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5 Things I Miss About Work


5 Things I Miss about Work 350I wrote this post in 2014, 2 years after I retired from my engineering career. Even then, I struggled to come up with the things I miss about full-time work. For me, being a SAHD/blogger is so much better than working in a corporation. Has there been any change since then? Now that I’ve been retired for 8 years, my feeling is a bit different. I’ll give some updates throughout the post. Check it out!

Things I miss about work? This is a tough one for me to write. First of all, life is fantastic right now after 2 years without a full-time job. (8 years after early retirement now.) Family life is better, I’m not stressed out, and even our finance is doing pretty well. I can’t complain at all. Second, I hate dwelling on regrets. It isn’t productive and I prefer to focus on the present and figure out how to improve the future. Maybe that’s why my memory is so bad… It’s also difficult for me to admit missing anything about the career that I willingly walked away from. I don’t want to doubt my decision. So as you can see, it’s not going to be my typical cheerful post today.

However, I thought it’d be good for me to examine how I feel about work on a deeper level. It has been 2 years and it’s the right time to reflect a bit. Time gave me some distance so I can take an objective look at my feelings. Do I miss work enough to go back? Let’s see.

One thing I don’t miss is this terrible cubical environment. Imagine sitting here 8-10 hours/day for 40+ years. It’s like a jail cell.

things I miss about work retirement retirees

1. Technical challenges

I think the biggest thing I miss about work is the gratification from solving technical problems. Most engineers enjoy solving problems and it can be a lot of fun especially when you get into the flow. Many times, I spent the whole day in lab debugging an elusive bug and it’d be 7 pm before I knew it. Those productive days were increasingly rare as I gained seniority, though.

As a SAHD, the most difficult challenge for me is to figure out my son’s playdate schedule. It’s not quite as challenging, but life is also a lot less stressful. It’s a tradeoff. Maybe once my son goes to school full time, I can take on some technical challenges again. I would like to learn how to develop an app, for example.

*2020 update – Ha! My son will be in 4th grade this school year, but it will be virtual schooling due to the pandemic. I won’t have time to take up any new challenge this year. In any case, I don’t miss technical challenges anymore. I guess I got used to the easy life.

2. Camaraderie

According to a study by the Center for a Secure Retirement, 65% of retirees said they missed interacting with co-workers and friends the most. That’s pretty obvious. Most of us spend at least 50% of our waking hours working and interacting with our co-workers. Work is a huge part of our lives and human interaction is the best part of it.

Sure, I miss having a wider group of casual friends to talk to. Life is a bit slower in semi-retirement and my circle shrunk quite a bit. I made a few friends through our kid, but everyone is just so busy with their lives. It’s not like the office where you can just drop by your friend’s cubicle and complain about the boss. I guess coworkers are somewhat of a captive audience. 🙂

*2020 update – I only kept in contact with 2 of my old coworkers. We have lunch once in a while so we can talk about their early retirement. I don’t miss the camaraderie anymore because I got used to working alone. Luckily, I made some good friends through my son so I have some social outlet.

3. Fringe benefits

I used to go to the gym at work almost every weekday and I miss it. It was really easy for me to go to that fitness room for some reason. I guess it was better than actually working and it was a great stress relief valve. It was also very conveniently located.

I joined a gym, but it’s more difficult to actually go. I have to get the kid ready, drive to the gym, find parking, etc… It’s not very convenient so I’m not consistent about it.

Some other benefits I miss.

  • Company parties – free booze, music, and activities.
  • Free public transportation passes.
  • Free food and coffee.
  • 401k matching – free money!
  • Payroll tax – employers pay 50% of your payroll tax. I have to pay 100% of the payroll tax now that I’m self-employed. 🙁
  • etc…

*2020 update – Okay, I still miss these fringe benefits.

4. So what do you do?

Whenever I meet someone new, they inevitably ask “what do you do?” I miss having an easy answer to this question. I’m still trying to figure out how to respond to this conversation starter. I tried “I’m retired” a few times, but it didn’t go over very well. People seem to just ignore that for some reason. Another option is – blogging, but I’m a bit embarrassed about telling new friends that I’m a blogger. I just don’t want to elaborate too much. My staple answer now is “I’m a stay at home dad.” That works pretty well for now.

