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.