“I can always just get a job…”

There is a common belief in many FIRE circles that if one’s Safe Withdrawal Rate actually runs into problems — maybe 3.5% isn’t safe because of a Japan-style recession or maybe one’s personal expenses rise faster than CPI — the smart, hard-working, savvy person who was able to get to FIRE will be able to land another job that gets them back in the workforce to make up that shortfall.

This 2013 article in the New York Times is a good antidote to that kind of thinking.

Back in the early 2000s there was a small wave of successful, high-paid women who quit their careers, usually to become full-time Stay At Home Moms. It wasn’t quite FIRE, since in most cases they were still able to rely on their partner’s (often significant) salaries.

But over the ensuring decade a lot of wanted to, or needed to, return to the work force. So it offers a nice snapshot of how quickly professional networks and personal capital deteriorate when you’re out of the workforce for even just a few years.

  • 27% of women who wanted to resume working weren’t successful in getting back in.
  • 60% of those who were able to get back in were unable to find full-time work.
  • The jobs they found paid, on average, 16% less than those they had left years before.

It certainly isn’t a slam-dunk that any transition back to work will be easy.

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Learn how to enjoy early retirement in Vietnam. With charts and graphs.

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