Am I Ready to Go Back to work?

Am I ready to go back to work?

When I quit my engineering career in 2012, I was completely burned out. I was having physical and mental problems and I had to get out. I thought I’d give it at least a year and see how this whole early retirement thing pans out. Finance was a big factor, of course. We were not financial independent and I would have to go back to work if we couldn’t pay the bills. Luckily, our plan held up so far and we even put away over $50,000 last year. The other big factor is how I’d handle not working full time. Many retirees regret leaving work and some even rejoin the workforce because they find the office environment more comfortable. As you know, I’m still a stay at home dad/blogger, but am I itching to go back to work?

Being a stay at home dad can be tough, too

Man, today was a bad day for us. Our little guy is only 4 years old, but he sure knows how to push my buttons. The day started off pretty well, but it turned south on the way home from the gym. We were walking back to the parking garage when he ran ahead. I yelled at him to wait, but he didn’t listen. This is a busy garage and cars come in and out all the time. I just didn’t want him to get run over. I caught up to him and grabbed him, but I missed. I bumped him with my hand instead, and he fell down and cried. More whining ensued when I harshly explained what is expected of him when I yelled “WAIT.”

After that, I wasn’t a happy dad and we kept having issues the rest of the day. We drove to Walmart to see some kid bikes. He couldn’t get the pedals to work and I got frustrated explaining it to him. He put Lego in the shopping cart and whined when I put it back. He knocked over a bunch of paper bags at checkout. It was just one thing after another. Suffice to say, it wasn’t a good day for either of us.

As someone once said, the worst day at home is better than the best day at the office. I’m going to have to agree with this. We had a frustrating day, but it wasn’t a huge drain like work was. Being a stay at home dad isn’t all fun and games, but I still enjoy it much more than staring at a computer all day long.

Team work is overrated

I’m reading – Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I’m an introvert so it’s quite interesting to read about my temperament in detail. One chapter is about how collaboration kills creativity. Popular productivity concepts like brainstorming and open floor plans just do not work. For most people, the best creative work is done alone. Wow, this is a revelation. I never was a good team player and I always hated being dependent on coworkers to do something for me. Life is so much easier now that I do almost everything myself. Being self employed really suits my character. I can set my own goals and do things at my own pace. If there is a screw up, I only have myself to blame.

Early Retirement

It’s tough to stop working completely when you retire early. I know quite a few early retirees and they are all working in some capacity. Being self employed part time is the perfect situation for me right now. The corporate environment just isn’t the right fit for my temperament. So the answer is: I don’t feel an itch to get a job at all. I will go back to work in an office if I really need to, but I hope that day never comes. Just look at the cubicle up there. That was my former desk. Who in their right mind would want to work in that environment?

If you’re retired, have you ever thought about rejoining the workforce?

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

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55 thoughts on “Am I Ready to Go Back to work?”

  1. Wow that cube looks dreadful. But, sometimes we have to look past such surroundings and focus on the money and experience.

    Funny you mention the book Quiet. I’ve been wanting to read that for a while, have heard good things about it.

    • You could just as easily say the opposite. That sometimes you need to look past the money and work experience a job might offer you to take better care of your health and happiness by spending your time in an environment and with people better suited to you… Preferably with access to natural lighting!

      From personal experience I can say that I would much rather have had my second income working parents work in a less financially secure job and be much happier.

      I’m sure Joe’s kid is benefiting immensely from his father pursuing his happiness over a predictable but soul crushing work environment. I’m in a similar Position as Joe was having quit my job involving a lot of nights, teamwork, and cliques resulting in burnout. I have to decide if I want to go back now and take a similar level job that has more autonomy or turn it down and continue not working and enjoying myself and freedom. 75% time would be ideal.

      Of course, the “squeeze” May be temporary and intentional to gain experience of money and some people can manage to have it all.

  2. Very interesting. I just came across your website and I admit I’m kinda confused what the difference is between an early retiree, which kind of conveys the sense of the extreme or at least the outlier, and a SAHM, a pretty common role in our society (other than your gender being the odd ‘man’ out).

