- Sam Dogen spent 13 years working in finance on Wall Street before negotiating his layoff (and a severance package) in 2012 at age 34.
- He lives in San Francisco with his wife and baby and has been writing about the FIRE (financial independence,retire early) movement on his blog, Financial Samurai, for almost 10 years.
- He decided he’s heading back into the workforce in 2019, motivated by a few reasons: a possible recession on the horizon, he already accomplished his early retirement goals, and he’s ready for a break from his stay-at-home dad routine.
All good things must come to an end. After leaving the workforce in 2012 at the age of 34, I’ve finally decided to update my resume and find a job again.
Since retiring early, my wife and I have checked off over 20 new countries from our bucket list. We’ve turned Financial Samurai, a personal journal, into a viable lifestyle business that can be run anywhere there’s internet access.
In 2015, I finally achieved a 10-year goal of reaching a US Tennis Association 5.0 level rating and have stayed there ever since. And most importantly, we were blessed with a boy in 2017.
But staying retired is no longer for me. Let me tell you why.
Why I’m heading back to work
- Winter is coming. After an almost 10-year bull market, it’s clear that corporate profits are slowing and solid investment returns are going to be harder to come by in the future. The S&P 500’s performance in 2018 has given us ample warning that hard times are ahead. The Fed is not on the investor’s side, and the government is likely to continue saber rattling with foreign counterparts. I anticipate our net worth and our passive income streams to take a 20% – 30% hit over the coming three years. This will be even after getting more defensive in 2017 by selling our SF rental property with an $US815,000 mortgage and diversifying 60% of the proceeds into bonds and lower priced real estate around the country through real-estate crowdfunding.
- My boy is heading to school. When our son was born in Spring 2017, I told myself that I would give full-time fatherhood at least two years before heading back to work. I figured that even if he turns out to be a rotten kid, we will have tried our very best with no regrets. Once our son turns 2.5 years old, he will be eligible to attend pre-school for 4-8 hours a day. As a result, I believe it would be best for at least one of us to utilise this free time to earn some money again to help buffer the expected decline in our overall finances.
- I need a vacation from being a full-time dad.After almost two years of being a full-time dad, I’m exhausted, and that’s even with my wife also being a full-time parent. If I could just focus on raising my son, I’d have more energy. But my days often start at 4 a.m. and last until 10 p.m. (including a nap and meals) because I’ve refused to quit writing regularly on Financial Samurai. I made a promise when I first started the site in 2009 to write 3X a week on average for 10 years. I plan to keep this promise. Further, I’m in charge of managing our family’s investments as an ex-finance professional of 13 years. With our investments languishing, financial stress has increased. Working 12 hours a day in a cutthroat industry like investment banking is a walk in the park compared to being a full-time dad. You’ve always got to be on when you’re taking care of a child. One look away could spell disaster.
- I want to feel normal again.Every single one of my dad friends tells me that being a dad is easy because they don’t have to take care of their kids for most of the week. They get to leave the house by 7 a.m. or 8 a.m., come back in time to play with their kids for an hour, and then have the rest of the evening to relax. Heck, sometimes they don’t even come back for days or weeks because they’re off on a business trip somewhere. Given that less than 5% of stay-at-home parents are dads, it’s sometimes difficult feel included in the mum groups. In fact, many mum groups specifically exclude dads. I think it would be nice change of pace to be a part of the 95%+ of dads who don’t see their kids for 40 – 60 hours a week, especially once my son starts going to pre-school.
- There’s nothing more I want to do in early retirement. We’ve literally done everything we’ve wanted to do in early retirement: travelling, building a lifestyle business, volunteering at a foster home, coaching high school tennis, and having a baby. Now that we have a toddler, we will likely no longer lead the vagabond lifestyle. I remember when three months of summer vacation felt like an eternity. Seven years is more than enough time to do everything your heart desires. Four to six weeks of vacation a year from a full-time job should be ample time to take a break.
- I miss the camaraderie. Despite horrible commutes and office politics, I miss the friendly banter that develops with work colleagues. It feels great to work as a team and accomplish a mission. It’s fun to talk to other adults about random things such as parenthood, new restaurants, home remodeling, cars, investment opportunities, movies, sports and the latest news. You can only take so much of singing the same children’s songs in English, Mandarin, and Spanish to your little one. Besides, work is so much more fun when you don’t absolutely need to work. It’s like going to graduate school for the love of learning, not because you need to get straight A’s to get a job.
- There’s a chance at making big bucks.After almost 10 years of organically growing a highly profitable lifestyle business online with a strong brand in the personal finance space, I’ve developed skills that employers in this internet age might covet. Given I live in San Francisco, I have the potential to help grow the next multi-billion dollar startup. What a fun challenge! Although there’s probably less than a 10% chance I’ll join the next unicorn, there’s still a chance. And if I hit it big, then I can revert back to the early retirement lifestyle once again. Welcome to the never-ending cycle of life.
There’s only one problem
Taking a vacation from being a full-time dad and potentially making big bucks sounds nice, but there’s just one big problem. Nobody likes to hire unconventional misfits.
After being out of the workforce for seven years, I suspect many employers will have their doubts about whether I can turn into a “yes sir” or “yes ma’am.” It probably won’t matter that I stayed loyal to my previous employer for 11 years, or that I fulfilled my promise of writing at least 1,560 articles on Financial Samurai over a 10-year time period.
What employers want are employees who are willing to stay in line and build someone else’s dreams. If someone has experienced the promised land of financial freedom, it may be more difficult to hire that person out of fear he or she will just walk when the inevitable friction occurs.
So perhaps going back to work full-time may not be the best solution after all. Maybe no one will take a chance and hire me. Maybe I’ll never experience what full-time work is like as a parent. Only one thing is certain. I won’t know any of this until I try.
I’m thankful the bull market has allowed my wife and I to experience early retirement life for several years. However, it’s time to face reality that remaining retired with a family to raise and a slowdown looming is no longer a responsible decision.
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