Reflections on the First Month(ish) of Early Retirement

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I’ve officially been retired for fourteen days.  My employer and I agreed to a five week notice period, the first two were pretty busy and the last three had minimal actual work and helped ease into early retirement, so all in its been roughly a month without paid work.  Sitting here on our third trip in a month, I was reflecting on my way too early thoughts about early retirement:


Traveling without worrying about vacation days is wonderful.  Sitting in the breakfast area of business traveler hotel and watching others rush off to work brings a special level of satisfaction to me.

The early travelling is happening a bit too fast.   We want to travel slower.  We went on a whirlwind celebration trip for the first five days and am typing this from another. Hotel to hotel carries its exhaustion vs planting ourselves in an AirBNB. We have a lot of hotel points and other travel rewards that we are exhausting, but I am looking forward to slower travel.  Part of our travel is right now is exploring possible destinations to move to, which is a little different than full on tourist travel.

Daily Routine

Waking up without an alarm clock is great. I’ve been waking up around 6:45 most mornings to daylight and without a bunch of stuff on my mind.  I’ve not been worried about what time to get to sleep and been able to watch some playoff hockey game finish without concerns about how late its going.

One appointment a day is about our limit and I saw this written by another early retiree at some point too.  10:30am has been an ideal time to take care of a doctor’s appointment, meet someone about the house, ect.  Most mornings look like waking up without an alarm clock, drinking some coffee, making a high quality breakfast, walking the dog, then having whatever outside appointment we need to do.  I can’t see how a 10:30am “start” time will ever get old.

The gym is awesome at 3:30pm. That’s the right time for our non-running workouts.  People are slowly filtering in post-work but not packed like 5:30. We’re not working out hungry for dinner and its keeping dinner around the same time.  I think eating dinner at a reasonable hour has gone a long way towards sleep improvement.  

Moving/Listing a House:

Geographic arbitrage has its stress.  We put a coming soon sign in front of the house while we worked on a few things and the market is pretty good.  We got one offer pre-listing and two on the first weekend it hit the market.  Selling a house comes with stress.  Add to it that its an older house and at least 2x the price of what we want to pay for the next house.  Do we take the offer? Do we counter? We don’t even have our final destination picked out! (Not sold yet fortunately). 

We are getting better at prepping the house now that we’re getting past showing #10 – there’s been a lot of small work going into the house in real time that’s created some stress.

Mrs Shirts and I discussed the price and various offers, we ultimately decided the house is listed for a fair price and we don’t *have* to move today if we don’t get the price we want. The cost of staying in a higher cost of living area is minimal in the short run compared to getting $20,000 less in proceeds than we’d like.

Work (or lack there of) reflections:

The process of retiring from work and is already generating a lot of thoughts and reflections.  I miss giving advice to coworkers and clients.  Being looked to as a subject expert was/is fulfilling, but that’s about the only thing I miss.  The time has also allowed for a lot of reflection of things I didn’t like. I’m certain even if I didn’t retire early, it would have been time to change companies.

I am appreciating my disdain for both corporate politics and dumb people. In fact, dealing with both is the equivalent of being tortured daily. I got used to it and accepted dealing with it, the relief of NOT putting up with either is incredibly refreshing.

The quality of leader I worked for impacted my happiness. There’s a saying in business that says “10 hire 10s, but 7s hire 5s.” Well, 10s also only work for 10s. My last EVP didn’t have a mean bone in his body, but was not effective at coaching and rewarding his employees. The best leaders are also a great coach.   The mediocre ones say things like “Its a large company, these are just things you have to accept”.

Speaking of stuff I’m thrilled to be away from, it’s wasteful administrative work.  I want to share one of the most absurd examples of wasteful administrative work.  I worked in banking and we would be told by our EVP that “we need deposits”. My team would find a business with significant cash and the market rate on a savings account would be 2.25%.  We’re in the business of money, so you either pay the market rate or you don’t.   Well instead of just offering 2.2% or 2.3% to acquire the deposits, our “rate desk” would offer 2.15%, then ask for a lengthy memo of all the other business we *might* get to approve the 2.25% they should have offered to begin with.  Then to make things worse, they would lecture my team on how to sell, even though this desk never actually talked to customers. It was if you had to bow down to this alter of sacrifice to get approved what should have been offered to begin with.  

Often they would just decline to offer the price to get the business and decry the market as “irriational”. That didn’t stop the EVP and the “desk” would get on a conference call and have a threatening call with everyone for our “lack of deposit performance.”  I like to say every job has its share of turd sandwiches.   This was one of many I had to eat.   

