The Waiting Game

I was thinking about something the other day that I had trouble putting into words, but now after considering it for a while I’ll take a stab at it.  If you were to ask me what is the hardest part of working to early retirement? I would typically give answers about planning or something else, but personally I find the most difficult thing to deal with is the waiting game.  You know you are leaving work in “X” months, “Y” days and 34 minutes…not exactly, but you get the idea.

Now for years that “X” was such a large number I was effectively been able to ignore it, yet recently when it dropped under the 24 month mark my brain suddenly realized…oh my god….it will soon be here.  I can’t tell you how weird it was to finally be able to feel the fact I am now playing the waiting game.  All the savings plans are done, the transfers are good to go and I just have to check in once in a while to adjust things but generally speaking the money side of the house is on automatic mode.  Yet the feeling of being close to freedom is so hard to wrap my head around that I ended up like obsessing about it for a week.

This of course made me realize that I just can’t obsess about it for two years…hello I still need to live life in the meantime.  So what the hell do you do when you have already done a huge amount of planning towards something and now you are just killing time until it arrives?  Well this is where I realized I needed to reassess a few things in my life and start making some changes.

For example, it occurs to me now that I don’t have to care what anyone thinks of me at work anymore.  I don’t particularly give a damn if I have a horrible performance review.  I’ve always been fairly ‘don’t care what others think’ mode at work but I suddenly realized how badly I can crank up that feeling if I so desire.  For example, I can get lazy as hell do the bare minimum not to get fired go through a bad performance review and then get put on a plan to bring my performance back up for a year and then screw around with that just long enough to reach my goal.  I can easily string that out long enough to just leave at the end and still be getting a pay cheque.  Unlike most of the people of my company I have actually read the HR polices and understand them so I could play that game for a while if I so desired.  This effective means I could: stop turning on my alarm and show up whenever the hell I please each morning, ignore direct orders for things by dragging my feet on projects I don’t want or generally turn into that co-worker every hates.  Please note: I don’t plan to do this…after all I don’t want to turn into a a total ass; I’m just realizing my scope of freedom just got way wider. I don’t need a raise anymore or a bonus to finish my savings plan.

I can stress how weird it is to actually feel this and know it. I’ve understood on a basic level for a while that I’m never getting a promotion again (hell I told them not to bother), but now I feel the idea that I don’t have to kiss up to anyone ever again around here. There is no gain in it for me anymore. I realize that losing my job would in effect be an inconvenience. I won’t be worried about it, but rather annoyed I would have to update my resume and plan the interview game again.

Yet of course this isn’t a positive way to deal with all that emotion so instead I’m starting to funnel that energy into other more productive things like:

  • Working out exactly how to take out my money from various accounts in retirement the most tax efficient way possible.
  • Considering alternatives for income sooner than later.  Like working more on turning some of my writing into some finished books.  Did I want to consider starting a small consulting business?  Also considering jobs where I would like to work part-time for a while as a transition out of the workplace (and provide some buffer to my plan).
  • Make a better effort to hang out with family & friends a bit more.
  • Finding good books to read.
  • Evaluating my habits and where I should being doing less of some things and more of others.

In short, building a better life so when the clock runs out at my full time work I’ll be out of the gate and hitting the ground running in retirement.  So retirees…how did you spend you last few years while the clock ran out?  Any tips to share?

10 thoughts on “The Waiting Game”

  1. Interesting post. I like your musing on freedom – that freedom can mean freedom to behave like an a-hole, but it doesn’t mean you will. It can mean freedom to do the things you dreamed off, but it doesn’t mean you will. Or that they will still be the things that you want to do once you’ve got the time to try them out. I’m counting down with 2 months to go and I agree, it’s a little peculiar. People keep asking me if I’ll get another job, as though they can’t imagine what a person would do if they don’t go to work every day. After some awkward conversations, I now just tell people that I’m taking a gap year. That seems to work. Good luck with your countdown.

  2. The biggest thing I did in the ~2 years leading up to my eventual ER was to reduce my weekly hours worked from 20 (I was working PT for nearly 6 years already) to 12. I had become burnt out (again) from commuting even 3 days a week to my office and had to reduce it to 2 days with getting home an hour earlier on those 2 days. But even then, I knew deep down that this plan to partly rescue myself might not work and I’d have to reduce my weekly hours worked to zero soon.

