As I read the recent article in Straits Times about PMETs who are “highly trained, middle aged and out of work”, and the many blog comments about why these highly paid people need to work now when they were so highly paid before, I am contemplating if I am ready to be “out of work”.
I am also middle aged, although I feel young and looks like I am in my 30s (this comes from regular exercise, a positive outlook and low stress). I have been working for 17 years now, in 3 full time jobs with 2 one-year breaks. Unlike these PMETs who seemed to be struggling to cope with their current circumstances, I am fortunate enough to be considering if I should retire from my paid work.
Re-tire-ment does not mean I will stop working for the rest of my years. Rather, it means I will stop working for the money but try my hands at anything that interest me, even if it does not pay much. It is like a F1 car taking a pit stop and changing its tires, so that it can be ready for the next lap.
Unlike the 55 year old gentleman mentioned in the news article who is earning more than 300k pa, I bring home a more modest 120k each year currently. That translates to about 10k per month. Not too bad I think, but nothing to really shout out at. But the pay is stable and there is little risk of retrenchment or getting fired. However, unless there are policy changes, this pay is also my “maximum” pay, as I have reached the ceiling of my pay scale.
But I am tired. I do not detest my job but I am craving for new experiences and a more varied lifestyle. After being at my current job scope for the last 10 years, I have experienced most of what it can offer. I have considered changing departments or work scope, but nothing can really compare to what I am doing now. I have long annual leave (almost 12 weeks each year), leave my office before 3pm often (but I start the day at 7am), do not bring back home any work, and do make a difference in the lives of others. And the last pointer is what has been keeping me in this job for the past decade.
So I do have it great, except that strangely, I am not totally fulfilled or satisfied. It seems crazy, but I am actually willing to forgo what I have now to seek something new and exciting, except that I have no idea what the “new” truly is. In the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I am probably searching for that elusive fulfilment in the upper tiers of the pyramid.
Guess that is what most people call a “mid life crisis”. Knowing long ago that I am a lousy employee, I have been preparing for such an eventuality. I have a simple lifestyle, surviving totally on my passive income. Unlike some of the amazing bloggers in the financial sphere, I do not have a huge amount of such money. Based on the past year, my recorded passive income was only 29k. But I had spent only this amount as well for the entire year. So I managed to save all of my earned income.
I also have no debts. I live in a fully paid for HDB flat, have zero liabilities, and is disciplined enough to live simply. My hobbies are to exercise and play, and these are cheap activities that occupies most of my leisure time. So the 29k annual passive is currently sufficient. And I have a “secret weapon”: I am only 47% invested, which means I am sitting on 53% low yield cash in my portfolio. This implies that I may be able to increase my passive income when a suitable opportunity comes along. Looking at the recent volatility in the markets, such an opportunity may not be far away.
As far as “highly trained, middle aged” guys go, I am not out of work yet. But that day may come soon when I ditch the safety net of a stable job to go “explore” the world. Some friends think I am lucky when I shared my plans, but others think I am crazy or irresponsible, to leave a good job or not settling down to be more “stable”. Sometimes, I also wonder if I am doing it right, and if I will have regrets for not leading a more “normal” life.
Is a passive income of 29k pa enough of a buffer for me to be “crazy”? Am I too unambituous or not resilient? If I quit my current job, I intend to take a long break off work before working at something else that will excite me. I will look for employment again some day, but I suspect that I will be like those guys in the news article then: highly trained, middle aged and drawing a much lower salary.
So am I ready to be out of work? Am I brave enough to take the path less travelled? Am I able to sail out of the habour and test my ship in rough seas, where it might sink, or can I reach new frontiers?
Am I ready to live my life with no regrets, or look back in years to come, and wonder why I was not courageous to try. Or will I try and laugh at myself when I am much older at my silliness for being foolish.
Stay hungry? Stay foolish?
Questions with no “correct” answers, and I guess I can only in hindsight, know if I had taken the right path.