Staying retired is not easy

Hi everyone, I’m back.

My life has changed quite a lot lately.  To make the long story short: about a month ago, I started working again.  Not full time.  It’s a part time job.

I know it doesn’t sound like me.  I mentioned in this blog over and over again that, I enjoyed my early retirement life.  No regrets about leaving the engineering career 6 years ago, and I was happy about retiring early 4 years ago.  That was the truth, and still stays being the truth.

Then, why did I decide to go back working again?

Am I crazy?  No.

The answer is pure and simple: $.

Where the thought started:

The thought process started when I was in China, in late 2018.

At that time, the stock market was really not doing well.  I was not in panic mode.  I knew, sooner or later, the market would bounce back.  But it’s accurate to say, as an early retiree, I didn’t feel comfortable about that volatility of the market.

Financially I was doing fine, and didn’t have to do any withdrawals from my investment.  In many ways, I’m very conservative on personal finances, and had a plan in place to weather years of volatile market.

But, deep in my mind, I still worried, and felt the insecurity financially, especially when the market goes down.  I liked to take some actions.

What actions?  Get a job, and make some money.

It would be nice to see some money flowing in.  I wouldn’t have to touch much about my cash reserves.  Also I could invest a little bit.  The last, but not the least:  it would be good to get the health insurance through work, if possible.

What happened:

Right after I came back home from China, there was another change.

My car was a 2009 Japanese car.  The original plan was to drive it for another 8 or 9 years.  You know what?  Having a plan is better than no plan.  But life doesn’t always go as we planned.

My kid needed a car then.  I decided to let him drive my 2009 car, and I bought a brand new car for myself.

So, if you heard that, most of the early retirees are frugal to extremes: they eat ramen every day, and drive beat-up cars, or don’t even own a car, that’s totally false.

Most of the early retirees are regular people.  They choose to be frugal on stuff they don’t care about, but do splurge on good things once a while.  At least, that’s the way I live.

Life is short.  If I die tomorrow, there will be one less regret, as I got myself a new car.  I don’t need to worry about car maintenance for 2 years (even oil change is covered by the manufacturer for the first 2 years).

Anyway, this new car put a dent to my cash reserve.  Ha ha, another reason to go back to work.

In late February, I started working part time.  The commute is short. And I got the full health insurance plus dental and vision coverage from work.  Luckily, the part time employees pay the same premiums as the full time employees at this place.

Please don’t ask me what I do (for privacy reason).  It’s just a part time job.

How did it go so far?

Being honest is part of who I am.  A part-time job is still a job, period.  It has a schedule, low level of stress, still need to get up early, work with boss(es), coworkers, and other people with patience and diplomacy.

Obviously I chose to work, neither because I needed socialization, life fulfillment / purpose, nor I wanted to change the world.  I just wanted to make some money, and it’s sweet to get health insurance.

We Americans are obsessed with health insurance, probably because our health care system is so horrible.  I was on Obamacare for 4 years without any subsidies.  As the rate kept going up, I tried the short-term health insurance for 2 months this year.  None of them are as good as employer-sponsored insurance for sure.

Do I miss my early retirement life?  Absolutely.  It would be a lie if I tell you no.  I loved retirement, and still do.

But I still have 11+ years to go before hitting the age of 65, when the Medicare kicks in.  This uncertainty of health insurance made me a little bit uneasy if I stay retired.

Can I afford to Obamacare?  Yes, I can.

Do I want to spend $500 each month to get the bronze HMO plan, the cheapest plan with $7900 deductibles?  Not really.  Even my monthly grocery and utility bills are far less than $500.  Why would I spend $500 on a plan that I don’t use much?  It’s kind of against my values.

I like Obamacare, and don’t blame it at all.  I blame those politicians, who sat there goofing around with taxpayers’ money, refused to do their jobs, refused to make it better, and tried to find every nasty and possible way to kill it.  Shame on them!

The first month of going back to work was brutal.  I have to tell you that, giving up the gained freedom is very hard.  I was in training the first month, and my schedule was around 33 hours per week.  But somehow I survived.  Now the schedule is back to normal, 20 hours per week, which is sort of manageable.

Quick recap:

Getting to the point of retiring early is hard.  Staying retired in US is not easy either, mainly because of the health insurance.  I don’t know how long I will work part time, but will keep my mind open to embrace the changes.

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18 Responses

  1. Steveark says:

    I was the opposite, I have more money than I need regardless of what the market does. But I enjoy getting paid for a little consulting even if the money is meaningless, it just feels good. So I work about a day a week, usually two or three hours spread across two or three days a week. Something about being productive requires getting paid, to me. And that might be weird, but it works for me.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      That sounds good. You enjoy doing the consulting, but the work load is not overwhelming. Yeah, it’s great to have a choice, and you can decide how many hours you want to work. I’m so glad to hear it works out very well for you. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  2. Samantha says:

    I’m surprised to read this Helen! But I am happy that you were able to make the right decision for yourself and keep an open mind to the future. You’re right about health insurance – it’s SO expensive!

