Going Backwards into Happiness

What is the ultimate goal of pursuing financial independence and/or early retirement?

For us, that goal is happiness.

We believe that we will be much happier once we no longer have to work. We believe we will be much happier when we have the time and energy to spend pursuing things we are interested in, passionate about and things we just think sound like fun.

There are many bloggers out there who are a lot more hardcore than us. They are willing to forgo a lot more than we are in order to reach financial independence earlier. We have made it no secret here on the blog that while financial independence is our goal, happiness is what really matters to us and so we spend a little more to ensure we experience some of that happiness now. Definitely our biggest happiness booster is travel (check out some of our trip reviews here) and that doesn’t necessarily come cheap. Despite the cost, happiness is the goal.

Which is why, just last week, I made a big decision in the pursuit of happiness.

In mid-2018, I left the government job I’d had for over twelve years and joined a professional services firm as a consultant. This was my first foray into the private sector. Unfortunately, as I have written about before, I have not enjoyed this transition and as the months dragged on, I knew that this wasn’t the job for me.

I started to look for new jobs. However, Canberra being Canberra and an election about to occur, it was a slow process with very little success. I almost took a role with a smaller firm but in the end, decided not to as the work would be very similar. All I could do, I told myself, was continue to apply elsewhere.

Last Tuesday, I received a call from a former boss. He still worked in the government department I’d left and offered me a role back with them. I happened to be around the corner from where he worked, so I popped into his office to discuss the role. It was slightly different from the role I’d previously done, though still in the HR Management space. I’d previously worked in Sydney while this role was in Canberra so it would see me working with a completely different team.

I told him I’d think about it.

Over the next two days, I mulled over what seemed to me to be a big decision. The main thing stopping me from saying yes was the concern that going back would be seen as a failure. Not only by going back into public service, but going back to the very department I left, to a similar role and level. I was worried people would think I couldn’t hack it in the corporate world.

But as I continued to mull and reach out to several mentors for advice, I realised that those people may be right – maybe I couldn’t hack it. And though it took me a little longer than I’d have liked, I realised that didn’t matter.

I was profoundly unhappy at work. Poopsie and I are not yet ready to retire early, which means I need to continue to work. Given that, work takes up the vast majority of my time and being unhappy for most of the time is just not something I want. While I certainly had some niggling issues with my former employer, the main reason I’d left was for a desire to try something new and see what the corporate world was like. I’ve now done that and, niggles aside, I know that I am a happier person when employed by that department.

And so, I accepted the role. I start in six weeks, with only a four day period between leaving my current role and starting my new one. Incidentally, we had already planned a ski trip for those four days which sounds like a great break between jobs.

Since accepting the job offer, I already feel happier. I’m excited to get started in a different (though similar) role and hope to approach my career with the same enthusiasm I used to have before deciding I wanted to experience the corporate world.

What will this mean for our financial independence goals?

I will be taking a pay cut to return to my previous job. This will be somewhere around $15k per year. Fortunately, we have set up our lives in such a way that this pay cut will have no impact on our day to day lifestyle. It will probably mean we reach financial independence slightly slower, but probably not by much.

The best part about rejoining the public service is I will go back into the superannuation scheme I was lucky enough to be a part of. This means my defined benefit pension will continue to increase for each year I still work there. Given our age differences, my defined benefit pension won’t really make a difference to our early retirement plans as by the time I receive it, Poopsie will be 69 and by then, will hopefully have been retired for at least twenty years. However, this will aid in funding our lifestyle as we age when we may wish to enjoy some more luxuries.

Going forward

As much as we can, we try to choose happiness. In this case, that is definitely what I have chosen. By no means will it be perfect and by no means will I love my job every single day. But for the majority of the time, I know I’ll be happier and to both Poopsie and I, that is absolutely priceless.

Have you ever reverted on a decision in the pursuit of happiness? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

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4 Responses to Going Backwards into Happiness

  1. Ozstache says:

    Your goal is happiness, you were getting increasingly unhappy with your current job and going back to your old job will stop the rot and move your happiness needle back in the right direction. Makes sense to me!

    And don’t think of it as a failure as at least you now know the grass is not greener on the other side whereas you would have been left wondering had you not left your old job. Enjoy your old greener pasture.

  2. Pia says:

    Life’s too short to spend it being unhappy with a job that you are working at every day! Think about it this way, if a work week is 5 days, that’s 120 hours. 40 hours of that is 33.3% of your work week, another 33.3% is for sleeping, assuming an 8 hour sleep, and the other 33.3% doing whatever else. Do you really want to spend a third of your waking hours during the work week being unhappy?

    It’s not a failure – in fact, it’s a win. Because you recognised that ultimately, you and your happiness was the most important. How many people work themselves to death in jobs that pay bills but made them unhappy only to pass on not having found happiness?

  3. Miss Balance says:

    You tried it, it wasn’t for you. There is no shame at all in going back to what makes you happier.

    At least you know now and you won’t always be wondering if it was better on the other side.

    Enjoy your new (but familiar) role 🙂

  4. If you are ‘profoundly unhappy’ at work, you definitely need to make a change! It’s a shame to hear the transition wasn’t a good one – I currently work in professional services and am very lucky to work with people and clients I love. I can’t imagine getting up every day to a job I hated!

    All the best for the transition back into something you like much more 🙂

    Cheers, Frankie

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