59 Comments

  1. hmmm, very interesting. I think that when you are given the option of “do you like your job or not?” vs the option of “would you prefer working your current job or working for yourself (FI/side hustle/small bus, whatever), you get two very different answers.

    The former makes you actually look at your job and the circumstances around your job (coworkers, schedule, the work itself, etc) while the latter gives you the opening to say “I love my job, but I want to quit due to (insert a life thing here… more time with family/travel, etc).

    Honestly, I think you hit something here. Many people really do like their jobs, but if given the choice to decide to step away in favor of other things they like (family time/travel/passion pursuits), they may take it 🙂

    • That’s so interesting, Mrs. AR. I suppose it also speaks to how much I really am a 9 in that I have a hard time saying whether or not I would leave entirely to spend all my time with HP. I miss him terribly, and I do wish I could give him more of my time. But I also think being out of the classroom would be really hard. Hmm…

  2. I have a colleague who studies workplace satisfaction. People who do public service find their jobs to be more rewarding than people who don’t. (They’re also willing to accept less pay, all else equal.) (That’s all I remember from his research.)

    Given the mode of Americans are making poor wages working jobs that hurt them physically, do not engage them mentally, don’t necessarily follow labor law, and are exploitative in other ways, I would guess that the average for the US is lower than an 8. For college educated workers and those with more education, satisfaction probably increases.

    • I suppose what is really fascinating to me in regards to your second paragraph is that so much of the FIRE community is so highly educated. And yet…Though, I suppose it’s not just a “I dislike my job” thought as it is an issue of “I value something else more.” It’s curious!

  3. l would rank my several decade 9to5 as a solid 9. Its why I stayed so long, but it dropped to a 6 right before I left. Now my side gigs are more of an 8 but they are only 16hrs a week and constantly changing. Blogging which is non-monetized is a a 9. My volunteer work is usually a 7, but can be a 9 at times. But most of my 9to5 coworkers seemed to be 6-ish. However over half satisfied with their jobs is not bad! I wonder what “satisfied” translates to as a number ranking?

    • I do think that the ratings are a little loosey goosey. It would be interesting if satisfied is a 5 or maybe it is more like a 7 or 8. I always wish I had more context and detail about studies like that one with 51% of Americans being satisfied.

  4. Wow, you are surrounded by a bunch of happy people – an 8 is impressive as a team average.

    Where I am people are really not happy – I think the company got a good score as a whole, but my area was bad….every metric tracked red.

    But yes, I do believe we *anchor* everything with what we are surrounded with, the same as price anchoring.

    • I don’t know if we are all happy all the time or if we just feel like we are doing something valuable or worthwhile with our time. I wish we had more time to dig deeper!

    • I think it is for a lot of people (most people?) in the FIRE community. Or at least the people who are more vocal about their work that I associate with on Twitter (my, that circle got small, didn’t it?!).

  5. I don’t think I’ve ever worked in an environment where everyone was at an 8! Wow, what it must be like to not go to a place where everyone is a crabby mess all day long. That says a lot about my former choices of employment, I guess.
    I think you really have to love what you’re doing to be a teacher, so maybe that has something to do with the higher number. They are overworked, underappreciated, and generally not paid enough, in my opinion. Anyone who doesn’t really love educating others isn’t going to deal with that for very long. Three cheers for the teachers of the world! I couldn’t do it.

  6. I’d say I’m at about a 7 right now. Usually I’d rank it higher but we’ve had a tough back office transition at my work that has set things back. I’m still ok with that though because I work with great people and am positive things will improve.

    I don’t have the expectation that I should rank my job satisfaction at a 10. There are a lot of great things about my job and it allows me to do the things I want when I’m not in the office. It will never be a 10 though, and that’s ok.

  7. I’m a 9, but I walked around my office and just took an informal poll and the results were surprising. Among attorneys, the average was about 7 (a shade over), but staff was a solid 6.5. I would have thought it would have been a point higher.

