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Don’t Wait Until Retirement to be Happy

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Last time, we went over Adam and Jane’s early retirement situation. Both of them have been ready to quit their job for a while now and they are just hanging on to shore up their personal saving. If they can work 5 more years, then their pension will be fully vested and they will be able to retire without any financial concerns.

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In a stressful situation like that, I fully believe you have to do something to lessen the pressure right away. It’s not healthy to hate your job because that’s how you spend at least 50% of your waking hours. I hated my corporate job before I quit and the bad vibe permeated all facets of life even when I wasn’t at the office. The stress will impair your physical and mental health, relationship, finance, and even sleep. You can probably endure a year or even two to meet a financial goal, but I think 5 years is way too long to suffer that kind of mental beat down.

Actually, I enjoyed my corporate job when I first started. Over the years, it became more stressful and I progressively liked it less and less. My last year was pretty much unbearable and I should have left long before having to endure that kind of mental anguish. When I quit my engineering career, life instantly became much better. I was able to spend a lot of time with RB40 Jr. and work on this blog. These days, I’m not stressed out all the time. I can sleep through the night and I have a good relationship with my wife and kid. Sure, I don’t make as much money, but I don’t need to spend a lot of money to relief the pressure either.

Don’t wait until 60 to be happy

I call this blog Retire by 40, but it really should be Enjoy Life by 40 or something like that. I retired from my corporate career 18 months ago, but I don’t plan to stop working anytime soon. I’m very busy everyday and I enjoy 99% of it. The 1% is when Jr. fights me about brushing teeth, eating lunch, and throwing toys. I found a way out of my stressful situation and I’m sure most Americans can do the same if they work at it.

The point I’m trying to make is that you don’t have to wait until you’re 60 to enjoy life. Holding down a stressful job that you hate is no way to live. It’s better to find an alternative and enjoy life now. Who knows what will happen in 10 or even 5 years. You might feel like you are stuck in your job, but you have a lot of choices. Here are just some ideas if you really hate your job.

  • Find a more enjoyable company to work for. The job market is improving and you might be able to find a better work environment. Sometime changing job within the same company can improve your professional life too.
  • Change career. You can go back to school, try applying to some different jobs, or even start a small business.
  • Cut back to half time. I don’t think this option is available to many people, but check with your HR to see if it’s possible.
  • Side hustle. Use your spare time to figure out how to make money with your hobby.
  • Become Financial Independent. This is a long term project for most people, but I think it’s a lot more doable than you think. Most people with high income have high expense. If they can reduce it to the basic living expense, I bet many of them can quit their job in a few years especially if they have been saving for a long time.

Personally, I think it’s much more important to find a way to enjoy life now rather than to endure years of misery to enjoy it later. Once you can take care of the basic necessities, time is much more precious than money. You can always make money, but your time is irreplaceable.

What do you think? Is time more precious than money?

Photo credit: flickr Bethan

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{ 44 comments… add one }

  • [email protected] January 22, 2014, 1:34 am

    Money buys you time back for yourself. We don’t have kids yet, that’s why we’re hustling hard now to build our net worth. I want to work on my terms when I’m done.

  • jane savers @ solving the money puzzle January 22, 2014, 3:39 am

    I love my health care job but, now that I am in my late 40s, I am feeling the effects of the physical wear and tear and the constant stress but I need to work until I am 59 before I can escape.

    Health is the most important thing you can have followed by the luxury of time but much money is needed to be able to claim your time as your own.

    • retirebyforty January 22, 2014, 8:47 am

      Working in a stressful job is a lot less fun when you’re older. Good luck!

  • Retire Before Dad January 22, 2014, 3:52 am

    Reading the case study yesterday, working another 5 years seemed like a terrible option. People in this situation often make the mistake of just saying screw it and quitting, which can bad too. The exit strategy they put together and your suggestions are much better than just up and quitting. I’m currently planning to retire at 55. But sometimes I think that’s not early enough, even though my job is not stressful.

    • retirebyforty January 22, 2014, 8:52 am

      If you enjoy your job, then there is no reason to quit. 🙂 You’re right about quitting. If they keep enduring their job, that’s how it’s going to end up. It’s better to have a plan.

  • Well Heeled Blog January 22, 2014, 4:58 am

    The danger of being miserable in your job is that the misery will leak into other spaces of your life. But I also don’t think you need to have a super duper happy job that you are super passionate about to be a generally happy, successful, well-adjusted person.

    • retirebyforty January 22, 2014, 8:54 am

      If your job is tolerable, then it’s probably okay. As long as you’re not miserable, it won’t ruin your personal life.

  • Time is definitely more precious than money.
    My dad HATED his job so much that it really impacted his life while we were growing up. When he retired, he literally turned into a different (and better) person overnight. Since he didn’t have to dread going to work anymore, it was like the weight of the world was lifted off of his shoulders.

