Returning to Work
Updated: Oct 4, 2022
Do you find yourself wanting to return to work?
My dad worked 60 hours every week until he retired. He was thrilled when he was finally able to sleep in every day. He transitioned to his retirement well, well-rested and with a community of other septuagenarian retirees to join him for a leisurely breakfast every day. His time is spent with grandchildren, friends, and the hobbies he was able to develop throughout his life (gardening, for example).
Those of us retiring in their 30s and 40s (or even 20s!) are in a different situation. After waking up at a reasonable hour, you may find that your peers are already at work. Breakfast and lunch may then be alone. The gyms are mostly empty, as are the stores, so there’s almost no chance of running into anyone. There are a few people at coffee shops and bars, mainly students and non-FIRE retirees. There may be a few busy freelancers. After normal working hours, there may be a vibrant community with numerous activities, but eight hours is a long time to sit alone and reengaging may be challenging.
There’s a significant pull toward returning to work. For many Americans, work is the only viable option for socializing during the workday. Much of American life is structured around employment and it follows naturally that work is the primary source of community for many working-age Americans.
FIRE, while offering many great benefits, increases the number of years without a work-based community. Some FIREees(?) will find themselves plenty satisfied with more time spent pursuing latent hobbies, but many will find that the diligence with which they pursued FIRE prevented the development of hobbies or a working-hours community. Staring down more years of this can be daunting and dispiriting. There can be a yearning to escape or to reflexively return back to the time of striving that existed pre-FIRE.
It’s important to consider the void that exists when work ends both in terms of occupied hours and community engagement. Solutions will be those meeting the needs of the individual FIREee, but the failure to account for the void can create real challenges. We’ll discuss options to fill this void more in the future.