Experience the Hard Years of the 9-5 Before You FIRE

Reading Time: 8 minutes

A month ago I recieved an email from a reader who had just finished university. He told me he had a job in a corporate company during every summer holiday for the last three years, and that he hated it.

He told me that there was no way he wanted to start working in a 9 – 5 environment every day for the rest of his life.

The question he had was whether he should move to Asia with no money saved up to try living as a digital nomad, or if he should do the normal thing to do – to get a job.

This guy knew he didn’t want to work in a day job, but at the same time he didn’t have a clear idea of what he would spend his time on as a digital nomad in Asia.

My first thought was that he didn’t have a clear idea for what he actually wanted to strive for.

It seemed like he was running away from something, rather than running towards a dream or goal that he wanted to pursue.

The problem with “running away”-goals is that they lead to momentary satisfaction – a honeymoon period – before dismay and discontent set in. “Moving toward”-goals are what lead to happiness and fulfillment.

What will you spend your time in life on?

I think it is really important to think about what are you going to do instead of having a normal day job?

What are your plans?

What do you want to dedicate your life to?

You need an answer to this.

There is a famous quote from Lewis Caroll that goes like this:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I should go from here?” said Alice / “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. / “I don’t much care where–” said Alice. / “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

If you don’t have an answer to what you want to dedicate your life to, you will probably just drift around without meaning, which can be a lot more damaging to your mind than sitting at your desk 9 – 5.

More often than not people look at a career in the 9 – 5 like a life-long thing.

You start working some time in your 20’s and keep your head up in the game until normal retirement age at 67 years old.

And then, when you are 67 years old you’re finally free to do what you want.

Tennis at day time when you’re old? Sure, no problem!

But why wait to enjoy the beautiful world when you’re 67 years old?

Life is dynamic. You may even be sick or dead at that time.

I prefer to think of the 9-5 in a different way. I think of it as a starting point, something that can be used to move onto something better in the future.

With the right motivation you can get a lot more out of your job if you focus on all the ways it can benefit you. Put yourself first and your employer second.

Do not get a job to consume unnecessary things

Instead you should try to live as frugally as possible and enjoy the regularity of a paycheck to build a solid net worth either by paying down debt or investing.

When I finally quit in about 5 years with all the money I’ve saved up from the corporate job, it’s funny to think about that my current boss technically financed my freedom.

When I’m waving goodbye to the cubicle at 36 years old, I’m sure my co-workers will hate me. I think many of them would wanted to do the same.

I wish I could teach them a thing or two about frugality, but they’re not motivated.

Do not go into 9 – 5 to learn how to be a working bee

Do not the enter the workforce just to grow up to be an ant doing the same thing for 30 – 40 years.

Instead you should network, build dicipline, learn how to present things, develop social skills etc.

The job itself is not important, because you are not there to earn money for your employer.

You are using the job to earn enough money so you one day can quit yourself.

You are working to expand your skill set.

Even if I want to quit my job in about 5 years, Im deeply grateful for having the oppurtunity now to get paid to learn negotiation techniques, develop presentation skills, project- and time management and of course networking.

Ive made some great contacts as well, which I probably can involve in some business ideas later on when I decide to leave the 9 – 5.

If you’re having the choice between sitting in your cubicle friday night working on some boring tasks for your employer, or going for a beer to network, always choose networking!

You’re going to quit in a few years anyway.

Set yourself a time limit for how long you want to play the corporate game

Set yourself a limit of for example 5 – 10 years, and work hard those years to max your time in the corporate game.

Every year you should negotiate for salary increases, save as much as you can, and don’t be afraid to leave your job for a bigger salary somewhere else.

Optimise your skills that will be useful for your future, eg. networking, presenting, selling, negotiating etc., and use minimal time on boring tasks that only gives value for your boss (reports, Excel plotting and all mindless tasks which is unnecessary).

Let the employer that treats you the best (aka. pays you the most) win your time, and make sure you spend time developing the skills that benefit you.

Do not let the day job be the main focus of your life

Half of the time you’re awake is typically spent on work or work related tasks.

Your job may take up most of your time, but remember it is only a means to an end.

Remember that you are paid every month by your employer, so use your time of security wisely to figure out what you want to do in life.

Consider all the options you have. After this period you’re free to pursue exactly what you want. The years in the cubicle is the time to explore the options and make a rock solid plan.

When you’re finally FI, what do you want to spend the rest of your life on?

Travel the world? Volunteering? Start a business? Philanthropic work?

What do you hope to achieve?

I must admit that to think and dream about what I’m going to do when I’m FI, is often an important thing that gets me through the day.

But instead of hating your life, look at your time in the 9 – 5 as a way to set yourself up for something better.

Build yourself a solid portfolio of stocks, real estate and liquid cash. Decide what it is you really want to do. Enjoy the time you spend on planning for FI.

Develop the skills that have life value and give only the minimum to tasks that don’t.

In some years when you’re finally ready to leave, fire your boss and move onto the next chapter of your life full of passions and purpose.

This is not the end

Your time in the 9 – 5 will have a huge effect on your thoughts and mindset when you’re free to spend your time as you like.

You will see things differently than those digital nomads who never went through the same experience. You will share a strong connection with other people who’ve quit the 9 – 5 too.

The digital nomads didn’t go through the dreadful early morning commutes in winter and on heavy rainy days.

They didn’t go through the years of rushing through lunch breaks and endless Monday afternoons concentrating about reports in the cubicle.

The digital nomads didn’t experience trying to put all their dreams into a few weeks of vacation every year.

