The Returned

In order to maintain integrity on my blog, I feel I have to admit this….I’ve returned to work!

Hopefully this won’t come as too big a shock to people who have been following what I’ve been posting. If you’ve read a few of my ruminations on retiring you’ll no doubt be aware that I plunged into “early retirement” after I exited the workplace aged fifty one, with enough funds invested to see me through four years until the first of my pensions kicked in. You’ll also be aware that before long I was struggling a bit with the retirement lifestyle, and finding the change from a full on, full time working week to a zero hour one quite difficult to handle. I just couldn’t shake the notion that I was too “young” to put my feet up, that I should be working and that I should be out there earning money. I might not have “needed” the latter, but it never quite felt that way. I would argue that unless you have millions in the bank you’ll never be  a hundred percent comfortable with your financial future. Even then, you might still fret about some monetary catastrophe ruining your best laid plans.

It wasn’t all about the fretting over money though. I felt that the working life had brought more to me than just a wage. I’d reflect that surely I wasn’t alone in this? I mean, why does Paul McCartney keep writing songs and releasing them? He doesn’t need the money and he doesn’t need to expose his compositions to potentially critical and public disdain. He could live forever on his back catalogue, but he keeps producing.  I can only think that he feels that writing songs is his job and, as such, he wants paid for it, just like everyone else does.

Work is such a big part of your life and I imagine it can be  almost intolerable if you find yourself in a role or company that you literally can’t stand. I was concerned that I was heading that way in my previous job, although it was more the lifestyle that I had sickened of, working long hours in the office to head back to a hotel room instead of home. That wasn’t the balance I was looking for and the money increasingly failed to compensate for my time.

It becomes a slightly different proposition when you can effectively choose to work or not. Having to go to work can be a miserable proposition, but having the ability to choose to leave it, or return to it, gives it more appeal.

That’s why I’m never going to knock anyone who has the goal to retire early, because it’s having the ability to choose to do it that’s the important thing. I’ve written here before that I think people who are focused on FIRE might struggle with retirement unless they can construct fulfilling goals and objectives to achieve once their financial ones have been realised. “Retirement” is pretty much just a concept anyway.  I used to get frustrated reading Early Retirement Extreme and Mr Money Moustache because, in my view, both were “working”. Jacob was writing his book and curating his blog and Mr Moustache was taking on construction projects. Neither were doing these things for nothing, although they probably could have.

So what is “retirement”? We might just be arguing over words and conceptual definitions here, but I was very clear in my own mind that, for me, “retirement” would mean pure and simply that I would not work for money again. Voluntary work, therefore, could be part of a retirement plan, but not any type of endeavour that paid. No matter how much you enjoy leisurely building dolls houses as a hobby, if the plan is to sell them at craft fairs then, as far as I’m concerned, that’s “work”.

It’s not all about money though. Writing this blog wouldn’t be work, I felt, because I was choosing to do it. I wouldn’t advertise on it and I would write for it when I chose to. To be effective (productive) however, I felt I did need to commit to a regular publishing schedule and, quite quickly, this began to feel like “work” too, and I found myself beginning to wonder how and if I could generate some income from it. If I “have” to do it, can’t I gain something for it? If I’m producing the content, shouldn’t I be charging for it? Seemingly people who are into e-publishing think that the majority of bloggers are nuts – why create all that content and then give it away for free?

So I’ve returned to full time, paid employment. I’m still thinking about retirement, but my experience has put a different perspective on my plans. In fact, I’m thinking that maybe I should be planning to work in some way, shape or form until I’m either mentally or physically unable to do it! It’s likely that this will be part time (and it’s likely that I’ll want it to be part time too) so I need to make plans. That’s what I failed to do last time ‘round. I’d only planned the financial part of early retirement, not the rest of what to do with my time. Hopefully I won’t be repeating that mistake going forward!

I’m not sure what I will do with this blog. I don’t feel that I can write much more about “early retirement” when I’m back working and there’s only so much I feel I can add to what I’ve already written about the “challenges” of it. But I’ve enjoyed writing it, receiving the feedback in the Comments, and am still interested in some of the “work life balance” questions we all face. More importantly, I’ve just renewed my annual WordPress subscription, so I want to get some value from it! So I intend to keep posting, and see where it takes me.

