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How ER Dream Changed Your Attitude Towards W*rk
Old 02-04-2010, 05:38 PM   #1
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How ER Dream Changed Your Attitude Towards W*rk

A young dreamer observation -- just turned 31 a few months ago. Since i've been thinking about ER for a few years now and think that it is possible within 10 years or so (on a very bare-bone, cat-food eating basis), my attitude towards w*rk is very different from coworkers my age.

On the one hand, I am less stressed about how my actions impact a future career. I still care about career advancement, but it's not that I have to deal with it for the few decades. I guess it's good in that I worry less about what my boss thinks of me and how my performance compares with others, and my work anxiety has been greatly reduced. I am also less worried about the future of my company despite the economic crisis. Somehow, the thought of finding gainful employment for the next several years is a lot less daunting than, say, 35 years.

On the other hand, I am probably a little too laid back. I am not keen on getting the latest office gossip and feel even OK with not being in the "inner circle." I wonder if my lack of ambition is going to cost me promotions and raises. Since promotions and bonuses are pretty limited in my company, I don't feel like they would greatly impact my FIRE date. But inside, I feel that 31 is a bit early to adopt the "I don't care" attitude.

I know that my significant lack of ambition is uncommon, at least among my coworkers. Does anyone else feel this way?
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Old 02-04-2010, 08:08 PM   #2
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Ever since we discovered that FIRE was an attainable goal, DW and I have actually been working harder in order to make it happen even sooner. The results have been amazing. I guess, we will start relaxing when we reach FI, hopefully in 3-4 years.
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Old 02-04-2010, 08:16 PM   #3
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Yeah, I have been working harder toward the goal since deciding FIRE is what I wanted. The thing that worries me is that I have been working so hard for so long that there is less and less left of what I used to think of as "the real me." I hope that at some point I get more free time to remember what having a life was like, but I can't see it happening in the next 5 years.
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Old 02-04-2010, 08:24 PM   #4
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I know that my significant lack of ambition is uncommon, at least among my coworkers. Does anyone else feel this way?
My final few years of active duty, when it was clear that I'd had my last promotion years ago, I became the "designated pit bull briefer". The command would throw me into meetings where someone needed to tell it like it is without regard to rank, career, or pet projects.

It was a lot of fun.

My CO could always go back later, apologize for my frankness, and then explain "What my officer meant to say was..."
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Old 02-04-2010, 08:31 PM   #5
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My final few years of active duty, when it was clear that I'd had my last promotion years ago, I became the "designated pit bull briefer". The command would throw me into meetings where someone needed to tell it like it is without regard to rank, career, or pet projects.

It was a lot of fun.

My CO could always go back later, apologize for my frankness, and then explain "What my officer meant to say was..."

Yeah, I have cultivated a career where I get the opportunity on a fairly regular basis to kick a senior executive of a very large organization square in the 'nads. Its a great thing.
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Old 02-04-2010, 11:03 PM   #6
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Brewer and FIREDreamer, your reactions make a lot more sense than mine. I think part of me just feels that I have been working full-time since I was 21 and have somehow missed out on the "fun" years. I have just lost momentum in working. Luckily DH is much more ambitious and focused than I am.

Nords, that's a great trait to have, especially since they couldn't really fire you! If I were 2-3 years to FIRE that would be a great thing to do. I love hearing people's frank opinions & wish there were more "no-bullshit" coworkers. It takes a certain personality and place in life to do that.
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Old 02-04-2010, 11:41 PM   #7
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GoodSense, I can identify with your attitude. DH and I are hoping to FIRE in 5.5 years when he reaches 20 years of military service, and his salary/pension are such a big factor that we should be fine if he gets to 20 years safely but it would take quite a long time if something somehow goes wrong. Obviously, having more saved is better, so I'm working when I can, but "building a career?" Nope. Just trying to make a decent contribution to our financial goals without too much reduction in our quality of life.

I think it also has to do with finding work that feels rewarding. DH likes his job and has been pleased with his career path thus far (otherwise he'd have gotten out a long time ago). I think I'd feel differently about my work if I'd found something that I liked as well, and certainly if it really made a difference for our FIRE goals.
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Old 02-04-2010, 11:55 PM   #8
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As I got closer to FIRE I lost some motivation at w_rk and, if anything, worked less hard. But my budgeting and money mgmt really intensified.

This reminds me of what I've always thought of as the FIRE paradox: people who thirst for FIRE detest the corporate games that must be played to enable FIRE. People who can play the corporate games don't have a thirst to FIRE.