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Samantha, thank you. It was a tough decision. After 4 years of retirement, it was hard even to think about getting up and going to work. I never worked part time, and just wanted to give it a try. I’ll see how this 20 hours per week go, and if I can manage it without too much stress.

  3. GYM says:

    Awe that’s so nice that you gave your car to your son to drive 🙂 He must really appreciate it.

    How do you like your new car?

    I personally think working part time is the way to go. Social stimulation, etc with some money, it’s not bad! I plan to work part time even while I am financially independent until at age 55 just for the benefits (extended health such as paying for braces for my kids!)- we will see how I fare, but working less than 20 hours a week is not bad at all.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi GYM, yeah, that solved the car problem for my kid. He was happy. So am I. Regarding the new car, I stayed with the same model and color in the last 20 years. Each time, I had a little bit hard time to get used to the new design. After a couple of weeks, I finally started accepting it.

      Yeah, it sounds like working part time is a good option for you. That’s great you already have a plan. To me, it’s a try and see. Starting this week, my schedule comes back to normal, 20 hours/week. It’s much better than the 33 hours/week in March, for sure.

  4. Kathryn says:

    Hi Helen, I’ve been following your blog for awhile and really enjoy it. I’m glad you were able to find a part time job with great benefits. I totally understand the concerns over healthcare costs. I just retired last month, but I only have 5 years to get to Medicare so I think I will be able to make that. I agree with you, it’s awful that the politicians haven’t worked to improve Obamacare instead of trying to rip it away from people. I went to part time work around age 50 and wanted to retire at 55. When I got to age 55, I decided to continue working for awhile for similar reasons as you. Now I’m glad I stashed away the extra money, plus I didn’t draw down my 401K for those years. 20 hours a week isn’t too bad and you’ll still have lots of free time, plus no worries on the benefits.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Kathryn, thank you very much. Congratulations on your early retirement! Enjoy it. That’s a huge achievement. It’s great you didn’t have to withdraw from the 401K those years, so they could keep growing. Glad to hear it worked out very well for you.

      At the beginning, I dreaded about going back to work. 4 years of leisure has been a long time. It took me a while to get used to it. In March, I worked at a further-away training location. The longer commute and hours were very hard during the 1st week. Now the 20 hours/week and short commute seem not too bad. Yes, it’s good to get the benefits.

      • Kathryn says:

        Thanks Helen! I’ve only been off a month and I think it would be hard to go back, so I can imagine how you felt. I’m glad your commute isn’t too bad. Enjoy the new car!

  5. I think it’s great that you get insurance as a part-timer Helen. That seems somewhat rare these days. I try to think of life as a work in progress with nothing being permanent. As soon as you think something is permanent, then change happens. So you may be working part-time today and you may not tomorrow. Tom

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Tom, thank you. It’s true, many employers don’t offer insurance to part-timers. Even if some do, the premium is usually higher than full-timers. Yes, life is always changing, and it’s so hard to do a long term planning. This uncertainty makes me uneasy many times, probably because I’m a sort of worrier.

  6. Dragon Guy says:

    That’s great you are able to get health insurance with a part time job. I wish more employers offered that. I’d definitely take a lower than normal part time salary in exchange for decent health insurance. The beauty of early retirement is that it doesn’t have to be permanent. If the right opportunity presents itself to go back and earn some money (or just get insurance), then one can take it. Hope its a good experience for you and doesn’t leave you too stressed out!

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Thank you, Dragon Guy. Yeah, it doesn’t hurt to ask the employers. Originally I thought, in order to get health insurance, I had to get a full-time job, which I really don’t want to.

      Right, working after retirement is different. I’m not afraid of losing the job anymore. It’s nice to have some income and benefits. Plus 20 hours is better than full time, in terms of stress level. I’ll see how the 2020 elections go, and that could change the destiny of ACA (for better, I hope).

  7. Joe says:

    I’m glad you’re back. I think going back to work part-time is a great option. That’s nice that you get health insurance too.
    I probably would do the same if I need some extra cash. 20 hours per week isn’t so bad.
    I hope healthcare improves by the time my wife retires. It’s such a big problem.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Joe, I figure you don’t mind working part time. All those years after you retired, your rentals were a lot of work. Hopefully after your 2 condos are sold, the rental work becomes much less to you.

      Health insurance is a big headache. I also hope it gets better soon, so more people can retire early. Now many people keep working because of this issue. Yeah, 20 hours per week is not too bad, once I got it started.

  8. Caroline says:

    Hi Helen, as long as you enjoy your part time job, then do whatever feels right to you:)
    I consider myself FI but I always worry about not having enough (as a single parent, I worry even more I think!) plus I really enjoy being busy. I can’t see myself not working at all, whatever I end up doing. Like Tom says, life is a work in progress.
    Cheers. Caroline

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Caroline, that’s great you enjoy being busy. I’m more kind of a person who likes to take it easy. Regarding this part time job, it’s about money and health insurance to me. I don’t really enjoy doing it, but it’s more practical to have a job. 20 hours a week is not too bad.

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