Driving Towards F.I.R.E.

Let’s Talk…Retirement and Loyalty

Time to dust off the keyboard because it’s time for some real talk…in text form.

 

This post might be slightly different from our previous posts as it’s not directly related to RV Life, traveling, or our furry pups.

What we’re talking today has some relation to the other part of our journey….Financial Independence and Retiring Early. In particular, the retiring early component of FIRE. In our humbling beginnings as full-time Nomads, we discussed many options of what our financial goals were. The most obvious goal was to achieve financial independence by paying off our debts and student loans. However, we didn’t stop there. We thought beyond the removal of all debts and discussed the very real idea of retiring early. How could we achieve it? At what age did we think that could be possible? How much would we need? What would our post early retirement life look like? The questions kept coming, the answers however….nothing. Let’s take a look at some statistics related to retirement.

According to a recent survey from gobankingrates.com found that over half of Americans have no more than $10,000 saved for retirement. Furthermore, 1 in 3 people have nothing saved at all. In a separate survey from Insured Retirement Institute, 76% of baby boomers aren’t confident they have enough saved for retirement. 76%! Here’s the scary one, although not shocking for us elder millennials, the Social Security Administration states that Social Security will need to be cut by 23% by the year 2033 without any reform. I’m sure we’re like many that believe Social Security isn’t something we should even count on for our retirement years. Especially given that the retirement age continues to rise. Additionally, here’s two other important stats. 55% of retirees retired earlier than expected with the main catalysts being health and job loss respectively. So this is the stat I want you to focus on. Over half the retirees were FORCED into retirement due to HEALTH and JOB LOSS. So either their health gave out or their employer gave up on them. You can’t help but feel that many who’s health was the reason for early retirement had some correlation to where they worked, when they worked, and who they worked for.

Employers have simply stopped being loyal to their employees….or were they ever?

 

Here’s an interesting stat from AccessPerks, “More than 80% of workers are either actively looking for a new job or are open to one (Ajilon)”.  Wow!  80%!  I wonder why that is?  The appreciation for an employee’s contribution, their efforts, and a diminished or non-existent work-life balance would likely be some of the main factors.  This same article also mentions, “58% of workers say they’d start a job with a lower salary if that meant working for a great boss (Randstad)”.  I’ve read several articles that state Millennial’s are to blame for the loss of loyalty with employers because of what employers term, “entitlement”.  They feel that this generation is lazy and don’t understand the concept of ‘working hard’.  As an elder millennial, I can tell you this couldn’t be further from the truth.  The struggle with the employers today is simply that the majority expects you to “earn your dues” as they did when they were our age.  The problem is, the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation created this work ethic that believes work should come first and foremost and everything else second.  What the Boomers don’t realize is that we grew up watching our parents and other family members miss important events in time that you cannot get back.  We’ve also witnessed this generation work themselves into poor health, not save appropriately for retirement, and those that do retire have no idea what to do post retirement because for many their identity became their association to their careers.  It is the definition of who they are.  For us Millennials, we take pride in our personal lives, how we spend our time outside of work, and wish to associate ourselves with living life to the fullest. The Boomers seem to not understand this concept and way of thinking.

Maybe it’s time for a revolution for better work/life balance.

 

In the same article I quoted above, AccessPerks states that, “75% of workers said they experience greater productivity at home because they encounter fewer distractions, fewer interruptions from colleagues (74%), less stress from commuting (71%) and less office politics (65%) (FlexJob), furthermore, “More than 75% of workers would be more loyal to their organization if it offered flexible work options (FlexJob)”. As an additional note, “89% of employers said flexible working options are important when it comes to staff attraction and retention (Hays)”.  So if both the employer and employee agree that work/life and flexible working options are of this high importance, why do we not see this in practice?  Is it all hearsay just to recruit employees? Do employees just accept the false statements of work/life balance simply out of desperation for getting hired?  Obviously, there are certain professions that require commuting and physically reporting into work everyday, but those workers who primarily work in an office, cubicle, and behind a computer screen all day, why not offer some telecommuting options?  I’ve been a telecommuting employee and manager for the last 6 years of my professional career and it’s made me a stronger worker, manager, and with less distractions I am able to keep my focus and stay engaged on specific tasks and deadlines.  Additionally, “Workers who are finding balance between their jobs and personal lives are twice as happy, more productive and show greater loyalty to their employers than those struggling to find balance (Robert Half)”. This is wholeheartedly true.  You can argue that if an employee’s personal life is imbalanced, their professional life will also be imbalanced.  These two have a direct relation to one another.  In my experience as a manager, if you take the time to understand the needs of your employee’s on both a personal and professional level, you can invest in both which enables the employee to achieve both sets of goals which in-turn leads to greater productivity, satisfaction, and a happier home life.

What about health?  Americans’ health has consistently been on the decline due to a variety of factors, but does anyone relate that to the American working culture?

