Sunday, November 3, 2019

WORK / LIFE BALANCE, F.I.R.E., AND BEING HAPPY



A few days ago, I read a real intriguing article on Dividend Diplomats from a couple of years ago.  Titled  Dividend Investing to Take Back Control , it described grinding through long and exhausting days at a job in order to save money to invest and leave the working world sooner than later.  

Made me look back.

I experienced the same sort of crappy grind on 2 separate occasions already.   I had an accounting job at a "major major internet retailer in Seattle" (that pays no dividends)..   The company mantra was "everyday was Day 1  Wake up every day in fear of your job and work to always raise the bar."  

Oh, did I mention there was no appreciation for achieving that by the way?  There was none of that, especially as they grew.  Just admonishment if you don't break your own productivity metric records.  In short, an impossible end result. 

What kept us there were the stock options, lovingly called  "The Golden Handcuffs."    I fully maxed my stock options and stopped caring and trying to achieve what was only unappreciated and graded on a curve....  When I left a few months later, a huge weight lifted off my chest that I did not know was there.

Left that for an administrative job in a drug/alcohol rehab center.  

It was a great feeling being personally thanked for helping those in need.  I got quotes like "You saved my life.  If I did not feel your empathy, I would not be here and most likely dead.  My family is ever grateful"  Great feeling for sure.  Plus, I got to dress like a member of the Reservoir Dogs for work....
Mr. Off-White..
UNTIL the moment the mom & pop company got bought out by a major publicly traded behavioral health company.  Back to the stress.  Every empty bed was my fault, even though the prices were raised about 50% they stopped taking Medicare.

I hated getting out of bed.  One by one, all of the tenured employees were forced out or "fired".  I became one of the top 10 most senior employees out of about 100.  

They tried to force me out by switching me to nights and weekends when they knew I had a 2 year old at home.  I was written up for the pettiest of things and was warned that the next violation, whatever it was, would cost me my job.  Tick tick went the clock...

One day a few weeks later, I was told I had to take lunch by 11:30 am or be in violation of the rules and be written up (which meant firing)  The catch was I was alone that day and the Director that kept writing me up suddenly went missing right when I had to go to lunch.  I was fired for "abandoning my work station".    Either I would have been fired for that or for not taking lunch.  A catch 22.  

The Director actually admitted that Catch 22 to a judge when I took them to court for denying me unemployment benefits.  I handily won and got a $5,000 check for back unemployment a few days later.   Plus, about  230 hours of vacation paid to me since they denied all vacation requests for over a year... 

I celebrated by taking 2 separate week long trips to Hawaii in a period of a month!  I needed to blow off the stress of the past year.  I did not work for 3 months.  The longest vacation of my working life.

At that point I knew I would not tolerate a negative work experience.  Jobs are a dime a dozen.

I now work for a high end construction company as an office manager.  Only 23 employees. I often work all alone.  I have goals to achieve, but it is totally up to me to accomplish them.  Best latte in town across the street. And hours ( 6:30 - 3pm) with a 10 minute commute give me my life back.    

The ownership group is closer to working for friends.  I would do anything for them at a drop of a hat.  Mutual respect goes a long ways.  
Do the Robot in A XXXXX Large coverall.  Very Kraftwerk..

I still have the F.I.R.E. goal, but at least I look forward to going to work and seeing what my day will evolve into.  I also realize that work prevents me from going out and spending money..

Looking back, I regretted not walking out of the crappy, stressed out jobs earlier.  The stress, drama, and exhaustion is simply not worth it.   No matter what it pays.  You cannot buy back time.  Time spend being miserable is not acceptable.  I wish I had learned that earlier.

The point I'm trying to make is that even though you may have a goal of getting away from the working world sooner than later, sometimes it's worth the mental health just making a change to something with less stress, even if it pays a bit less. 

If F.I.R.E.  means grinding through a miserable job for 10 years to retire, you may look back at those 10 years regretting going through an amount of stress that aged you 15 years.  


In my humble opinion, delaying retiring by a couple of years for a more pleasurable work experience

Quality of life when you are young is a one time shot.   My job change let me realize I was escaping low grade depression that hung over my head like a cloud. 

What I have learned over the years is that I would not have put up with the stress if I could do it again.  No f'n way.  Life is too short.

Just something to think about.  

You cannot buy happiness.

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