I sometimes get into conversations with friends of mine who wonder why I’m trying to save so much money. When I tell them that I’m doing it because I’d love to be able to retire early, I’m often met with the same response: “I couldn’t imagine myself not working. I’d get too bored.”
I’m sure those of you on the path to financial independence have heard that same remark as well. It’s all well and good, mind you. There’s nothing wrong with working. If you like your job, by all means, you should keep doing it. Honestly, if I ever do reach financial independence, I’ll probably keep working too. Perhaps not in a traditional 9-5 job, but I’d probably do something that I find fun.
My problem isn’t with people who say they enjoy working. That’s totally fine. It’s that I find that people who tell me they like working often use that, not as a plan, but rather, as an excuse for why they’re not saving very much. Or they use it as a reason to criticize my own drive to save money.
Enjoying work doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push yourself to save as much money as possible. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t test yourself to see how much you really need in order to live well. And it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t strive to reach financial independence
Even if you have no intention of retiring, you still need to save money. And in fact, the only true way to know if you enjoy working is to save aggressively to the point where you could retire early, if you wanted to. If you need the income from your job, you can never really know if you’re working right now because you really like it, or if you’re working because you need the job and don’t have a choice.
Using Work As An Excuse Not To Save
There’s an intuitive logic at play here for people who say they don’t want to retire. It goes something like this. I enjoy working so I don’t plan to ever stop working. If I don’t plan to retire, then I’ll always have income coming in. If I have income coming in, then I don’t need to save all that much money. Accordingly, it’s okay that I’m not saving a lot of money.
The problem with this type of thinking is that it’s not a plan. It’s an after-the-fact excuse used to justify a weak savings muscle. Think about these folks who say they never want to stop working and use it as a justification for why they don’t save. If they’re not saving their money, then presumably they’re spending it on stuff. What are they spending their money on? In my experience, it’s usually on stuff they do outside of work – things like buying a fancy house, driving a nice car, going out to eat at expensive restaurants, and maybe all sorts of other stuff that really aren’t all that important when you think about it.
These folks might like working, but do they actually like working? It’s hard to tell. To me, it looks like they’re working because they like having the income to spend on stuff for when they’re not at work. If you’re working in order to have money to buy stuff, it really raises questions in my head as to whether you really enjoy working, or whether it’s just being used as an excuse. It also makes me wonder – why not save that money so that you can eventually spend all of your time doing the things you like to do outside of work?
Reach Financial Independence As Soon As Possible And Give Yourself Choices
People who say they like their jobs should still aim to reach financial independence as soon as they can. Just think about the type of comfort someone can have knowing that they don’t need any of their income from their job. When there’s no reliance on the paycheck, you can just work because you want to work.
I think the feeling I get from my side hustles is a good example of what financial independence must feel like (another good reason to pick up a side hustle). Part of the reason I enjoy my side hustles is because I don’t need any of the income from it. The money helps me for sure. I save all of it and it’ll definitely help me reach financial independence sooner. But I don’t need the money. My savings rate would still be fine without it.
I do my side hustles because I enjoy them. They teach me something. And it’s my decision whether I do these side hustles or not. I don’t need to Airbnb a room in my house. Nor do I need to watch dogs or dig through trash or bike around town delivering food to people. I do it because I want to do it. And if I ever thought it wasn’t fun anymore, I’d just stop doing it. Most people who tell themselves they don’t save because they like working aren’t in a position to just walk away if they wanted to.
Financial Independence Is The Only Way To Know If You Really Like Working
The only real way to know if you like working is to get to the point where the income from your work is meaningless. This is why, even if you never plan to quit working, you should still be pushing yourself to reach financial independence as soon as possible. Anytime you’re working for for a paycheck, by necessity, you’re working because of the income, not because of the work.
You might enjoy the work, sure. But if you need the income, it’ll always cloud your view of how much you really enjoy it. We’ll tell ourselves we enjoy anything if we have no choice in the matter. I don’t doubt that some people really enjoy what they do. But if you’re not saving and are telling yourself that it’s because you like working, really think about that some more.
Enjoying work and reaching financial independence aren’t mutually exclusive. You can still do both. Whenever I hear someone tell me that they aren’t saving as aggressively as I am because they enjoy working, I always wonder why that’s deemed an acceptable excuse. Working should help you reach financial independence as soon as you can. It shouldn’t be used as a crutch to justify why you’re avoiding saving.