*2020 update – After 8 years, I’m a lot more comfortable with it. I don’t tell people “I’m retired” anymore. Usually, I just say I have a blog. People don’t really dig into it much.

5. A steady paycheck

Actually, our lifestyle hasn’t changed that much since I left my job 2 years ago. We always lived below our means so we didn’t have to make any big adjustments. A steady paycheck would have been nice because I could have invested them. The last 2 years were great for the stock market and I’m sure we’d increase our net worth even more if we had more money to invest.

Anyway, having less income didn’t impact our day to day life so it’s not a huge deal. Our investments are doing pretty well so I can’t complain too much.

*2020 update – I don’t even miss my old paychecks anymore. These days, I have passive income from our investments and my online income. Those income streams are enough to pay our living expenses so we can save all of Mrs. RB40’s income. Having some income after retirement is very assuring.

I love self-employment.

That wasn’t as bad as I thought. I miss a few things about work, but they could all be remedied with some creativity. They are minor issues anyway. I could write a much bigger list of what I don’t miss about the corporate job. For me, the positive aspects of not working for a corporation outweigh the negatives so I don’t think I’ll get a job anytime soon. I love being self-employed.

*2020 update – I still love being semi-retired. 2020 is a tough year because of all the uncertainties, but it’s a good stress test. If we can get through this year, then we’ll know my wife can retire early. As you can see from my updates, I don’t really miss much about working in a corporation. I’m very happy with the decision I made in 2012.

What about you? What do you miss about work? Or if you’re still working, what do you think you’ll miss?

Bonus video from Conan!

The following two tabs change content below.
Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is increasing his investment in real estate with CrowdStreet. He can invest in projects across the U.S. and diversify his real estate portfolio. There are many interesting projects available so sign up and check them out.

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help DIY investors analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 50 comments… add one }
  • JeffD September 9, 2020, 2:23 am

    Not working has been an absolute blessing. My stress level went from a constant 8 or 9 out of 10 to a 2 and sometimes 3. Stress related health issues totally disappeared, and I never want to go back to work. To be honest, the entire ecosystem at work was broken more often than not, and spending five out of 8 hours trying to fix problems I did not create made work a waking nightmare.

  • Mr. G August 15, 2020, 5:57 am

    Point 4 of what do you do…
    Try I am an Investor? Think about it, We are that! after all we manage our own money. I recently got laid off and am considering not looking for another job; I handled my investments pretty well during the last 10 years. somehow I made about 700K salary and ended up with a portfolio of a bit more of 1MM (after living expenses, buying three cars cash, food, cloths, two trips abroad per year, etc). It amazes me how I accomplished this with nothing more than savings, RE and investing in boring ETFs; specially considering I am an immigrant who came to this country with nothing.
    I am trying the blogging thing right now (just launched killingthecow.com). I hope I do well but I heard it is really hard nowadays. Anyway, if you can check it out and give me your opinion I will appreciate it.
    About the exercising why don’t you try jogging? you don’t need to drive and it is readily available everywhere (and free!). Also, try house flipping (and do the work yourself) I assure you that you wont need to exercise during the flipping; you will have more than enough exercise.
    I really enjoy your blog! You, MMM, Justin (rootofgood) and Anita (powerofthrift) kept me in line and motivated to save and dream of a better future; now that I was forced out of the workforce, looked at my investments and realized that I no longer have to work I can say it was totally worth it and I appreciate it. Definitely life changing blogs.
    In my two months of retirement or at least sabbatical period I realized how healthy I became (lost about 10 pounds without dieting at all), I am way less stressed out. I understand why employers offer subsidize insurance, you really needed it when you work full time (sounds like a joke but it is not).
    Keep the good work!


  • WTK August 14, 2020, 10:23 am

    Hi Joe,

    Having the option of choosing the time for my things of interest makes me happy. I do not need to stick to the routine of waking up early in the morning and reaching home in the night. Such option is priceless for me.


