I am writing this on the way to San Francisco for a short business trip. When I say short, I really mean it. A 3-day jaunt for some business meetings, in on Sunday and out on a Wednesday night red eye. In my normal office on Thursday. I write a lot about enjoying my job and not wanting to retire. And I usually mean it. But sometimes, work sucks.
Work is Enjoyable
The entrance of this piece says a lot about me. I enjoy my job. So much in fact that I have gone on record in saying that Financially Independent (FI) or not I do not plan on retiring until I turn 55. This says a lot when you realize I will likely be fully FI by 40. If you read back in that post the only reason for 55 is so I have space to maneuver financially and time to travel. It’s not because I think I will burn out like so many FIRE bloggers.
For those who are new you can read more about my chosen profession here. I will not rehash the details except to say that each day of my job is something new. I create massive change within a S&P 500 Company. So large in fact that my changes show up in investor paperwork. I love having an outsized impact and I love the variety.
Sometimes, Work Sucks
The thing is, no matter how much you like your job, sometimes work sucks. It can be bad for a short time or long time. Like anything in life there are ups and downs.
Long Term Work Sucks
The biggest risk for the long term is your career becomes obsolete. If you have been reading here for a while you know I heavily recommend constantly updating your skills to avoid this one. Still there is no guarantee you will enjoy what is on the other side.
The second major long-term risk is a downward spiral with your employer. Say they start laying people off. Or the management changes at the top and the whole company starts to go off the rails. It happens, I have experienced this a few times in my career. In fact, this is far more likely than your career becoming obsolete. Still continual learning, building your network both outside and inside the company, and being FI can help mitigate these long-term risks.
Thankfully with careful planning and keeping your eyes wide open most long-term work hurdles can be avoided. This post is more about work sucks short or medium term.
Medium Term Work Sucks
There is an old saying, people do not leave companies they leave bosses. Say you have a fantastic position and boss. That boss could leave and the replacement could make your life miserable. Your happiness could disappear in an instant, taking you from works great to work sucks overnight. This is a very common issue and it tends to come on suddenly. It’s also the least easy to prepare for as it takes time to move to a new position. During that time, you will likely be stuck. The only advice I can give you on this one is if you ever find yourself in such a toxic situation find a new job as soon as possible. Being FI might also help as you could afford to leap without the next opportunity.
Short Term Work sucks
But even if your position is stable, your boss has not changed in 40 years/is your best friend, and the company is doing fine, sometimes short-term work sucks. It could be the drudging assignment someone asks you to do. The 5 pm Friday workload dropped on you that kills your weekend. Or even as my case above the crappy exhausting work trip that takes you away from your family. *Did I mention Sunday was also my wife’s birthday?
All jobs Suck Sometimes
The headline here says it all. No matter if you have the best job in the world, or the worst, sometimes work sucks. Sometimes it can be wonderful as well. Happiness is relative. Your happiness today relates to how happy you were yesterday, and so on. Your enjoyment of your job is the same. You will never be happy 100% of the time with any job, even if you are working part time for yourself in early retirement. The key is to pick things that keep you mostly happy and realize that it’s the bad that makes the good so much better.
Work Sucks, But That Shouldn’t be an Early Retirement Determinant
Which really brings us to the point of this piece. Happiness, ups and downs, are relative. If you are not happy with your job, changing jobs may not improve it. You need to understand what parts you enjoy and what you don’t. Then try to shift to a job that is tilted more towards your enjoyment. But also understand there is no perfect job. If you are usually happy with your job, the grass is not always greener. You need to move towards something in your career, not away from something.
In fact, the same rules of happiness go far beyond work to your entire life. I read so often about people wanting to retire because they hate their job. They want to be free…FREE!!! The thing is, being free of work is not always the answer to happiness. If your time at work sucks, and your time at home is not much better, then by dropping the work your home time is not going to improve. It will become the norm and you’ll just move to a new state of unhappiness.
If your work is the down point and you really enjoy everything else, it might be the right move for you. Or, for most people, it is probably somewhere in the middle. Remember, should you choose to retire it needs to be too something, not from something.
If you plan to retire early or change jobs, what are you moving too?