Then there were the conference calls.  almost all of which involved more people than were necessary to get a deal done.  The beeping, the barking dogs in the background, the people driving while trying to take the call, and the conclusion of indecision.   Never underestimate the stupidity that can come out of a large group of people.

What is the attitude of former employees?

Are former employees from the company I worked for angry?  This is one of the more interesting questions I’ve received.   Another person said he thought a lot of people that left held anger and resentment towards the company and asked me and asked me what I thought.  I told him that I wasn’t angry, but disappointed at how the reward system was setup at work and that I stayed in it for so long.  The company had a promotion based reward system.   This meant manager after manager promised people promotions in the future for work completed today.  The problem was there were far fewer positions available than what were promised to people as the company’s growth slowed.  All these promises were coming to surface over the past couple years and long term, talented, and loyal people were leaving.

I was aware of two people who were directly promised the next job by someone in upper management only then to be told “it’s not you”.  How many opportunities did these people walk away from based on the trust and promise from their leader?  Many of these people moved geographically for the company at great expense to their family.  What sacrifices did their spouse make in their career to support their partner to move?  What about moving kids away from their friends and familiar school  for a company based on a promise of being taken care of in the future?  Unfortunately many of these promises were made by people accumulating talent around them while trying to advance their own career.

Then there are others like me who realized when they hit 30, 35, or 40 that the lifestyle of the EVP job is actually miserable and no longer appealing.  Do I really want to give a MegaCorp that much control over my life? Beware of cultures that are on promotion based rewards vs rewarding high performers in the present and giving them a pleasant job experience.  If I needed a reminder of just how much a large company “cares” about you, this happened:

The first letter I get in the mail isn’t my COBRA enrollment information, details on my deferred compensation, or a thank you for your sixteen years of service and tens of millions of dollars I helped make the company.  No, its a letter specifically documenting the forfeiture of thousands of shares of restricted stock “due to my termination”*.   This was the most urgent priority between all the departments that a former employee interacts with in the company.   This just further reinforces I was due for a change even if I was still going to continue to work.  I feel bad for many of the remaining employees at the company who have this false sense of family, culture, and loyalty.   There is no loyalty and they may be relying on those same promotion based promises.

Final Thoughts:

Its still way too early to evaluate this early retirement thing, I can’t say it feels too much different than being on vacation.  So far there’s been zero sense of boredom and no sign of it in the near future.  I’m sure there will be some moments of stress with the house and eventual move, but handling most days on a great night’s sleep, good food, and consistent exercise has been awesome thus far.  I’ve also appreciated taking a step back from the work chaos and having others control my schedule.  I wasn’t retiring early, I still needed some time away from work to take a break then evaluate other opportunities.  The advantage of financial independence or a decent sized emergency fund is not having to immediately into the next job.  I highly recommend it!


* Ironically I would have grounds to challenge this termination of restricted stock since I retired early instead of resigning.  They’ve been granting restricted stock to others left and right for layoffs and its unlikely my position will be filled and I’d have to find one of those contingency employment attorneys to help me.  The problem is I’m both financially independent and feeling a little lazy – I don’t need the money and attempting to challenge this sounds too much like work/effort.   Any advice here would be appreciated!

12 Replies to “Reflections on the First Month(ish) of Early Retirement”

  1. Whew, that’s a lot of travel in a short time. I’d be exhausted too! The idea of slow travel is very appealing to me too. What would need to be true for you to call a trip “slow travel”?

    Bureaucracy is one of the things that I have the shorted patience for. Between that and unkept promises, that’s a tough environment. Even working with people who might be great humans, it’s impossible to get the most out of a team like that. It’s one of the things I’m most happy to say goodbye to.

    1. I think a minimum of one week in a place with a full kitchen, ideally a minimum of two. Looking at renting a condo for a month in Hawaii next winter, that’s a bit slower!

      I think a lot of the people who either become entrepreneurs or opt out of the corporate world via Early Retirement have little tolerance for those two things

  2. I have successfully achieved withheld commmission from a megacorp with a good employment law attorney and a strong demand letter. I would give it a shot. You have the time and bandwidth to chase after it. If you don’t need the $, you could consider donating it to a worthy cause. The megacorp I dealth with easily calculated it was better to pay me what I was due than risk proper litigation.

    1. I would need to find myself a good employment law attorney. Its something that’s presented as regular compensation, has clauses accelerating it at early retirement, and they’ve been accelerating it for lots of people via the involuntary termination clause through layoffs. There no definition of age in the annual document we sign, but it was buried inside an original agreement. I’ve thought some about the donation side, that’s interesting too. I haven’t written it off, but it is something that I’ll give a little time on and consider more when bandwidth appears.

