This week I want to discuss an interesting question with you: “Does FIRE make you hate your job?”
Two things prompted this post in the past two weeks:
- A YouTube video I watched by Mrs Dow Jones
- The fact that I am now (partly) back in the office
Before I go on, I will refer to “FIRE” in this post to be consistent with the video. However, I believe most people are actually pursuing FI (financial independence). The RE (retire early) is only one thing you can do once you reach FI but not the only one.
Where I saw the video- London FI Meetup
In case you didn’t know, there are a lot of people out there who are interested in FI. Some of them can be found in the London FI Meetup group. This Meetup group is run by Caroline and Anders, an awesome couple who run a different FI-related topic meetup (almost) every month. In the past, these were physical meetups in pubs but since COVID started, it’s mostly online. I would highly recommend attending these events. Yes, it’s free.
This week, they shared the video above and we broke up into smaller groups to discuss. It is a video by a woman who goes by the nickname “Mrs Dow Jones”. In the video, she lists reasons why she doesn’t like the FIRE movement (and then a few good things about it). One of the things she lists as negatives about the FIRE movement is that it makes you hate your job.
Let me first say that I disagree with her perception of the FIRE movement. In her eyes, the FIRE movement is all about deprivation, which I completely disagree with. I think FIRE is about finding a balance between today and the future. You should find a balance, where you’re happy with your savings rate but are also happy with your lifestyle. Otherwise, it’s not sustainable and you won’t stick with it. Although, if you’re single- I highly recommend trying the “want to come over for ramen in my van?” pickup line and let us know how that worked for you.
We discussed the video in smaller groups and it was interesting to hear different perspectives.
Does FIRE make you hate your job?
Yes- FIRE makes you hate your job
Ignorance is bliss
One of the participants in my discussion group thought FIRE does make you hate your job. She gave the example of an investment banker “happily” working 50-60 hours a week with a big salary. Once this person is exposed to the concept of FIRE, they may think “do I want to work so many hours?”.
In my opinion, if finding a better path to life makes you hate your current one, that’s a positive thing. You can now go on a new path. Yes, you might hate your current situation but if this makes you change it- that’s awesome!
It’s like the Matrix pills’ scene. For those who haven’t watched it (including Lazy FI Mum, disgraceful), here’s the gist of it.
Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) is offered two pills- a blue one and a red one. If he takes the blue one, nothing changes, he goes back to his ignorant (to the Matrix) life. If he takes the red one, he gets to find out the truth and change his life (even if it’s less comfortable).
When I found out about the concepts of FI (FIRE in the video), I was amazed. Luckily, I found them when I was pretty young. It gave me a path that feels like a cheat code on a computer game, a way out of the rat race. It also, maybe, made me hate my jobs.
Also- does FIRE make you hate your job specifically or does it make you hate working (as an employee) in general? I’m not sure but I have a feeling the latter is more common. As FIRE is about stopping the 9 to 5 work, it plants the seed in your head that 9 to 5 is bad.
No- FIRE does not make you hate your job
Are we asking the question in the wrong order? Maybe pursuing FIRE doesn’t make you hate your job. Maybe hating your job makes you pursue FIRE.
Does hating your job make FIRE more appealing?
I think there is a correlation between hating your job and pursuing FIRE, but which one is the cause and which one is the effect?
I think a lot of people actually discover FIRE because they hate their jobs and not the other way round. They look for a way out and FIRE is definitely a way out*. In my opinion, it is more common to first hate your job and then pursue FIRE.
Means to an end
FIRE might actually make the job more bearable if you know you have 10 years left rather than 30-40. It can give you an end date that is more tangible than “age 67” or whatever the retirement age will be by the time you get there.
Also, most people have one income stream and that’s their job. That means they need their job to reach FIRE anyway. This can make people value their job more as a necessity to reach FIRE. If a few years of working gets you a lifetime of freedom, maybe that’s not a horrible price to pay? If you think of it as a “good deal”, I’m sure you’ll be happier in your job while you’re there.
We can also look at FIRE as a test of how much you love your job. If finding a different path makes you hate your job, did you really love it to begin with? If
Did the investment banker, who started hating his job after he found out about FIRE, really love his job? Maybe he just didn’t realise what he was missing? Maybe FIRE, for him, was just the red pill.
