It’s Not About The Money Anymore


If you read this blog at all, you know that I’m caught in the middle of conflicting desires.

Desire A: Quit my job
Desire B: Make more money and “pad” my FIRE number (AKA risk reduction)

All along, my FIRE idea has been to downsize my primary residence and buy the next place outright. A year ago, I figured that downsizing would be the financial move that gets me well below the 4% Safe Withdrawal Rate and makes it a no-brainer move to pull the plug on working.

Well, a few things have happened since then.  What are they?

Happening #1: Due to market performance and continued saving, I’ve hit my 4% SWR in my current crazytown expensive residence, assuming an annual spend of 26K. (a whopping 12 of that 26  is PITI).
Happening #2: I just received three new big projects at work, none of which I find even remotely interesting.
Happening #3: My mom is moving closer to me, from Connecticut (2.5 hours away) to Massachussets (.5 hours away)

What bearing do these things have on my perspective?

Simple.  In combination, they have the effect of making the idea of continuing to work just about intolerable. But I’ll expand a bit.


I’m still planning on downsizing. But it’s now clear to me, via Happening #1, that I don’t have to downsize in order to safely retire. I can easily quit now and downsize in spring 2015 as planned. There’s no real risk in pursuing this plan — any dangers exist only in my imagination.

Asset totals are hovering around 720K, not including equity in my primary residence.  cFIREsim shows me that a 2.2K/mo withdrawal rate (26k/yr) which is about my current annual spend, gives me a 96% chance of success.

Once I downsize, I’m lower than 3% on the annual withdrawals even if my discretionary spending goes up a bit.

Bottom line:  There’s no need to keep working as long as I’m sure I’m going to downsize early next year.  It might “cost” me a bit of money to quit now instead of later, but there’s really no rational reason to keep working if I don’t want to.

So do I want to?  This leads me into:


I’ve come to the conclusion that it would benefit both me AND my employer for me to quit prior to really immersing myself in the new projects I’d mentioned in Happening #2.  Yeah, I know this sounds a bit weird, but let me explain.

First, let’s start with the obvious:  Me.  Of course quitting benefits me.

Because last Friday I opened my work calendar and saw this spread of all-day meetings booked through August. I absolutely despise these sorts of things – being trapped in a room with a bunch of people for the entirety of a day. You can’t even sneak away for lunch hour; a catered meal is provided so you can keep working and talking to your peers about “interesting” and “fun” and “challenging” problems for eight straight sixty minute intervals laid end to end.

The full spread of meetings on my calendar are a direct result of all of the projects that I’ve been assigned to.  I should add that although only August is currently booked, the insanity won’t end at the month’s completion.  Like most companies, my employer sets ridiculously unattainable dates for project delivery — these projects are all supposed to be finished by the end of September.

So here’s what will happen. They won’t be done. The all-day meetings will spill out into September, October, November, and December. The “real” completion date will be end of year 2014 but the bogus date is in place so that after it is missed, management can scold people for failing to meet the schedule.  This is intentional; the idea is that once project teams are officially behind that we will all be motivated to work extra out of a sense of increasing panic and desperation.

Trust me, this is how it goes. I’ve been doing this sort of thing for 14 years and the script never changes.

If I let my employer know I’m planning on leaving soon, though, the picture looks different.  Suddenly their expectation that I *lead* the project has to be adjusted because I won’t be here for the duration.

In short, the pressure will diffuse instantly: a pretty awesome benefit.  I’ll tell them:  Look, I’ll stay around for a couple of months — say, through October — and they’ll say: OK.  Then we don’t want you owning this stuff.

The very idea of being in war-room style meetings all day every day for the next six months or more has forced me to take action; I can’t stand the thought of it.  No amount of additional money is worth this.  I’m not alone in feeling this way — I just read a nytimes article today that discussed a study wherein researchers quote found that the No. 1 unhappiness-provoking event in a typical day is spending time with one’s boss endquote.  Although I don’t hate my current boss (really!) neither do want to be in a room with him and 6-12 people all day every day indefinitely for 40+ hours a week.  The thought is so distasteful that I can feel it physically — my body tenses up and I find it hard to even make bad jokes and sarcastic comments like my usual self.