  3. Just found your blog through Physician on Fire (thanks, PoF) and look forward to hearing how this first year goes for you. So much of what you’ve written above resonates:

    – I attended a national sales meeting during which the Chief Risk Officer tried to convince us that he really was All About Growth: if we would just bring him the deals that fit our very conservative risk profile, he would happily approve them. (Oh! So that’s our problem: we’re ignoring the obviously many deals that fit the profile and instead electing to bring you the deals that don’t. Because we enjoy earning sales commissions the hard way.)

    – “’10 hire 10s, but 7s hire 5s.’ Well, 10s also only work for 10s.” This is so true! And even if one can build out the 10s in one’s own department, one still must interface with the 7 and 5s departments … leading to much of the administrivia.

    Agree with those above – you should give it a shot. Don’t wait too long. What’s the worst that can happen?

    1. That sounds about like our big sales meetings and calls: “The issue is the sales people just aren’t calling enough”. Well sir, let me go out back and shake my deal tree harder and find exactly what you’re looking for.

      I’m glad you found my blog, its been fun to talk to a bunch of the other corporate warriors figuring out how high they want to get and how long they want to do this.

      1. Those comments always showed the internal teams’ fundamental failure to understand sales motivation. Salespeople are water running down hill – they take the route with the least obstacles to the destination; they’re not looking to earn their commission the hard way.

        And 100% on the how high/how long: we’re re-running the cash flow and scenario analysis with the CFP as we debate One More Year. Don’t have to make a decision until next vesting season, so plenty of time. We’re in the midst of a re-org, so we’ll see how the leadership piece shakes out and what promotional opportunities (or layoffs) come up. Who knows? Maybe it will get fun? One can always hope.

  4. Such a relevant article that struck many chords with me. We made a similar decision to leave MegaCorp after 12 years. After weighing the options between holding out for more money / bigger title or taking the precious years we have been given in life and doing something meaningful, we chose the latter. Maybe it was the decade of semi-satisfying work, watching hundreds of loyal employees around me get treated like disposable labor, or having a wife working with trauma patients. Whatever it was, we chose what seemed to be the only reasonable option and retired in search of fulfillment.

    Unfortunately for many people, the good paycheck means a larger lifestyle. Fancier cars, bigger house, etc. This cycle forces them to rely on their paycheck, effectively trapping them into a lifetime of work. We were fortunate have been raised to understand TVM and were comfortable living with less, which allowed us to safely leave in our early 30s.

    In the two years since our departure, we’ve had more experiences than we otherwise could have fit into a lifetime built around 1 and 2 week vacations. We got to spend time traveling with our aging parents, ensuring that we won’t regret missing these opportunities later. After meeting our two families on a combined 5 continents, our departure has not only enriched our lives but also those of the people around us.

    It’s sad that so many people will forever follow the empty promises of their own MegaCorp despite all evidence pointing to the contrary. Changing course takes just a few major life decisions. 1.) Learn to live with less. No need for the nicest / newest / most expensive. Billions of people manage every day with a fraction of what we take for granted at home. 2.) Spend as little of your income as possible. The easiest way to get rich is not by making more money, but by living like you’re poor. 3.) Invest everything you save in appreciable assets.

    In short, congratulations on your well deserved early retirement. We fully support your decision to leave. Walking away from that safety net takes courage and is often not understood by people still living the “normal” life. But as you noted, the first communication received from your former employer clearly illustrates how shallow the lifetime relationship really was.

    1. Thanks for the message, those are great points! I also recommend world travelling and seeing people who are completely happy living on a fraction of what people live on in the United States. Earning $40,000 or so puts someone in the top one percent of income earners in the world, yet I see people making multiples of that living paycheck to paycheck.

      Another early retiree called time turning into “reverse dog years”. I love that anaolgy, every year starts feeling like seven because you are in control of your time.

  5. Great blog. I’ve been indulging for the last day or so. I had a somewhat similar situation, left my career two years ago from a bank. Have you considered selling the house and RVing across the US? It’s an amazing experience to get outside and see the US parks. It’s a big change from city living but it’s pretty amazing experience.

    1. Thanks for reading. Its certainly on our list/radar, I’m thinking about doing a couple week rental with one or even buying an RV and doing a couple month road trip one summer and seeing if its for us. I was in the Moab Desert and saw all the small RVs pulling a Jeep and daydreamed about doing it!

      1. Moab is incredible place for RVing. We spent a month there last spring, biking, hiking, etc. We went back this winter to explore an empty park. It’s such a great experience, out in the desert. We tow a CRV, and would love a Jeep. Can’t justify the costs.

        Good luck with selling the house and adjusting to the new lifestyle. Any ideas on future plans?

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