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February 26, 2018


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I have a relative who works part-time and is often having trouble getting enough hours to cover her monthly expenses. I myself continued to work full time after hitting my FI target over a decade ago, so my monthly expenses are less than my passive income (and my earned income is icing). One might think that I live with more stress than my relative because I work far more hours per week, but, surprise, this isn't the case!

My point is it's not the work that creates the stressful situation, I think we need to dig deeper to get to root cause. For most people it's needing every last cent from an unstable/insecure paycheck that is the proximate cause of stress, IMO. It's this financial vulnerability that causes people to do things they would rather not do, including taking risks for self-harm such as chronic sleep deprivation to meet deadlines or accommodate employers' rotating schedule, driving double or triple the distance to an office that's located in a bad school district, or accepting a promotion into a migraine-of-a-job just because it pays just a few percent more. Hey if you're not willing and able, there are plenty of other rat-race contestants who are!

In short I don't think it's our jobs that are killing us, it's our desperate need for the income from these jobs that's the culprit. In my three decades of full time work, I've seen both ends of this, and I can say that the work environment sure looks different post-FI than pre-FI even though objectively there's no real change. The work-life balance equation shifts in your favor when your employer needs you more than you need them. Once you reach this point you can ask for whatever floats your boat, for me it was control over work location, schedule, and work content; I no longer felt the need for promotions and raises or long vacations that most of my co-workers covet.

Those of you who are young and newly hired into full time work may not see this coming; most larger organizations have a few years of honeymoon before reality dawns, and for many this comes too late. My message is to aim for FI in order to get on a track for a long and happy career (or to ER if that becomes your wish), don't let your early optimism preclude preparing for possible stormy days ahead. Work doesn't have to be crazy -- if you're financially set.

Yup, not surprised by any of these numbers. I also read somewhere that the majority of heart attacks happen at 6 am (y'know, the time many of us wake up to go to work).

I'm very fortunate to work remotely, which means a commute of 20 steps to my office. That alone has minimized work-related stress dramatically.

Although we can't do a lot about the crappiness of work, we can change the way we perceive it. I've started waking up early so I have time to cook a nice, homemade breakfast, work out, and shower before my day begins. I also try to make time for a morning meditation, which can really make the difference.

While reaching FI or being close to it can reduce stress, I think there are a lot of stressed-out workers despite that. So many companies treat employees as expendable, rather than their most important resource, and now that workers are "always on" with smart phones, people aren't getting the mental space away from work they need to hit the "reset" button. Most employees don't even take their two weeks' vacation each year! :(

Thanks for the post. Its crazy how stress we are by work. We work to earn money which should make life less stressful. But it actually stresses us out more. Go figure!

In India, commute times are even higher! Sometimes i've been stuck for 90 minutes one way :-|

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