  • drplastickpicker August 14, 2020, 5:06 am

    I think what would stop me from early retirement is that everyone else is doing things. I think semi-retirement or reducing work hours would be better for our own household. Our kids are highschool age now and honestly are pretty self sufficient, and we live with Mr. Plastic Picker’s parents. I love them but we start annoying eachother when we’re in the same space all day. I think everyone is happier and healthier if I’m away for a bit and then come home. Very thoughtful and intertesting blog post, especially people’s reaction when you tell them you are a blogger. I’m curious, when did you start considering yourself a blogger? After a certain amount of blogpost or a certain number of years blogging or when we started earning a certain amount of income? Just curious.

  • ezdividends August 13, 2020, 6:37 pm

    These few months I’ve been homeschooling my kids. Hard work! During school terms for 16 hours a week I teach introductory programming courses overseas.

  • Lazy Man and Money August 13, 2020, 7:28 am

    The “what do you do?” question always gets me. I’ve mostly settled on “freelance writer”, but that’s not very accurate. People get the impression that I can write well and I can’t have them thinking that.

    I miss the technical challenges and focus on doing a job well. Now it seems like I’m bouncing around between household chores and other stuff that isn’t “deep” work.

    • retirebyforty August 13, 2020, 10:08 am

      I tell people I’m a blogger. That works okay.
      You’re right about deep work. It’s okay for me, though. I don’t mind shallow works. 🙂

  • TPM August 13, 2020, 5:27 am

    I think the one thing I miss was free travel. Before kids, I would travel just about every week for work. Netherlands, France, Australia and all over the US and Canada. Always paid for and nice accommodations. Having a per diem was nice too!

    • retirebyforty August 13, 2020, 7:21 am

      That’s great. I didn’t travel much when I was working full-time so I didn’t miss it. 🙂

  • ezdividends August 13, 2020, 5:12 am

    I just came across your site. Funny I haven’t worked a traditional corporate job since 2012. However I am not retired either. I am also in my early forties with 2 kids. Somehow I am going to avoid sitting in a cubicle for 8-9 hours a day for as long as possible.

    • retirebyforty August 13, 2020, 7:23 am

      That’s great. What kind of work do you do now? Sitting in a cubicle all day long is very unhealthy. I couldn’t handle it anymore.

  • Xrayvsn August 13, 2020, 4:31 am

    I can’t wait to miss those things! Lol

    One of the benefits of being a retired physician is still being invited to all the major company events (typically Christmas parties) so that’s a nice bonus.

    But I know the big one to overcome would be the mental stimulation part. Hopefully I can keep my brain trained once I stop working.

  • Ernie Zelinski August 13, 2020, 12:53 am

    As for me, my getting fired from my Engineering job in October 1980 for taking too much vacation was the best thing that ever happened to me. I have not had a real job ever since. In 2005 I had a big celebration with friends (that cost me $1,500) called 25 Years Without a Real Job. This October I will have a similar celebration called 40 Years Without a Real Job. These words of wisdom apply:

    Getting fired is nature’s way of telling you that you had the wrong
    job in the first place.
    — Hal Lancaster

    Gainfully unemployed, very proud of it, too.
    — Charles Baxter

    We can create the ultimate job security by becoming less dependent on the organization for which we work and more dependent on our own resources.
    — Bo Bennett

    Our disasters have been some of the best things that ever happened to us. And what we swore were blessings have been some of the worst.
    — Richard Bach

    There is only one success — to be able to spend your life in your own way.
    — Christopher Morley

    “It’s more satisfying to dig a ditch with friends than to
    design a skyscraper with a team of sociopaths.’
    — Jessica Hagy

    “I’d rather live precariously in my own office than
    comfortably in somebody else’s.”
    — Peter Mayle

    • retirebyforty August 13, 2020, 10:21 am

      Congratulations! 40 years is a big accomplishment.
      That’s my goal.