    I say a lot that we over emphasize the RE side the the FIRE equation I would wager that, like me, many folks would choose to work and enjoy their jobs more if they were not financially dependent on them. More focus on FI and less on RE would resonate more broadly I think.

  8. Hmmm. I’d probably give myself a solid 7 this year (though in the past it’s been more like a 9-9.5). Working on bringing that number back up! Now you have me wondering if it’s the people around me that have dragged my number down as of late, because I know for a fact the people in my direct office would rank their jobs considerably lower than that.

  9. Dana

    I would give my job a 9 but I can guarantee that my husband would struggle to say anything higher than maybe a 3 for his – on a good day! I recently changed careers after 22 years. In my previous role I would have been between 9 or 10 until the last year when my satisfaction dropped dramatically. I wasn’t willing to stay at that low number though so I started looking. I think that’s the difference between college-educated (me) and not (my husband). I’m more optimistic about being able to find something better.

  10. Interesting thought! I would give myself a 3 or a 4 right now and I think that’s the sentiment around my office as well. I would love to work somewhere where I was an 8 or 9!!! I work in social services, and while definitely challenging and rewarding, the pay plus the rewarding feelings aren’t enough to make the challenges worth it long-term for me. Not only am I challenged at work, but because the pay is low I am frustrated with the amount of time it will take to pay off debt and become wealthy if I continue. While my ultimate goal is to be self-employed, I would also be very happy with a satisfying, challenging, rewarding, fairly compensated job as an employee.

  11. This is exactly what I struggle with as well. I work in a very fulfilling job and most days I can’t imagine not doing it (at least in some form). Then every once in a while, I have a day that reminds me why I’m pursuing FI.

    For me, FI is less about job satisfaction and more about freedom. In fact, I believe my job satisfaction will go up once I achieve FI. It’s a different feeling to be somewhere completely by choice instead of being there in part out of necessity.

    I also believe our job satisfaction is partially determined by how we choose to look at our work. All jobs have good and bad parts of it. If you focus on the parts of your job you don’t like, then your satisfaction with your job will naturally go down. If instead you focus on the parts you like, satisfaction increases.

    Great read!

  12. That seems like an unexpectedly high score.

    Here’s my conundrum – the fit of my work for my life is around 9. We are sorely lacking good benefits (terrible parental leave, crap retirement, crap health) but we get amazing autonomy and flexibility which is worth real money.

    But my personal satisfaction is quite a bit lower because while I’m glad it’s so flexible and greatly improves my life outside of work, I’m also spending a lot more time wanting to spend less time doing this work and doing something more personally meaningful or reserving my energy for the things that truly matter to me. Heck, more time resting, even, so I’m not always a wreck! Knowing there’s something better out there is making it hard to stay satisfied with what we have, even if it is pretty good.

  13. I would say about a 9 overall! I am stoked with the team, I like my boss, the work is at times challenging and educational, I’m def learning how to operate in a commercial business, the compensation and benefits together are stellar. Like you I spend so much time online it’s hard not to get warped by blogs. Also people at work complain about their issues; my perspective is that the issues I have are fairly minor and I just don’t care enough about some things, you gotta pick your battles and life is too short to fight everything. Know when to give a f- and when to save them for when it matters! Much as I would love to WFH and never leave the house, I know that I greatly benefit from coming in and learning from my coworkers. Some days my brain is just exhausted from filling up and being stretched in a good way. I just wouldn’t have that kind of growth otherwise.

  14. At the moment I would say a 4, but I have been on continuous home call for the past 12 days, so that number may be affected by stress and sleep deprivation! When I got a random hug from a favourite patient in the mall last night, it was about a 9.

  15. Maybe 6-7 currently? I’m not happy with one of my projects, but that’s likely to change soon, meaning I might even shoot up to 8.

    I had a hard time at first with figuring out what the scale would mean to me. Like, 0 to me would be every work day is torture and work negatively impacts family life, relationships, mental and/or physical health. A 10 would be perfect — cannot imagine any change to work and would do it for free if they weren’t paying. What’s a 5? An average job for your skills and experience that pays the bills? A decent job that is somewhat mentally stimulating, with nice coworkers, but you wouldn’t hesitate quitting if you win the lottery?

