We are officially one quarter into delaying our early retirement. The original date was June of 2018, but due to financial and non financial reasons this was pushed back for roughly nine months.
The compounding effect of each incremental month employed is doing great things to our numbers. The third quarter was good in the market and we received nice appreciation on our stocks and added more towards our investments. This along with the mortgage payments caused our net worth to grow substantially in the quarter. The trap of “one more year” that nearly retired people feel can be financially intoxicating. This compounding is before the big chunk of compensation that is received in the first quarter of each year.
I also requested/received a pension estimate (yes a pension, one of those mythical things you normally only read about in history books). Most pensions involve a calculation of salary and a calculation of years worked. The additional nine months worked will complete some nice math on the “highest five year” portion of the pension calculation. I will not pickup an additional year of work (unless I say for another three months – there’s that trap again!), but the lift in salary is nice. Five years ago we were at a crossroads in our career, nearly Lean FI, and made a decision to take a promotion in my career. Working through the end of 2018 completes five years of this calculation, replacing my last year at a lower level job with this final year at my highest pay.
I give credit to Karsten over at Early Retirement Now for taking on my case study: This helps convince me staying for another nine months was the right move financially.
Health Insurance has also been positive. We’ve stayed on our employers plan and the post-retirement portion of 2019 will be covered by COBRA. This pushes dealing with the ACA out until 2020 and for now we’re still a moderate consumer of healthcare.
All of that sounds good, but….
Non-Financial Thoughts: This is where the discussion/decision to work another nine months gets more cloudy.
Family/Friends: We live a significant distance from family and are getting to the age where we start asking how much time is left? Missing holidays, missing birthday parties, missing events is difficult. We’ve made an effort to visit as much as we can over the last few years, but that’s also come as a sacrifice to recreational time, using up vacation time running from one family unit to another. Its become tougher to put up with this when this little voice in the back of my head is saying “your’re financially independent, what are you doing?” This voice shows up at its loudest when I’m rushing from person to person’s house, only spending three hours with each and realizing I might not be back for six months. One family member is now suffering from Alzheimer and I missed visiting her on a previous trip.
Most of our friends live on the east coast and we just don’t see them as much because of distance. Now that we’ve already reached our number, there is some fear of missing out that sets in. Its tough seeing them together while we sit a thousand miles away. I tell myself “this will be worth it, right”, but time is not something you ever get back.
Up until now, I’ve always told myself that I *have* to work. That excuse is gone, because mathematically I don’t have to work.
There are a number of issues at work that I’m beyond frustrated about, most of which I won’t discuss until after I leave. These are legitimate issues causing poor shareholder performance and finally requiring the company to admit they need to hire some outside advisers to help them address it.
I still sometimes question the source of my frustration. Is the frustration because I’m past the point of tolerating what I used to tolerate? Am I frustrated because I know the solutions but I am unwilling to play the politics to make it to the next level where I might impact change? Have things really changed that much or has the lens I view this through changed? I was at a large work meeting that had a mix of upper management and middle management. I would watch packs of people congregate around certain members of upper management and wonder to myself “is either side really enjoying this”.
It’s difficult to pretend to care. I’ll have the boss come up to me wanting me to be excited about “something” going on at the company or some deal that I’m working on. I’ve been working in the same line of business for fifteen years, usually that “something” the company has come up with is out of the same old/tired playbook and I’ve seen how it’ll fail. Specific “deals” that will help clients are nice, but don’t bring the level of excitement they once did. Something that may seem like a huge deal to an outsider, but it is only an incremental 1-2% of my total output in my career. This tells me if I were to ever consider staying employed, it is time to do something else.
Vicki Robin reminds us in Your Money Or Your Life about the story of the stone cutters: Stone cutter one views his job as pounding away at a rock. Stone cutter number two views his job as a noble profession that’s well paying so he can take care of his family. The third stone cutter proudly enjoys his work declaring that he is building a cathedral. Work must serve a purpose and its difficult to find that level of purpose in my current work.
I am also hesitant to take on commitments (or new employees) that are coming to me. Potential employees are the most challenging since a number of people want to make the decision to come and work on my team. It would be disingenuous to recruit them and immediately leave. I have similar debates with some client and not for profit commitments. I am able to dodge some things but I can’t dodge everything since I have to keep my plans under wraps. not everything. Unfortunately the culture at my company does not allow me to declare my “retirement” five months in advance. They either wouldn’t believe I’m actually retiring and going to work for a competitor or would just want me gone to get me out of the bonus pool.
As I write this, there are under twenty two weeks left until I give the retirement notice. I thought part of working an additional nine months would be to go and take a nice 1-2 week trip with some of the vacation time. That is turning out to be harder to stomach than I thought. Why is that? Half a year is a lot closer than it seems when you’re planning out a trip. Do we really want to spend all that money for flights, animal boarding, rental car, hotels, for a one week trip when we’re less than six months away from being able to slow travel? If we take an eight day vacation, but the travel time is six to twelve hours all in in either direction, do we want to give up a half to full day on either end? I don’t want to feel like I’m putting life on hold, but the economics and enjoyment should be drastically improved next year.
I recently connected with an old mentor of mine. He was passed up for a promotion two summers ago and this was his final shot of making that promotion (due to a combination of age and self-imposed geographic restrictions). He was already financially independent but decided to continue to work for another nine months for similar financial reasons as I am. We were talking and I asked him directly “how difficult was it to hang in there for another nine months?” He replied: “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my career”. I was surprised. He spent over thirty years working for multiple companies, leaders, and through three major recessions, but chose to describe that last nine months at the company as the toughest in his career.
One More Year is not as easy as numbers on a spreadsheet. I may not be working a full additional year, but I’ve found that knowing I’m *done* makes it difficult to be anything other than *done*. Am I selling an additional nine months of my life for no reason? What if the market does average to better than average? What if I back into a side income that lowers my withdraw rate? Then the additional time would be for nothing (unless I want that private island).