Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to work we go!
As another daunting work year begins I am reminded why I want to get out of the 9-5 until you’re 65 salaried full-time worker game.
It’s not that I dislike my job. Quite the opposite – I really enjoy it and I genuinely love the people I work with. I’m one of those annoying people who gets to work with his friends in relative autonomy doing a gratifying job with reasonable pay. But at times it is extremely stressful.
Why do I want to opt-out of the workforce and retire in ten years?
Because most jobs are bad for you and your mental health. It’s not natural for us to be seated all day – we have become fat and bloated creatures about as far removed from our hunter gatherer ancestors as you can imagine.
We stress about unimportant things like deadlines and office politics and why stupid people get promoted and THE MORNING TEA ROSTER IS NOT FAIR and miss out on the opportunity to do meaningful activities with the people we love. Because we are there. At work. In meetings.
I have recently had about ten days off work over the Christmas period and it was a delightful sneak-preview into my life as an early retiree.
Without the international travel, but full of time with family and friends – games, drinks, laughter, exercise, reading, gardening, exploring the beach, swimming in the ocean and building things. It was wonderful.
It was my first day back at work today and it was difficult because I only managed to get to sleep at 4:30AM this morning. Horrible, staring-at-the-ceiling-wide-awake-insomnia – complete with rooster calls taunting me and the sun threatening to rise as I finally drifted off for a broken two hour sleep.
I was quick to blame the amount of coffee I’d had during the day and the fact that I slept in the day before, but at work today at least three people brought home the real reason.
“You were probably just stressed about work – don’t worry it’s normal.”
I tried to dismiss the notion. I hadn’t in fact been thinking about work while I was trying to sleep and it wasn’t going to be a particularly difficult day – but they were right. Work was the only new variable in the equation and my subconscious mind was clearly quite distressed about the prospect of starting a whole new year of work.
How has it become acceptable that we trade stress and anxiety for money for our entire adult life? We are more efficient than ever, have more technology and machines to do the work for us than at any other point in human history – but we work more instead of less. It doesn’t make sense.
At previous jobs I have had negative health consequences because of work stress – bad mood swings, anxiety, lethargy, unexplained sadness, racing pulse, high blood pressure (at 25!).
Last night was a realisation that no matter how good the job we are paid to do is, that at times there will be a conflict between what we want to do and what we have to do for an income. This conflict causes stress – and I want to avoid it as soon as possible.
For those of you unlucky enough to have a job you truly detest or not have a job despite a long search – I can’t imagine the toll it takes on your health.
Numerous studies [1,2,3,4,5,6] suggest that poor working environments (I would argue that a great percentage are) are horrible for your health. Some even suggest that a bad job might be more destructive to your mental health than being unemployed (unsuccessfully looking for work, not financially independent).
What can we do about it?
I would encourage all of your who read this to study the simple maths behind early retirement and to look into the possibility that you could be free from work within ten years. It doesn’t have to be a dream that you use at night to stop you thinking about work in the morning – it can be a reality if you want it enough.
It requires only an average family income, serious dedication, sacrifice and frugality on steriods! It can be done and just the health consequences of a life of work make it worth exploring.
When you add in all of the other things you could be doing with your time if you didn’t have to go to work, early retirement is definitely something you should consider.
I often espouse a hard-line extreme early retirement philosophy here, but it is equally valid to shoot to save 25% or 50% of your salary rather than the 75% I aim for. Either way, you will be rid of the insomnia and stress inducing work all the sooner if you commit to an early retirement plan.
If work has had a negative health consequence for you please share your experience in the comments below – equally, if you think that I’m overstating the negative health consequence of work I’d like to hear that too.
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