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?