28 thoughts on “The Returned

  1. Eh, you could always right about financial independence instead. The financial part is still a valuable part for most people. Your employment status is not as important as the fact that you get to make the choice whether to work or laze about at the pool or anything in between.

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  2. Write about your experiences working but not needing the money. Why did you pick a full time job, are you able to raise your spending game, or is the money just piling up. Do you want to give your time, or money to help others, either charity or friends. I think there is plenty of stuff for someone FI to write about. I’ll enjoy reading that.

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    • One of the most surprising things I found was how little money I spent while not working. I wasn’t trying NOT to spend either. It was a good insight to get on one of the things I had wondered about when working, in terms of “How much do I need to retire and still enjoy myself?”

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      • My hardest thing is to predict my future spending. Currently I’m in work but spending a pittance as I live with my housebound mother to take care of her and she pays all the bills. My FI spending plans including lots of foreign travel which I can’t currently do, so its very hard to budget what my life will be like after she dies. Being frugal is a hard habit to break too.

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  3. Congratulations on the new job, Jim. I would have put a bet (not a matched one!) on you returning to work in some sort of capacity!

    How different/similar is your new job compared to your old one? And did your LinkedIn come in handy? 🙂

    I hope you will continue to blog as having helped persuade you to start it in the first place, I would love to continue to enjoy your writing. This blog wasn’t really only ever about early retirement – you were writing about your current situation and I hope you will now write about your new situation or share some other life experiences.

    I’m kinda like you as regards how I view retirement – anything you do for money is “work”, whether you need the money or not. If I was making money from a hobby, eg selling my home brew, then I’d probably consider myself ‘semi-retired’ – that’s just how I would view it personally. Oh but would matched betting be considered ‘work’, as that’s a hobby that pays?

    Good luck with the new job!

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    • Cheers Weenie and thanks for the inspiration! I should’ve mentioned in this post how much the “Financially Free by Forty” get together with Huw influenced me and pointed me in the blogging direction. Which, incidentally, led to Guy and his Matched Betting (and a subsequent ban from about a dozen bookies!) And, by the way, Matched Betting did start to feel like work after a while. Perhaps I should post on the “Downsides of Matched Betting” – tongue in cheek of course, given the three thousand or so Upsides (in pounds) I achieved.

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      • ‘Only’ a dozen bannings? 😉

        Would love to read your thoughts on the downsides of Matched Betting. I’m sure my fiancee could chip in with a few herself of having to live with a Matched-Bettor!

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  4. Congratulations on the new job! Yes, please continue writing if you have the time. Not only are you an entertaining read, but it would be interesting to know if work is different if you’re financially independent. Quite a few ER people on blogs and forums have mentioned that when they hit FI and said ‘Right, I’m off!’, they suddenly got offered pay rises/ flexible working arrangements/ rainbows/ unicorns to make them stay just a little longer, and that they became effectively bulletproof. It could be fun to experiment with being the office equivalent of the king’s jester, the one who can speak out with what everyone’s thinking in meetings but not saying, (constructively) criticize, call out the idiocy,turn down unreasonable requests, etc.

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  5. I wondered how long it would be – it was obvious you weren’t that happy with retirement (however it is defined). Please keep posting, you have a gift for writing interesting articles – and without the (a bit annoying) “radiant optimism” of some other bloggers, so it seems more real somehow.

    So how hard was it getting another job? Same field? What is it like taking on a job but knowing you have FU money? I’m sure the rest of your readers have lots of questions too!

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    • Thanks for that – now I’ve owned up to my situation I feel I can blog about how I found the search for work in my fifties after a long career in management, followed by a year out of the market. It was different to what I expected on a lot of fronts.

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  6. Personally I hope you keep the blog going. It will be interesting to see how you face the stresses and strains of full time work when you don’t need to (financially), will you be motivated enough to work through those hard periods when arise?

    If you don’t decide to continue thanks for what you have produced I have really enjoyed and as someone who is about to retire whilst in their early fifties I have found your more recent blogs to be the most interesting.

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    • Thanks for the positive feedback. I think I will keep writing about the “issues” on early retirement that I felt I faced, and will perhaps face again at some point. One whole subject I haven’t blogged about is trying to get back into the job market in your fifties as a white collar male. I’m sure my experiences might relate to others finding themselves in this situation.

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  7. The important point is you do what you want, no need to apologize. Life is all about learning – You are not living if you are not learning. Better to have learned than be the person who knows it all. Next time try working two or three days per week for one or two years. Your choice.

