A while back, 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 planned to work until they are 55 so their pensions will be fully vested. However, Jane got laid off at the end of the year (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 to support that 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 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 impacted my physical and mental health, relationship, personal finance, and even sleep. You can probably endure the stressful situation for several years to meet a financial goal, but you need to have the finish line in sight. You can’t keep going for 10 or 20 years in a stressful job because it will destroy you. Adam and Jane have a lot of tenacity. They endured their jobs for a long time, but Adam still has 3 years left to go. I think 3 years is the limit for sticking it out in that kind of situation. Any longer and you’d go a bit crazy.
My last year on the job
It might surprise you to know that I enjoyed my corporate job when I first started. However, over the years, it became progressively more stressful and I liked it less and less. My last year was unbearable and I should have left instead of 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. However, it was difficult to think clearly when you’re under constant pressure. Instead of leaving, I kept counting down the days and pushed through it.
When I quit my engineering career, life instantly became better. I was able to spend a lot more time with our son and work more 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 feel a lot healthier now because my physical and mental problems disappeared with the stressful job. 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. I retired from my engineering career 9 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 keeps getting easier. RB40Jr spends more and more time away from home and he’s growing more independent every year. This year (2021), I even went to visit my parent in Thailand by myself for 6 weeks. In a few years, he’ll go off to college and I’ll have all the time to do whatever I want.
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 alternatives. Here are just some ideas if you really can’t take it anymore.
- Find a better company to work for. The job market is getting 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. Sometimes, 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 careers when we were just teenagers. People change and your career might not be the right fit anymore.
- Cut back to halftime. This option is not available to everyone, 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.
- Side hustle. Use your spare time to figure out how to make money with your hobby. I started blogging 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 it’s a lot more achievable than you think. Most people with high income have high expenses. 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 (more than 3) 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 8 years of early retirement. Money doesn’t mean that much to us after the basic necessities are taken care of. Health, family, and a stress-free environment are much more important for a happy life.
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 April 2021
Source: Retire By 40