  • SimpleRyan August 8, 2014, 9:18 am

    Hey Joe –

    You don’t need approval from no one nor do you need to care what people think. One of my favorite quotes is “What other people think about you is none of your business”
    So when people ask “what do you do?” just tell them the truth! However they respond, that’s their own problem..not yours.

    I’m curious though…why are you embarassed? You said: “Another option is – blogging, but I’m a bit embarrassed about telling new friends that I’m a blogger.”

    You’re a successful blogger raising your son, so what do you have to be embarassed about?

    • retirebyforty August 8, 2014, 9:50 am

      Well, blogging is a new profession and I don’t think people understand it. Then I’d have to go into a whole spiel and explain it. That’s too much trouble. 🙂 Also professional bloggers are probably much more successful than I am. I’m just doing this part-time.

  • John August 1, 2014, 6:31 am

    Nice post Joe! I actually wrote one similar that I’ll be running on Frugal Rules soon. That said, mine looked somewhat similar – especially the camaraderie aspect. I miss being able to team up with co-workers to work on something or simply chatting with people. Now, most of my social interaction is either online or with our three kiddos. Ultimately though, I’m much happier than I ever was in the corporate world so I’ll happily take it. Plus, there’s no fabric prison…err…cubicle to deal with. 🙂

  • Kate July 31, 2014, 7:41 pm

    I quit my work last 4 years ago and one thing that I really missed is talking with my co-workers and being dressed up well. Now that I’m working online now, I’m always wearing my pajama with me.

  • No Nonsense Landlord July 31, 2014, 3:02 pm

    I have two years left at the cube farm. I do not think I will miss it. But at least having to go to work forces you to take a shower, keep a decent haircut, and shave…lol

  • Old School July 31, 2014, 9:28 am

    So funny Joe that as soon as I began reading about you enjoying solving problems I instantly thought of you developing an app…that or solving a Rubik cube:)

    Hey maybe you could design a rubik cube app…

  • Calin July 30, 2014, 11:41 pm

    I love self employment as well, but I also miss the group of friends, the social aspect of having a job. Being a self employed person here means that my friends circle did shrunk a lot and it’s difficult to make other friends since I not only live in a small city, but one where self employment and especially blogging are not common… and where there are little common grounds, little can be talked about.

  • ppd July 30, 2014, 9:45 pm

    Joe – just tell them you’re a financial engineer and you manage an individual’s high net worth portfolio (you dont have to tell them its your own), and also a writer/do a bit of writing.

    I’ve told a few people of my plans to retire soon and i get the dazed and confused looks as I’m “just” 45. Have not seen the “envy” attitude. More disbelief and bewilderment.

    I too think that I will miss being surrounded by and interacting with really intelligent/smart people — consider myself lucky to have worked in tech where even “average” is smarter than me 🙂

    • retirebyforty July 31, 2014, 9:16 am

      That’s a good idea. 🙂 Good luck with your retirement journey. Most people just don’t understand our motivation.

  • AJ July 30, 2014, 2:14 pm

    Quit Intel myself 6 months ago to be a stay at home Dad.
    Really really miss the JF fitness center lunch breaks. Ironically also miss the down time.. Home with 2 kids under 4 years old is all around way busier. Plenty more I do not miss (Technical challenge in my engineering niche was getting old, politics, stressful deadlines, etc etc). Like Joe I am looking forward to kids getting older and freeing time for the next pursuit.. But certainly not regretting the decision to quit.

    • retirebyforty July 31, 2014, 9:15 am

      Congratulation! I can imagine how busy it can get for you with 2 kids. You’re right about the downtime. The only downtime I have is after the kid is asleep. Then I can blog and goof off a bit on the internet.

      • AJ July 31, 2014, 11:12 pm

        Yeah agree evenings are nice with kids sleeping 11 hours or so.
        With a job I could square away bills, rental property calls, chat with friends, exercise all during working hours. Now alot of that is during kid sleep hours. But kids are getting more independent quickly so just taking it slow and enjoying the time I have with them, and not trying to accomplish too much.

