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Home » Early Retirement, Workplace Finance

Choosing Part-Time

Last updated by on 9 Comments

The last two jobs my wife has been offered (and accepted) were both part-time jobs.

The first, as a landscape architect, was 4 work days (32 hours) per week.

The second, as a registered nurse, was 2 work days (24 hours) per week.

In neither case was she necessarily looking for part-time employment – we don’t have children and we’re young, so full-time employment is what you’re supposed to seek and do, right?

choosing part time work vs full timeAlas, part-time employment was what she was able to secure an offer on – after much searching for full-time jobs. Chalk it up to the state of employment in this country, with employers looking to limit benefits due and “test” new hires out. We figured, with hard work, a full-time “upgrade” would happen eventually.

Sure enough, it did.

Within a year of starting with the new architecture/engineering firm and just a few months after starting as a nurse, an offer to take on more hours came from management – without any prompting.

In the case of the architecture firm – she had already started taking pre-requisites that would enable her to start a nursing career. 4 work days + a few classes? That would be a handful for anyone, but manageable. 5 work days + school? Still manageable, but definitely high stress. We deliberated. I told her it was entirely up to her. And she graciously declined her employer’s offer for the increased workload.

As a nurse, however, the situation was a bit different. This time there was no school and “only” 24 hours per week (I put only in quotes, because working two night shifts and having six patients per night as a brand new nurse is not easy, by any stretch of the imagination). Adding a third shift per week would increase her hours 50%, but still “only” tally up to 36 hours per week.

No kids, no school, and moving up to 36 hours per week? No-brainer, right?! After all, there’s a stigma that part-time work isn’t real work, or at least isn’t being “gainfully” employed. When you’re relatively young, why not work as many hours as you can to make more money to spend on whatever your heart desires?

The decision was, in fact, a no-brainer. Quick and easy, with almost no deliberation.

“No thanks”.

Whaaaaa?! Why?!

Lazy?

Hates the job?

Ungrateful?

No. No. And no.

If you want to label it as something, label it as “able”. For the first time in our lives, one of us had turned down full-time hours because we realize that the incremental gains in income will have zero incremental gains in quality of life.

And that feels pretty damn good.

We’ve got a ways to go to hit our crossover point and beyond, but if turning down full-time employment in favor of part-time is not an early symptom (at least) of financial independence, then I don’t know what it is.

And while the financial independence and retirement goal may be long-term or even non-existent goal for many, the reality for most is that we live in an unprecedented time of prosperity that is being completely deflated by gross over-consumption. Most readers here will have opportunity to boost our income and reduce our consumption to levels that will allow us to buy back a piece of the most precious commodity we have access to: our time.

Maybe that means working fewer hours. Maybe that means working no hours. Either way, I think it’s a goal we can all get behind.

Choosing Part-Time Vs. Full-Time Work Discussion:

  • Have you been in a situation where you have chosen part-time vs full-time hours? Why did you make that choice?
  • Do you foresee a situation in which you would make a similar move? What would enable you to do so?

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


9 Comments »
  • John says:

    Great article! I am trying to negotiate the alternative (reducing 5 day salary pay to 3 days) and this article made me feel a little better after I got some of the “you’re lazy” reactions.

  • I hope I can make that change soon: I’m trying to make the switch to self-employment, but I’m hoping to downshift my current full-time job to a part-time one before I go 100% on my own. I think this will help me in the transition (slowly weaning myself off working for someone else!) and it will also help my current employer, because I’ll be be able to help them hire and train a replacement for me.

  • derek says:

    With full time employment did they offer retirement benefits? That would be an important consideration that, while not improving quality of life, would yield significant gains at retirement. Any contribution from the hospital would be multiplied by compounding. It also depends on how happy you ate with your health care coverage.

    Your main point that one should consider quality of life is valid however. I’ve worked night shifts before and they can be brutal. I would also see if offer a differential for shifts. That sometimes ads up to a nice little bonusthat should go into your calculation

    • G.E. Miller says:

      Good question. Retirement benefits (401K match) are valid for both part and full-time. She is going to contribute approx. half her earnings next year, so she maxes out. Health benefits are more costly for part-time, but she is on my benefits, because it was cheaper to go that route. So really – the only thing she is missing out on is the additional pay from one more shift.

  • My wife is also an RN. She has worked full time (three 12 hour shifts) her whole career, but we can really relate to your FI early symptom. We are considering her changing to two shifts, simply because we can and want to enjoy life. We are not to our crossover point yet, either. We’ll see!

  • Ron Ablang says:

    We are a family of 4 w/ a single income. We are not yet at the point where we can choose to have one of us go to part time yet… at least until the kids are old enough to start school.

  • Steven Le says:

    It depends on the situation. A lot of the time part time jobs are better for the individual especially if that individual doesn’t see a future climbing the corporate ladder at said job. The problem is that a majority of part timers, younger ones anyway tend to work a couple of days and blow all their money on their days off. Instead of using their days off productively.

    I’d say if you’re financially able to go part time and still attend to your basic needs and what not then there isn’t a need to go full time. No point making all that money and then having no time to spend it.

  • JSM says:

    PT is great if you’re able to pursue other interests, and as stated above, not blow your income on days off. My biggest problem with going to PT was benefit reduction and not being able to qualify for a mortgage. Apparently a reduction in working hours despite a near-stable income amount is still negatively viewed by the underwriters. Granted, my decision to go PT was to gain more experience in other areas of my field (paid PT) and not solely based on financial independence. I’m terribly dependent.

    J

  • Alex says:

    It’s a good tactic to go for a variety of different jobs, and this can be accepting less hours. But as we all know the longer you are with a company the more juice you get, so you can start part-time somewhere and end up being the manager a year later. Stability can be attained through a stepping-stone approach.

    In the past I’ve been hindered by ignoring job openings that won’t fulfill my needs. Yet the only job I’ve had for an extended period of time started out as a weekend sales assistant. It wasn’t long after I began that very retail job that I got handed key holding/assistant manager responsibilities and 37.5hrs minimum.

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