    A friend of mine actually used to track her happiness /workplace satisfaction (still might, I haven’t asked about that recently) in a few different dimensions. I might have to pull out that spreadsheet for myself…

  16. I’ve had great moments at work as a physician, but overall I’d rate my job a 6. It was a 9 but then external forces like governmental compliance and electronic medical records became the norm. Thought provoking post.

  17. I’m with you I give my job satisfaction a 9 even when working 60-75 hour weeks. I get huge satisfaction out of my job because I have full responsibility and control over my career. Although I like having side hustles, It does not compare to having the resources of a large company to help you create larger impacts for society in a shorter amount of time.

  18. 8 seems so high to me! While I have never actually done this exercise, I can’t imagine the average ever being that high anywhere that I’ve worked!

    I am around a 6 right now, but it fluctuates quite a bit from month to month depending on where we are at in our project cycles. My office has seen an awful lot of turnover in the last two months, though, and overall the vibes are that people are not super happy. Which, in turn, also affects how everyone else feels about their job. Low morale can be toxic to a workplace.

  19. George Carlin once said that he never dated a 10, but he dated five 2’s. I have had a few jobs that were 2’s. My current job is a 9. The pay is good, there are annual raises, 28 pto days, 5% match on 403b, and total autonomy. I would give it a 10, but it is still a job. Reaching FI should be the goal for every wage earner. The journey to FIRE is much more enjoyable if you have a decent job to get you there. If you are not happy with your job, find one that you like. Waiting to reach FIRE to be happy sounds like a miserable life.

  20. What’s interesting question! I think if you ask people if they like their job, they would find something about their job they didn’t like. But, asking them to translate it into a number puts everything into perspective. Like, maybe they don’t like the lack of flexibility in their schedule. But, when they weigh that against their steady paycheck, good team, whatever it is, it averages out of a higher number than just a straight, no I don’t? I would probably end up in 8 or 9 territory for my job right now – what an interesting realization!

  21. What excellent perspective Penny! I also find the numbers concerning, and count myself extremely lucky to be at a 9 right now. About a year ago I’d say it was more like 6 with the insane stress level but now I do the same job in a different state and it’s sooooo much more relaxed and balanced.
    However hubs is probably a lower number just based on the type of work, and how much more passionate he feels about his own projects. We had an eye opening discussion where I said I didn’t really want to not work, I just want to know I don’t HAVE to anymore. I think I’m “FI/ ‘optional’ retirement” for that reason, whereas he is solidly FI/RE.

  22. Within my business, I would imagine that many of us are at an 8. It is difficult work, but we feel viscerally that we make a difference in lives and our communities.

    In my 9-5, I would say we are at a 4. But is is temp work and we are treated poorly and have no job security.

  23. An 8 definitely seems like an outlier. Most individuals working the typical 9 to 5 for a company they do not own would likely provide a much lower number. Those in upper management or running their own businesses may find more job satisfaction (on average).

  24. Reading this, I rated my job satisfaction 3/10 and our workplace average to be 5/10.

    I love the helping side of nursing that I do, but I have definitely felt the negative stress and pressure from the politics that go behind-the-scenes with public health care. I have yet to figure out how to cope with this, it’s getting harder over the years. FIRE is one solution to be free of this once and for all; for me anyways!

  25. Great article.

    The way I look at it is yes, I give my job an 8 on bad days, 9 on good ones. I give financial independence a 10!

    The job takes away from some of the other things in my life I truly want more time for, such as family or traveling.

