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Early retirement – Going back to work

Last week's post was I retired early but now I need to get a job. It was a little tongue in cheek, I don't actually need or want to go back to working for a living...phew! But that's not the case for everyone, some people miss work and want to go back. This week's post is about one of those people.

Her name's Sally. Yep, that's the same Sally I'm married to. She started working again about four months ago. Why would someone choose to eschew the dream of early retirement – no commitments, time to do the things you want, no stress…freedom. Why would a sane person go back to work?

So I thought I'd ask her what it's all about, what made her go back and trade a life of leisure for work? First I’ll give a bit of background and then see if Sally can find a slot in her work schedule to explain her crazy decision.

The story behind Sally's early retirement

The truth is that Sally never decided to retire early. That was me, and my choice had a knock on effect on her for two reasons.

Classroom teacher Sally (with TA Liz and student Klara)

The first is that we were expat workers in Dubai, and we'd gone there for my job. That didn't mean that we couldn't have stayed there with Sally's job, but our life was based more on my salary and it felt that we needed to cut back to match her pay cheque. In hindsight, that probably wasn't the case, but it felt like it at the time.

The second reason is the bigger one. Although I'd liked my time in Dubai, I was ready to leave. We'd been there 13 years and, for me, that was enough. I had become increasingly frustrated with the business culture and my job and that was getting to me. Plus, I was retiring early and wanted to do new things and see new places with my newfound freedom. As far as I was concerned, it was time to move.

So the reality is that Sally didn't retire early because that's what she wanted, she quit her job because of my wish to leave Dubai. At that time, she planned to take a year off while we travelled (we did some travelling, but not at much as expected). Once that year was up, another started, and Sally decided not to return to work, which brings us almost up to date.

Why Sally's gone back to work

As already mentioned, the back story is that she hadn't wanted to stop work in the first place. She liked her job and didn’t feel she'd finished that part of her life. She loved teaching, plus she'd worked hard to qualify as a teacher and felt that hard work was being wasted.

She'd already tried to figure out how to combine our (perhaps more "my") early retirement life with her working. She considered teaching online but didn't think it would be the same as classroom teaching and couldn't envisage how she could teach online effectively. So she accepted she wouldn’t work. Instead, she'd keep doing, in her words, "pretty much nothing".

And then Coronavirus hit the world. A friend and former colleague with an online tutoring business got in touch. With schools closed and home schooling now the norm, the demand for online tutoring had exploded. Would Sally help? She nervously agreed, really just to help her friend, and she discovered that online teaching can work.

Online teacher Sally

A trial lesson lead to more lessons and almost immediately she was full time teaching on Zoom. Sally was fine with that, but realised it was restricting other parts of our life. We went from being fully flexible to having to plan around her full time work schedule. Now she's working three days a week to get a balance of teaching and the freedom to do other things as well.

She's enjoying the online work, although admits not as much as classroom teaching. She still misses the in-person face to face teaching, feels the relationships with the children isn't quite the same (although it looks good to me) and misses the pastoral side and connection with the parents that you get in the classroom or at the school gates. But overall, she's finding online teaching to be a good workable solution. She does wonder what it will be like once schools re-open, maybe it will move to lessons being later in the afternoon or evening, time will tell.

Her current view is that she'll do this for the foreseeable future. She's enjoying it. Having initially gone full time, she now likes the idea of two or three days a week and that it can be location independent - if we're away from home, she can still do it. She can enjoy the teaching and have time and flexibility to do other things too.

So that's why one sane (I'll give her the benefit of the doubt) person wants to work. I can see that Sally's enjoying it, she has a spring in her step that had been missing. I don't have the same need, perhaps because I'd lost enjoyment in my job in a way that Sally clearly hasn't, perhaps because I'd done my job for longer than Sally has done hers, or perhaps because I made more effort to find alternative activities than Sally has. It doesn't really matter which reason, and it may be something else entirely. What it shows is that we're different, and the trick is to find the route that works for you, even if it is something as crazy as getting a job!


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Yeah, I think it's a good solution, particularly being that it's location independent so long as she has decent wifi and a quiet place


I think that's great. This is the ideal scenario in my mind. My wife works too much now. She needs to cut back to 2-3 days/week. She likes working so she'd feel similar to Sally if she doesn't work at all.


I nearly wrote the same in the post. Another thought is that we often think we can't do something, only to find that we actually can if we just dare to give it a go.


So even Covid-19 is another example of every cloud having a silver lining.

Great stuff!!


Hi Nick, I think you've hit the nail on the head when you say that the great thing about retiring early is that it gives us the ability to choose. I guess the only difference I'd suggest is that it's perhaps the financial independence that gives us that, and early retirement is just one of those choices.

Congratulations on your impending early to your wife, I can affirm that 47 is a great age to retire early (coincidentally the same age that I did it😀) and I love that she is excited about it.

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