So here’s the beauty of understanding the concept of diminishing returns.  I understand that padding the stash is all well and good when earning that money isn’t too painful.  But once that level of pain gets ratcheted upward, I am forced to re-evaluate the equation:  is it worth steadily increasing stress and daily discomfort for the sake of throwing more money on a pile that’s already big enough to fund my retirement?  A pile that’s already enough?  Future me barely gets any real benefit to continuing to load money into the vault, but on the other hand, current me will get the immediate payoff of getting six months of his motherloving life back.  Six months where I can sleep at night. Six months where I’m not actively dreading going into work each and every day.

So the answer to that question — is it worth it? — is a definite no. I suddenly feel like a stubborn kid that has parked himself on the middle of the floor and refuses to go to school because he’s got a gym class featuring dodgeball with some irritatingly muscular peers that peg him repeatedly for the sheer joy of it, and this kid, quite rationally, doesn’t want to put up with it.  The difference between me and that kid is that I’ve got eight gym classes now.  Back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to… well, you get the idea.  Another difference:  I’m old enough to decide I won’t go to gym class.  I know it sounds fussy when I say it like this, but here goes anyway:  I simply refuse to do it.

Anyways, how does my leaving earlier benefit my employer?

It’s because it makes a lot more sense from a management perspective to put people on these projects who will be here to support the results into the future. Put another way: Do you want someone to invent you a new model of car and disappear — when they’re the only person who would know how to fix things when you inevitably run into trouble, literally, down the road?

No. Of course not.  So it’s in my employer’s best interest to get someone else to build their vehicles.  Preferably someone who will stick around a while.


As I mentioned, due to Happening #3, my aging mother is moving closer to me.  This only matters for two reasons.

Reason 1:  During the month of the move itself — the remainder of July and August — she needs a lot of help.  She’s selling a duplex and moving into an apartment, and there’s a ton of work required to get this stuff done.  Have I mentioned she’s a hoarder and her place is full to the brim, wall-to-wall, with stuff?  And guess who the moms is asking to bear the brunt of the load?  You guessed it!

Look, it’ll make my life a lot easier if I take a bunch of time off work in August to handle the logistics of selling her house and moving her up to my state.  I’m going to talk to my manager about it tomorrow and officially request about two weeks off over the course of the month.

Reason 2:  After she’s moved, she’ll be closer to me and will need to spend more time with yours truly.  She doesn’t have a built-in support network in the area and I don’t want her to be lonely — I need to help her make the adjustment to the area.  Trying to fit in lengthy visits with my mom while putting up with nonstop workplace insanity honestly gives me the shivers.  No, not shivers of bliss.  The other kind.

The New Plan

Between now and mid August, I’m taking a bunch of emergency vacation days to get out of the worst of the meetings and help my mom out with her move.

Then, mid month (Aug) I’m going to give my notice.  I’ll offer to work through October if they want me to stick around but I will make it clear that I’m not interested in leading these projects while I have one foot out the door.  I would assume that if they do ask me to stay that my primary objectives will be a) cross-training/knowledge dumps so I can smoothly hand my work off to someone else before I leave, and b) hiring a replacement.

My 401(k) is already maxed out for the year and I’m ready to make the leap.

In the end, I’m sort of grateful for the Triple Happenings, because my employer has made it easy for me to arrive at this decision.  I very nearly feel like I don’t have a choice; overnight, my job has morphed into something that only the most masochistic of humans could possibly enjoy.

What do you think?  Would you pull the trigger if you were in a similar situation?







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11 Responses to It’s Not About The Money Anymore

  1. debt debs says:

    ha ha it almost sounds like you work at my company! Sounds like a reasonable plan to me. Good luck. I’m happy for you.

