Why a 9-5 isn’t a bad thing

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The FIRE community has always been about getting to the point of financial independence as quickly as possible and then retiring, at least that’s what popular media would have you believe. At least that was my initial impression because having to trudge through to your day job isn’t fun for many people. The money-twitter and side-hustling communities would lead you to believe that you have to do everything possible to get rid of your 9-5. Having a 9-5 isn’t a bad thing, at least not for everyone.

As I write this post this week, I am waiting for an offer letter to come across; this will mark my return to the world of the 9-5 (I better not have jinxed it by putting it down to words). I’m very excited and looking forward to it. This news got me thinking about the whole concept of work and the 9-5 that in some ways is seen negatively by parts of our society

I would even say that having one is probably a perfect thing for most people. For more than one reason:

Societal norm

It’s not hard to find someone online going off on why the 9-5 job is the worst thing possible and that everyone needs to hustle or have a side gig. The funny thing is they will say all of that then tell you to buy their e-book or course on exactly how to do it. The reality is most people have jobs, and there is nothing wrong with that. Having a societal norm isn’t a bad thing; for example, it sets hours of operation. Wouldn’t it be difficult if the schools in your district decided that they are shifting to evening classes for all primary school-aged children?

The roots of the societal norm go back to the age of industrialization, and it would be nice for the system to have a little flexibility to it, but in general, it works. Going to work during the day has been the thing to do for centuries. There are many different times this can happen, but the general working world is open roughly between 9 am and 9 pm, and it’s been deemed that a workday should be 8 hours (this goes back to industrialization).

This prevents people from figuring things out as they go along, and they know that most people will follow the same pattern. Even if some of them might not love it.

Stability

Having a regular “day job,” or a 9-5, adds a lot of stability to our economy and for most people their lives. Many people work unstructured hours, meaning they won’t know how much they will make from week to week. Many of these jobs also don’t pay a lot, both facts together, making life very difficult for those living in those circumstances. If you were to ask them if they wanted a 9-5 that was regular and stable, they would likely light up and say yes. Having this stability makes living in our society a lot easier, and that stability is what much of our society is based.

From an economic point of view, there are many benefits with regards to stability. First off, having a 9-5 allows people to plan their lives. They can make bigger purchases, like buying cars or houses. This, in turn, has a trickle-down effect to the remainder of the economy. Having this stability of knowing you will be able to trade your time and effort en-mass for money at regular intervals lets people plan their lives.

The second aspect from an economic perspective is that the economy’s structure has evolved around this stability. Job specialization has increased further because we know that having our 9-5 will mean we can get money to buy, say, groceries, and we know other people’s 9-5 job it is to help run the store.

Structure

In general, humans function better when there is structure; having a job that operates roughly at the same time in the same locations works better for most people. I know some jobs are relatively unstructured, but they are fewer than the regular 9-5ers. For example, for a young family with two kids, for them knowing they can drop the kids off at daycare, then go to the office at set times allows them to structure their lives.

You don’t need to figure out what you’re going to do each day. Your 9-5 job is usually around a specific set of job functions. You don’t need to worry about selling yourself or stuff if you’re a programmer. But if you were hustling, you might need to; actually, it might also mean that you need to do a few other jobs that you aren’t great at. It lets you excel at one thing.

The Social Aspect

In general, we are very social creatures; we’ve evolved that way and, in many ways, are hardwired to be social. As we get older, our social circles change and having a 9-5 allows you to expand your social circle organically. The additional benefit is you already have something in common with the other people you work with, your job.

As social networking proliferates, I find that there seem to be fewer and fewer chances to interact with an actual human. I’ve always liked this aspect of a regular job, and I believe that this is a hidden benefit that has a very profound effect. One we discount.

It can be rewarding

This part can be the most challenging since many people don’t like their jobs; unfortunately, this is the case, but what you do for work can be very rewarding. There are a lot of people that genuinely love what they do. For them, it’s about what they are doing, not the money; this is why people who hit financial independence don’t always retire.

If you can find a challenge and reward in your job beyond just paying your bills, then having a 9-5 gives you purpose.

Most businesses fail!

It’s not only most side businesses that fail but businesses in general. If you are able to start a side business that succeeds, then great, but most people can’t risk the stability and try something new. The statistics don’t lie; about 20% of businesses fail in the first 2 years of existence and 45% by year 5 (according to BLS). The reality is that starting out on your own brings lots of challenges, and at the end of the day, even working for yourself is harder than it sounds.

Hustling side gigs is still a job

For all the people that swear by the freedom of hustling or side gigs, it’s still work. Yes, it might be work under a different set of criteria that is more to your liking, but you’re still working. If you haven’t already achieved FI, then you are just as bound by your hustling as your 9-5 counterpart is.

What you might trade in the way of flexibility on one side, you trade with stability on the other.

It’s a great base to get to FI

FIRE and the concept of the 9-5 don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You need to save up enough to achieve financial independence; having a 9-5 type of job gives you a great platform to achieve that. If you look at some of the pinnacles of the FIRE movement, most of them reached this with their 9-5 and extreme frugality.

Financial independence is the goal! At least it is for me, once you don’t need to work to live, then you have the choice to spend your time in your way. This doesn’t mean not working but choosing how you work and what you do. To get there as quickly as possible is a noble challenge and having a “day job” is an excellent means to get there.

Having a 9-5 job allows you to get to that magical FI in a means that works for you and your family, taking some of the guess work out of it. Sure this might mean it will take you a little longer, but you can still get there.

Conclusion

For me, the 9-5 isn’t a horrible construct but merely a tool and getting rid of it might be a terrifying proposition. Most people will have difficulty getting to retirement with enough money to last them for the remainder of their lives. A steady regular 9-5 gives them the best possible chance of getting there. The people who will achieve Financial Independence at a young age are probably going to do it regardless.

Photo by Headway on Unsplash

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2 thoughts on “Why a 9-5 isn’t a bad thing

  1. Hey Matt.

    Sending congratulations your way – without prejudicing that offer letter I hope!

    I think everyone has to play to their own strengths. Some people thrive on structure and will do better at coping with the constraints a 9-5 usually makes on you. Less risk but more certainty in the eventual outcome. Whilst others prefer a different route. Horses for course and all that.

    Cheers,

    Michelle

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