I don’t think they even know how it feels to wake up every morning, put on clothes you don’t want to wear, and then sit in a cubicle that makes you depressed for a minimum of eight damn hours every day, every month.

Year after year…after year.

You will succeed if you believe you will

My opinion is that if you’ve been in the rat race for many years and you badly want out, you will find a way.

You will find a way because your plan is so detailed, you have thought about the escape for so many years.

When you finally leave, you will succeed because you were thinking big.

Had you instead traveled the world as a digital nomad wihtout neither a plan or money, the probability for sucess would be a lot less smaller.

That’s the good thing with the 9 – 5. You start to think. You’re thinking and planning for years, then you revise your plans and finally you got that bullettproof escape plan.

After years of grinding the 9 – 5 you will have both a plan and a lot of money.

Maybe you save up 25 times your annual spending before you pull the plug, or perhaps only 5-10 times your annual spending.

It doesn’t matter as long as you feel ready.

Your plans will take you as far as you like.

You are the one setting the limits.

You can start a business, try to monetize a blog, do freelance work and travel at the same time.

Probably you’ve learned some business skills through your 9 – 5, that now helps you in making your dreams possible.

Or maybe not, but I suspect your motivation to succeed is sky high because you want to do everything you can to maintain your freedom, and avoid a return to the 9-5 at all costs.

This is because of the though years in the cubicle. We both know what it’s like.

That’s why we make sure we never have to go back.


When I look back at the moment I graduated my masters degree, it was a weird time in my life.

I was so glad that it was over, but I was also unsecure about what I could expect from the 9 – 5.

I already had a signed job contract, but I had no idea what I actually wanted from life.

Engineering? Nutrionist? Children and marriage? Solo traveling?

I was like a big question mark.

Maybe the 9-5 was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.

It gives me time to think and plan, to experience the corporate world, and to build a strong foundation financially.

My plan now is to invest 60 % of my income every month in index funds, and to quit my corporate job in aprox. 5 years when my net worth is estimated to be 600.000 $.

To summarise, my advice to all young people who wonder what to do with life:

Go get a job and try the 9 – 5.

Use the time when you’re there to save, invest and plan.

Get everything you can out of the job.

Use the job as a tool to help you grow and develop a skill set.

Don’t go in there to work for your boss – work for yourself.

You’re going to hate many parts of it, and I guess you’re going to swear when you’re walking up to an alarm at 6 AM every morning.

But one day, it’s finally your time to leave.

And if you’ve experienced a prison sentence in a cubicle, the freedom and joy of choosing what to do next will be sweeter than ever.

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13 Replies to “Experience the Hard Years of the 9-5 Before You FIRE”

  1. I totally agree with the last lines of your post.

    We need to experience the 9-5 for a while in order to learn what the rat race means. Understanding that and taking advantage of the skills and knowledge acquired during the “awareness” process is another step on the way towards a meaningful financial freedom.

    Once again, thanks for writing amigo! 😉

    1. route2fi says: Reply

      Thanks, my friend!
      I’m glad you liked it ?
      If we both won a million $ right now, life would be too easy. Don’t you think? A part of becoming FI is enjoying the journey on the way ?

      1. Exactly, we need some bumps down the road to perceive some value after reaching our goals.

        If I will have a million right now I would spend the day having siestas, haha – just joking!

        1. route2fi says: Reply

          Haha! Siesta time ? We could travel to Somalia with Eelis and say hello to his camel ?

  2. ogellers says: Reply

    The journey to your goals are as important as reaching the goal it self. It will give you drive and satisfaction (hopefully) on the way. And one will also probably adjust the goal somewhat along the way. Life change as time goes and often your priorities Will change along with it. That is my take on it anyways.

    1. route2fi says: Reply

      Thanks for your honest opinion, Ogellers. Would you link me your monthly report? ?

  3. ogellers says: Reply

    Pengevett.com looks to be out due to some security issue. Not possible to get into the forum 🙁

    But march came in at 36 425 NOK after tax income and of that i paid down aprox 4500 NOK on my mortgage and invested “only” 7000 NOK for a totalt of 11 500. So about a 32% savingsrate. Not the best i have seen, but still way above the average joe i suppose 😛

    April numbers are 34 623 NOK after tax income and aprox 4500 NOK goes to mortgage and 14 000 NOK was invested at my brokerage for a total of 18 500 NOK. Giving me a savingsrate of about 53%. Happy with april 🙂

    1. route2fi says: Reply

      Oh! That’s a shame ?
      Great savings rate for april! ?
      Are you planning to save extra when you get “vacation money” ? ??

  4. ogellers says: Reply

    Of course i will save extra 🙂 June is a great month for savings. I guess i will be getting paid about 100k NOK so i am aiming for about 75k in savings and investments ? last year i managed about 75 so it should be possible to do the same this year

    1. route2fi says: Reply

      Damn, now we’re talking!
      Exciting times ?
      I think I get 65k in vacation money, so I’ll try to save at least 50 ?

  5. […] Why You Have To Experience Hard Years Of 9 – 5 Before You Retire Early | Route 2 FI […]

  6. Thank you for this! I’ve been struggling to get through my day job and I love that you point out all the positives of it. I’m working on trying to be happier and more dedicated while I’m here.
    I have a couple online businesses that I dedicate my time to outside of work and they will eventually become my full-time.
    But for now, I’ve just got to do what I can with my current situation.
    Great post!

    1. route2fi says: Reply

      Thank you so much!

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