Some people are driven to the idea of early retirement because they lack job satisfaction in their career. Working into their 60’s isn’t sustainable.
Unhappiness at work comes in many forms. It could be a negative coworker that makes you dread going to the office. Or the job pays a low salary with few opportunities to earn more.
Long commutes suck the life out of us too.
Financial insecurities at home can also contribute to unhappiness at work. Suffocating student loans or an unreasonable car payment can make you feel trapped because you need the money to pay the bills. Maybe you support a family and leaving a job when there are few opportunities in your town isn’t an option.
I set my goal to retire completely by age 55 back when I was broke, unemployed, and living with my parents. There was no job to hate motivating me to retire early.
My motivation was a positive one, to work toward the goal of extended travel in retirement inspired by the freedom I experienced while backpacking the world.
But after many years of working for the same company, my motivation changed. I wasn’t happy with my career or employer. I wanted to retire early because I didn’t like my job, not because I was pursuing the goal of freedom and travel.
That was an unhealthy state of mind.
Today, I’m much happier with my career and employer, and more grateful after experiencing a period of unemployment. Being happy and enjoying the challenging work makes me excited to go to the office and earn a paycheck.
I’m now working toward my ideal retirement again instead of trying to escape my career.
Having gone through this cycle has taught me the importance of job satisfaction in pursuit of early retirement.
What is Job Satisfaction?
The best definition of job satisfaction I found is the simplest:
The extent to which people like (satisfaction) or dislike (dissatisfaction) their jobs.
Some people truly love what they do for a living. I’m convinced that is a small percentage of the working population.
Most people find a career that best suits their skills and pays an acceptable amount for their time. Work is but an exchange of time for money for many of us.
Job satisfaction takes it to the next level. Does the job provide a reward besides a paycheck? Is the work meaningful? Is the work appreciated by others?
Parts of my old job were rewarding. But I was still unhappy. In hindsight, I realized that my job satisfaction decreased due to two primary factors. Negative people and monotony.
Like any toxic person you encounter anywhere, it’s best to avoid them. But that wasn’t always possible with my situation.
The other negative factor was the repetitive nature of my position. For seven years, I stayed in the same role with little exposure to new challenges.
I was comfortable and content because the work was familiar and the pay was good. But there was a quiet angst detracting from my well-being. Not until I left that position did I mentally turn a corner.
Part of that unhappiness at work led to starting this blog because my job was not personally rewarding. The blog became a creative space for me to experiment with a topic that was more interesting to me than IT consulting.
You’ve got a job but you want a career!
You’ve got a job, but you want a career! Those were the words of a jingle I remember from watching TV growing up. It was for a local technical institute that promised prospective students the chance leave their job for a rewarding career.
I’ve had many jobs over the years:
- Merrill Lynch intern
- Used record store salesperson
- Shoe salesman
- Beach umbrella attendant
- Proxy voting cold caller (horrible)
But only one career:
- Information technology (IT) consultant
When I interviewed for my first IT job at age 23, I didn’t know what IT was. All I had was a finance degree and a disheartening internship experience.
That first job became the foundation for a lifelong IT career even though I was solely focused on saving money to travel in my 20’s.
College degrees and first jobs often dictate a life’s work. But we make those choices at such a young age when we don’t understand the adult workplace.
Jobs come and go. Switching careers is a big deal. They don’t teach you that when you’re choosing a major.
More than a decade ago, I considered leaving my IT career to become a financial planner. Personal finance was my passion and we’re supposed to follow our passion, right?
I began pursuing the CFP certification. Around that time, I received a big raise from my job and used it to justify buying a condo.
The raise confirmed the potential of my IT career. But the condo purchase crippled my cash flow and stifled my lifestyle flexibility.
My monthly housing costs went from $750 to $2,300. I accidentally enslaved myself. The mistake of buying a home when I couldn’t afford it pressured me to abandon my aspirations of becoming a financial planner. That was bad for morale at work.
Job Satisfaction and Early Retirement
During the years of being unhappy at work, Mrs. RBD would remind me it was unhealthy to look for a new job just because I didn’t like the current one. Don’t leave your job because you don’t like it. Leave because you’re excited about what’s next.
A similar saying is true for retirement. Don’t retire from something, retire to something.
Retire because you may have another 40 years to live.
Retire because you can spend more time on the things you love to do.
Retire because slow travel is ten times better than week-long vacations.
Don’t retire because you hate your job or career.
Unless you’re within a year or two of your financial independence or retirement goal, being unhappy at work is detrimental to your well-being. Hating your job won’t advance your ultimate objective of saving and investing more money.
Hate may be the impetus to pursue early retirement, but it’s not the right vessel to get you there.
Instead, find ways to be happier at work. Relinquish your bad attitude. Create new opportunities for yourself. Gain a new skill. Become better at what you do. Build new relationships to help avoid the toxic ones. These actions will lead to more money.
In the meantime, why not start a side business to empower the future you? Empowering yourself with additional income outside of a job can help improve your normal work life because it provides relief from 100% reliance on your job. And it could lead to something.
If all else fails, you can always pursue other employment opportunities. When you do, don’t half-ass it. When the right opportunity comes your way, prepare as if your career depends on it. Change within a career is good.
The pursuit of better job satisfaction is aligned with the pursuit of early retirement. Job satisfaction leads to more daily fulfillment, a positive work ethic, happiness, and ultimately more money to fund your early retirement aspirations.
Ideally, you want to build a career you enjoy so much that you don’t want to leave. That way, when you reach the point when you can retire, you have two good options.
Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash
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