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  8. Hooray, I’m so pleased for you! There is definitely still value to be had in the blog. As someone else has stated, it will be interesting to see how (or whether) your views on employment differ after having seen “the other side”. Also, this is no different to an investment mistake – you tried, it didn’t work out, you learned from it without suffering too much (I hope!), and can approach it again all the wiser for your experience.

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  9. Please keep up with the blog!!
    Your opinions about work are different to how I imagine mine will/would be in your position; so your insight is incredibly useful to me. I’m currently thinking that I’ll quit full time work as soon as I can – but maybe I need to consider more the benefits that work provides.

    Really hope that the new job goes well.

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  10. Boo! I know you’ve posted about it many times, but I just don’t get why people only feel truly fulfilled by paid employment, which in many cases boils down to being a tiny part of a large organisation’s efforts to increase its share price. However, I’ve not reached FI yet, and might view it differently when I decide to RE. That said, you have to make the choice that’s right for you. Please, keep on with the blog. It would be interesting to hear how you feel about working again.

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  11. I am the same age as you and have a lot of sympathy with this, once FI has been achieved it actually seems to becomes less important to cut the ties to work as the money gives a sense of empowerment. For me though the real problem with work is (as you say) the long hours, living in a hotel room and constantly increasing expectations which seem to deaden the fun of the monthly paycheck. What I’m wrestling with at the moment is a version of work that does not involve that. So I’ve told them I’m thinking of leaving to which the response was “don’t leave!” and have been offered the opportunity to construct a job that suits the better balanced lifestyle I’m looking for (reduced hours and working more from home). Let’s see if that’s just lip service or if they will really allow me to do that without a significant reduction in status.

    I like your statements “I would argue that unless you have millions in the bank you’ll never be a hundred percent comfortable with your financial future”. I fully agree with this and although we have a net worth excluding pensions of well into seven figures, the bulk of our retirement earnings are projected to come from defined benefit pensions and, well, who knows what will happen with them. We do not have loose spending habits but nor are we disciples of ‘mustachianism’ rather we just like to spend without having to think too hard but having decided to spend will zealously pursue the best deal possible. There’s nothing quite like the virtual thud of a paycheck hitting the cyber carpet once a month to provide a glow of financial security.

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  12. Congratulations! Do what’s right for you. A suggestion for a future article? The trials and tribs of looking for a decent job in later life. Compromises? Hurdles? Advantages? Anything unexpected? Did you use “traditional” methods or did social media do it for you?
    Keep up the good work with the blog in some way though – the community would be poorer without you 🙂

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  13. Pingback: work as a limiting belief post FI « Simple Living in Suffolk

  14. Loved this article! Completely reflects the position I’m in and my thinking although I’m a couple of steps behind you…because I have not been so brave (as you were) as to walk away from the monthly paycheck even though my investment income now exceeds my salary and is enough to live on. The kids are not yet teenagers and I fear I will drive them, myself and partner mad by not having enough to keep me busy if I do stop paid employment. My partner fears that instead of releasing the spending reigns to enjoy life a bit more if I RE, my adult life of frugality to get me to this position will be turned up to warp factor 10 because I will fear the money running out. My investments will take up some time but nothing like the commitment I have today juggling full time employment and some (fairly active) investments which probably take up too much time and energy right now. Please keep on writing – your article has really struck a chord and I would love to continue to read about your journey

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  15. Hi Jim,

    Fascinating blog. Would love to read about your thoughts on deaccumulation. Preparing for FI/RE is something I’ve successfully practiced for years and that’s the easy bit! Trying to get out of the accumulation mindset and actually going FI/RE is a big change in life.

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  16. Early Retirement covers such a broad range of situations depending on who you speak to, so it’s best to use Financially Independent I think. You are FI but chose to go back to work, no bother there, same as ERE and MMM were. No one said it was against the law to get paid once you reach FI but if you say ER then the ER police are out in force. For me the terms are interchangeable but for many they aren’t… semantics… no point in arguing over it so I try to just use FI where I remember.

    I also hope you continue to post. Just write whatever you feel about, you have an interesting take on most things I’ve read and I bet others feel the same, you don’t have to pigeonhole your blog about ER. It’s called SHMD which covers a large enough range of topics that you definitely don’t have to be ER to relate to, at least I don’t think so anyway 🙂

    Congrats on the new job!

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