  • Tawcan July 30, 2014, 11:22 am

    Being an engineer myself I would guess the top item that you truly missed is the technical challenge. If you’re like me, you love solving technical problems. But I could definitely see why as you climb the corporate ladder you become less and less involved in solving technical problems. Having said that if you were suffering from health problems it’s better for you to leave work and have better health. Being healthy is extremely important. 🙂

    • retirebyforty July 31, 2014, 9:14 am

      Actually, I didn’t really miss the challenges that much because life is so busy. When I think about it, I do miss it, though. I’m sure I’ll take on some technical challenges again in the future. Health is really the first priority. If you’re not well, life is just not fun.

      • Tawcan July 31, 2014, 1:48 pm

        Totally agree that health is the first priority. You can’t enjoy life if you’re not healthy.

  • Justin @ Root of Good July 30, 2014, 11:18 am

    Ha ha, I think I would have a pretty similar list as yours (1 year into early retirement), except the fringe benefits. As a state employee, the benefits were pretty craptacular, and I honestly can’t think of a single one I wish I still had.

    Money was good, but I’ve got plenty. Friends at work were cool, but there were only a small handful that I actually wanted to talk to voluntarily (and still keep in touch with them 1 year later).

    The “most stressful thing = setting up playdates for the kid” is my life now! 🙂 I’ve made a few new friends through the playdates and established closer relationships with some friends since retiring. And those are all voluntary relationships, not relationships of convenience established in the workplace.

    • retirebyforty July 31, 2014, 9:12 am

      Heh heh. Our fringe benefits were getting better. The fitness room is just so convenient.
      It’s tough to keep in contact with casual friends at work. I wasn’t close to many of them so we mostly lost touch.

  • jim July 30, 2014, 10:24 am

    When I quit work I’ll probably miss the social interaction the most. I’m more a homebody by nature so if I’m not working I have a tendency to stay at home and don’t get out interacting with people too much. Work kind of automatically provides me a means to socialize. But… I can always find other ways to socialize if I recognize the need, so it certainly won’t keep me from retiring. 🙂

  • sparkle July 30, 2014, 9:40 am

    I am still working at the moment (just – been given my termination notice -so now working my notice).
    I can work from home, so having IM helps but there is nothing like the ad-hoc chats by people’s desks or when making a coffee or having lunch. Some down time is good and that interaction with others is needed otherwise you just become shut off from everything and you dont realise you are lonely until you are.

    Having a good social life, one that maybe involves a club of some sort makes all the difference as you meet different people each day/week and its gives that interaction required to make us happy without the pain of clock-watching bosses.

  • getrichwithme July 30, 2014, 8:43 am

    I used to work from home, but ended up becoming seriously depressed and un productive
    The camaraderie of an office, the ability to bounce ideas of other people, the humdrum everyday human interaction makes life much more enjoyable.
    I still work for myself but now do it out of an office I share with three other small companies – its made such a difference

    • retirebyforty July 30, 2014, 10:55 am

      Thanks for sharing. The office environment works really well for technical job for exactly that reason. It’s much better to work as a concerted team.

  • Merlion July 30, 2014, 8:19 am

    I miss the frequent interactions with some of my former coworkers but have been fortunate to keep in touch with them through occasional lunch meetings. I also miss the sense of achievement when I have successfully completed a challenging and complex project. However, like Joe said, the pros of leaving a corporate job outweighs the cons such a dealing with mind numbing bureaucracy and nasty team members on your projects.

    • retirebyforty July 30, 2014, 10:54 am

      It’s great that you’re keeping in touch. I live about 30 minutes from work so I usually don’t run into coworkers. It’s just a bit too far to socialize much. Yeah, the pros of retirement are really nice.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor July 30, 2014, 8:00 am

    The camaraderie with colleagues is the only thing I miss about a corporate job.

    It is tough to answer the “what do you do” question when you’re not working nose to the grindstone like everyone else. If you tell the truth, people’s reaction is often a blend of confusion, suspicion, and envy. And they can also be judgmental if your partner is still working.