    • retirebyforty January 22, 2014, 8:55 am

      Thanks for sharing. That’s a huge reason why I quit my job. I don’t want my kid to deal with my job stress.

    • Robert January 10, 2016, 7:42 pm

      Thanks for the vote of confidence. I’m 59 and have been teaching for 27 years. It used to be a fun and challenging profession, but not there is too much stress. Standards, evaluations, new curriculums it’s just to stressful. I’m very unhappy.

  • Justin @ Root of Good January 22, 2014, 5:40 am

    I could have written this same blog post, Joe! Except the 1% of unhappiness time due to fighting with Jr to get him to brush his teeth and not throw toys and food would be about 4-5% (we have 3 kids and they can be challenging at times!). Still, being happy and stress free 95% of the time is quite a luxury.

    • retirebyforty January 22, 2014, 8:56 am

      I can imagine 3 kids… That 1% is already driving me nuts. 🙂

  • Fast Weekly January 22, 2014, 6:31 am

    Absolutely Joe. That’s why we’re taking a year off and traveling once our son gets a little older. We think we’ll set out in early 2015. Live must have balance and must be enjoyed. My mother died in her early 50s and my father nearly died in his mid 40s. Adventure is out there, don’t be afraid to live a little

    • retirebyforty January 22, 2014, 8:57 am

      That’s great! I’m planning to go to Thailand for 2 months next year. It will be a blast. I think 1 year is probably too long for us. We’ll probably do 2-3 months every year.

  • Done by Forty January 22, 2014, 7:21 am

    I had some of the same symptoms of over-stress at my last job, too, Joe: waking up in the middle of the night worried about a project, declining health, tired all the time…

    The new job is virtual and much less stressful. I joke that I might not quit at 40 if it stays this stress free: being at home with the family and the dogs makes it easy for it not to feel like work sometimes.

    Love the advice to put your well being before career. It’s such a common sense fix, but a hard one to sell in our work-centric culture.

    • retirebyforty January 22, 2014, 8:58 am

      Congratulation! It’s great that you found a less stressful job. I probably should have done that before quitting completely.

  • William Cowie January 22, 2014, 8:00 am

    This is so true. I come from Africa, where I’ve seen people happy at less than a tenth of minimum wage. A lot of it is simply deciding to not let lack stop you from finding happiness where you are.

    Finding happiness is intentional, not financial.

    • retirebyforty January 22, 2014, 8:59 am

      As long as we can meet the basic needs, we don’t need a huge amount of money to be happy. Our standards are just warped by external factors.

  • davidmichael January 22, 2014, 8:31 am

    Well … what I didn’t mention in my last comments and advice for Adam and Jane in the previous article, was the other side of my own personal situation about retirement at age 57, some 20 years ago. I mentioned that at age 64, my wife lost her annuity ($650,000) because her insurance company went bankrupt. Consequently, we have worked periodically as part of our retirement from professional life.

    What I didn’t mention, is that at age 56 we had just completed a 500 mile bike ride across Oregon and I thought I was in perfect health. However, I noticed a lump on my neck that was growing larger by the month. And, after 20 years as the president of my own company, I realized I hated my management role as I had lost my vice-presdent a few years prior to form her own company. It seemed there was no way out of it, and I needed another seven years to complete our retirement plan with a million dollars in stock investments. I was under intense stress and spent more and more time in the mornings at a local coffee shop trying to figure a way out, totally feeling stuck.

    When I went to my local doctor to check out the lump, I was sent to a specialist for a biopsy. The opinion came back as a strong wake-up call. It was cancer, in the form of Hodgkins Disease. Since I was in stage one, the doctor said I had eight years to live if I did nothing to control it. Of course, our whole world collapsed and the money and dream house and company had little meaning all of a sudden. Now it was a fight for survival. After researching all of the different methods of treatment over six months on a Macrobiotic diet, I relented to undertake radiation treatments for eight weeks. A good decision as the cancer was knocked out in two weeks and I have been in good health ever since. I ended up selling the company within a year and never looked back. The stress was gone, and a whole new life opened up, part of which was teaching for five years in the Middle East and now RVing and exploring North America. We live on approximately 30 percent of my former salary and love every day on this planet.

    • retirebyforty January 22, 2014, 9:00 am

      Wow, thanks for sharing. I really need to profile your retirement. I’ll get in touch soon.

  • Insourcelife January 22, 2014, 10:35 am

    I just found out that my childhood friend died on Monday. He was 38. He was stressed at work, stressed at home and suffered from high blood pressure, which is essentially what killed him. “Don’t wait until 60 to be happy” is right because some won’t even make it that far. Not to be a downer, but puts things into perspective.

