Stop Ironing Shirts

Achieving Financial Independence Through Corporate Employment

I Gave My Early Retirement Notice….and Live Tweeted It

I turned in my early retirement notice and live tweeted it! 

Background

I’ve always wanted to be financially independent. Late in my teenage years I figured out that having money is better than not having money.  In my early finance classes, I would run some compound interest caluclators in college and figure out how much I needed to save so I could retire by 40.  We were pretty frugal in our 20s and income accelerated in our early 30s, which when combined with a good market allowed us to hit financial independence.

I graduated college and went to work for a Bank’s traning program.  I’ve always liked my job,  I got exposed to entrepreneurs and a few original early retirees.  Get paid to solve problems?  Sign me up!  If a business needed money and was likely to pay us back, and I had to figure out how to make an acceptable deal for both sides.  Later on in my career, I took a leadership job and I enjoyed helping motivated people grow in their career. At the same time I got to meet and see exponentially more entrepreneurs as I looked at all the deals my team was bringing in and met their customers. I also had the benefit of spending more than half of my career working for a couple of great leaders.

Related:

Unfortunately the last couple of years were tough, between dealing with a medical issue and with the workplace becoming more toxic.  Like many companies, there were tough decisions that had to be made.  Instead of going and and making the long-term decisions, the company would evade those choices and and pull maneuvers to meet quarterly earnings.  Instead of running a long term business, everything became short-term focused.   Each analyst call or investor presentation included more and more “adjusted” numbers and “one time” charges.   Hiring freezes would start, expense pressures, then the year-end layoffs which would always hit families at Christmas.   The company I was once proud of working for had become another large lumbering corporation.  

We hit our financial independence number at the end of June 2018, where we could comfortably live on a 4% withdraw rate.  However, there were economic reasons that were compelling to make it another nine months.  That time didn’t seem that long, especially since four to five weeks of those could be used as vacation plus seven straight months from September through February included some type of federal holiday. 

During this time period I engineered a demotion.  I was able to lateral my salary into a role with less than half of the responsibility and go work on a friend of mine’s team instead of working in the other role.   I was able to slowly wind out of my management responsibility and transition to a new team.   In this move, my prior boss became my “grand boss”.

The early retirement noticed needed to stay quiet until a certain Friday to ensure I met the milestones necessary for restricted stock, so I was careful with this information.  Keeping this anonymous blog was a nice outlet to avoid talking to people where the news could get back to my company.

At the request of many readers and for entertainment purposes, I live tweeted the process of giving my early retirement notice. 

 

The Early Retirement Live Tweets

 

Friday:  First order of business was breakfast with a co-worker who was recently an employee of mine in a management role.  I had tactfully put this breakfast off because I couldn’t in good conscience try to give him insight into the company that he would be asking for.   

This was difficult.  It was the first person I told directly “I’m going to do this” when the early retirement was eminent.  He was supportive and agreed to hold the news while it disseminated out.

Now it was time to head to the office and have a little break in the action before a lunch I had tactfully scheduled with the boss for Friday.   

One of my favorite quotes of all time involves a great philosopher from the 1980s, Mr. Mike Tyson.   During a press conference with a mid-career Iron Mike, the opponent is asked how he is going to win and the opponent gives a long answer about strategy, tactics, and techniques.   When the guy is finished, Mike looks at him and responds “Everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face”.   

My plans were just derailed – the boss wouldn’t be in today due to mechanical problems on a Honda Oddesey.  The family minivan needs to be repaired!   

I immediately know what this means, there’s not a chance he’ll be back in the office later today and my timeline and plan is going to be ruined.   Employees have resigned while working for me and I always appreciated advance notice.  I didn’t want the first conversation to be with a letter in hand, so I needed to get this information to him before Monday.    It was time to make this happen.

I slip out of the building and head home for lunch.   I’m not looking forward to it, but I finally make the phone call saying “I think we need to catch up in person, I’m going to resign on Monday and need to talk with you”.   After the initial disappointment and realizing its early retirement, we arrange plans to catch up in the afternoon.  

We met and talked, it went well.  Talked about some initial ideas on last dates, how to position this to the grand boss, and we discuss the big concern:  This is an actual retirement, what message do we send publicly?   Day 1 was complete and I start feeling relief.  Its time to do what I’ve done much of my working career on a Friday, date night at our favorite place.