 

I read something this week that stated something along the lines of, “employers rent your services in exchange for medical coverage”.  I mean that’s one way to put it, but It’s true though. The sad truth is that medical insurance is ridiculously expensive in our country.  Americans don’t help the cause either.  Americans are sicker across the board.  According to Medalerthelp, almost 4 out of 10 Americans are morbidly obese. Over 7 out of 10 are overweight.  This shouldn’t be too shocking if you look up from your mobile devices from time to time.  The thing is…I don’t blame people entirely.  The demands placed on us are extremely high.  Technology brought that to the fold.  You are expected to be connected and available 24/7.  There is no break, no reprieve, and no chance of a moment of peace.  Additionally, our lives are so predicated on the employers’ demands that there’s little time to prepare healthy meals for the week, the cost of healthy food options continue to soar, and who has the time or energy to join a gym much less attend classes regularly?  Now obviously making the time is completely dependent on the individual to do the items above, but given the stat from Medalerthelp, so many fail regularly to make the time. Here’s an interesting dataset, “Money shortages often instigate stress and chronic health disorders, resulting in high productivity losses worth some $450 to $550 billion annually partly thanks to high absenteeism (Gallup).”  The high cost of living, the often high amounts of debts, an imbalance in work/life, and salary constraints all contribute to those losses.  People end up working themselves into sickness.  “57% of people say that if their employer proactively supported their mental well-being, it would help them to feel more loyal, be more productive and take less time off work (Health Shield)”.  So if an employer doesn’t truly invest in their employees’ health, wellness, and work/life balance it can affect both entirely.  I truly believe there’s a correlation with employers’ requirements, the cost of food, and the downsides of an ‘always connected’ technology driven society that lead to the unhealthy state of Americans.  But what do we do?

Change.  It’s a must.

 

Why not change the American work week?  Could we not consider changing the typical work week from 40 hours down to 32 hours?  What implications would that cause?  If we as a society invested more in our health, which I read something this week that stated, “health is our most vital resource”, couldn’t we all stand to benefit?  At times it can feel like we are forced to live a certain way because “it’s the way life is”. This is a terrible precedent and this mindset shows the very unhealthy nature of our society.  It’s hard to blame any particular generation and it’s a shame that both the Boomers and Millennials cannot agree that something should change. We both could learn a great deal from one another.  Maybe the Gen Z or beyond can continue to change things in the future?  One thing is for certain, you only have one life and we should all live it the best way possible.  It starts with how we work, when we work, and how work impacts us in our personal lives.  Money used to be the main motivator and for many that remains to be true, but for people like myself and my wife, work/life balance and flexible working options are equally as motivating as money.

Loyalty hits home.

 

This year has been the most challenging of my professional career.  At 35, I successfully worked my way into a senior level management position leading a team of highly talented individuals for a large company over the course of 8.5 years.  This happened to be my longest tenure with a single employer to date.  I’ve been through many ups and downs, but this employer decided to issue layoffs due to company restructuring and poor financials.  Now the positive to take from this situation is the fact that everything happens for a reason.  I’ve never been laid off from a position before and it many cases should consider myself blessed for this very reason.  As I understand it, it has become the norm in our society for people to be laid off…sometimes multiple times throughout their careers, but why?  Why is this a norm?  8.5 years is a long time with a single employer by today’s standards.  On average, most employees look for new positions every 2 years.  As I mentioned previously, I have been a remote based employee for the last 6 years.  I felt a strong sense of pride in my company for offering remote and flexible working options.  I was in all definitions of the word, loyal.  I gave everything to my position, dedicated my time to my employees, invested myself into this employer’s ecosystem and even turned down other higher-paying flexible positions externally for years.  The sad part of this and maybe my intense believe in the lack of loyalty with my previous employer has to do with the fact that just 3 months prior I was given the highest merit raise increase along with the highest rewarded bonus for my position.  I was even told that my performance in my position was highly respected and appreciated for my unique skillset.  If any of this were true, why was I laid off 3 months later?  If this strictly was about restructuring couldn’t there be a position available for me to apply to if my performance and skills were so highly regarded?  Maybe it has to do with the fact that I always wanted to improve things and voiced my concerns with something didn’t seem right or didn’t work well?  Maybe it has to do with a system of “this is how we have always done it” mentalities and people afraid to challenge that status quo.  I suppose I will never know.  The struggle is acceptance….knowing that you can dedicate a significant part of your life to an employer, turn down other opportunities, miss out on some key moments in life, only to find out that loyalty is a one-way street that employers control.

What’s the plan?

 

We started this journey with the primary objective of removing our debt to reach financial independence.  This independence would give us freedom from employers’ demands related to their agendas, focus on what matters to us while investing in our own futures, and spending our time pursuing what benefits us financially.  The statistics show a broken system where employers hold all of the cards.  They control so much of our lives.  Removing our debt is the first step.  This gives us control financially.  Without the debt, we don’t have to live a life of complete dependency on employers and their demands in exchange for money to pay those debts.  Instead, we can choose how we work, when we work, and who we work for that helps us fund our futures.  Futures that consist of living life debt free, making decisions that impact us positively without having to consider what an employer thinks, and choosing the personal time off we want regardless of how much time off an employer offers.  Additionally, we build a tangible retirement plan that we control.  Putting our money to work for us instead of putting our money back into an employers’ pocket with the hopes that the payout will be worth it.  Who says you have to retire at 67?  Let’s be smart about this…Social Security benefits will likely not ever be what they once were and who knows if any of it will be left for us.  Our plan is to simultaneously leverage our careers to their maximum potential to pay off debts while living beneath our means saving what we can and spending on what matters for us in the future.  While we might not yet know when we’ll achieve FIRE or what that might look like, one thing we do know is that we’ll only continue to invest in our health, wellness, and our futures.  NOT an employers.

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