    • retirebyforty January 22, 2014, 5:05 pm

      I’m sorry to hear that. Life is really short and we need to appreciate our time here. I had a feeling that I wouldn’t make it to 60 if I stuck with my old job. That’s another big reason why I had to get out of there.

  • Getting burnt out January 22, 2014, 11:39 am

    I just found your blog recently and I’ve enjoyed reading it. I’m in my early forties and I’ve been contemplating retiring over the last couple years. I’ve been self employed for the last 14 years and my wife (in her early-thirties) and I have done pretty well for ourselves. We own multiple properties and would be able to retire now if we sold our largest property (our current residence) and lived in one of the smaller properties we own. We’d be able to live off the rental income from the 3rd property while living in the 2nd property. Problem is that we love our current home that we live in so it’d be tough to go from our current home to a smaller home. My wife works full time while I work part time from home while also managing my two school age kids. So we’re left with the following struggle: work our stressful jobs to maintain our current lifestyle or reduce our lifestyle and remove the stress of work from our lives.

    • retirebyforty January 22, 2014, 5:09 pm

      Congratulation! You’re almost there. It’s a tough decision. You will have to figure it out for yourself. For us, moving to a smaller home didn’t have a big impact. It’s hard to give an opinion without knowing the sq footage. The 3 of us are quite happy in our 1,000 sq ft condo, but I know it’s not for everyone.

      • Getting burnt out January 23, 2014, 3:02 am

        Our current residence is 4000 sq ft. We live in So Cal, OC. It is our dream house and we worked hard to get here. Our other two properties are in the same city we live in. The house we could move back to is 2400 sq ft. We had lived in this property previously for over a decade. It is a great property and would suit our family fine. It is just not our dream house. Our 3rd property is a 3bdrm condo. If we sold our current residence we would have both of our remaining properties paid off free and clear. This would allow both my wife and I to fully retire. We’d have to cut back our spending a lot, but we’d have enough to live on from our rental income. Rent in OC is ridiculously high so it would provide enough to pay for the essentials: food, utilities health insurance etc. The thing we struggle with is whether we would enjoy life more working jobs we hate but living in a house we love and being able to travel, eat out a lot, etc. or do we leave behind our stressful work lives and live a frugal, simple lifestyle. Years ago I would’ve thought it’d be an easy choice to retire early. What I didnt realize is how much I would enjoy living in my dream house. Like you said, it is a decision we need to figure out for ourselves. But making a final decision is much more challenging than I anticipated. That’s why I have found your blog interesting. It gives me insight to what things may be like if we choose to retire early.

        • retirebyforty January 23, 2014, 8:41 pm

          Good luck with your decision! 4,000 sq ft is huge. 🙂

  • freebird January 22, 2014, 1:17 pm

    Joe, you’re absolutely right, I think we’re meant to enjoy all phases of life as best we can, not always “saving the best for never”. To me the right path is through moderation and balance. Some think of retirement as the Great Escape, but frankly I’d rather be working a job that I enjoy than having nothing to do at all during the day. I think your last point is key here, if you’re financially independent, then you don’t need to scrounge for that last buck by climbing the corporate ladder of distress. Instead you gain the freedom to choose exactly the kind of job that adds meaning to your life, whether that involves a transfer, back to school, part time, or trying your own side-business.

    One curious thing I’ve found as I approached financial independence is that I started to dislike my job less and less. The job itself didn’t change all that much, but my attitude towards it definitely did as I weaned myself from dependence on that paycheck. Gone are the insecurities over layoff rumors and performance reviews, the frustration over slow or no responses from coworkers I depend on, and the disappointment from not receiving that pay raise that I had already spent. Now I only do the parts I enjoy and am good at, and just blow off the rest, and interestingly management has found that my performance has actually improved!

    This is one of the ironies that young people fresh out of school don’t seem to realize, spending more today won’t make you happier in the long run, in fact it’s just the opposite because the resulting low savings rate makes you ever more dependent on a secure and growing paycheck over time.

    • retirebyforty January 22, 2014, 5:11 pm

      Thanks for sharing. I think I waited too long to leave my old job. I just couldn’t stand it anymore. Perhaps if I achieved FI earlier, I would have been able to turn it around. I really like being self employed, though. It’s a good match for my personality.

  • SavvyFinancialLatina January 22, 2014, 2:43 pm

    Wonderful stories and input. I think my major worry is taking care of my parents. Hopefully this will lessen when my brother grows up and can share the responsibility.

    • retirebyforty January 22, 2014, 5:13 pm

      I’m really lucky that my brothers are helping out with our parents. They also don’t need much help right now. Maybe in the future, they’ll need more help. I think we’ll be fine, though.

  • krantcents January 22, 2014, 5:09 pm

    I have always been a strong advocate for finding a career or business that you love. Sometimes you have to change employers to find the right situation to make yourself happy. The entrepreneur route is not for everyone, but that too has to be the right choice.