    I think getting into app development would be a great fit for you and your situation Joe, best of luck with that!

    • retirebyforty July 30, 2014, 10:52 am

      Thanks! Life is quite a bit slower after retirement, but it’s good. I’ll see how things go in a few years and then take up some challenges. There will probably be something new by then anyway.

  • Jay Cup July 30, 2014, 7:40 am

    Why did saying “I’m retired” not go over well when people asked what you do? Just curious. 🙂

    • retirebyforty July 30, 2014, 10:51 am

      I guess I look too young. People just ignore it and move on to the next topic…. I only said that a few time before I stopped. Also, I usually have my kid with me so maybe they assume I’m a stay at home dad.

  • Dave July 30, 2014, 6:07 am

    I think one answer that’s missing is social utility; the feeling of purpose and pride in your work. I am in child welfare. The pay’s not the best; and the state has cut my retirement benefit by 60% in the last couple years. I won’t get a pension. But, I feel like the kids I deal with deserve to have someone try to make the best for them of a bad situation. That’s my job.

    • retirebyforty July 30, 2014, 10:49 am

      You’re right. That’s not my focus right now, though. I hope to be contribute to society more in the future, but we’ll see how it goes. I really admire people who are helping those around them like you do.

  • Bev July 30, 2014, 4:58 am

    Joe: This article is very honest and straightforward. Appreciate that. In reading your blog, I find you left work for many reasons but a big one was because of the stress and the negative impacts on your health. We all know what stress can do to a person, and if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything…as the old saying goes. The contribution you are making to your own health is huge, and it is subsequently paying off for your son. Having one parent, either one, be able to stay home and give the care they need is a tremendous asset to a child. Sit back, enjoy taking care of yourself and your son right now, be grateful in your ability to do it and grateful for your supportive wife. When the time comes, you will find the right environment to challenge yourself again, be it part-time work, consulting, whatever. You are where you need to be at this time in your life. You owe no explanations to anyone. Again, well-written and insightful. Thank you.

    • retirebyforty July 30, 2014, 10:48 am

      You’re right about health. Money doesn’t matter at all if you’re not healthy. I’m really thankful for my current situation and I love sharing it. Thanks for your encouragement.

  • Shane July 30, 2014, 4:57 am

    I think all the things you miss about work can be easily remedied. If I stopped working the things I would miss is by far the camaraderie. Working on projects together, brainstorming ideas and achieving goals as a team is something that I would miss with my coworkers. I loved the part about your coworkers being a captive audience. There is a lot of truth in that statement.Another thing I would miss would be the security of the benefits and generous contribution to my retirement fund that I get.
    I think the key for those that stopped working is to engage in something that you are passionate about and to make sure you do not isolate yourself from people. If you can find a way to still work on projects and activities where you achieve or accomplish something while having a good social support system then it would hard for anyone to miss work. You made the right decision Joe!

    • retirebyforty July 30, 2014, 10:45 am

      Thanks for your input. Being a stay at home dad is a full time project at the moment. I would love to find something passionate to work on when I have more time, though. We’ll see how it goes in a few years.

  • Maverick July 30, 2014, 3:23 am

    Joe: I don’t find your comments negative at all. I like your ending, “For me the positive aspects of not working for a corporation outweigh the negatives so I don’t think I’ll get a job anytime soon.” Since I got “laid-off” last year from a Tech-Ops position I feel the same in many aspects. Some colleagues have sent me leads to other positions, I had to ultimately tell them that unless there is a major market collapse or health issue, I believe I’m retired. Stress is much lower and I lost at least 5 lbs…shooting for 10 more. For technical challenge I have plenty of projects around the house to tackle; the latest being troubleshooting a high resistance / warm main breaker which required me to research and procure an entirely new main panel and all breakers then pulling the meter and replacing all of it. Then there is a retirement house I’m still working on…

    • retirebyforty July 30, 2014, 10:43 am

      Congratulation on your retirement! I’m really glad to hear you’re adjusting well. Wow, pulling the meter? That sounds like a tough job. Enjoy!

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