    I think it really boils down to what is the BEST not just what is good in your life 🙂

  26. Shawn

    I think your profession has a lot to do with it. Most teachers do it for the passion. Seeing that spark in a student when they finally understand a new concept, can be sheer joy for a teacher. You are not there for the paycheck, you are there to make a difference. In contrast, those of us who work in cubical farms and have very little interaction with the outside world each day, can not wait until FIRE finally comes. (September 30th for me, I have already given my boss my notice)

  27. Man. Your office is amazing and scrolling through most of the comments here, it seems the sentiment is the same among many here in the FI community.

    I on the other hand….NAH. Work place satisfaction maybe 6.2 on a non-pay week. I’m in software sales (account management) in a dying industry and we never get raises to our base salary yearly (even if we surpass our yearly quotas –see me). Yet they always find clever ways to decrease our commission total payout percentage.
    I literally talk to at least 2 co-workers department wide per week about different companies they are applying to.
    TLDR- In sales environments, you are most likely to find the truth of work place satisfaction. lol

  28. June

    I am a retired RN and mostly lived my jobs but like being a teacher, the profession tends to attract those who value being of service. I keep busy in retirement and have more money in early retirement than I can spend but I still miss working. I may will take some type of part time of per diem work soon just to keep that connection and satisfaction.

    • Forgive me for overstepping but have you considered flex work or being a traveling RN as a part time gig? The thought of being a traveling RN always fascinated me (mom has been a RN for 20 yrs).
      Not for the money, but a can be a cool way to do what it sounds like you still love, meet new interesting people who could really use your help/knowledge, and get paid to travel.
      Lol. Just a thought.

  29. I think numbers skew higher because most people do not give much thought to not working being a realistic option and therefore are ranking job satisfaction by comparing it to another job they may have.

    My job satisfaction went down after I started my side hustles and contemplated FI. My current job satisfaction is probably around a 4 and that’s of little fault to my job. Anytime I “have” to do something it immediately lowers my enjoyment of said task. My job pays well, provides considerable autonomy, and isn’t overly taxing. Yet I just do not find it fulfilling and struggle to think of a job that I would long term.

    Excellent work and tha’ts awesome that you enjoy teaching so much!

    • I’m so glad you chimed in, Rocky! I do think most teachers would think FI or FIRE isn’t possible, so you’re right that they probably haven’t considered other options. It’s also true that job hopping happens a lot less in teaching. Still, we can (generally) retire earlier than average, so there’s that. Educators are definitely an interesting breed!

    • I definitely find that alternatives breed some level of discontent.

      The former NBA player Jalen Rose likes to say people are “only as loyal as their options.”

      I frequently soured on a job after I started thinking about other options. Looking back, I’m not so sure they were all so bad.

      That said, I’m probably a 8 or a 9. No complaints really, but I don’t think of myself as representative.

      I’m right there with you on pro FI questioning RE.

  30. I’d say I’m at least a 7, and the average in my office is probably around the same. (Most of the dissatisfaction comes from internal office politics, and not from the overall working conditions or mission of the organization.) It’s for this very reason that I don’t have a designated early retirement day. My satisfaction has been significantly lower in the past because it’s project-based, and I had a couple of bad projects at the same time a few years ago.

    As a parent, it’s wonderful to hear that you and your colleagues are at an average of 9, despite the many challenges that come with teaching today.

    • I’m glad you shared that viewpoint. It hadn’t occurred to me how a project-based career could fluctuate so much. Though I could tell you some stories about certain classes of kids certain years that might be similar 😉

  31. You’re right that the prevailing attitude in the PF community is not to mix work and passion. I understand the arguments for this position, and if you can adopt it, great. But I don’t buy into it. I believe that if you have to work, you ought to do work you love. This is a subject I want to explore in greater depth at some point. When I do, I’ll make sure to link back to this piece…

    • That would so cool if you would link back. I can’t wait to read your thoughts! I hope it’s something we can all weigh in on more.

  32. An 8 is pretty great score from a team level! It sounds like you’re surrounded by others that are highly motivated, which is inspiring.

    I’m about a 9 myself too. I have trouble imagining a job where I’d be a 10. I have a feeling it’s be more of a momentary 10, rather than a consistent 10.

