Although there is a growing apathy towards work given some people's investment returns are beating their work income, the best time to work might be during or right after a pandemic. The way millions now work is much more flexible, which is much better.
One of the biggest things I disliked about work was having to commute. Now that my son is back in preschool, I have to leave the house by 8:30 am to drop him off no later than 9 am. Then I've got to pick him up by 3:45 pm, otherwise, we'll be charged a late fee.
Driving 15-20 minutes each way is not that big of a deal. It's just something I haven't done since 2012. It's more the obligation of having to be somewhere at a certain time that takes getting used to again.
Commuting Monday through Friday puts me back in work mode. I turn on my favorite podcasts, play them on 1.5X speed, and away I go. Invariably, there will be something that happens during my rush-hour commute that increases stress.
Therefore, perhaps I should get a job if I'm already going to experience the mundanity of the daily commute for the next 14 years. At least this way, my commute will feel more productive.
If you've been a stay-at-home parent for several years, thinking of coming out of early retirement, or disgruntled with your current job, this post is for you.
The Best Time To Work May Be During A Pandemic
To help buttress my theory that the best time to work in some professions may be during a pandemic, I talked to my friends about their current work lives. Most of them come from either my weekly softball meetup group or my tennis club.
Here are some reasons why now may be the best time to work. I'd love to hear your perspective as well if you’ve been working throughout the entire pandemic.
1) Flexible Work Hours
Jake is a 24-year-old software engineer who joined Facebook in Fall 2020. He sometimes sends out group requests to see if anybody wants to join him for a day game to watch the SF Giants.
When I asked him how he was able to watch a game from 1:30 pm to 4 pm on a weekday, he said that Facebook has extremely flexible hours. So long as he gets his work done, all is good.
With no boss checking what you're doing every hour, you have more flexibility to run errands during the day, work out, take care of your kids, and travel.
When I was in my early 20s, I didn't dare goof off during work hours. I was a cost center that could be fired at any moment. Nowadays, it seems like there's a lot more flexibility.
2) More Vacation Time
Qubert is a 32-year-old analytics consultant for a major bank. He no longer has to commute.
This summer, he took four vacations each between four days to eight days long. Each vacation was a flight somewhere. When I asked him how he was able to take so much vacation, he said his company has an unlimited vacation day policy.
In the past, employees felt pressure not to take advantage of the unlimited vacation time policy. However, with the rising awareness of mental health issues, more employees have. It's easier to not feel the social pressure of always working when you no longer see your colleagues every day in person.
When he went down to LA to see his family for a week, he was able to “work” for three days. He said that even though work is busy, he felt he was living a more balanced life.
After my Facebook friend took a week's vacation at the beginning of the summer, he took a two-week vacation to see his family back in New York. He also said he did some work while back home.
His vacation policy is in stark contrast to my first two years working in finance. I didn't take a day off my first year. For my second year, I might have taken five days off.
3) A Greater Ability To Side Hustle
Perhaps the best reason why now is the best time to work is due to the greater ability to work on side hustles outside of work.
I did a podcast interview on Paychecks & Balances this summer. As I was listening to Rich's older episodes to prepare, I realized he works at Google. One of his other guests, Roger, works at Google too.
Based on both their podcasts, blogs, books, financial planning consulting, and social media activity, I thought Rich and Roger were full-time creators and solopreneurs!
When I was working in finance, I wasn't technically allowed to do any side hustles. All outside interests that made money had to be reported to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.
These side hustle restrictions I had while working in finance crimped my style. Therefore, I thought the best thing to do would be to leave so I could have 100% freedom to write whatever I wanted on Financial Samurai.
Nowadays, it doesn't seem like many employers don't care what you do outside of work hours. You can run a very successful business and so long as you still do your work, you're good.
As a parent now, the ability to earn multiple six-figures with healthcare and retirement benefits is already really attractive. But to also let me continue to express my creativity, unencumbered with Financial Samurai would be a real treat.
I already spend most of my time writing before 8:30 am anyway. Therefore, my work on Financial Samurai wouldn't impede my day job work at all. Plus, if there's a lot more work flexibility during the day, it would be easy for me to sneak some Financial Samurai time in without the employer knowing or caring.
4) Much Higher Pay
Inflation has not only helped push asset prices higher, but pay is also way up from when I left in 2012. For example, first-year analysts at Goldman Sachs got a 37.5% base salary pay bump to $110,000 this year. Not bad! When I started in 1999, my base salary was only $40,000.
Thanks to so many more people questioning the meaning of life during the pandemic, a lot more people are quitting. With a lot more people quitting, companies are having to pay more and provide more benefits to retain and attract employees.
For example, after my friend joined Bill dot com pre-IPO, she joined another startup for a 30% total compensation increase. Her new startup will likely grow even faster than Bill dot com, which is impressive since Bill dot com is up more than 200% since its IPO in December 2019.
There are also stories of intrepid folks working two full-time jobs concurrently! When you don't have to do double the work, making double the salary is a nice return.