    For the thoughts toward returning work part you seem to be going through the same thoughts and questions most SAHMs have. You’ve discovered a second full-time salary is not really necessary and the corporate ladder is ridiculous…so part-time work and working for oneself is a much better option for both you and the family as a whole rather than making every dollar possible. (Of course you’ve also discovered spending all day with your little ones is rarely a day at the park…even when you’re spending the day at the park!) I think most SAHMs figure this all out as well and most never return to the rat race due to realizing you don’t “have” to but find more fulfilling work than cube life and less demanding work than raising kids…

    • It’s all in your mindset. If I was 65 and doing what I’m doing now, nobody would question me about retirement, right?

  3. If you ever decide to go back to work, your technical skills are now outdated. You will need to beef up those skills, and very like take a lower wage than you had, even 3+ years ago.

    You are better off doing something entrepreneurial than going back to the cube farm.

    • That all depends on how good someone was to begin with. Technical work at most big firms don’t change that much in two years. They pretty much use similar tools and require similar skillset as few years ago. I know several engineers who took year off after working for over a decade and was able to return to the work force without taking a pay cut.

      • In the past several years I’ve regularly heard people in Silicon Valley say that they’re going to take a year off (quit work) to travel the world and then go back to work and find a new opportunity. Wow, I thought the first time someone casually said that to me. Can I do that too?

        Such a contrast of the depression era mindset my parents somehow inherited that you should have a job for decades and cling to it like your life depends on it even if it kills you… Actually their pensions depended on it!

        There’s such low unemployment and high demand for software engineering and data analytics skills in tech hubs today that years off may not equal a setback if you sell yourself and perform them in interviews.

        I think Smart people assume that other smart people can bring their skills up to date quickly. My spouse switched from academia to tech and in a few weeks had taught himself additional programming languages and had three attractive industry offers. It just depends who you are and how badly employers need trainable/skilled employees. I thought for sure he was going to have to develop a portfolio and prove he could do these things but that’s taken care of in the interviews.

        However I agree that in a downturn or less favorable economy it could be more problematic to explain your value having taken years off.

        I’m in administrative work and recently have taken many months off but no one is batting an eye so far in my recent interviews. I thought I was going to have to do a tap dance with explaining but no one seems to care. My former colleague and friend on the other hand is trying to return to work after seven years off with kids and it will be interesting to see if she has any success – but she hasn’t brushed up her application or job skills and is noticeably English as a second language speaker.

    • My old technical skills are outdated, but I also gained a new skill set from blogging. Companies need to reach out to consumers and bloggers are the experts. It’s a growing field. I’m not sure how much it pays, though. I heard it’s pretty good on a consulting level.

  4. Very interesting article, I am not retired but I do enjoy my work… However it is stressful enough at time that I am working to achieve financial independence… Not necessarily to retire and leave the work force, but something about knowing if anything ever went sour and I would be covered, would help me sleep at night. Eventually when retirement is a thing for me, I dont imagine it would consist of a vacation for the rest of my life. I do enjoy busy work quite a lot, and things like woodworking and writing would likely fill that time. Even if they were break even projects It would be nice to work on something fulfilling and stress free.


  5. Maybe spend more time trying to develop the site, view it as a full time job.

    Develop more sponsorship? I think you have the potential to make this site something huge. Keep it up.

  6. retirebyforty,

    I am an extreme introvert. I much happier being by myself. The only people I like to talk to our people are are like-minded . I want to be financial free way before 65. I started late buy it is full steam ahead for me.

    Where I work there is a lot of complaining by most of the workers and management. I can’t wait to get out of that environment.

  7. Oh man, your former cubicle is a dead ringer for my current cubicle… :(. I’m with you on the counter productivity of extensive collaboration and open floor plans. I feel like so much of my time at work is spent making sure everyone is heard and “kept in the loop” rather than doing actual work!

    It’s so liberating to me to write Frugalwoods because it’s just me and my husband collaborating and then pushing out articles at a fast pace. I love that there’s no middlemen or meetings or people to pacify–it’s just us writing stuff we believe in and publishing it. So liberating. All that to say, I don’t think I’ll miss my job one bit once we retire early in 2 years… and, now you’ve given me the excellent idea of making sure I photograph my cube before I leave!