The result is that FIRE is very rare, and that's sad.
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Old 02-05-2010, 12:47 AM   #9
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I can definitly relate to what you are saying. I only turn 30 this month and I struggle daily with work. I do not play the "game" well and am a no bullshit kind of gal! Do I stay at the job that I make good money which will enable ER sooner, or do something else that will probably not pay as well. My main problem is I do not know what the "something else" would be.
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Old 02-05-2010, 12:51 AM   #10
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My wish to FIRE has influenced my behavior at work. It made me more willing to stick to a high paying job with very long hours which I found unstimulating (fortunately an opportunity to jump ship came up and has given me some new challenges without taking a pay cut).

With 2-4 years to go, I suspect I will find it increasingly hard to keep my head in the game as I get nearer to the end. Of course, knowing that I am getting close to quitting is also a major stress reducer - I can ignore the office politics and whenever someone does something irritating I can shrug it off secure in the knowledge that the guilty party will be slaving away long after I am gone.

The FIRE ambition hasn't really influenced my spending - I still spend on things that I enjoy (like good wine) but don't spend on things that don't give me meaningful levels of enjoyment (we don't own a car, live in a relatively modest apartment and I spend next to nothing on clothes).
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Old 02-05-2010, 01:06 AM   #11
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I guess it made me more determined. I put up with a lot of baloney, and the more there was the more I tried to intensify my LBYM because to me that was the way out. Also I tried to focus on the paycheck and fly under the radar as much as possible.
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Old 02-05-2010, 10:39 AM   #12
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I definitely notice I have a different view on work and a career vs my fellow 29 year old peers. Heck, many of them aren't even finished with their PhD's or their residency following med school. In contrast, I'm roughly 1/2 way through my working days for what I think will be a retirement date around age 37-40 (depending on how much I want to pad the budget).

I have enough now to live on for at least a decade, probably much longer if I cut back some on expenses. Losing a job is a non-issue for me right now given our financial position. There would be something else out there for me if I want to find a new one. I don't really take office BS very seriously, and I don't think anyone at the office realizes what cards I'm holding in my hand with regards to financial position.

I'm torn between ramping it up and working hard versus retiring on the job and coasting these last 7-10 years. In the current position which has turned somewhat toxic and less lucrative, or at a government job or similar, I could probably coast for 7-10 more years. But I am currently pursuing a credential in a different career field that would make it relatively easy to double my current salary, but would probably mean a much more stressful work environment and likely longer hours vs the strictly 40.0 I put in now (or at a similar govt job in the future). The new career would trim off roughly 2 years from the FIRE date and would allow me to accumulate significantly more savings if I wanted to pad the portfolio beyond when I am FI. But that is the burning question: "Is it worth it"?

I had a job interview yesterday for a government job that would be much more lucrative vs where I am now. They mentioned the excellent state pension that I could get "after 30 years", which helps me approximately zero, since I don't really see myself working much past 10-15 years (barring the many unforseen monkey wrenches life has a habit of tossing at me). But the real thing that got me was the "firm culture" of the govt job. The head of the whole ~100+ person section was a very laid back guy, dressed casually, and seemed like a nice guy (based on what others have said). I could see hanging out with him after work. And they have a 40 hour work week, flexible schedule between 6:30 am-6:30 pm, comp time, ability to work 4 10 hr days, 5 8 hour days, or 4 9's and a 4. Plus telecommute (not that the 5 minute commute is bad at all ). This is the kind of job that I could see making life VERY easy for the remaining 7-10 years of my working career. But there is that nagging feeling of "what if" that leaves me wondering whether it is smarter to pursue the higher stress higher paying career for 2x the money, and much more upside potential. Not that it is a final decision either way.
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Old 02-05-2010, 10:58 AM   #13
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I had a job interview yesterday for a government job that would be much more lucrative vs where I am now. They mentioned the excellent state pension that I could get "after 30 years", which helps me approximately zero, since I don't really see myself working much past 10-15 years (barring the many unforseen monkey wrenches life has a habit of tossing at me). But the real thing that got me was the "firm culture" of the govt job. The head of the whole ~100+ person section was a very laid back guy, dressed casually, and seemed like a nice guy (based on what others have said). I could see hanging out with him after work.
For what it's worth, in my government job EVERY person in my chain of command changed within 6 years and some were gone within a year, though none took jobs outside the agency.

My supervisor was promoted to another part of the organization in our building.
Her supervisor (a REALLY nice guy!) was promoted to our HQ in Washington, D.C. months after I took the job.
His supervisor retired.
And the guy above him (head of our entire 800 person facility) was promoted to HQ in D.C. also.

My point is that I wouldn't weight the job decision very heavily based on what a nice guy the head of the section is because he could be gone tomorrow.
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Old 02-05-2010, 11:11 AM   #14
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I think this would be an easy one for me. I'd choose the low-stress job, since I know high-stress situations (revolvinig around ultimately meaningless things) make me miserable and shorten my life. The two years you'd gain from the increased income, you could easily lose later due to damage done now. I'd take the low-stress option and maybe look for a second low-stress activity to supplement income.