    • livingafi says:

      Thanks for the validation… I’m not 100% sure that I’m going to do this. I might try to talk to my manager first to see if I can have a more limited role in these projects so I’m not in the warroom all-day meetings constantly, which is really the thing that I have the most trouble dealing with. As a starting point, I did, as per plan, get some time off approved today — a few days toward the end of this week, then a few days the second week of August (which I’ll be using to help my mom move.) I checked out your blog btw, it’s very cool that you are taking control of your finances.

  2. Tom says:

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but I was hoping you’d have a long and difficult (and prosperous) career ahead of you. I’ve been reading your blog from the beginning and I love your writing style and humor. This latest series you’ve undertaken has been pretty awesome so the longer you work the better for me (chuckle) as you’ll have more material to write about and for me to enjoy.

    I retired(*), not really “early” at 54, a few months ago. In a way I was in a similar position as you are as I was confident I had enough money (living frugally) and at the same time I felt there was no way I could continue working. I was at the end of my employment contract anyway but my end date kept slipping for various reasons. I exercise daily and have been a life-long athlete but sitting on my ass all day was making me physically ill. I finally just had to be done working as it was agonizing to continue despite not really hating the actual assignment.

    (*) You addressed this in a previous post I believe, but I took the strategy of not revealing I was actually retiring – just taking extended time off. It leaves opportunities open. I was subsequently offered a sweet deal to work at home but like you I just couldn’t fathom the idea of applying the type of effort required, especially since it really just meant adding to a sufficiently large enough stash already. I can’t really equate my retiring at 54 with yours in your 30’s. But had I known earlier what you’ve already figured out, I would have loved to have had the additional time and youthful energy. Who knows whether 6 – 7 months would make any difference. But when you are ready to go – you know it.

    Wish you much luck in your upcoming retirement, whether it’s this year or next. Now, please, get back to work on year 7… 🙂

    • livingafi says:

      Hey Tom,
      Thanks for stopping by. First, a huge congratulations on your early retirement. 54 is nothing to sneeze at for RE, nice work! Do you have any regrets about not leaving earlier? Based on your comments, you definitely understand my current situation: It’s hard to keep reporting for duty when I feel like I don’t have to. Every day I wake up and feel like: What’s the point of going in today? And so on. It’s a really odd situation. Although I’m able to conscientiously take care of most of the day-to-day churn without too much trouble (1-off tasks, production changes and support, that sort of stuff) it’s very difficult to gear myself up for the larger-scale projects that require something closer to full-on mental engagement. To your other points – I’m also a big fan of exercise, and think it’s a fairly important component to toughing out the grind in a healthy way. And yes, I’m absolutely not telling my employer I’m retiring. Currently I’m leaning toward saying I need a year off for personal reasons. Which is true! I don’t have to share that my personal reason is simply not wanting to work for a while. (Maybe ever.)
      Really glad you’re enjoying the blog, btw. And never fear, I’m continuing to work on The Job Experience posts. Year 7 is in progress and will definitely be out this week at some point, just not sure exactly when yet. It’s a little extra tough to write because I’m kind of a jerk and I don’t like to remember some of it. But one of my blog goals is to be truthful about all of this, so I’m dredging it up anyways.Thanks for the laugh about wishing me to have a long and miserable career, for the sake of quality blog posts. My wife also wants me to keep working longer, and she has quite a bit of say in my life, so you might yet get your wish.

      • Tom says:

        I do regret not retiring earlier because younger affords you more options, though certainly with some challenges too. But it’s a step that you have to be ready for. I was always somewhat of a personal finance rubbernecker – trying to understand how I was doing compared to others, mostly learned from main stream media. You can’t get anyone to really talk about this stuff honestly. I didn’t find the FIRE blogs until about a year ago, specifically from a piece on MMM in the Washington Post. I’d always lived simply/frugally, in-sourced most tasks (read: too cheap to pay someone else), saved most of my pay, yada, yada. But I learned from you and others HOW to retire and that I could, financially and lifestyle-wise, make it work. So, I mostly regret not knowing sooner that retiring early was a legitimate and worthwhile option.