  • papadad January 22, 2014, 10:58 pm

    Joe, thanks for the post. Lots of truths. Life is short.

    • retirebyforty January 23, 2014, 8:40 pm

      Life is precious and we need to make the most of it. Thanks for commenting.

  • Time is definitely more precious. I realize this more so now that Baby LRC is around and time is at a premium. With dropping him off to my parents, picking him up, doing chores/running errands, there isn’t much time to spend quality time with the family. I live in a high cost of living area in NYC and it’s tough, but I’ve really been wanting to be “happy” before retirement. I have these golden handcuffs at my government job that will allow me to retire at 55 with a nice pension. But that seems so far away.

    • retirebyforty January 23, 2014, 8:42 pm

      How long do you have until 55? Life is really busy when you have a baby and a full time job. You just don’t have time to do anything. I’m really lucky that I can spend a lot of time with our kid.

  • Jim January 23, 2014, 10:26 pm

    I’m 40 and I’ve retired. It sounds silly, but I’m bored. I don’t know what to do with myself. My wife and I have a small child, but I have absolutely no interest spending 24-7 with a child. I have a hobbies, but they don’t take up 16 hours a day. Any suggestions on how else to spend time meaningfully? Thanks.

  • Mike February 10, 2014, 10:41 pm

    I don’t understand, why do people pick careers that they hate. I have been employed for over 20 years and have never regretted my career choice. I have had a passion for science since I was 5 years old and currently work in product development and love every minute. I can’t believe they pay me to do something I truly love. I will probably retire between 55-60, but I am not really counting the days until I retire. If your sole goal in life is to quit your job and retire you made a poor career choice.

    • retirebyforty February 11, 2014, 10:38 pm

      Most people didn’t have a full understanding of their career choice. I liked my job when I first started, but the job changed and I changed. It’s great that you are doing something you love. Not many people can say that.

  • Kirok April 15, 2014, 5:52 am

    I’m 61 and hanging on for dear life until age 63. I hate my job—I loved it when I started (32 years ago), but the job has changed and so have I. In two years, the wife will be fully vested in her teacher pension. We have S.S., pensions, and savings and can afford to retire right now—but two more years will really solidify the finances. I try to minimize my stress by maximizing my time away from work with long weekends and occasional mental health days.

    • retirebyforty April 15, 2014, 9:23 pm

      Sorry to hear that. Good luck with the next 2 years. People changes and a perfect job 32 years ago usually isn’t so perfect now. 2 years will go by very quickly. You can do it.

  • Caleb April 29, 2014, 1:25 pm

    If you hate your job, you need to do something else. I have been in a job that I hate and was extremely stressful. It impacted by mental health, physical health and most of all it hurt my marriage. You are not always going to like your job every day, if you do then that is awesome, but you can find a situation where you can make a living and not drive yourself crazy.

  • Sherry April 5, 2016, 6:49 am

    I am 63 and have been horribly stressed and unhappy at my work for several years. My commute takes 2 hours every day. I recently switched jobs at same company and though people are wonderful there is very little to do so often boring. Glad to have less people stress but hard to function below my abilities. I plan to retire next March but I am struggling with frustration and impatience. Life is soooooo short. I regret so much wasting myself at a place that was a poor fit for my real interests and abilities. My health has suffered and so has my spirit. I wish I could stop now. How do I get through another year!?!

  • david gale April 18, 2016, 3:33 am

    I worked in Local Authority Camden Council for nigh 20 years it was a drudge no support from managers and a souless task where common sense did not prevail . I achieved a lot for my clients went above and beyond call of duty for what other more professional colleagues should of been doing and felt worthless. Even the sense of achieving goals/outcomes with clients wore thin as they seldom appreciated owt but achievement of additional benefits or awards you got them and they often spent them on other things. Such is the madness of government and LA that any grants you obtained for clients via Dwp social fund was paid directly into their account and often not used for purpose of application.
    I hoped for change in my job but this did not happen and it wares you down. I have no regrets in leaving and taking early retirement may not have the salary or contact but I deemed and reflect that content nor contact was worth the low morale and lack of support either emotionally or job satisfaction was afforded by such employment.
    I have been able to refocus on my relationship and have now happily remarried and am content its not what you have around you its who and as said earlier you work an awful long time to feel that you may work among hundreds of people within office yet feel totally alone. The beauty in life is finding a job you like and enjoy easier said than done but in the meantime I am happy to have got of the merry go round of being in a rut and will never just put up with accepting this is my lot! 55 may be too young to retire but I certainly have no regrets about jacking in my job even two years on!!

    • retirebyforty April 18, 2016, 7:41 am

      Thank you for sharing. You’re right about being stuck in a rut. I really wears you down. Keep your eyes open and I’m sure you’ll find some good opportunities.

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