For many Americans, the above question evokes anxiety. Quit my job? Retire? How can I even consider such a move? Our national statistics support the underpinnings behind that fear. Around 46 million Americans live below the poverty line. That’s 15% of our population. For baby boomers, the facts are not any better. Most baby boomers live on a salary of less than $38,000. Studies show that their net worth is not much higher. Yet, they are facing a likelihood of lifetime medical expenses over $250,000. The imbalance is getting worse, not better.
With such a harsh financial reality, how can I suggest quitting your job? How can I suggest retirement? Well, I will go back to something that I emphasized in Part I of this blog. Quitting your job and/ or retiring from your current career may be the best move for your personal happiness. We have heard this line – without believing it – that less can be more. But here is the key issue that needs to be addressed by each of us. Maybe we should shift our currency from money to time.
Let me be more specific. We are taught to chase money. We are told that it is the currency for greater happiness. But that cultural belief is false. Happiness, when compared to income, is a bell-shaped curve. The wealthiest people are not the happiest people. If you do not believe the studies, just read the tabloids. Read about their ugly divorces. Read about the plight of their children with increased drug abuse, increased depression, and increased suicide rates. Did wealth lead those families to greater happiness? No.
We need, at all ages, to give more respect to the currency of time. As a physician, I have seen too many patients work themselves into poor health or marital / family problems or social isolation. As we grow older, many of us realize that time is far more valuable than money. Dying wealthy is still dying. Living poor is still living – and living gives you a chance for meaningful moments, regardless of your finances. Ask yourself which you would prefer? More money or more time?
Remember the statistics for the American family. The average spouse spends 4-20 minutes a day 1:1 with their counterpart. The average parent spends 2-20 minutes a day 1:1 with their children. With those limited blocks of time, there is no realistic chance of creating and sustaining a great relationship. There is no realistic chance of creating wonderful moments of joy or laughter or sheer fun – the type of moments that last a lifetime. Those quality moments come only with quantity. You need to spend sufficient time with your loved ones for those moments to happen.
I also encourage everyone to rethink the 80:20 rule where 80% of your happiness comes from 20% of your activities. Right now, as you work day after day, are you finding time for those key activities that give you so much happiness? For most Americans, the answer is no. International statistics reveal that we are not one of the happier countries. Those same international statistics reveals that our citizens work more hours than the citizens of almost all countries. There is a clear choice for most people. More money or more time (with more happiness)?
At the same time I want to re-highlight the benefit of taking that ‘shape’ quiz and clarifying your emotional needs. If that quiz does not satisfy your palate, then spend some time re-evaluating your forgotten passions and areas of interest. Make an effort to recapture some of your formal pursuits and talents. Much from your childhood and early adolescent years can be brought back to your older life, giving you a new sense of joy. You just need to find what you have left behind. It’s there; it’s just often hidden.
In closing, my recommendations are two-fold. Quit your job and find something a new job that is more aligned with your passions and interests. Or quit your job and redirect your focus to more time with the people you love. Even if money is tight, your happiness can still expand. A walk with a loved one, holding hands, can be far more satisfying than that extra dollar. An act of mentoring or teaching, whether it’s your child or grandchild or someone else’s grandchild, can mean far more than any financial expenditure.
Lastly, remember that quitting is not irrevocable. People can quit their job and search through new ones. People can also quit their jobs and give themselves a six-month break from work. The same hold trues for retirement. Try it. See how you like it. You can always return to work if you cannot find new passions, new interests, and new areas of delight. See if you do not find greater happiness.
Just do me one favor. Step off of the career conveyor belt before it deposits you at the end of the line in some cemetery. People do not refer to their offices as vertical coffins without some truth. Just step out of your comfort zone while you still have a chance. Quitting. Retiring. I think you will find that both paths are far more rewarding and enjoyable than you ever expected.
Go for it …