Whether you have a job, career or vocation – you need a balanced lifestyle

By David Lamb

My last blog looked at personal fulfilment. For many people, work provides a lot of personal fulfilment…if it is the right level of work.

I think there are three levels: a job; a career; and a vocation. However, at the moment many people are having to settle for any job at a time when more than 800,000 have lost theirs as a direct result of Covid.

A job

Often quite boring, with workers carrying out specific daily tasks, spending a lot of time clock watching, just waiting for their pay cheque at the end of the month.

A career

Much more interesting and requires more commitment. Whilst important, money is often not a major factor on a day to day level. My wife is a family lawyer and a few years ago, after returning from a fortnight’s holiday, she spent a Sunday afternoon in her office. I asked how much she was charging her client for working on a Sunday afternoon? Nothing. How much was she getting paid for working on a Sunday afternoon? Nothing. Why was she working on a Sunday afternoon for nothing? Because she was in court the next day and she wanted the best possible outcome for her client. It wasn’t about the money! But…the word career comes from the Latin word for cart, and later the French word for racetrack. How appropriate! How many professionals rush around, in a competitive environment, climbing the career ladder? Unfortunately, the higher up the ladder, the more slippery it is. And more stressful.

A vocation

From the Latin word vocationem, which means ‘calling’. An occupation that somebody feels strongly about doing, often regardless of pay, because they feel compelled to do so, as it gives a deeper meaning to life. A vocation is rarely stressful.

Fitting work into your lifestyle

It is important to consider how work fits into your lifestyle. A job may feel like a drain on time, a career can be a poor influence on emotional health and a vocation needs to be controlled to ensure a balanced lifestyle.

In my hierarchy of lifestyle, health, relationships and time are all more important than work.

Quite often, when I ask my clients when they would like to retire, the answer is ‘tomorrow’.  But when I delve a bit deeper, they don’t want to get away from work, what they actually want to get away from is the stress created by work.

We also see a lot of people who have retired from work, got bored and gone back to work but not necessarily doing the same job (with the same stress). People often go back to do charity work or driving delivery vans for the supermarkets is also very popular. No stress, but there is the social interaction and purpose for getting up in the morning for two or three days a week.

Planning for retirement is a major part of lifestyle financial planning (and I don’t mean put more money into your pension!) It is important to ask yourself the following questions:

• How much is enough to give me the lifestyle that I want without the fear of running out of money and when can I stop work whilst still ensuring that I have enough?

• When do I want to retire?

• Am I going to retire fully, or work part-time?

• If part-time, is it going to be the same, or similar job, to what I was doing before retirement, or is it going to be something completely different? Can the skills that I have built up over a working lifetime convert to another role?

• If I stop work, what will be the new purpose in my life?

• What am I going to do with my extra time? How much will this cost?

• What are the financial implications if I stop, or reduce my working hours?

Stopping work can open up lots of opportunities and give you more time (an essential but limited element of your lifestyle) but can leave a big gap, which many people struggle to fill, especially if theirs was a vocation.

Personally, I think working past normal retirement age is healthy, so long as it is not stressful and I plan to work for as long as I can, but not full-time, because in my experience (non-stressful) work helps to keep you young.

I’ll end with a couple of questions for you to ponder on:

Do you stop doing things because you get old or do you get old because you stop doing things?

And have you ever seen a gravestone with the engraving on ‘He wished he’d spent more time at work’?

No, me neither.

A balanced lifestyle is essential and requires careful planning.