Retiring early means no more job-related stress

Three years ago, I decided to retire early, and live my life in my way.

Five years ago, I left the engineering career, partly because I was sick and tired of the stress caused by the job.  While in the rat race, I managed the stress okay.  But, when the choice came up, I would prefer not having the share of stress.

Job-related stress is no stranger to everyone.  Love it or hate it, more or less, stress is always there, no matter what you do for a living.

Looking back, retiring early was one of the best decisions I have made so far.  Life without workplace stress is wonderful.

And I’m not alone.  Some of the bloggers shared the similar sentiment:

Since workplace stress is real, I’d like to share my thoughts about it today.

Office boundary has been blurred:

Remember the good old days, when we arrived at the office at 8 AM, and left for home at 5 PM?  Work and business happened strictly at the specific places, and the 8-5 time windows.  Outside that, it was all reserved for family and personal things.

Not any more, thanks to the technology.  For many of the jobs nowadays, we are constantly connected, and are available for work at any time.  The phone is continuously recharged, but we are not.  The long work hours depleted people.

Going for a vacation?  The must-carry-on items are smart phones, and work laptops.  The once-a-year family vacation could be easily ruined by a bunch of work-related phone calls or emails.  Stressful?  You bet.

We resent about the calls and emails.  Wish it stopped, but it never did.  On the other hand, the anxiety of unplugging is even more overwhelming.  As a result, we keep plugging in, even at the beach.

When I was an engineer, there was quite a lot of work that had to be done during the nights or weekends.  One time, I was in a conference call with my coworker remotely, for hours, doing some troubleshooting.  At that time, no Wi-Fi was available yet.  The work laptop was connected to the home router.

Suddenly, my coworker dropped from the line.  After 10 minutes, she came back.  What happened?  Her 3-year old unplugged the network cable from her laptop.  The kid was so fed up with the mom working from home.  I don’t blame the kid.

As a parent, who doesn’t want to spend more time with the kids?  Of course, we love to.  But, there is work to do, lots of work.  What a conflicting feeling.  How many times do we feel guilty, for not being able to be there for the kids?  That’s when they need us the most.

I doubt if there is real work-life balance.  Some may handle work stress better than others.  But, after all, stress is stress.  It hurts us physically, and mentally.

Job insecurity:

Job insecurity is like a ghost.  It’s haunting so many people.  Right now, how many jobs are secure in US?  Except for government employees, or tenured professors, many feel the anxiety:  do I have the job next month, or next year?

In order to mitigate the risks of losing the job, what do we do?  Work harder and longer hours, skip vacations, and try to exceed the expectations.  But the expectations are changing over the year, and are becoming a moving target.  It’s called “Embrace the change”.

That’s how the employees are screwed at the end of the year.  Everyone is a great performer.  But, the employers have quotas when doing the performance reviews.  Heard about the 20-70-10, or 10-70-20, whatever crap?

The lower ratings have to be assigned to someone.  Your fate and job is totally at the mercy of someone who may even not know who you are, and what you do.  Many feel so helpless, and stressed out.  The only thing that can be done is to pray.

Welcome to corporate America.

How many of us experienced the layoff?  Some companies are gracious enough to give several months of notice, with some severance package.

Some let the employees go immediately.  I worked for one company.  The business was struggling.  Some employees went to work in the morning, got the notice, and were escorted out of the building in a couple of hours.  No severance, nothing.  As a survivor, I didn’t feel lucky at all.  Just found a better job, and moved on quickly.

Being laid off is a stressful experience.  Check Caroline’s post, why she freaked out when the layoff notice has not arrived yet: “On The Outside, I May Look Cool, Calm And Collected But …” on Money Scrap.

Other work-related stress:

Have you heard about the latest viral story, about the work lunch being stolen?  The shrimp fried rice was dumped into the trash can of the office kitchen by someone.

It is stressful when you are hungry, and find out your packed lunch is missing.  It becomes even worse if it shows up in the trash can.

Colleagues do cause stress sometimes.  Do you have a teammate sitting in the next cubicle, who clips the finger nails often?  Or someone whose sneezes could cause the sky to fall?

And the boss.  Is he or she very bossy?  At the end of the day, do you still want to see him or her the next day?  Does the boss look like the one-million dollar debt to you?  You like to escape from it, but may never ever be able to.

At the last company I worked as an engineer, there was a “Wall of Fame” in our cubicle area.  What is it?  After each engineer left the company, we put his or her cubicle name tag onto that wall.  One more winner.  There were over 20 Wall of Famers before I took the turn.  Using the words of one of coworkers, “Finally she got the parole.”

Summary:

Enough said about workplace stress.  I’m sure everyone knows the drill, as everyone is an expert in dealing with it.  Do you hate the job stress?  If yes, get rid of it by retiring early, if that’s what you want to.

Retiring early means you don’t have to work for money anymore.  You can work for fun if you want to.  Goodbye to the super long work hours, and hello to the final freedom.

Retiring early means that, plugging in or not, and when, is totally your choice.  Having a vacation?  You are able to enjoy it fully without worrying about missing clients’ calls or emails.

By retiring early, you don’t worry about job security any more.  And nobody dares to give you a performance review.  I love it.  Plus, nobody can steal your lunch.  You can make a nice lunch at home, or eat well at your favorite restaurant.

And the coolest thing about retiring early is that, you are the boss.  Nobody can boss you around.  Not anymore.

How to get there?  Start today.  Treat your hard-earned money seriously, and save it.  The more dollars you save and invest today, the less time you’ll have to suffer the work stress in the near future.

Good luck in reducing the work stress and retiring early!

Do you feel stressed out at work?  How do you manage the stress?