I realize the decision probably comes down to personality type.
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Old 02-05-2010, 11:49 AM   #15
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For what it's worth, in my government job EVERY person in my chain of command changed within 6 years and some were gone within a year, though none took jobs outside the agency.

My supervisor was promoted to another part of the organization in our building.
Her supervisor (a REALLY nice guy!) was promoted to our HQ in Washington, D.C. months after I took the job.
His supervisor retired.
And the guy above him (head of our entire 800 person facility) was promoted to HQ in D.C. also.

My point is that I wouldn't weight the job decision very heavily based on what a nice guy the head of the section is because he could be gone tomorrow.
The head honcho would not factor in significantly to my decision to work there. I know the transient nature of coworkers. Especially ambitious ones that are heads of departments like this. Although he is still in his 30's, so nowhere near retirement age.

And the guy I would directly report to is nearing state retirement age, so I'm not sure how much longer he will be around. Could be a good move though for me if vacancies above me occur due to retirement or promotion.
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Old 02-05-2010, 05:11 PM   #16
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I know that my significant lack of ambition is uncommon, at least among my coworkers. Does anyone else feel this way?
Our behavior on approaching FIRE was more like Firedreamer and Brewer.

Be careful. Being laid off could be a serious setback for your FIRE goals. And being selected for a lay-off has as much to do with your attitude and relationships as it does with your accomplishments & potential.
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Old 02-05-2010, 06:04 PM   #17
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I feel / felt the same as the others who had more of a "FIRE in the belly" approach. In one of my jobs in the last few years, people who knew I was leaving didn't understand why I was working even more O.T. than before, making sure everything was ship-shape and cleaned up. It paid off for me in terms of a clear conscience and a good rep. One thing that busting your butt does is give you lots of options when you do retire. And benefits while you're working - there were a few occasions where I got a bonus (they called them above and beyond) but nobody else did or a raise that was kept hush hush so nobody else's nose got out of joint. You never know when or if you'll need recommendations from former co-workers / bosses if you choose to or have to to ever work again - even just to feed the travel bug down the road.
I think part of it was the attitude that if I'm going to be there anyway, I'm going to give 110%. It's so rare to see that, that you will stand out. If you don't feel that way about the job you're currently in, maybe it's time to figure out in what environment you would feel excited about doing that? High stress / fast paced doesn't have to mean you get stressed out about it. I love that kind of environment.
Have you checked out any books like those written by Marcus Buckingham on strengths? Amazon.com: Now, Discover Your Strengths (9780743201148): Marcus Buckingham, Donald O. Clifton: Books
They were a huge help to me. Take a look at what you do that's something that nobody else can do quite like you and make that your job if you can.
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Old 02-05-2010, 06:43 PM   #18
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One thing that busting your butt does is give you lots of options when you do retire. And benefits while you're working - there were a few occasions where I got a bonus (they called them above and beyond) but nobody else did or a raise that was kept hush hush so nobody else's nose got out of joint.
Very true.

When we started to seriously contemplate FIRE in 2005, we ran a simulation to determine our "number", the amount of money needed before we could pull the plug. At the time, the simulation estimated we would reach the "number" at the age of 53 which wasn't bad but it still seemed like an eternity to us. So, we realized we had to get serious about spending less money and increasing our income in order to achieve our goal sooner. We have been working more diligently on the 2 fronts ever since.

DW busted her butt last year and it paid off handsomely. Because she went above and beyond the call of duty, they gave her double her regular bonus, a huge chunk of cheap stock options and a 20% pay raise when everybody else got 3%. She got a similar reward last year. As for me, after working part time for a few years for health reasons, I went back full time to help the cause. This is having a huge impact on our FIRE plans. We are now set to reach the "number" before the age of 40, 13 years ahead of schedule.

But we don't want to take any chance by starting to relax too early because losing any one of our jobs could still seriously set us back.
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Old 02-05-2010, 07:07 PM   #19
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Well retiring at 40 sounds great. It is many years behind me. Think what one or two percent inflation change will do to your plans. In the early 70's we had over 20% inflation. Think your plans can survive that?
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Old 02-05-2010, 07:26 PM   #20
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I don't let office politics get to me. Yes, it's important not be a jerk, but trying to move up strictly on playing politics and kissing the one right ass is not a very safe way of managing one's career. Asses move out of seats, and past important seats are relegated to less importance with re-orgs. It's best to just do your best and impress the vast majority of people that you meet. Doing so takes more effort and more time, but once you have a dozen people all thinking very highly of you, then your reputation is based on a more solid foundation.

As for Lazarus, I don't know what to say. Inflation is a concern. Perhaps you should look at the Permanent Portfolio and see if that is a viable solution for you or build a part time business so that your earnings stay with inflation. If you are saying 40s is too early purely because 40s is many years behind you, then there is no concrete suggestion I can make.
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