    We’ve done this exercise at my work too. One thing we tried was using this ranking as an internal NPS. NPS is a formula for turning a 1-10 ranking into a more varied distribution (-100 to +100) by putting people into 3 groups:

    * 9-10 are promoters, people like yourself who would actively promote the company/product
    * 7-8 are passive. People who wouldn’t actively promote but also not likely to badmouth.
    * 1-6 are detractors. People who would be most likely to say something negative.

    For formula using these is:

    Promoter % of total people – Detrator % of users

    (Passives aren’t factored in other than as part of the total).

    So if your other teachers are 9,9,8,6, that’s 50%-25% = 25 NPS.

    It’s an interesting system, and lots of companies publish their NPS stats. For example, Apple customers have an NPS of 90. Walmart customers 0, Comcast customers -40 (last I checked). Could be fun to try!

    • It would be so fun to try…and to compare to other schools in the district. We take all sorts of surveys and do all kinds of evaluations put together by different universities and corporations, but the data never looks like this. I’d be so curious!

  33. Ryan

    I think the FIRE community numbers might be skewed a little lower because if you really don’t like your job then you will search for anyway to not have to do it anymore. That’s what drew me to fire. Also I don’t think education or intelligence has anything to do with job satisfaction, because the more intelligent a person is the more interests they have and the more opportunities they have. So it becomes more difficult to be satisfied in a 40 hr a week job that is based on efficiency and repetition.

    I would guess that teachers overall have a higher job satisfaction because its not as cut throat as other professional industries. They have a pension, time off in the summer, and get to make a meaningful difference in others lives. As a tax accountant, I stare at a computer screen all day, filling out forms and dealing with government bullsh*t. I only hear from clients when they are upset about owing money. I get two and a half weeks vacation a year and get paid about the same as my friend who is a gym teacher. I almost went back to school to become a teacher a couple years ago, but the tuition costs coupled with starting over at an entry level salary was not feasible. So I decided to stick it out in accounting and FIRE instead.

    • I’d welcome anyone who wants to join the profession! There’s a whole lot of bureaucracy and frustration in teaching, but feeling valued outweighs it. I hear you about tuition, though. To earn my current salary, I have over 60 graduate hours. I stopped doing the math when I realized tuition was well over $30k. But yeah, I’m so fortunate to love what I do!

  34. I would give my job a 9 right now, but only because I just switched teams and haven’t fully settled in yet. Before I switched it would be a ten. I also have a kid on the way – my wife is due in about a month. I know my priorities are going to dramatically shift then.

    • Congratulations on both accounts, especially the baby! Splitting time between work and family is hard. Loving my career made leaving my little guy easier. Glad you’re doing something that is so satisfying!

  35. 8 is really good. I think my old job was at 8 for a short while when I first started. It kept going down as they threw more BS at everyone. Eventually, it settled at 2…
    Currently, I’m at 10 as a SAHD/blogger. The only way this could be better is if I make more money. 🙂

  36. Things can get squirrely when people self-report about their own data. Two people with the same job and the same pay and the same responsibilities can have divergent opinions of their satisfactions. And I would guess that someone who just got a raise and a promotion would have a much higher job satisfaction score than that same person if they did not get the raise and promotion. And some people (based on their kind of personality) have emotions that seesaw widely, so one day they feel great about themselves and their job and the next day they (and the job) is the pits.

    What does this have to do with FIRE (aside from the headline of the post)?

    IMHO if someone who was not happy with (themselves and) their job, one day wakes up and gets fired up about FIRE, and looks at their job as the stepping stone out of the rat race, then their satisfaction might jump tremendously… they finally see a purpose and a reason how to use their current situation to better themselves.

    So what changed? Their attitude, is all.

    • Attitude is everything in a lot of ways. What does it have to do with FIRE? I spent the bulk of my free time happily hanging out with people in the virtual FIRE community, working on setting myself up for FI (if not FIRE). If the FIRE community is fairly vocal about being unhappy with employment (or at least preferring other options), then my question was how that might distort my understanding of how workers in general feel about work.