  8. Excellent post, Joe! When they bury me, this is going on my burial stone-“Even good kids will drive you nuts!” Have a back up babysitter on call if you can=sanity restored!
    Heard a parenting expert on radio once say-By the time they are 18, you need a break from your kid. So true!
    I look back and think about some of the aspects of work one has to deal with and it ain’t pretty. Substance abuse, lying, cheating, harassment, along with the obvious things.
    I’d take the long hours, lonely sometimes, thankless sometimes, but still joyful times of raising kids over anything-most of the time!
    Cubicle life to me was one of the worst working conditions I have ever experienced. The photo you posted is haunting. Looks worse than alot of animal shelters I’ve seen. Inhumane. You can bill me for this rant!

  9. I semi retired 4 months ago and it’s great! Always despised working. Things I hated: having to be somewhere from here to here. Having to talk bullocks that have no meaning whatsoever at meetings. Being tied to something with only manufactured meaning. There’s lots more but let’s leave it there.

    At 34 I just do 1 days mowing per week (by myself!) And have always been a performing professional Musician so 1 or 2 shows a week is great. I have 4 or 5 days a week off and find it’s the perfect balance for me. Never get bored! Which I feared I may but not so. If I ever do feel a bit bored I clean the house

    I worked hard for 10 years to invest my way here and it was worth the effort. World travel has been something the Wife n I loved and are planning more this year. Our Dogs keep me happy and we have a small rural property that I love gardening in among other things. I now really enjoy my life. Really happy! They say happiness is in the jouney, not a destination but I can tell you that this certainly helps (if that’s your thing) Great blog by the way. Love it

    Do what you want to do



  10. Two years ago I did retire as an engineer still in my 40s. The first few days seemed nice and relaxing but it got old pretty quickly. Management decided they couldn’t let me go so they made some special arrangements to bring me back, and I’m still working. I never had a strong dislike for my job, it just needed a few adjustments, and my financial independence let me force the issue. So now I have the best of both worlds, basically a job where I do only the bits I like, and plenty of offtime so I never feel tired. Like you I prefer to work alone and not have to deal with supervising others, so that’s exactly the deal I got. In return my employer has someone with strong analysis and troubleshooting skills and who is always eager to crack the next puzzle. Since my career is technically over, I have nothing left to prove or to lose, so I get to focus just on what I’m best at. My line of work isn’t always stable, the end can come any time, but that’s fine, I’m just enjoying the ride while I can.

  11. I’m a SAHM for now and we haven’t reached early retirement for my husband, an engineer. We’re still young but he hopes to “retire” early and begin a different career someday with the freedom to try something new and with more flexibility.

  12. Alas, I am far away from retirement. I feel about my job the same way you felt about yours, it’s mentally and physically draining and I can’t wait to quit that place. But I won’t afford to retire like you did, I wish that was the case. Instead, I will try to run a couple of business and have some rental income to allow us to keep saving and investing so we can retire early one day. I am only hoping for something better than my current job, maybe far less pay but more flexibility, more time off and no toxic environment.
    I am an introvert as well, and do much better when I get to make my own schedule and my own rules, and don’t have somebody above constantly supervising me and telling me what to do. I love the freedom.

  13. Being a stay home parent is a lot of work, you’re “working” basically 24/7. Although that’s hard work, I think you still have more freedom and flexibility compared to working full time and tied up to a desk job.

  14. Teamwork is overrated??? Huh?? You sound like a typical anti-social engineer. Your career may have run its course, but that statement is false. I used to be an engineer and one of the faults I see with many engineers are that because we were typically one of the smarter kids academically while growing up, we somehow mistakenly believe life should reward us with an easier path in achieving corporate success. Unless an individual is truly an indispensable genius engineer in industry who stands out compared to their peers, we have to prove our worth just like everyone else and learn to work with others in society.