        One final point I would make. Being FI makes all of the difference in the world. Jim Collins and his reference to f***-you money is spot on. FI has allowed me to better negotiate the terms of my captivity and to be able to just say ‘no’. But the nature of work is that it can become just so much kryptonite disguised as your building access badge dangling around your neck and you don’t realize it’s slowly sucking out your life force. So, whatever you choose to do, I think FI may allow you to create a better life/work balance in a way that works for you. I certainly hope so. (We need happier people out there.) And consider that if you do take the plunge you’ll be that much needed shining, heroic example others may seek to mimic. But please, don’t be wearing a cape around – people will talk. (Unless of course you can get one that matches your tights and boots – then – wear them proudly.) 

        BTW. I have a framed t-shirt of Calvin and Hobbes in my office. I definitely relate. (Sorry for the rambling. I’ll shut-up now and just wait for the next posts…)

      • livingafi says:

        Hi Tom – Lots of interesting points here, esp. the honesty bit and the kryptonite badge (great analogy.) I adore the jlcollinsnh FU money article, totally priceless. Final comment: Calvin and Hobbes are easily my favorite non-superhero comic. Watterson digs at the truth of life in a uniquely authentic way, making it feel more real and moving than just about anything else out there, while still managing to retain a terrific sense of humor about everything. Also: Tigers. Share the story of your T-Shirt some time — I’d love to hear it!

  3. I made the decision to take a job a year ago that requires a 6 day work week 8am to 7pm. My original thinking was this would fast track me to FIRE. I knew it would be hell, but I was willing to risk the relentless schedule for a couple of years in order to accelerate my seven year FIRE goal to three years. After a year, I sometimes think about how going to work at the local guitar shop for 1/10 of my current income just to keep my sanity. The guys inside are always playing music, smiling, and seem very content. Who knows, maybe they have their own FIRE plans. My dividends currently cover $1000 of my $2000 basic monthly expenses and I could cover the rest with a part time job or some side hustles. The unexpected good news is that since I took my new high stress job I started running again and can log 4 and 5 mile runs with relative ease. Somtimes we get unexpectedly good by-products from the rat race. Very rarely though and usually they are short-lived.

    • livingafi says:

      Jesus, MDP – that’s an absolutely brutal schedule and sounds fairly similar to weeks I was logging at FinComp. It *will* fast track FI, no doubt, but the major risk there is what happens to you over that 3 year term. I found I either had to get out after 3 years or completely lose track of my (former) self. I’ve seen your blog and progress, though, and you are killing it, over halfway to your goal, which is very, very cool. And keep the running up — it sounds like you’re starting to genuinely enjoy it. I’m currently doing about 20/mi a week with some lifting thrown into the mix. Work stress can be, as you hinted, good motivation for exercise.

  4. Missed this post until now. Cool to see you considering fast tracking it. Is your wife excited about that? I’ll leave my question at that.

    • livingafi says:

      Ahh, GC, you cut right to the chase, don’t you. The short answer is no — she’s urging me to stick to April 1st, which is the date we agreed on a couple of months ago. I’ve started in on my manager this week about getting out of some of the warroom meetings and/or limiting my exposure to them but it’s an uphill battle. Today concluded the first 5-day stretch of nonstop meetings and dang, it’s not fun. I scheduled another private meeting with Mr. Boss Tuesday to discuss the same topic because the response to this point is unsatisfactory. My approach is to emulate a kid asking for a treat from a parent — just keep asking until he gets sick of me and grants the request 😉 Managing upward is fun.

      • If everyone’s in meetings, how is any work getting done? This is something I’ve asked of DW as well and never have gotten a satisfactory answer. In fact, 30 minutes is about the longest any productive attention can be given.

        Good luck!

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