Last time, Adam and Jane gave us an update on their early retirement situation. Both of them have been ready to quit their job for a long time and they are just hanging on to shore up their personal savings. They were planning to work until they are 55 so their pensions will be fully vested. However, Jane will be laid off at the end of 2016 (with a very nice severance package) and she will blaze their path to early retirement. Unfortunately, Adam still has to work 3 more years to receive his full pension. His job is becoming even more stressful because his team has shrunk so much. He is the only person left supporting his software, 24×7. Ouch, that sounds very painful.
In a stressful situation like that, I firmly 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 loathed 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 impacted my physical and mental health, relationship, finances, and even sleep. You can probably endure the stressful situation for a few years to meet a financial goal, but you need to have a finish line in sight. You can’t keep going for 10 or 20 years in a stressful job because it won’t work out well. Adam and Jane have a lot of tenacity. They have been enduring their jobs for a long time, but Adam still has 3 years left to go. I couldn’t endure that kind of stress for more than a few years.
My last year on the job
Actually, I enjoyed my corporate job when I first started. However, over the years, it became more stressful and I progressively liked it less and less. My last year was unbearable and I should have left long before enduring that kind of mental anguish. Every day was a foggy haze. I should have started negotiating for a severance package and looked for a different job instead of sticking around. It was difficult to think clearly when you’re under constant pressure, though. I kept counting down the days and pushed through it.
When I quit my engineering career, life instantly became much better. I was able to spend a lot more time with our kid and work on this blog. These days, my life is mostly stress free. 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 relieve the pressure either. I am feeling a lot healthier now because the physical and mental problems are gone. That’s priceless.
Don’t wait until retirement 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 4 years ago, but I don’t plan to stop working anytime soon. I’m busy every day and I enjoy 99% of it. Being a stay at home dad takes up a lot of time. It’s been getting easier since RB40Jr turned 5, but I still can’t get much done when he’s around. Like most 5 year old boys, he is full of questions. So I work on the blog when he’s in school and after he went to bed.
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. I knew I’d have a major breakdown if I stuck around much longer at my old job. You might feel like you have to keep working in your job, but there are other choices. Here are just some ideas if you really can’t handle it anymore.
- Find a better company to work for. The job market is a lot better now and you might be able to find a better work environment. Some companies have terrible corporate cultures and you don’t want to be stuck there for years.
- Change your group. Sometime changing jobs within the same company can improve your professional life, too. I changed groups a few times at my old company and life improved with new faces and challenges. This is a good option if you have some “golden handcuffs.”
- Change your career. You can go back to school, interview for a different job, or even start a small business. You don’t have to stay in the same field your whole life. Most of us choose our career when we were just teenagers. People change and your career might not be the right fit anymore.
- Cut back to half time. I don’t think this option is available to many people, but check with your HR department to see if it’s possible. This is the ideal option for Mrs. RB40, but it’s not available from her current employer. She probably will need to find a new employer that will let her work 20 hours per week.
- Side hustle. Use your spare time to figure out how to make money with your hobby. I started Retire by 40 while I was working full-time. It gave me an outlet and actually made my full-time job more bearable. Everyone needs a little passion in their life.
- Become Financially Independent. This is a long term project for most people, but I think it’s a lot more achievable than you think. Most people with high income have high expense rates. If they can reduce it down to the basic living expense, I bet many of them can quit their job in just a few years especially if they have been saving for a long time.
- Stay healthy. Often, we let our health go when work becomes too stressful. I had many health issues due to stress, but I tried to stay healthy by exercising during lunch. I also meditated and practiced yoga to help calm my mind. These healthy habits can be very helpful when life is full of stress. I don’t think I could have gone through the last year of full-time work without exercise and yoga.
I know it is difficult to make a change at work. However, if you have many years left, you can’t stay in a stressful environment. The stress will invade all facets of life and everyone around you will be unhappy. The money and/or work satisfaction isn’t worth putting your family through the wringer for years. You can’t wait for retirement to be happy; you need to find a way to make things work now. However, if you only have a few years left, it might be worth it to push through the difficult period like Adam plans to do. As for me, I am much happier and healthier after 4 years of early retirement. Money doesn’t mean that much to us after the basic necessities are taken care of. Family time, health, and a stress free environment are much more important to us.
Are you putting off happiness until retirement? I think that’s a mistake unless you only have a few years left. Be happy now because the future is uncertain.
*updated July 2016
Image by Evil Erin
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