    I don’t know anyone who enjoy office politics, relationship building with co-workers, the commute, or doing their work all the time, but as grown ups people do it in order to get what they want in life. There’s isn’t very many great achievements in life which didn’t involve teamwork and group of people working towards a common goal. Great introverted individuals throughout history still worked with other people.

  15. Joe,

    “If you’re retired, have you ever thought about rejoining the workforce?”

    Although I’m not retired and now blog for a living, my answer would be the same as Ernie’s.

    If I could blog my way to financial independence and then move on to other interests while the dividend income rolls in, that’ll be just fine with me. I have no desire to rejoin the traditional workforce at all. I think some people just aren’t meant for it, whether that be due to being introverts or not. I always knew it wasn’t right for me, which is why I so aggressively fought my way out.

    Glad you’ve found your place in the world. 🙂

    Best regards!

  16. Hey,

    I just wanted to add another quick comment.

    When I was in the military and later in civilian life as a manager, I was forced to go to several leadership training sessions. I’m an introvert also. Every time I went to MT they always made us split into groups to work on projects to teach us how to be “team players.” I work much better on my own and always hated group projects, especially when that one person assumes immediately that he/she is the most qualified leader and takes charge without any discussion.

  17. I was a clingy little kid because my Mom was working 14 hours a day. I fussed all the time, my siblings hated me because I wouldn’t let me Mom rest after a hard day of work. So, from my perspective, having parents around is 1000x better. All of my GREAT childhood memories involve having to spend time with my Mom.

    I read the lines, you take time to explain to him what “wait” means. Would you trust a stranger take time to teach your kids right from wrong? Would you trust that in that kind of moment they would take the time to teach your kid right from wrong? If you are frustrated, imagine a stranger, they have to work with 4-5, even a class of 15-20 kids, wouldn’t they be 20x more frustrated than you are? Granted it’s their job, but wouldn’t you think? I don’t like to think about that.

    Going back for financial reason is one thing, but going back just to have some break is not good. Mr. Money Mustache sounds like they have a good time, lunch time he and his boy ride the bike to the park. For kids, when you tire them out, they might be less fussy. 😛 This makes me think to if I have kids, if I have a choice, I’ll be a stay home Mom, and possibly have the Mr. be stay home Dad, so we can take turn playing golf. hahahah

  18. It never ends Joe. 2 of my kids just got into a screaming fight with each other and they are in the 20’s and 30’s. You can’t win with little ones either. A nephew of mine ran into the street and was hit by a car. He was paralyzed from the neck down after. He could not even breathe on his own. Was that way for over 20 years until he died. It was horrible for everyone. Be careful about accidentally slapping the kid in public though. I had that happen when my daughter was little. She turned just as I grabbed for her and smacked her in the face. Some neighbor called the cops and I was almost arrested and had go to the human welfare office several times to be interviewed.

    Doesn’t it frighten you to contemplate the possibility of divorce or death of your spouse? Wouldn’t it be very hard to find a job, if you had to at say, 52 years old? I admire your courage, but would be very nervous to go it your way. Do you plan to go back to work later to pump up your high 3 earnings for social security?

    It’s enough to drive you nuts sometimes. Nothing seems simple in the world anymore.

  19. I’m a stay at home mom with no plans to return to work when our daughter is X years old. She’s 2, so it’s definitely not all sunshine (but there’s lots of fun to balance things out). It was hard adjusting to the new pace and allowing myself to settle down. The hardest part now is a balance of always being “on” and doing nothing “sit there mommy, watch me”. I’d go to work if it was the best choice for our family, but to volunteer to go back to a cubicle or a 9-5 situation seems pretty unlikely.

    • Thanks for sharing. We have a lot of fun too. I just need to get pass these episodes of frustrations. It sticks around with me much longer than the kid. He’d forget everything after 5 minutes while I’m still fuming. I need to learn some calming techniques…

  20. I feel your pain, bro! I’m the stay at home dad for now (until Mrs. RoG breaks her bad work habit!). It’s challenging at times. But not nearly as bad as work.

    My youngest is about to turn 3 and quite a handful. But I think back to how much harder it was when he was one or just turned two. Now he can speak in full sentences, communicate what’s bothering him, and ask for exactly what he wants (even if he doesn’t get it every time!). It’s a little easier to reason with kids once they are at this level of development.

