job burnout

Are you a person who is dedicated, passionate and hardworking with idealistic and perfectionist tendencies? Then you would most likely suffer from job burnout according to the Joint Medical Service of the UN. And it is classified as a mental illness caused by unmanaged work-related stress.

What is job burnout?

Job burnout is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a state of physical or emotional exhaustion, as well as a sense of diminished accomplishment and loss of personal identity.

Some of the symptoms include: being cynical or critical at work, dread going to work, being irritable or impatient, having difficulty concentrating, feeling stressed, anxious, tired and depressed, and physical ailments such as headaches, stomach discomfort, high blood pressure and so on.

What are the causes of job burnout?

According to the Harvard Business Review, the common causes of job burnout are:

  • high workloads
  • tight deadlines
  • a perceived lack of control or autonomy over your work
  • conflicts with your boss or colleagues
  • toxic people
  • a lack of management support
  • unfairness and favouritism
  • a lack of reward or recognition

Most of the causes of burnout can happen at any workplace, not necessarily only in international organizations. 

However, international organizations depend on voluntary contributions from the Member States and as a result, these organizations usually work with a limited budget and tight deadlines. 

Furthermore, many staff are on a contract basis that gets renewed every one or two years. Annual increments are by “step” increases which are fixed and automatically given unless your performance is very poor. Also, you don’t get a “13-month” salary or any bonuses like a local Swiss for your hard work. Getting a promotion is also not easy again due to budget constraints and how posts are classified in an international organization. Despite this, it is hard to get a job at the UN or any international organization as it is highly competitive.

It is also not surprising that politics play a major role in these organizations. As a result, such environments can lead to very high-stress levels among staff.

What can you do about burnout?

Your physical and mental health should always come first. If you are not well, you are not in the position to help anyone no matter how noble the cause of your organization is.

If you are feeling burnt-out seek professional help!

While we have limited control over who our boss or colleagues are, the workload, deadlines, the management team, recognition and promotions, we have full control over how we use our salary to create a nest egg.

Having sufficient money or a nest egg provides you with peace of mind and removes the dependency on your monthly salary.

It will give you the cushion and offers you the flexibility to look for other jobs or environments that suit you better.

First find out: how much money do you need to live comfortably in Switzerland?

Numbeo provides a very good estimate of how much money you need every month to live in Geneva.

If you are single or a couple renting a one-bedroom apartment in Geneva centre, own a car, take two vacations per year and eat out occasionally, then your average cost of living per month is expected to be around CHF 4,097.69 for a single person and CHF 5,412.44 for a couple.

If you are a family of 4 renting a three-bedroom apartment outside of Geneva, then your cost of living per month could average around CHF 8,813.92.

What is the 4% rule how much money do I need to retire?

“Financial Independence, Retire Early” or FIRE is a lifestyle movement, according to Wikipedia, with the goal of gaining financial independence and retiring early. Those aiming for FIRE deliberately maximize their savings rate by finding ways to increase income and/or decrease expenses and investing their money.

So how do you know how much you would need to retire early? And how much money can you withdraw without running out of money during retirement (also known as “safe withdrawal rate”)?

The magic formula used by most people in the FIRE movement is based on a study done by 3 professors from Trinity University and it is also called the 4% rule.

The rule states that if you withdraw 4% of your initial portfolio amount in the first year of retirement and afterwards increase for inflation each year, then there is a high probability of having enough money during the rest of your retirement. The condition is that you would need at least a portfolio of at least 50% stocks and a withdrawal rate of 4% or less to have a success rate of higher than 95% over a period of 30 years.

So knowing the initial portfolio amount (the amount you need to retire) is important. The number 25 in the formula comes from the inverse of 4%. This formula also assumes that you invest at least 60% of your portfolio in a globally diversified index fund or ETF i.e. a basket of stocks.

The amount you need to retire is = Your current total expenses per month x 12 x 25

So, how much money would you need to never work again?

Using the examples from the previous section, a single person, a couple and a family living in Geneva.

  • A single person would need an initial portfolio amount = CHF 4,097.69 x 12 x 25 = CHF 1,23 million
  • A couple would need = CHF 1,62 million
  • A family of 4 would need = CHF 2,54 million

To achieve this amount faster, you either need to increase your salary or reduce expenses or both. But the most important trick is to invest your savings in the stock market as early as possible for as long as possible. The annual return of the US stock market is around 8%.

The easiest way to achieve these figures is to buy an index fund of the US market or better yet, the world’s stock market.

Check out the FIRE calculator provided by Moneyland.ch where you can simulate how much you need to save each month. For example, if I have CHF200,000 saved up, want to retire in 15 years with CHF5000 in spending money each month over 40 years, then I would need to save CHF 5227.10 each month for 15 years!

fire calculator

How much money do UN workers make?

If you are thinking of having a career in the UN or any international organization in the UN system and wondering how much an international civil servant in the UN system makes, then check out the following UN salary calculator.

You can determine the salary based on grade (e.g. P1 to 6, D1, D2 etc), level, duty station and appointment type. Don’t forget to check out our previous blog post – Becoming A Professional Staff Millionaire.

How to recover from burnout quickly?

Besides tracking your stress level, journaling, exercising, speaking up and seeking professional help, one other tip to recovery from burnout is to set goals!

So what better goals than to save more, invest your savings in an index fund and watch your money grow!

This also gives you the security of knowing that you can survive without a job or a pension and not to mention the confidence as well as the freedom that would provide.

Many do not want to retire early as they like working as international civil servants. So, having this pot of savings would undoubtedly improve your retirement benefits especially if you joined the UN pension late and do not have 25-30 years of service.

Key Takeaways

Seek professional help if you are suffering from work-related stress or having job burnout.

Set a goal to save more and invest your money.

To reach financial independence, it seems like a lot of money to accumulate, but it is achievable and many people have done it.

The main key to reaching your Financial Independence (FI) number is to be cautious with your spending (track and budget) and to consistently save and invest a fixed amount every month without fail.

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