Working After Financial Independence: The Good and the Bad

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I recently saw a question come up asking “What are the Pros and Cons of continuing to work after reaching Financial Independence?.   Many of us get into the One More Year scenario and everyone can respond in different ways.  Some people can reduce their schedule to part time while others can really enjoy that final year, taking in the nostalgia of each event.   I am heading into my last year after reaching financial independence and wanted to share some of our experiences:

So tell me, what exactly do you do here?

The Positives

Prioritization:  We went through an issue that dragged on for a lot of 2017 that made working difficult.  We were exposed to other people going through this who also had financial stress and job worries.  We just didn’t have that stress, money was never a question.  It allowed focus on what’s important and break some of my workaholic tendencies.  I did what I could for work, but had a good team that I had helped build and trusted them to do their jobs.

Feedback:  I am more open with feedback at work, I developed what a peer described to me as the “superman” mentality, which is to no longer worry that there is someone waiting in the wings to rip their shirt off and reveal a superman logo and take my job.  I’m one of a hundred people or so in my position in the company and would probably rank well in performance and ability.  There’s a fine line between complaining and feedback and its an art to make sure people know its coming form the best of intentions.

Schedule Discipline:  I am getting more disciplined with my schedule at work.  There are things I like to do and things I don’t like to do that don’t really have an immediate impact.  Some tasks I used to do were long term business development functions and others were about building political capital in the company.  Since both are becoming less valuable each month, I do less of the things I don’t enjoy.   This means less “howdy doodie” visits with existing clients just because an employee asks, less after work networking events, and only taking the most important meetings.   One of my commitments for 2018 is to use breakfast for business development meetings and stop by the house for lunch with Mrs. Shirts.

Spending Habits:   We debate getting looser on spending, but its hard to change a scarcity mindset.  When you don’t need the money and are in the last year of your career, the compounding effect of investment earnings you aren’t living on PLUS a paycheck is almost ridiculous and the small stuff matters less.   Will we paying a little more to fly direct?  Sure.   I don’t think we enjoy cleaning the house, is it the worst thing ever to hire a housekeeper to come in twice a month if it provides peace and happiness in the last year?  Maybe we will, maybe we won’t.

Tax Optimization:  I’m fortunate to have a nice deferred complete plan, now that I’ve hit my FI number and have good taxable savings, I’ve ramped that amount way up and defer over 40% of my compensation.  This will then get paid out over 15 years when I leave work.  We never would have been comfortable doing this high of a deferral rate unless we already had a cushion of savings.

The Negatives of Continuing to Work

One More Year:  I know I’m potentially giving the best year of my health for money our family may not need.   That’s challenging to stomach and  I keep two potential dates in my head just in case work becomes intolerable.  Something is irritating every week that makes me think about that earlier date or even considering a fully funded lifestyle change.   I debated this quite a bit when considering if I should work one more year.

Vacations:  Scheduling out my vacation is frustrating because I only have so many days, even though I always do some minimal work on vacation (there are just yes/no decisions that are easy for me to make quick).  I enjoy having a flexible schedule and am probably a better fit as an entrepreneur or outright retired..

Career Advancement:  I’m still frustrated about my particular job level, even though I shouldn’t be.  It’s an interesting and conflicting set of thoughts.  I know I’m outperforming peers and while many are compensated higher with less responsibility.  Its not about needing the money, but the money just becomes a scorecard for how I am valued.  My spouse reminds me constantly that I’m insane to even worry given what I make, but alas comparison is the thief of joy.

Disclosure:  I really wish I could tell my boss and a few corporate sponsors, they’ve been great advocates but there’s a fine line to walk between showing interest in the next level job and just telling them I want to complete the retirement early part of financial independence.  It is tempting to attempt to engineer my own layoff, but it also exposes me to being released easier with cause and not paying a severance.  It would be nice for my management chain to know as they could send the restricted stock pool to other coworkers who would actually see that money.  I’m going to forfeit a chunk of restricted stock back to the company when I resign.

Professional Identity:  I’ve been identified as XX from ABC Company for a long time.  I know there’s more I can do and make a bigger impact in the company, but my job and position doesn’t define who I am.  Developing an identity outside of the work position will be interesting.

Succession:  I love the team I work with and who leads them in the future matters to me.  I was grooming someone to take my place, but he just accepted a promotion to another team.  I will have to transition my relationship from employer to friend with most of these folks and wish I had more control over choosing who replaces me.

So what does this all mean?

These are real thoughts that pass through at this stage, there are benefits of working without worrying about the consequences of being fired, but as a leader there is a burden knowing you won’t be there in the future for people you care about.  These are what I call success problems, but still thoughts that pass through my mind at this stage.

Have you experienced similar thoughts?  Have you continued working after achieving your original number?  Please comment and share below.

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10 Replies to “Working After Financial Independence: The Good and the Bad”

  1. I haven’t hit our FI number but during the O&G downturn and layoffs, we were positioned so much better than our peers that it wasn’t quite as stressful. I have found that being within a yr or 2 of FIRE that my attitude, like yours, has changed.

    I’m more open with honest but not mean feedback, I don’t take anything personal, and I keep reminding myself and others, it’s just work. It’s been way more easy at the office and it was pretty easy before that. I get where you’re coming from for sure. I agree that it’s nice being in that position.

    1. Thanks for reading SSC, I may declare a fully funded lifestyle change instead of retirement next year thanks to you coining that phrase!

      I personally struggle the most with “reminding myself it’s just work.” That’s just difficult, especially working in an industry full of these folks and rising because I’ve beat them out in performance.

  2. Until recently I went thru the same thing and a lot of the same emotions. It’s hard to just leave sometimes, it’s not all about the money!
    But a few months ago, we were told our company is being shut down within the year so the decision was made for me! I am actually working on a post to show on that is affecting me.

    1. Thanks for reading! I have to say I’ve been a bit envious of some other folks at my level in different divisions who’ve received a layoff + severance. It makes the decision for them and provides a nice runway into whatever their next step in life is.

  3. I’m really struggling with this. We are past our FI number and my wife and I keep plugging along. I think your identity gets wrapped up in what you do.

  4. I worked well past FI, I am slightly early retired now but I could have left years earlier. But I didn’t because I liked the celebrity status of being slightly famous because of my job. Plus the money was huge compared to my normal previous compensation. Plus I was having so much fun! Until it wore thin and it stopped being fun, and I walked away. Maybe I left at the sweet spot or maybe I wasted a few years deluded by vanity. I honestly don’t know.

    1. We are all faced with the “what-ifs” of our decisions, I think all you can do is be confident that you made the best decision you could based on the information you had at that time.

  5. Have you checked out the blog by “Financial Samurai?” He has an e-Book and consults on how to orchestrate your layoff and severance package like he did. It might be worth checking out since you have an interest in this area.

    1. I’ve started reading and listening to his stuff. ER Dude pulled off something similar. I’m exploring this, but its unlikely based on how much the company needs me in my current role.

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