    I’ve certainly been tempted by the back to work bug. A friend visited and told me about his new high paying job developing some software in a neat niche field. It pays pretty well, it’s at a small start up where the culture is cool.

    Then he tells me how he’s dreading the 45 minute commute and planning on staying in that part of town until after 6 when the rush hour dies down. Which means he’s planning on shopping and finding a gym in that part of town so he can at least make use of this evenings and not just wait around till 6-7 every night.

    In other words, his life revolves around work quite literally. No thanks!

    If I ever get truly bored or want to go back to work, I think I’ll stick with freelancing or consulting on a part time basis. So much more flexibility and autonomy than a full time job, and no need to have “ass in seat time” (AIST) as I call it. No need to look busy in case your boss is around. Find interesting or challenging work, knock it out, impress, and move on.

    • Man, he listens less and less as he gets older. It’s frustrating. The teenage years will be nuts…
      I don’t want to revolve my life around work anymore. Once I got out, I never want to go back in. Self employment suits me much better. Consulting or part time sounds like a great idea.

  21. I’ve listened to Susan Cain’s TED talk 5 or 6 times now, I need to get my hands on her book. I’m about to leave corporate America for a telecommuting job. There will still be a lot of collaboration, but I’m looking forward to being at home with our new baby and having a lot more autonomy.

  22. Could you do something where it’s freelance, consulting, or project based? That would allow you to stay current, have time at work, but not be tied down to a job with no end date, which I think could be a big step back.

    The only issue is that you really don’t want to keep disrupting things with your son. Continuity is important.

    I understand the frustrations. My wife does the SAH thing with them, but we have issues with ours listening. One thing I’ve learned is that kids listen better if they learn. Even if you did get upset at the parking garage, at some point, sitting down and explaining how dangerous it could be will better get him to not do that next time.

    • I just don’t have any desire to go back into the engineering field at all. All that stress squeezed out all the love of engineering out of me. It’s too bad, but life moves on.
      Yes, I’m discussing things with him when we are more calm. It still doesn’t get through. Maybe he’s just too young. He has zero impulse control.

  23. If you go back to work, you aim at small or startup type of companies where your work and decisions actually do have great impact. Smaller companies are also far more choosy with whom they hire, so it’s higher likelihood you end up with people who you’ll enjoy working with if you’re hired versus at a huge corporation. Working at a large company as a regular worker for a lengthy period sucks for most people since it’s hard to even know if anything you do is making much of a difference at all.

    • Big companies have so much overhead work and endless useless meetings. It’s no fun to work in a large corporation unless you’re the type who likes office politic and managing people.

  24. I retired from Bank of America after 25 years of service at age 45. I did consider going back to work, after many offers with other banks, but thinking in the 9 to 5 rat-race was enought not to take any offer! It has been 5 years and love my freedom!

  25. I think I’m the opposite. I enjoy hanging out with other people and learning and working with them.

    The only time I don’t is when they don’t pull their weight.

    Consulting has been great because there’s no need to work for money. As a result, performance is better IMO.

    Financial Samurai

  26. I am an introvert too who worked in a highly matrixed organization and most of my work was dependent on other team members delivering their part. Suffice to say that it was frustrating when the team failed to deliver either in time or quality. In spite of the less than ideal environment, I managed to thrive and rose to an executive position in the company. This enabled me to be financially independent and I was able to retire from a fulltime job by age 50. I now consult on a part time basis and love working independently on projects where I am able to contribute my expertise.

  27. Going back to work doesn’t mean going back to your cubicle. You have years of new skills and experiences that you can leverage to create work that suits you. I believe you could easily create a seminar on blogging for people who have a desire to create something like what you have done, but centered on their own niche interests, for instance.

    • Once I have more time, I’ll probably work a little more. I’d stick with self employment if I have a choice. Bloggers are actually in demand at a corporate level now. Every company needs a way to engage customers and bloggers are the experts in that field. We’ll see how it turns out.

