I’ve realized I’m a lifer.

A few months after graduating college, the federal government offered me a job to work for them as a Special Agent. I was 21 at the time and the prospect of a “cushy” government job seemed too good to pass up. I mean, I had $28,000 in student loans to pay back after all.

I remember taking the job and being asked by my peers if I thought I was going to do this gig for the rest of my life. My response was always the same…

“If I’m still doing this job five years from now, I’ll probably do it for the rest of my life.” 

Right at the five-year mark I got super motivated to look for a new job. I applied to a couple dozen positions, had a few interviews, but was rejected from every job I applied for. In case you aren’t familiar with the process, getting rejected sucks. But hey, that’s life right?

Now, in my seventh year as a fed, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m probably a lifer.

That’s right, I will most likely work the exact same job, day in and day out, for the next thirty years.


At 21 years old, I thought one’s professional success is defined by the job title they hold and the salary they command.

I nailed that first one. I mean how sweet is it that my literal job title is Special Agent?

The second one, not so much.

While I make a nice chunk of change, I’ll never earn a huge six-figure salary. It is the government after all and everything is regulated by congressional mandates.

But at almost-30-years-old, I’m realizing one’s salary means very little in the grand scheme of things.

Imagine this…

Ten, twenty, fifty years from now you are on your death-bed. One of your teenage grandkids looks at you and says,

“Grandma/Grandpa, What’s the one thing you wish you could have done more of in life”

How many of you are going to respond to that question with “I wish I could have made more money.”?

Probably not you. right?

Although we may not always act like it, deep down inside, we know that our income should not define our worth.

To further convince myself of this fundamental truth, I decided I would make a Pros and Cons list of my position:

Work pros and cons

According to math there are far more things on the left side than the right.

Therefore, I should be content and keep my job. 

Anyone else out there a “lifer” in your position (teachers, firefighters, and physicians where you at!)?

How many jobs have you held in your adult life? 



19 thoughts on “I’ve realized I’m a lifer.”

  1. You forgot one of the best benefits, at least for me, job security. Layoffs are rare with the government, and have never happened in the agencies I have worked in.

    With all the things to worry about, I’m glad losing my job is not one of them.

  2. I’m a lifer now. I worked a few years in hospitality before taking this job. Voted one of the best places to work by Puget Sound, I have been here for almost 8 years. Job security, good team, good company, good benefits, and opportunity for advancement (been promoted twice). I’m a manager now and its kind of a cushy job. My twin is in sales and makes six figures but many of them get burned out and switch after 1-2 years. I started at 24 and I can easily see myself here for 40 years.

  3. I probably won’t be at this current job forever, but my pro/con list looks the same and I’m okay with the fact that if I AM at this job for the rest of my life, that wouldn’t be so bad. 🙂

  4. My envy is palpable. I am also a government employee, but the last time I got away with working only 40 hours a week was eight years ago.

    Minus the 80 hour workweeks (which are the norm rather than the exception), my list of pros is similar. I get to travel, I get to advocate abroad for my country, I have a pension, and I’m good at what I do.

    I used to think I would be a lifer, but I am getting really sick of working 80 hours a week and only being paid for 37.5.

  5. I’m a lifer too. I didn’t start working for the government until I was 27, but it has been over 5 years and I don’t think I will go anywhere. I don’t really have an exciting job, but it requires a lot of technical knowledge and skill, so it pays well. I could make more on the outside, but wouldn’t have the job security. If I don’t have kids, I can probably retire at 57 and do something else then if I want to.

  6. Bad ass gig for sure.

    I don’t know if I’ll forever be a professional blogger, but I’ll probably be doing *something* online forever. Imagine what the internet will be like in 10, 20, 50 years?? It’s still so freaking new… and I reckon if we stay for the ride and adapt as time goes on, we’ll be sitting pretty.

  7. I would be happy with any government job that offered a pension. Yes- even if there was a toilet bowl cleaner job position.

  8. I work in law enforcement in a medium sized agency in the NW! I started when I was 22 (right after college) and I am 27 now. Spent most of my years working weekend graveyards but now I am juvenile detective (I get to work with kids all day long). I always debate whether I am going to ride it out or not. I can retire at 52 with a pension (they combine your 4 highest salaried years and you get 80% of that at retirement). Family life sucked for a few years and the stress sucks too… So I always go back and forth! I am fluent in 3 languages and I had an offer from the ATF and the FBI for SA gigs a few months back… however… moving became harder due to having a little 10 month old now :). What is in store for the future? IDK – but I am holding on for the ride….

