From the inbox (paraphrased):
“Our portfolio is down and prices are up. This has caused some anxiety in our household, and I’ve considered going back to work (even just part time.) I think more income will help with cash flow and reduce worry… but I’m concerned that I will feel like I failed at early retirement. What do you think about this?”
I don’t know the best way to work through this decision and associated emotions, but a technique that I have used successfully in the past is to find others who have been through something similar and see if I can learn from their decisions and example.
Let me be that example. I recently got a job.
Failing at Early Retirement
The idea that earning some income is equivalent to failure for an early retiree is common, but I think it is misplaced.
There is no right/wrong or moral weight to the decision to add or subtract dollars from a retirement portfolio, so if something doesn’t feel right and you think work would help… then work.
In my own recent experience, we moved back to the US ~1.5 years ago and our cost of living has exploded / our passive income is down (as expected.) I have a lot of time on my hands: Both kids are in school at least part-time, I don’t enjoy biking in the rain, I can’t snowboard during the week and still shuttle the kids to/from school, and after a decade of not having a job… I was a little curious.
The combination of this situation (time abundance / cash flow down / expenses up), years of hearing that I could never find a job again even if I wanted one, and the email above in the intro inspired me to look for some part-time work.
For ~6 weeks between the week before Thanksgiving and Christmas, I worked as a seasonal delivery driver for UPS using my own car… what they call a PVD (Personal Vehicle Driver.) I first learned about this position from a PVD dropping packages off on our porch last year. I understand that Amazon also has a similar position.
This job paid $28/hour ($42/hour for OT) plus $0.685/mile to compensate for wear and tear on my automobile.
The job was fairly simple.. I was paired up with one of those brown trucks and asked to deliver ~150 packages per day. I would fill my car with as many packages as possible and then meet the truck to fill again. Repeat as necessary.
At training / orientation the boss man said they required I work 8+ hours per day, 6 days per week through the holiday season. If I delivered all of the packages on my route, I was to call the UPS coordination office to get assigned to another route that was running behind.
Overall I worked 90.03 hours with gross pay of $3,151.75 (~$34.25/hour.)
I had some expenses. I charged my EV at home each night, and had maybe $30 worth of fuel costs (rough guess.)
Mostly I brought my own lunch but I ate at Taco Bell a few times (always a risk) and bought a few diet cokes and coffees at McD’s.
The sweet safety vest was provided by UPS, but I was required to have “work boots” which cost me about $60 (although this was something I wanted for yard work anyway so the job just provided some extra motivation.)
I also paid union dues and related fees of $53.65
The work itself was actually kind of enjoyable… I listened to music, got to explore some neighborhoods, and was paid to exercise a bit (avg 15k steps/day.) It was fairly relaxing and meditative.
That is… unless it was raining. Then it was not enjoyable at all. I only worked a few times after sunset, but that was not very enjoyable either (although some other PVDs loved it – everything takes longer at night, so the $/package goes up.)
Overall I would probably get a poor performance review… I delivered packages faster than requested, but I was unreliable time wise.
At most I worked 5-6 hours per day, only worked 2 Saturdays (so minimal OT) and then only a few hours, and missed 3.5 weeks of work overall due to other plans and life circumstances:
– Disney and LA for a week
– Tahoe for Thanksgiving (so I couldn’t help with Black Friday)
– the kids got sick for a few days (our toddler had the start of pneumonia and was put on antibiotics)
– I didn’t work Christmas week because Jr was on holiday break
I’m glad I tried it, but…
Was it worth it?
Overall I don’t think it was worth it.
I think the pay was reasonable/good for what the job entailed, but it had minimal impact to our finances. I was paid maybe 3% of our annual expenses or just enough to cover our Thanksgiving weekend in Tahoe (first snowboarding day of the season.) Certainly I could have worked more and made 6%…
The greatest financial benefit was that it reminded me of just how much time and energy is required to make $100… the coffee machine we got ourselves for Christmas required almost 20 hours of life energy (to use a concept from the classic YMOYL) but seems worth it.
But even though I contributed the bare minimum time wise, the impact to life was much larger… and a good reminder of why retirement is so great in the first place.
(I think my post Retirement Has Completely Ruined Me has held up very well.)
I still haven’t caught up with the yard work and home projects that were put on hold during this time.
I was tired when I got home and was a less attentive father and partner. Our household became more chaotic and Winnie bore a greater burden with taking care of two kids for more hours per day.
I missed one or two days of good snowboarding, and Jr missed an after-school activity because we couldn’t fit it into the tighter schedule.
I also let the blog stagnate a little during this time and I’m sure income was lower as a result.
Overall… I don’t plan to do this again next season and I am not looking for any other income opportunities at this time. But I could.
Should you feel like you failed at early retirement if you decide to do some paid work? No.
I think my working part-time was an interesting and worthwhile exercise, because:
– I learned that getting a reasonably paying job wasn’t very difficult even after a decade of sloth
– I was reminded of the value of $100
– I got to be a bad example, once again
Try some things, no big deal. Maybe you will enjoy some work and find it brings value to your life. Maybe you will find that overall it isn’t worth it. Either way… you get some extra $ to pay for your next vacation.
How do you feel about a bit of work in retirement?
Something extra: Unrelated to anything other than I noticed I mentioned snowboarding a few times in this post, Jr is really starting to get it figured out. This video is from a couple of weeks ago and he has noticeably improved since then… did our first black diamond run together on Christmas Eve and we (me!) are having so much more fun together now that he has graduated beyond the greens.
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