  28. My wife and I, both now “earlier retired,” have handled your question differently. She has become a part-time/sometime well-paid tech consultant and hobby farmer; while I’ve become a serious hiker and hobby personal finance blogger. You seem to be doing some of both approaches. Or could.

    In different ways, my wife and I have accomplished the same things. We stay mentally engaged, emotionally motivated, purposely active, and — most important of all — happily busy. Oh! And thankfully free from office politics and other job-related crap. :O

    • It’s great that you found a way to balance life and work. A little work is good for you soul. You just have to pick the right kind of work, right?

  29. I’m an introvert as well and have to check that book out. I always hated team brainstorming ideas. I’m much better on my own where I can just zone out and think as opposed to having others interrupt my thoughts all of the time!

    I also agree about relying on others. At my last job we had quarter end duties split between a few people. I could do some of my duties but had to wait for my co-worker to finish theirs because I needed that information. As time went on, I took over more and more of her responsibilities because I was tired of waiting for the information all of the time.

  30. Being a full time parent is not for the faint of heart. I love my kids. But some days I want to throw them through the window. And they even go to day care. Over the weekend Mini Maroon #1 turned three. Based on his attitude, you might have thought he’d turned 13. But as my mother continues to tell me, a little fire and tenacity is what you want in your child. If they blindly do every single thing you want, they are not going to have the personality to grow up to do great things. I remind myself of this A LOT!

    • Man, I don’t know how our little guy escape a spanking so far in his short 4 years career as a little punk. Yesterday, he threw a stick at me at the playground. I told him to not throw sticks. A few minutes later a stick flew by my head. And he said “it didn’t hit you.” Yes, but I told you not to throw stick. Of course, another stick sailed by soon after and I broke it in pieces and dragged him home…

  31. You ask, “If you’re retired, have you ever thought about rejoining the workforce?”
    Of course, you know my answer: If someone offered me $1 billion to go work at a regular job for one year, I wouldn’t consider it for a nano-second.

    In regards to, “collaboration kills creativity . . . For most people, the best creative work is done alone.”
    I am so much in agreement with this. Yet there are those who argue and say no one can create anything worthwhile alone. To those I cite my two retirement books that have now earned me well over $1.5 million. These books were created by me and no one else. In fact, I challenge any group of individuals (five or ten or 100) to create a retirement book that will outdo my “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” in sales and pretax profits. I know that they will not be able to do it. One person may be able to do it but not a group.

    These quotations apply:

    “The great creative individual . . . is capable of more wisdom and
    virtue than collective man ever can be.”
    — John Stuart Mill

    “Creativity varies inversely with the number of cooks involved in the broth.”
    — Bernice Fitz-Gibbon

    “The good ideas are all hammered out in agony by individuals, not
    spewed out by groups.”
    — Charles Bower

    “He who joyfully marches in rank and file has already earned my
    contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him
    the spinal cord would have been enough.”
    — Albert Einstein

    “Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day,
    something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else
    would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually
    be part of unanimity.”
    — Christopher Morley

    “If you follow the crowd, you will likely get no further than the crowd.
    If you walk alone, you’re likely to end up in places no one has ever
    been before. Being an achiever is not without its difficulties, for peculiarity
    breeds contempt. The unfortunate thing about being ahead of your time
    is that when people finally realize you were right, they’ll simply say it was
    obvious to everyone all along. You have two choices in life. You can dissolve
    into the main stream, or you can choose to become an achiever and
    be distinct. To be distinct, you must be different. To be different, you
    must strive to be what no else but you can be.”
    — Alan Ashley-Pitt

    “The fastest way to succeed is to look as if you’re playing by
    somebody else’s rules, while quietly playing by your own.”
    — Michael Korda

    “If you see in any given situation only what everybody else can see,
    you can be said to be so much a representative of your culture that you
    are a victim of it.”
    — S. I. Hayakawa

    “If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world
    but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.”
    — Anna Quindlan

    One more point: In regards to “teamwork”, I never have liked the word nor do I like the two words that the word is comprised of.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    The Prosperity Guy
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
    (Over 275,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)


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