I turned in my early retirement notice and live tweeted it!
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.
- Early Retirement Decisions: One More Year
- Take a Long Vacation Before Early Retirement
- Reactions to a 36 Year Old’s Retirement
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.
Conversation #1 went well, breakfast w/previous employee of mine who tried an early retirement at 54. Supportive and discussed pitfalls. Great to tell someone I’ve wanted to for months #stoptheironing— Stop(ped) Ironing Shirts (@StIroningShirts) March 15, 2019
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.
Brief slowdown in the workday, two hours or so before I break the news to the boss. Wild to think this has been my employer/identity since May of 2002 #stoptheironing— Stop(ped) Ironing Shirts (@StIroningShirts) March 15, 2019
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!
Best laid plans go sideways – Boss cancelled lunch and had to work out of another office. Going to have to tell him by phone and drive out there this afternoon 🤷♂️ #stoptheironing— Stop(ped) Ironing Shirts (@StIroningShirts) March 15, 2019
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.
F$&! It’s becoming clear to me I have to start by telling the boss via phone to make this timeline work. Thoughts and prayers… #stoptheironing— Stop(ped) Ironing Shirts (@StIroningShirts) March 15, 2019
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.
Day 1 professionally is done. Time to celebrate with a trip to the gym and a fine date night at Chick Fil A. #stoptheironing— Stop(ped) Ironing Shirts (@StIroningShirts) March 15, 2019
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):
Weekend plan: Notify EVP and former boss/current c-suite executive. Will ironically send EVP message at 3pm on Sunday, same time he peppered us with performance dissertations 😂 #stoptheironing— Stop(ped) Ironing Shirts (@StIroningShirts) March 15, 2019
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!
Announcing this to a group of 10 people in person in the next hour. Time to own the retirement! #stoptheironing— Stop(ped) Ironing Shirts (@StIroningShirts) March 18, 2019
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.
Mixed reactions but mostly celebration. 33yr old coworker seemed most fascinated #stoptheironing— Stop(ped) Ironing Shirts (@StIroningShirts) March 18, 2019
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.
EVP was gracious and they used the term early retirement in the first announcement. Think that term will go to the wider division. This day is turning out to be pretty damn good #stoptheironing— Stop(ped) Ironing Shirts (@StIroningShirts) March 18, 2019
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!
Division wide email soon, boss seems to be enjoying the idea he gets to send this email out for the shock value 🤣 #stoptheironing— Stop(ped) Ironing Shirts (@StIroningShirts) March 18, 2019
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”.
Official announcement is out, today has exceeded my expectations #stoptheironing— Stop(ped) Ironing Shirts (@StIroningShirts) March 18, 2019
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.
Second straight day of being wide awake at 4:30am…but wide awake for the excitement, anticipation, and Hawaiian coffee! There's four or so external business relationships to tell today. Let the fun begin #stoptheironing— Stop(ped) Ironing Shirts (@StIroningShirts) March 19, 2019
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:
What does the first week declaring early retirement feel like? A 3yr old sprinting towards the deep end of the pool right after learning to swim (with a bigass grin on his face!)#stoptheironing— Stop(ped) Ironing Shirts (@StIroningShirts) March 20, 2019
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!