  37. This is a very interesting post. Does FIRE distort reality? Of course it does. In a sense, everything distorts reality. Everybody perceives “reality” in their own lens and perspective. Then we process it in our inherently distorted (biased) brains. Then when FIRE bloggers write blog posts, there is an added distortion of reality based on what they choose to write about, the associated feelings associated with subject matter, and of course certain details may be embellished (or omitted) for entertainment purposes.

    There is certainly a culture within the community of being unsatisfied with traditional work and wanting to leave to pursue passion pursuits. And that’s very admirable. But their are also themes in which people compare themselves to each other like “I left the rat race and you should too”, or “my retirement age is earlier than yours”, you get the idea. It could also be a “misery loves company” mentality too. I’m not sure.

    I also think the FIRE mentality of “grinding it out right now for freedom in the future” makes people less appreciative and grateful for the present. People could benefit from being present in the current moment a little bit more.

    I do think we create and distort our own reality. For better or worse. And our inner psychology can play a huge role in whether we are satisfied with our jobs or not. Negative people tend to not be satisfied with their job. And obviously positive people tend to be more satisfied with their job, and life in general. Barring external factors, sometimes it takes a mental shift into thinking more positively for more positive results.

    Personally, I would rate my job a 10. I am an anesthesiologist who makes a decent amount of money, I have great work hours (I work 630am to 230pm and work about 40 hours a week), I have coworkers who are collegial and fun to be around), patients are incredibly grateful which makes my work fulfilling, and I have a fantastic work life balance. I am also a natural optimist and positive thinker if you couldn’t tell 🙂

  38. I would say my job satisfaction would be about a 9. I’m not sure i would ever give a 10, because i feel like that would be limiting myself. If i find myself at a 10 then to me that means that there is no way i could ever be happier, and i’m not sure i could ever get there with work. I like what i do and who i work with and i would probably say they people who i actually interact with on a daily basis would be in the 8-10 range.

    But there are some people who are in the physical office that i am based out of who are seriously unhappy and have been there for years and have always been unhappy. My thoughts are that if you are unhappy why are you there!? Any time i have started feeling that i was less and less happy with my job, then that meant it was time to switch. There are millions of jobs out there, if people are not happy then find a new one!

    I would bet that there are some of those who are never going to be happy. But if there’s something about your job that you don’t like and you can fix it, then fix it! If you don’t like the commute find a closer job, if you like the job but not the people, ask to work remote.

    I have an aunt who was a teacher and in her first few years she loved it, but then she found herself less and less happy. She switched from teaching 7th grade English to Home Ec and she was happier, but still not higher then an 8. So she got certified to be a principal and that only lasted a year. After that she started doing real estate and loved it and has been very successful with it.

    Any way you look at it, most people even those pursuing FIRE have bills to pay and need an income. So until you have declared yourself financially independent or become an entrepreneur, then identify the problem and find a solution!

  39. Elizabeth

    I’ve been at my new job almost exactly a year and am a solid 9. I don’t find the work fulfilling or meaningful necessarily (I provide financial services to very wealthy people/families), but I love my team, my office, my commute, and my company culture. I even love the business casual dress code. I’m also paid very well and rarely work a full 40 hour week. I told my husband a few months in that my new job satisfaction was really wreaking havoc on my FIRE plans!

    I was probably a 6.5 at my last job – same occupation with a great commute and office and a huge amount of autonomy. But the company as a whole was very mediocre which led to low morale in other departments – and there was pretty much zero sense of cohesion or culture. I rarely even saw my boss and started to go nuts with too much free time and a lack of mental stimulation.

    My point is that I’ve realized the work environment matters a lot more to me than the actual work I’m doing or even the pay (though I definitely like being paid!). I would never have expected that. I’m at the point now that I actually would miss seeing my colleagues and going to work and work events if I were to FIRE, and I’m not sure I could easily replace that sense of community and being respected/needed that I now have at work.

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