    I lasted 17 more months working 12 hours a week in 2007-08. I was working on one project for the most part and little else. My goal was get it done by the time I ERed. As the final pieces of my ER puzzle fell into place in 2008, I selected a resignation date of October 31st, reasonably optimistic I could get this project done by that date. I got it done, barely, by the end of business on October 31st. I had to work rather hard to finish on that day, but it didn’t mean staying late or doing work from home.

    Meanwhile, I was moving forward with my ER plan and had everything in place when I finally ERed at the end of October. In early November, I set up my rollover IRA and the big bond fund using the proceeds of liquidated company stock which would provide me with the monthly dividend income to cover my expenses. I have made some minor adjustments in the last 7 years but nothing that wasn’t anticipated as a Plan B or Plan C.

    It has been a great 7 years and I look forward to many more in ER.

  3. Tim
    If you are under the 24 month mark , how does that affect your goal of $600000.00 in investible assets ? When you stated the goal of a million net worth including the house I assumed that the goal was to have that much at ER . We have not seen a net worth update since last Feb but I know in the last year I have taken a hit investmentwise. I am relatively balanced but that just means I have not lost much overall but I certainly have not seen any growth.
    I admire your courage and resolve to ER inside of two years but I still wonder how you are going to do it . I mean shit happens and one could be one car accident or one roof being blown off from being in the poorhouse. I’m 50 and with >6x in IA I have put my ER point at 58 months from now , but I am a bit nervous about it.

  4. Hi Tim

    As with Diharv, I too am interested in your current investments value? I haven’t made much headway this year in my investments, the only real increase is because all my previous mortgage payments are going directly into savings.

    I’m 35 have a paid off house in Manitoba (about $300k value) and about $220k in investments. Hoping to sock away enough to retire by 40-45..

  5. @diharv & Steve – Yep, I’m behind on my updates and been debating on how to skip through 6 months of numbers. I recorded the data, I just haven’t put it together in a post. Roughly I’m around $390,000 in investments and with growth I won’t hit the original $600,000 target…more like $530K to $550K range…depends on investments performance. I’ll put some time aside this weekend to put together an update.

  6. So… You will semi retire on $600K? Is that for you and your significant other? That seems a bit low, especially for someone so young… Theoretically that would relate into an income of about $20 K per year before any taxes…? In my own situation, even with a paid off property, I calculate, around $18K to basically just pay for all my basics per year. (Property tax being the biggest bite). You have probably written about this already, and this is a redundant question?

  7. OK – I see it now, I’m pretty sure I got that post too. 🙂

    A little like Joe’s situation at “Retire by 40”. The wife will continue to work a while longer. It’s not a bad idea to do that even to keep out of each others hair a bit. I know a few couples that actually said one or the other doing some part time work helped them stay closer as couple. Kept them from killing each other.

    That makes more sense then. I’m in the Tdot so it’s more expensive here. I couldn’t see how you would survive on what probably will be $17,000.00 after taxes. I guess I will have to slog it out a little longer myself, but I fully understand how you feel.

    Maybe if you worked for a small company where you do tasks that have a direct positive impact that you can see, you would probably not have this countdown like negative view. At least that’s kind of my take. When you see waste, redundancy, the constant challenge of others trying to work their way up the ladder by any means possible, you cant help but start to tune out. It’s too bad in a way your last years have to end this way…

  8. Tim we are in similar positions I have a rough target date of end of 2017 to be FI. I did start to think the way you described but I found that for me this was making it hard to go to work and focus and make sure I was doing my best. Instead I am trying to act as if I am not going to RE and work like I am going to be in this field for another 5-10 years.

    That is for two reasons, it ensures I am focused and invested and it puts me in a place I will not be disappointed if my FIRE plans are derailed by any number of factors. Right now I think 2 years out is too far to start thinking about the end in that way. Not when I get to counting the months in single digits it will be interesting!

  9. Tim,
    I thought your post was interesting and it reminded me of the Office Space movie were the main guy just doesn’t care anymore yet they think he is manager material.

    Although I’m not to the point of ER yet and sure to be many years away, I understand what you are describing. I think in a way you have reached a point were you feel you no longer have to follow in the working system and that can be powerful. Just think if a majority of the work force was in this situation instead of making poor financial choices that put them as slaves to their work.

    I enjoy reading your post, please keep them up.

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