Sunday:

I was planning on sending a message to the grand boss on Sunday so he would not be surprised by the retirement notice.  The boss and I talked Sunday morning and we decided that he would tell the grand boss on Monday but only after he had a notice signed and in writing.   This sadistic plan tweeted here was not meant to be (grand boss is EVP referenced): 

The plan was for me to email a notice, then I would tell our small team during our weekly sales meeting Monday morning.  Boss would tell grand boss prior to the meeting.  We decided jointly to own the word retirement. 

No matter what, someone with my seniority and tenure leaving will create a lot of chatter.  I’d rather have the chatter be “holy crap, how is he retiring” than speculating on anything else.   Some people may have thought this was medical, but I wanted to make that clear.  People at work will see us on social media hiking mountains in the near future!

Monday

I was sitting around a conference table, watching the normal weekly meeting play out in slow motion.  He was going to call on me to make my announcement.   The boss said “Shirts has something to announce”.  I have no idea what I managed to say, but got out the word “retirement” and watched the faces around the room.  

The meeting was dismissed and there was a blur of conversation.  Some in disbelief, others fascinated, but overall publicly everyone in the room was supportive.  One of the assistants immediately nicknamed me “rockstar” and loved the chaos of a 36yr old saying “I’m done, I don’t need this place anymore”.

Now that the news was semi-public, I rush to send text messages or make phone calls to friends I want to hear from me before an email.  I do this quickly over the next hour while also having a few people stopping by.  The rest of the office floor didn’t know, but news would be leaking out.  Ironically one of the most surprised people held the title of Wealth Management.  Of all folks, they should know the math that makes this possible!

There was still at least one meeting I was kind of dreading, the EVP stopping by.  We’ve had a good relationship, but it hasn’t always been easy.  I have disagreed with some of the decisions the company is making and some of the short-term decisions he’s made that were not in the best interest of the division.  He was the choice for that job from the higher ups and there was nothing I could to do to change that.  Would I still have retired if it was someone else?  Maybe or maybe not.   We may have disagreed about how to operate the business, but he is not a jerk.   

I went and had lunch with the boss after I met with the EVP.   It was pretty clear he was enjoying the idea and what he was about to do.  He’s not a traditional stodgy banker and was pretty excited to send something out this shocking to 400+ people in the division.   A 36 year old declaring retirement?  How many times do you get to do that in your career!

I reviewed the announcement email he was going to send out and he sent it out to the division.   My phone/email started blowing up, but it was a giant weight lifted off of my chest.   A decade and a half of savings, two plus years of planning, nearly six months after starting the process to maneuver out of my management job, the news was finally out there:  I don’t have to do this anymore.   This was public.  There was a future ahead with no more mundane performance reports, dumb arguments between departments, or watching people promoted above their capacity.  This company and this job was officially “not my monkey, not my circus”.   

The process wasn’t complete, but the biggest hurdle was complete.   The company knew!  Emails and messages were still slowly trickling in.  Friends start calling me telling me about people who called them to ask “what is he really doing?” and people who’s brain kept saying “Does not compute, does not compute” about how someone could retire at this age.   The funniest was one person asked “Have you ever heard of the FIRE movement?”.   That was fun trying to answer that question!

Tuesday and beyond:

Next up were clients and external partners I’ve worked with.

I didn’t sleep too well the night before giving my notice and I didn’t sleep exceptionally well the next day.  I realized on the 2nd day this was adrenaline and excitement!   

A lot of people asked questions that I didn’t have exact answers to yet, like “are you going to move?” and “what are you going to do?”.    I gave plenty of answers and they weren’t the same to others.  I told many people “there’s no such think as the retirement police that’ll come and arrest me if I take up hobby work”.   I told another person that “I have enough, and I’m not trying to punch a high score before going into the graveyard” when asked how I could leave such a good paying job.   At the end of the week, the best way I could describe my thoughts was this analogy:

The weeks following were at a more measured pace in winding down the job through my thirty day notice.   I wasn’t walked out immediately and allowed to “work” for thirty days.  It was odd though as 75% of an already reduced level of responsibility just dissipated.   The only thing left to do was making a few introductions and managing one deal through the process.   The phone calls slowed down and I’m starting to realize how little I’m going to miss the job.   If my biggest challenge is figuring out how to fill the daytime hours Monday through Friday, then that’s a challenge I’m ready to tackle!

 

 

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19 Comments

  1. Todd

    God, I love these types of posts! Congrats! And I’d love to hear more about that convo with the the coworker who asked about FIRE. It would have been awesome to lean in and just whisper, “stopironingshirts.com” and smile

    • Thank you! I’ve enjoyed a lot of the people who’ve asked me questions. Some need more discipline in their spending (I’ve said “this is a game won in little decisions every day”), others need comfort in managing their own index funds instead of turning over 1% to an advisor annually. I’ve not been willing to give out my site (yet), but I think the day is coming.

