, and we think it’s a kick ass plan.
But that doesn’t mean everyone’s plan needs to look something like ours, and more importantly, it doesn’t imply that those who actually like to work are somehow strange or inferior.
If work is your game, cool. I truly do respect that. We need a workforce in this country that actually wants to work and enjoys what they do. When people put genuine love into their work, the end result tends to be that much better.
Hell, I don’t want civil engineers who absolutely abhor what they do to design our nation’s next generation of replacement bridges, railroads or skyscrapers. I want those people to get off on that stuff. Live for it. Couldn’t think of anything else that they’d rather do. Teachers. Cops. Firefighters. Even politicians. Our society is fundamentally better when people love what they do.
One of the things I hear many people say is “I don’t want to retire early. I like my job“. Fair enough, but…
When I – and many others in the personal finance blogosphere – challenge people out there to examine their lives, jobs and lifestyles, what I am really doing is challenging people to confirm their love of work. Sometimes, our feels get manifested out of something completely different.
Do you actually like/love your job? Do you see yourself working until 60 or older and enjoying it? Do you thoroughly love what you do or are you just content with your place in life?
Maybe work is just a diversion from a deeper issue that you are attempting to escape at home. Or maybe it provides the social stimulus that you need and wouldn’t otherwise get without a full-time job. Perhaps your job is your way of feeling useful to society and fueling that desire that is within all of us that craves meaning and productivity.
In other words, do you like your job or is your job covering for something else that you may be struggling with in your life? Would you rather be doing something else?
Would you do your job for free?
Here comes my perspective – jobs are only one way to feel productive, or derive inner meaning, or engage in social practices. They can definitely fill the void that many of us might have in our lives without a set daily schedule. The only problem is how much these jobs are costing us in order to achieve those busy set schedules.
In other words, if your job is your way of feeling productive, there may be much more fulfilling ways to stay busy and feel productive than holding a traditional job.
Jobs can be thoroughly draining
Jobs require a TON of resources out of our lives to maintain for most of us. The commutes. The cars. The costs. The stress. The hours at the office. The time…the incredible amount of time that jobs take from our lives each and every year. If you work a traditional job, then from sun-up to sun-down, we’re either doing or thinking about our jobs.
Thinking about work on nights and weekends is not fun. Actually working nights and weekends can be even less fun. Button-down shirts and ties, dress clothes, dealing with childish or lazy co-workers, incompetent managers, endless meetings, performance reviews…you name it. Jobs.
Jobs are like that Hummer – it gets you from Point A to Point B, but it does so in guzzling fashion, utilizing a ton of fuel and power. It’s big. It’s bulky. And, it takes up a ton of space.
Our jobs provide us with the intellectual and social stimulation we need, but they also come with parts that just drain most of us, like waking up at the crack of dawn, wear and tear on our cars, money spent on fuel and food and clothes, stresses of downsizes and layoffs…
Worse, most of us won’t even remember our jobs at the end.
At the end of our lives, we tend to elevate our definition of meaning and accomplishment to something way more powerful, too. We remember the adventures that we took rather than the jobs we held, that cross-country trip with the family rather than the countless conference calls, the time we ran into Jerry Springer at a coffee shop at 10am on a Monday.
Unless we’re making remarkable contributions that make history, it is not in our nature to reflect on the monotony of jobs at the end of our lives. We remember having fun and smiling. We remember doing the things that truly make us tick. Life is short.
To me, maintaining a job takes way too much time out of my relatively short life, especially knowing how little satisfaction I get from doing that job. There are too many opportunities out there to explore, people to meet, places to visit, things to see.
I would have to REALLY like my job to keep pushing off early retirement.
And that brings me back to the larger point of this blog post. Jobs tend to be draining, even when we enjoy them. Do those things that genuinely bring you amazing happiness. If that includes working a full-time job, then great! Keep working that job until that happiness fades.
But, do yourself a favor and consider whether or not you actually like your job or if that job is providing you with a sense of accomplishment that you might be able to achieve elsewhere in life, doing different things, developing new skills, designing a new lifestyle routine – doing something that takes far fewer resources and demands less of your precious time.
Do you love your job? Love it enough to keep doing it until 2/3rds of your life is behind you? If that answer is yes, more power to you. I applaud and respect that. I really do.
If not – if you are content with your job but think about doing other things while at the office during the day, you may not enjoy it as much as you think. There are other options out there. Find them, and prosper.
Maybe one day, I’ll see ya out there on the road somewhere – enjoying life outside of an office.
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.