I think that if you have something that you truly love, being presented with an alternative wouldn’t change that. That is the real test.
Lazy FI Mum is a great example actually. She loves her job. She also knows about FIRE (maybe because I never stop talking about it). In my eyes, she passed that test with flying colours. Even if we had enough money to not work another day she would still work. Not just work in general for money, she would work in the same role for the same company.
Sadly, that’s not the case for me. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would not keep my (or any other) job. I failed that test but I knew that from day one. For me, a job is a means to an end and my end is FI.
I think that it’s not FIRE that makes you hate your job. It’s hating the job that makes you pursue FIRE. Lazy FI Mum is my proof, that’s what loving your job looks like. I do not love my job and I think I represent the majority of people, but I can’t blame FIRE for that. FIRE is not the reason I hate my job, it’s my way out.
You can pursue FIRE and love your job
As I said earlier, The RE is only one thing to do once you reach FI, you can just as easily keep your job. I suspect you might enjoy it even more. Waking up every morning to your job and knowing you’re doing your job because you want to do it and not because you have to do it, sounds awesome to me.
Even if you do feel like Lazy FI Mum, I think pursuing FI (not FIRE) is still a good idea. There is no guarantee that you will always feel that way about your job. It’s good to have options.
Your path in life is personal and is all up to you. No one says you have to stay in your current job or industry until you reach FI. You can change careers whenever you want. In my case, I prefer to stick to my career a bit longer and to be completely free from the dependency on a paycheck. My path might not be right for you. You might prefer to have a 30-year career in a field you love rather than a 10-15 year career in a field you hate. That actually sounds like a better choice anyway.
I know it depends on the difference in pay of both fields/industries but maybe that is something worth exploring.
Back to the office- my own experience
The second reason I started thinking about this question is that we’re now (partly) back in the office. My first week back was so shocking that I actually wrote down my thoughts so I can analyse them in this post.
Here is what I wrote:
- Missing the morning routing
- Missing picking our daughter up from childcare
- Long commute
- Missing my daughter and Lazy FI Mum
- Think about my daughter all day
- Sad at work (not depressed)
- Wouldn’t work if I had the choice
- Motivation to FIRE
- Leaving home in the morning knowing I’m going to do something less important
- Our daughter staying longer in childcare
I wrote these short points as a reminder, let me explain them. Then, hopefully, you can see my answer to “Does FIRE make you hate your job?”.
Missing the morning routine
Our daughter usually wakes up very early (6:00-6:30 am). My face is the first one she sees each morning**. I am the one who gets up and goes to her, I get to say “good morning to her”, change her clothes, change her nappy. I get to wash her face and help her brush her teeth. We also have breakfast together, I make both of us breakfast while Lazy FI Mum is still (hopefully) asleep.
I love my role as the morning parent. If I’m in the office, I miss that, I have to leave home by 6:30 to be in the office by 8:00. If my daughter wakes up early enough, I get to do part of it (except breakfast) and runoff. Nowhere near as fun as days in which I’m working from home.
Missing picking our daughter up from childcare
I work 8:00-16:00. However, my calendar is blocked between 14:45-15:15 so I can pick our daughter from childcare. It’s one of my favourite parts of the day. She sees me there and runs towards me to hug me and for me to pick her up. It makes my day better, I count minutes until it’s 14:45, not 16:00.
Being in the office means missing this part too. Not only that, it makes 14:45 a very annoying landmark in my day.
The commute is LONG! It takes me 75-90 minutes door to door each way. That’s 2.5-3 hours each day on public transport, time I could’ve spent with my family.
Missing my daughter and Lazy FI Mum
Especially with the long commute (what a waste of time), I think this one is self-explanatory.
Think about my daughter all day
I really do. The morning is spent thinking about how I missed the morning with her. Then, the second part of the day is thinking about how I can’t pick her up from childcare.
This might actually be a positive aspect of going to the office. Not only does it make me miss my daughter (and Lazy FI Mum) more, it also forces me to get used to a life that does not revolve around my daughter.
My FI dream is to spend time tutoring, studying and spending time with my family. However, when my daughter (and her future siblings) will grow up, I’m not sure they’ll want to spend time with me. I’ve seen parents that devoted their lives to their kids and once they leave, the parents feel empty. I also see some of my friends going down this route now.