  2. Congratulations and good luck! Looking forward to following your news!

  3. Congratulations! Posts like these are awesome to read. I feel you on working for a company who can only see far enough to cover the quarter and make all the big wigs happy with the 3 month numbers. Luckily our company pulled out of being public and the toxic aura that surrounded going public is starting to dissipate.

    • Mr. Shirts

      Thank you! I’m glad I was able to post some tweets as I was going through it, that made it so much easier to re-write the recap and appreciate it three weeks later.

      Congrats on the company going private – the ability to operate long-term is wonderful. I don’t necessarily think being public is bad, but having a CEO who lacks confidence is. Tell the market your long term vision and be confident in telling investors they can be along for the ride or not, its their choice, but here’s where we’re going. The best CEOs lead with long-term vision and not squeaking out an an extra penny one quarter and filling up a PowerPoint full of excuses when they don’t.

      Panera Bread and Dominos were two great performing stocks in the last decade. Panera’s CEO publicly called the ordering / pickup process a “mosh pit”and the Domnios CEO right when he took over said “our Pizza can’t taste like cardboard”. Smart people rally around honesty and a vision.

  4. Congratulations! I look forward to your journey after full-time work. It’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

    It’ll be natural to second-guess yourself, so don’t worry. Go towards things you really wanna do.

    Sam

    • Thanks Sam. Its been a neat journey, Like you I’m also a Virginia state-school grad that made it up the ranks of finance against folks with a lot more education and letters behind their name.

      Time to enjoy whatever comes next!

  5. That’s awesome! Your post made me wonder how I’d approach the last day of 9-to-5 life (still far from now). Out of all people, I thought finance professionals are those most familiar with the “retiring in your 30s” scenario. Good luck and look forward to reading about your journey in retirement!

    • I’m amazed at the number of people in finance who don’t do the basics right. Plenty of my counterparts are making great incomes, know their way around money, but making the same mistakes with investing I see novices make (high fee advisers and holding too much cash because they’re worried about the market going down).

  6. Congrats on your decision! Looking forward to your updates.

  7. Loved reading it, congratulations for your achievement!
    now you can stop ironing… suits 😀

  8. That was awesome!
    It makes me think also of how much we think a job cares about us. Or how indispensable we think we are to a company, when in reality once you are gone “another monkey comes in, and the circus carries on.”
    Best luck! I am sure you won’t look back.

    • Mr. Shirts

      “How indispensable we think we are” – I slowly came to terms with that over the last year. I watched a friend of mine need to move for family reasons and they announced his replacement before even telling him if he had secured the new position with the company. We lost a 35yr old guy in the investments space and it was less than a week after his funeral they were interviewing his replacement.

      I was but a small cog in a giant machine. I prefer being on the investor side and owning a piece of the machine!

      • Congratulations. Agree on the ‘disposability’. I remember in my 20’s, I was a year into my first job out of college. I was being recruited to become a financial analyst and my future mentor must have sensed I was stressed about leaving my job. I think I was worried about screwing over my old company or something. He said, “listen, this place would go on without me”. Hearing a director level person that I really looked up to say really hit home from some reason. Enjoy your time!

        • We really are disposable to our companies regardless of what we think. It took me a long time to fully accept that we all need to be “in the business of me”. Business is providing value for value and that must go both ways at all times.

  9. Joe

    Congratulations! I’m looking forward to reading more about life after retirement.
    Your process seems longer than necessary. I just handed in my 2 week notice and I checked out mentally. It’s good that you’re more considerate.

  10. Congratulations, Shirts!

    I hope you enjoy your early retirement. Hiking is so much fun. A couple months ago, I had my first hiking experience. I can’t wait to do it again!

    -Jerry

  11. Such a great story to read. Watching it unfold with tweets acting as punctuation marks and road markers was a beautiful Literary device.

    Retirement at 36? I can’t even conceive of that at 56 (4 years on my horizon)

    I am, like others who have commented before me, looking forward to your next chapters

    Shaun

  12. Mark

    Hey man it’s Bateaux from MMM. Just catching up on you, looks like it’s goimg great. We’re in the transition now. Not as young as you, at 51 now ours will be a closer to normal age retirement. We’ve bought our retirement home in Florida and have it almost ready to go. I’m still in 12 to 18 months away and ok with that. If you ever want to backpack hit me up. I’m headed out to the Smokies in September.

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