As of two weeks ago, I am officially unemployed. You may be thinking to yourself, I thought you guys already quit your jobs last year? Well, that’s not completely true. If you haven’t read our article about kinda quitting our jobs, go read that real quick and then jump back to this one. Today though, we are going to cover some of the benefits and drawbacks of unemployment.
6 Months of Unemployment
While James only had a month for his leave of absence, I was able to take 6 months. There were many benefits of easing into unemployment with a leave of absence versus flat out quitting my job. In a way, I had a safety net. If anything unexpected had happened during our first few months of early retirement, we would have been able to easily move back to Alabama. Returning to my job, and being in the same rut that I was in before leaving.
The benefits and drawbacks of 6 months of unemployment have been nothing like I thought they would be. These months have been glorious and scary all at the same time. Invigorating, but unnerving. Freeing, yet frightening.
Benefits of Unemployment
Freedom of Unemployment
Freedom is one of the biggest benefits of unemployment. I can’t tell you how many times daydreaming of no longer needing to work got me through the day. To be able to travel halfway across the world at the drop of a hat. Or, just the ability to take a long trip without time constraints due to vacation time.
This past winter, we got a taste of ‘slow travel.’ It has changed the way that we view our travels and much prefer that way over the stress and ‘hustle & bustle’ of the travel we were used to with jobs.
With the slow travel mentality, I am not always trying to see everything and do all the things as quickly as possible. I have the freedom to take in and view the sights of a new city at my own pace. This is not only because we are able to stay in one place for an extended amount of time, but we start a trip with the mindset that we will be back one day.
With the freedom of not relying on a paycheck, we can choose how we spend our time. Like writing this blog. We write from anywhere in the world, including my grandparent’s rooftop or a beachside cafe in Cyprus, which is where I’m writing this one.
In one of my first articles, I discussed the many negatives of stress. Stress has a huge impact on our lives. It affects our mood, relationships, health, and overall lives.
One of the many benefits of unemployment has been that my stress levels have decreased dramatically. I no longer have the worries of completing tasks on a deadline or fighting traffic to rush to a job I didn’t enjoy. Without the worry and stress of my job, my brain capacity is no longer filled with the mundane aspects of a job.
With my job, being laid off was almost always in the back of my mind. Am I doing a good enough job? Is my job performance meeting my superior’s expectations? Was I ‘looking busy’ when coworkers would walk by my desk? There was constant anxiety revolving around every aspect of my job, leading to a preoccupied mind even when I wasn’t at work.
A distracted mind can not only affect job performance, but it can spill over into personal life outside of work. Relationships with a significant other, family members and friends can all feel the aftermath of stress from work.
This doesn’t mean I have zero stress in my life now, but it has reduced dramatically since I no longer have a job.
Another benefit of unemployment has been the increase in my creativity.
Since I am no longer trying to make the most of my little time off work, I have the time and flexibility to find creative solutions to issues that may arise.
My Cypriot grandparents never throw anything away. Much to our dismay, this leads to multiple rooms full of discarded items that are either broken or forgotten. Unsurprisingly, another toaster bit the dust and was added to a pile of 3 other broken toasters. In an effort to save my grandparent’s money, James and I took to Youtube to learn how to fix broken toasters. Within a couple of hours, we were able to fix 2 of the 4 toasters, resulting in a working toaster for my grandparents and one for us.
Was fixing the toaster more effort than just buying a new one? Sure, but why wouldn’t we try to fix it? We have the time, resources, and ability to fix, build, or solve almost anything.
It’s very easy to make this into a time vs money situation. “If you value your time at $50 an hour, then you could’ve bought two new toasters.” some of you may think. And yes, this is true. However, the benefit of learning and the entertainment of fixing things may continue in the future if we have a hankering to fix any more household items.
Drawbacks of Unemployment
Too Much Time
You would be forgiven for thinking, ‘What do you mean that you have too much time? Wasn’t time one of the reasons why you became unemployed? How is too much time not a benefit of unemployment?’
Let me explain. Sometimes when you have all the time in the world to do something, you have no time at all if you don’t manage your time properly.
I have been guilty of mismanaging my time. Without a routine or schedule, I tend to sleep too late. Or worse, mindlessly scroll on my phone resulting in half a wasted day. Just because I no longer have a 9-5 job with a set schedule, doesn’t mean that all sense of productivity and structure needs to go out the window.
If I can’t manage the time that I have worked so hard to take back control, then it makes me question what the point of the years of hard work was for.
Too Many Options
Much like ‘the too much time’ issue, you might think that having options should be a benefit of unemployment. After all, with no job to tie us to a location or kids to keep us from extensive travel, we have a world of possibilities.
We can essentially live and travel anywhere we want and do just about anything we want. This is an issue because at what point are we making decisions?
For someone who gets analysis paralysis with any decision in life, unlimited options can be a bad thing. This is one of the biggest drawbacks of unemployment.
Where to go, how to get there, and how long to stay all become conscious decisions. During our working years, many of these decisions weren’t an issue. We had to get there as quickly and cheaply as possible, and only stay for a week or two.
Luckily there are two people to our relationship and we can bounce ideas off each other. We constantly have lengthy conversations about the benefits and drawbacks of everything. We discuss everything ranging from living in another country to what kinds of food we are consuming daily.
No Official Paycheck
Wait a minute. Isn’t that kinda the whole point of being unemployed in early retirement? Well sure, but I still think it’s important to note, and it can still be a drawback for some people.
At the beginning of last year, the government shut down for 35 days. I overheard coworkers explaining how they wouldn’t make it more than one missed paycheck without relying on credit cards.
78% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck. It’s not hard to imagine the stress and strain that could put on a relationship or family. If the constant worries are how the bills are getting paid or how to afford the next meal, there’s little headspace for much else.
Obviously, one of the biggest benefits of not being unemployed is the consistency of a regular income. Happily, James and I have been able to go without 22 official paychecks without starving or having to depend on credit cards.
We have successfully been retired early, or unemployed, from jobs by investing in real estate. It provides us with monthly income and requires less than 4 hours of ‘work’ per week. On a normal month, aka no extensive travel, we are able to cover all of our bills and living expenses. We even have money left over for saving.
Conclusion of 6 Months of Unemployment
Now that I have survived 6 months of unemployment, I have realized more than ever how precious life is and how fast time flies. This has also given me time to reflect on the benefits and drawbacks of unemployment.
I have realized how important it is for me to have structure in my life. Without a structure or routine, my time is wasting away. My days can be more productive if I have a plan and utilize the resources at my fingertips.
I used to think that if I no longer had a job, I could focus my time and intentions on exercise. While I may have the time to do that now, I find that I still have to plan accordingly. The effort and drive still need to be there. I have to constantly remind myself of the health issues that run in our families. We use these as motivation to live healthier & happier lives.
The same can be said for just about anything in life. If you want to do something or get better at anything, you have to put in the time and effort. You can’t just half-ass it and expect amazing results.
Here’s to many more months of unemployment. Full of time that has been carefully planned out so as not to throw away this incredible life we have designed for ourselves.