Are you dreaming of having more control over your time? Do you want to design your days differently? If early retirement isn’t on the horizon, part time work might be the solution. Many people find themselves saying, “I only want to work part time.” But then they wonder if that’s possible.
Part-time work is actually on the rise again in the US. As you may know, my wife Nicole and I have both decided to pursue part-time work. So we sat down in this episode of Bread & Wine to share what made part-time work possible, as well as the pros and cons.
“I Only Want to Work Part Time”
What does your ideal day look like? How does that compare to your present day? If you’re anything like us, you find yourself trying to cram in way more tasks than you actually have time for. As a result, we felt majorly burned out.
When I made the jump to entrepreneurship, I eventually realized that as much as I was passionate about my work, I still wanted to work less. Nicole felt much the same. Eventually, we found ourselves saying “I only want to work part time”. So we started brainstorming how to make that happen.
Nicole’s ideal part-time schedule is working three days a week for eight hours each day. On the other hand, I prefer to work for shorter stretches of time spread out over more days. Currently, I work an average of 4-5 hours per day, and I usually give myself Fridays off.
There isn’t a right part-time schedule. Instead, it’s about figuring out your work rhythms and then engineering a schedule that meets your work needs as well as the other demands of life.
A Closer Look at the Part-Time Lifestyle
But part-time work isn’t perfect. There are things that we both really love and dislike about working part-time. Let’s take a closer look at the part-time lifestyle and explore the various pros and cons of part-time work.
Part-Time Work Pros
When we reflect on what we love about our part-time work, we discovered quite a long list. Here are some of the pros of part-time work.
More Time to Recharge
Nicole says that having days midweek to recharge and get things in order at home is really a big benefit. It helps us scramble less on the weekends.
Weekends fill up so quickly with commitments like sports (I know travel soccer families feel this!) and birthday parties. We no longer have to add grocery shopping and laundry into the mix. Doing things on off times is a great way to recover some of our freedom back.
Skip the Sunday Scaries
For Nicole, she dodges the Sunday Scaries because she has Mondays off. This allows us to help our kids get back into the swing of the school week without trying to juggle a full day of work for her as well.
But not all part-time workers can or want to take Mondays off. Even if you find yourself working on Mondays, part-time work can lessen your anxiety. You start to realize that you have more breathing room in your day and that you can really multitask less. The chaotic pace of full-time work with young kids is enough to give anyone anxiety. Knowing that you’ve stepped away from that is really empowering.
We have a bad habit of defining ourselves based on our work. “I’m a teacher.” “I’m a marketer.” “I’m an accountant.” In this country, we tend to identify ourselves based on what we do for a living. Part-time work allows you to find more of who you are.
You start to savor the diversity of life. You are still a worker and a parent. But you can also carve out time to explore hobbies and build new skills (Nicole can now solve a Rubik's Cube in under 5 minutes and I've started piano lessons in hopes of becoming a part-part-time busker someday!).
Working part-time really helps solve an identity crisis that many people don’t even realize is happening until they reach retirement.
Nicole is quick to point out that part-time work doesn’t necessarily mean less work. It just means less work for someone else.
We find ourselves filling up our days with cooking, cleaning, yard work, and volunteering. So we are working, but we are doing things more for ourselves and our families.
Even when we do our actual work, we feel less burned out. When I initially started exploring entrepreneurship, I was juggling a full-time job too. Then, I threw myself into this work, trading one full-time job for another. I thought that because I was so excited and passionate about family finances I could work nonstop.
It turns out that part-time schedules actually allow me to enjoy my passions more. Even if you love what you do, you can still burn out. We’ve both found that our passions really flourish with more time and more space.
Part-Time Work Cons
Part-time work isn’t perfect. There are definitely some drawbacks, and we are still navigating some of them ourselves. Consider these part-time work cons before you make the leap to part-time work.
In many situations, downshifting from full-time work to part-time work means you’re going to make less money. You are trading income for freedom. When you do so, your budget gets tighter.
For us, that means less travel and fewer vacations. This tradeoff is definitely a bit of a pain point for our family. But we aren’t willing to work more hours and enjoy our years less for a few extra days of vacation time.
Harder to Replenish Savings
We are debt-free and mortgage free. Plus, we reached Coast FIRE. As a result, we are in a really solid place financially.
However, there’s no denying that right now, our income is lower than it used to be. That means that it’s harder to refill our sinking funds. I just bought a new car, and I’d like to start refilling that sinking fund.
With part-time work, we can still save (around 10% of our income). We just have to save at a significantly slower pace.
Fitting In While Saying No
One of the biggest challenges we face is that we find ourselves saying no to things fairly regularly. We can’t take the same number of big vacations we always did. And our lifestyle looks different from many of our friends and neighbors.
Some people don’t consider part-time work as an option because they know they are likely to lose some of the traditional work benefits. That’s true. Nicole and I haven’t had employer-sponsored healthcare for three years now.
While it can be costly to try to make up for the benefits you lose, there are options. We currently buy our insurance on the healthcare exchange. The coverage we have serves our family well and fits our part-time income budgets.
Final Thoughts on Downshifting to Part-Time
Do you find yourself feeling like there aren't enough hours in the day? Then part-time work might be right for you.
To get started, explore what’s possible. How much income do you expect to lose? What will that do to your current budget? Don’t be afraid to actually dive into the answers to those questions because the math might surprise you.
Plus, as Nicole points out, this is about more than just money. Your mental health matters too. If you are burned out and life feels too one-sided, explore some different lifestyle possibilities. See if part-time work might work for you!
To see how we made part-time work financially possible for our family, here's how we were achieved Part-Time Work by 40.
Have you considered a different work lifestyle? Do you think part-time work would suit you?
Please let us know in the comments below.