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12 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Hi Helen, I think I am more stressed today than ever before! Different kind of stress, the one where you are always wondering when the formal notice is going to come down!
    Trying to stay positive and pretty sure I won’t be looking for a full time job after this one. Being your own boss rules!
    Thanks for the mention:)

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Caroline,
      A full-time job is stressful. Your situation is even more challenging due to the job uncertainty. I hope no news is somehow good news for you. Probably the employer wants you to work to sometime in 2019? It’s beyond your control. “Tomorrow will be another day”, hopefully it’ll be a better day. Take care.
      -Helen

  2. Steve says:

    Hi Helen

    I work part time now so I have very little stress these days.

    When I was running my business full time I was always stressed and cringed every time my phone went off. I can see how technology makes employees plugged into work 24-7 and that cannot be healthy in the long term.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Steve,
      That’s good now the work won’t cause you any stress. Running a business is tough. You got so many things and clients to take care of. Yes, while working, I really hated my cell phone, especially when it woke me up during the nights. After retirement, it took a while for me to like my phone again.

  3. Samantha says:

    Hi Helen, very good post! I love this poetry: “The phone is continuously recharged, but we are not.”

    Very true! We spend our lives working to buy silly things and we take care of those things better than we take care of ourselves.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Thank you, Samantha. Right, sometimes we are too busy and forget about the priorities. I like what Suze Orman said: “People first, then money, then things.” I agree with you, we got to take care of ourselves.

  4. GYM says:

    It’s so good that you had enough “F U” money saved to quit working! I hope to get there sooner rather than later. It’s been a few months since I’ve been off work, but when I hear that ring tone to my work cell phone, I get a weird response. Like instant stress response!!!

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hope your dream comes true sooner. You got good investment strategies, and it will pay off over time. Yeah, going back to work after some time off is a weird feeling. It may take a while to get used to it.

  5. Joe says:

    Thank you for the mention!
    You really have to manage stress when things aren’t going well at work. I used to go the gym at lunch everyday so I can relax a bit. Yoga really helped too. I don’t think I could have kept it together without exercise. Working for a corporation is getting worse. I can’t imagine what it is going to be like for our son. I’ll make sure to teach him about the alternatives.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Joe, no problem. You are right. The stress needs to be under control. Working out and yoga definitely help. When I was working, I tried to walk half an hour at the outside during the lunch break. Overall, I was probably stressed out at least 3 days every week, and Monday was always the worst. Sunday Blue was real to me, and happened right after lunch. You have a valid concern about the next generation.

  6. Marie says:

    I just pulled the plug and decided to retire a few years earlier than planned. Thankfully I have a government job with a big city and when I found out I had enough years to get a pension and medical and I had been saving for a while, and no debt, that was it. The stress was eating at me. Every morning I would look to see what horrible assignments I had been given, we were short-staffed again, and no end to backlogged projects. I tried to tell myself the stress was not bothering me, but people around me were having heart attacks and some dying so the stress was real! A few years ago the guy in the cubicle next to me had a heart attack in office and went out on a stretcher (to retire in 3 months after medical procedure and medications), another guy down the hall went home one day not feeling well and DIED of a heart attack at home alone, another guy in the cubicle across from me was visiting a bar on the way home and retired because of stress, another person had cancer and treatments and retired within the year, a head supervisor died last month (same age as me), not sure what it was, but bet stress contributed. I looked around and thought I would like to retire while I’m healthy and young enough to travel, etc. Should I chance working even another year and because of stress get cancer, heart attack, etc? The job was getting worse, the environment was getting worse (hello, I’ll let you figure out the city – someone got Typhus), didn’t feel we were getting much support, and the very thing I did to escape the stress was causing more stress – going for long walks at lunch time – I had to watch out for skateboards, scooters, bikes, human waste, sidewalks blocked by tents, trash, and the fear of getting a number of illnesses from the surrounding area (Hepatitis, Typhoid, etc.) Not to mention the train to get to work – someone was KILLED on our train about 7 months ago by a crazy person with a long criminal history of ADW (assault deadly weapon) – just stabbed a sleeping senior with a knife in the chest! My Mom didn’t really get to retire because of cancer. So many people say “what are you going to do?” Well, I have a life outside work that includes music, exercise, gardening, etc., and I’m going to take those trips I have planned. And I don’t have to worry about coming back from a vacation to a pile of work and more stress. I can take changes, but in the past 2 years I waited to see if the changes made at work were helping – no, new software, but SAME problems and then the head of our Division retired early (and way younger than me) and now we got notice that the big cheese that oversees our division and others is retiring early and a few weeks after I retire! Things above our control – like new state laws, etc., we knew would make our jobs even worse. I knew things could not be good when we had an off-site meeting late last year to talk to us about this new law going in effect in the new year and the big cheese trying to re-assure us they had plans how to handle it (yeah, he had a plan – retire). Then they offered us a lot of tips on how to handle stress. I knew this could NOT be a good thing and they anticipated us having even more stress (this is when I started planning my exit). So many people have said I was leaving at a good time and they are retiring soon too – some in a few months. I will be going to a LOT of retirement parties in the upcoming year. Save and live simply because you don’t know the future. Don’t stay at work until you get sick from the stress or die! I had a sign in my cubicle from an article “Dying at your desk is not a retirement option!”

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Marie, thanks a lot for sharing your story. Congratulations on your retirement! Enjoy it, finally you made it.

      Work-related stress is very real, though many people deny its existence. It affects our body, mind, and the daily life with family and friends. When I was working, the last thing I wanted was to die at the work desk because of the work stress. I’m glad I walked away several years ago. No regrets.

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