5) Children Are Going Back To School
Having to take care of a young child all day is hard work. To then have to take care of a child and do your regular day job is almost impossible. As a result, the demand for au pairs and nannies surged during the pandemic.
However, with more children going back to school, the stress of doing both jobs has dissipated. In a way, it's like going from swinging two bats at once to only swinging one bat.
You could go to the park and play tennis with your friends all day. But after a while, too much leisure gets boring as an early retiree. Instead, why not get a job that pays well and also lets you play during the day thanks to greater work flexibility?
Before the pandemic began, I had a difficult time getting people to hit with late morning. Now, it's no problem. One guy I hit with is a managing partner at a large private equity shop. He's probably pulling down 10s of millions each year and can hit at 11 am.
Suddenly, my freedom no longer feels very special since he can do the same thing while making tons of money.
Envisioning The Ideal Work Day Schedule
Here is a scenario that I think could work. The job would pay a $250,000 base salary with a $600,000 equity grant that vests over three years. I'd receive subsidized healthcare benefits and $10,000 a year in 401k match.
6:00 am – 7:45 am – Write an article for Financial Samurai. Respond to comments and e-mails where necessary.
7:45 am – 8:30 am – Spend time with my daughter and wife, eat some fruit for breakfast.
8:30 am – Leave house to drop off son by 8:50 am.
9:05 am – Get to work. The preschool is on the way to downtown where many office buildings are located.
9:05 am – 12 noon – Press buttons on a keyboard, go to meetings, get on Zoom calls, catch up with co-workers at the water cooler
12 pm – 12:30 pm – Eat lunch, respond to comments and e-mails for Financial Samurai if necessary during my break
12:30 pm – 3:10 pm – Press buttons on a keyboard, listen to more people speak at meetings, send e-mails telling people what to do, close some deals
3:30 pm – 5 pm – Pick up son and spend quality time with him at a new playground or the beach, or go for a neighborhood walk.
5 pm – Unwind at home for 30 minutes and spend time with my daughter and wife from 5:30 pm – 7 pm.
7 pm – 7:45 pm – Catch up with day job stuff while eating dinner.
7:45 pm – 8:30 pm – Spend time with my son until bed time.
8:30 pm onwards – Freedom to do whatever.
Get To Do It All While Making More Money
This schedule will enable me to spend 2+ hours with my daughter, 2+ hours a day with my son, and 3+ hours with my wife. We'll then spend a lot more time together during the weekends. The average hours worked a week in America is still very low.
I'll still get to publish on Financial Samurai at least twice a week. Meanwhile, I'll also get to earn enough from my day job to take care of my family. Who knows, I might even meet a lot of cool people at work.
The main downside to this schedule is that I don't get to nap after lunch, which I truly love to do. However, I'm assuming this job would allow me to work from home at least two days a week. Therefore, during the days I do work from home I can take naps and spend more time with my daughter and wife.
Work politics will be an inevitability. However, as someone who doesn't wish to climb the corporate ladder, I assume the politics won't bother me as much.
Work Is No Longer The Same As It Once Was
The reason why I left work in 2012 was because I wanted more freedom. I decided to retire before the ideal retirement age range of 41-45 because I was suck of feeling trapped.
Commuting was a PITA and so was dealing with office politics. The endless meetings felt like such a waste of time. And I sas no longer getting paid commensurate to my strong performance. My net worth reached above average for my age and I figured why not retire early and live more free.
Thanks to the pandemic, the knowledge-working economy has evolved. Their jobs and my work online have now converged. Therefore, instead of remaining a solopreneur with all the pressures on me to provide for my family, why not relieve a lot of the pressure by getting a job?
Although my tech stocks and San Francisco real estate have done well over the years, I finally feel like I'm missing the boat thanks to the evolution of work. The longer the bull market lasts, the more I feel like I'm missing out because people get to make huge salaries and earn large company equity returns.
Just take a look at the stocks of Facebook, Google, Apple, and so many more. Their growth is simply amazing!
One Blindspot In My Ideal Work Schedule
I say the best time to work is when you can get paid more and have more autonomy. As an outsider looking in, I feel I should participate more. Otherwise, why bother staying in San Francisco?
The one big blindspot is that maybe the people I've spoken to are making it seem like work/life is better than it really is. Maybe they actually don't have as much freedom as they say? Please share your perspective.
My one anecdote comes from picking up my boy from preschool at 3:30 pm. Out of a class of 18 children, only two or three (including my son) come out for pickup at 3:30pm. The rest (83%) come out for pickup after hours because neither parent can pick them up. So maybe only a minority of employers are providing greater flexibility.
Obviously, I would only agree to work for the new company if it agrees to my desired work schedule.
Let me first see if I can convince my wife to go back to work and try things out. Wish me luck! And if I can't convince my wife, then I'm hoping all of you can share with me how your work life has changed since the pandemic began.
Readers, do you think now is the best time to work? If you are able to work from home, are you finding work and life to be more enjoyable? Is work easier? What are the downsides to work since the pandemic began? I'd love to understand what I'm missing.
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