In that sense, maybe spending a few days apart each week is a positive thing? Or maybe it’s even worse as I should enjoy the time that my daughter actually wants to spend time with me? I’m not sure.
Sad at work (not depressed)
I was genuinely sad when I was told I had to come into the office a few times a week from now on.
Don’t worry, I’m not depressed. I have the best life, wife, and daughter ever, I’m very happy.
I think I was actually sad because of how fortunate I’ve been. With Covid***, I got to spend 15 full months with my daughter. Maybe I had it so good, that any change would’ve seemed bad? I think that’s probably the case. I’m also aware that I’m still fortunate as I don’t have to go in every single day****.
Wouldn’t work if I had the choice
I think going back to the office made me realise that although I believe everyone should pursue FI, I am actually pursuing FIRE. The RE for me does not mean laying on the sofa or the beach all day, it’s more of a career change. I want to be the master of my own time. I want to be able to take a month off without needing anyone’s approval.
If I had the choice, I would definitely not work. That became much clearer since we went back to the office.
Motivation to FIRE
All these negative feelings (sorry) can be taken to two directions. I can either drown in self-pity (pass) or I can do something about it. My “something about it” is FIRE. I am more motivated than ever, which is awesome.
Leaving home in the morning knowing I’m going to do something less important
This is the big one for me.
When I miss the morning routine and picking up my daughter from childcare I have one thought and one thought only- “What a lousy choice”. My job is nowhere near as important (to me of course) as spending this time with my daughter. When I go to the office, I have a feeling that I have my priorities wrong and I’m in the wrong place.
Our daughter staying longer in childcare
The fact that I can pick up our daughter at 15:00 doesn’t mean that Lazy FI Mum can do that too. Especially when she knows that I won’t be free at 16:00 to look after our daughter like when I’m working from home.
When I’m in the office, our daughter stays an extra hour in childcare and that thought hit me hard initially. Later, it got me thinking.
On one hand, it’s less time she spends with her parents. We never wanted her to spend all day in childcare and only see her for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening.
On the other hand, my daughter loves being in childcare and her teachers genuinely love her too. Does that mean I’m being selfish by not letting her stay there longer?
I am not against childcare. If I won the lottery tomorrow, my daughter would still go to childcare (but for fewer hours). There are things that the teacher can give her and teach her that I can’t, they have more experience than me. The social aspect (being around other kids) is also super important to us. However, I still want to spend time with her whenever I can.
Did FIRE make me hate my job?
I don’t think so, the long list above is only related to physically going into the office. When working from home, I actually like my job. It is somewhat interesting and challenging, it pays well, and it gives me a good work-life balance.
I don’t hate my job, I hate going to the office.
Despite the above, I don’t love my job either. Did this job ever have a chance for me to love it? Maybe not. As I’m so focused on FIRE and see jobs as a means to an end, maybe I never gave this (or any other) job a chance?
With the alternative of spending time with my daughter, does any job have a chance?
Thinking a bit harder makes me realise the answer is “yes”. My job did have a chance. I know that because I did have a “job” that I loved, I truly love tutoring, that’s why I still do it today and why I want to do that once I FIRE. I started tutoring as a means to an end too but I ended up loving it, I love everything about tutoring. Sadly, it does not pay as well as my job 🙂 In the meanwhile, I’ll keep doing both until I can reach FI.
This post was random thoughts I’ve been thinking about for the past week or so. I hope they make some sense to you.
As I’m still unsure about so many things, including the answer to “Does FIRE make you hate your job?”, I would love to hear from you. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Have a great weekend!
* This approach can cause a problem once you actually reach FIRE. If you retire “from” something (“I hate my job” etc), you might struggle with post-FIRE life. You will have way more hours in the day, what are you going to do with them? Sitting on the beach and even travelling might get boring at some point.
It is much better to retire “to” something. Have a plan for what you want to do. Is it volunteering? focusing on hobbies? family? working out? Changing careers to a lower-paying (but more satisfying) job? Answering these questions in advance can save you a lot of trouble down the road.
** I just realised this, poor thing.
***I wrote a separate post about COVID parenting back in January. You can read it here.
****I deserve some credit here. Before signing the contract, we agreed that even after covid, I will not come in more than 3 days a week.