  9. Brandon, at age 29 you hardly know for sure if you’re going to be holding the same job until you’re 65. At age 66 myself and recently retired, I know I’ve held only a few jobs, so I can confidently say I’m a lifer to an extent:

    – Finished my Ph.D. in English in 1977 at age 29, did the usual teaching assistant and adjunct work until I found a full-time college job.
    – From 1979-86, taught college English. Lost a close tenure fight and didn’t want to start the whole thing over again.
    – From 1987-91, started as a tech writer for a small software firm; this company was eventually swallowed up by a huge Fortune 500 firm where I hung on for three years until I was forced out.
    – 1991: six months of unemployment, my only time out of work.
    – From 1991-93, worked in instructional design for a non-profit.
    – From 1993-2014, worked as a tech writer for another small software firm.
    – 2014: retired! (Just as the stock market decided to plunge for weeks in a row.)

    This is my entire employment history, and all my non-academic jobs have been in the accounting software field (even though when I started I didn’t know squat about accounting). I guess that makes me a lifer.

    • The stock market!!! I knew once I put my toes into it another crash would occur!!! Unfortunately, I put half my body into it… I need to learn how to short stocks… Naw, I’m going all in since the stock market is on sale, a fire sale! 😛

      • Actually that’s the best thing you could do, provided that stocks are not your only investment. When stocks are low, the best thing is to buy; the second best is to leave things alone. I’m not worried about the market as the decline I experienced was only slight, and I’m well diversified in other investments. Remember that the crash of 2008 was followed by the biggest run-up in stock history; I doubled my net worth in 5 years that way. The analysis by Francois Trahan on Consuelo Mack’s Wealth Track program also suggests that US stocks are the best place to be right now.

      • So you’re now investing, Mr. Cash? One part of me is happy for you, another is concerned about where you’re investing, that is if you’re thinking about shorting stocks. I just don’t want you coming after me in 10 years with a gun whining about losses in the market, when I would never suggest for you anything that I wouldn’t do and am not doing myself. The only investing strategy I would support is a well-diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds using index funds with low expense ratios – like Vanguard or Fidelity Spartan.

        • Haha, no worries Larry. I know that you would suggest those funds. I also would never hold anyone responsible for my investment choices. The only thing is that I will be forever weary about the stock market in general. Even though I’m not a fan, I am aware that my current choice of all cash is not making me enough money to keep up so I am finally buying into the market. Because it is only a fraction of my net worth I’m going a little risky buying some dividend stocks… Regardless, I still have the bulk in cash because that’s what helps me sleep… Oh I did start a non matching 401k at the beginning of the year, that one consists of a low cost index fund. Wish me luck…

    • Of course there is a possibility that over the next three decades I jump ship to a different position. But after seven years in this gig, I’m loving life more than ever. Since I’m totally content that brings little motivation to force a change.

      Now if someone comes along and offers me an even better position, for even more pay, then of course I’d take it 🙂

  10. I am also a government employee (Canadian) and your list is fairly similar to mine. Subtract the travelling to various countries and add in a very, very good pension. Sometimes I feel like I get drawn to other positions where I could make a lot more money, but making that mental list in my head I realize that I’m perfectly content, right where I am. I’ve been here over 9 years, so that means only 21 left until I can retire at 55 with a full pension and continue to enjoy life 🙂

  11. I can see the security argument but as a fresh-out-of-high-school 18 year old, the thought of doing the same thing for the next 40 years horrifies me. Maybe I’ll change my tune when I’ve spent some more time outside the protective walls of education, but for now I can’t get over how big and wide the world is, and how much opportunity there is. I’m also not keen on working till I’m 70, particularly when you’re the first person I’ve heard say they enjoy their job: pretty much everyone else on the planet hates theirs. And their boss. And the commute. And their work colleagues. And the pay. And the holidays. And the office politics. And…

  12. I started working for a small family owned machine shop before I got outa high school, went full time after high and have never looked back, I’ve been with the company for 31 years, to me it’s not just a job anymore, it’s a way of life, it’s what do, I love my job, I have great benefits, I work on really cool stuff, mostly defense related. I’ll be a lifer as long as this company is in business.

  13. I’m a lifer and hate it. Stuck at a relatively low pay rate but handcuffed to it because I lack the education and network to do something different. Also there is quite a bit of luck landing a dream job that pays really good, like your last experience of trying to break free from your golden handcuffed job.

  14. My husband’s IT job is looking like a lifer…he’s got 21 years in, and if he can keep managing the stress and if the company currently going through a redefinition phase still exists, he looks to retire in 8 years. (He’s 44.)

    Looking at the current job market around here, people don’t get lifer jobs anymore — it’s more like get hired on for a project for 6 months to 3 years, then find another project. Unless you’re a teacher/fire/police.

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