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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Waiting Game

Posted by Tim Stobbs on September 16, 2015

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?

The Month Off Report

Posted by Tim Stobbs on August 14, 2015

So today is my last day of my currently month long vacation.  This will have been the third time I’ve done this now and I have to say I’ve learned a few things that I found interesting.  Perhaps the most telling thing is this I’m just starting to think about bit about work now and what I have to get started on when I get back and oddly enough I’m not dreading it.

I think what happens to me after taking off a longer period of time is I actually managed to detox from work.  I really do cease to care about it, think about it or even want to do anything about it.  I was contacted once during my vacation via text to confirm one small fact which I was able to answer in two sentences.  Perhaps the most difficult thing I had to adjust to was since I had a work issued cell phone was getting in the habit of not even reading the subject lines of work emails as they came in.  Otherwise, I didn’t do anything related to my job and as I mentioned to my boss: work had become a hazy memory.  I recalled it, but I no longer felt it effecting me.

In my case, I can detox fairly quickly from my job since I have set it up to be lower stress and have learned to let go of things that happen there.  I can’t control much at work, so why waste the energy pretending that I can.  Also it helps that I have a great boss now that really just cares about the results.  He is the kind of guy who gets when you say: I’ve finished what I need to get done and now I’m leaving early to my kids swimming lesson.  He replies: sounds good, have a good night.  Yes, I’m very lucky in that regard…I know.

Of course I did do some traveling on this trip, but rather than being a burden of trying to shove in too much we took it easy and did two main trips: one to Vancouver Island (where I got the chance to meet up with long time reader jon_snow, hi jon) and the other to visit family in Alberta.  Both were fun and I enjoyed doing them but at the same time we did have a week at home as well in there so it was nice to get a few things done around the house and of course play some video games (it is a vacation after all!). I even managed to be interviewed for story for CBC see here.

Yet if this life were to continue on in early retirement I can easily say I don’t think I would ever get bored.  I mean I had full days as is and could have easily tried to cram in more stuff, but resisted the urge and made sure to have some relaxing time in as well.  I have so much that I want to read, watch, write, or do around the house that I can see just going along forever with out running out of things to do.  I noticed my to do still filled up rather quickly without much effort on my part.

So in the end, I think I’m ready to leave work at least mentally able to do it.  I won’t be begging to come back after getting bored or even worry about it after I go.  Only about 20 more months of work left…I’m looking forward to the end of it.

Did you ever take an extended break from work?  Did you enjoy it or what did you learn?

Too Independent?

Posted by Tim Stobbs on August 4, 2015

I was reading a book the other day that pointed out something that honestly had not occurred to me as a danger of seeking financial independence: that you can end up being too independent. To which I initially thought: pardon?!?!

Then as I kept reading the author made his point a bit more clear.  Seeking financial independence is a fine goal for anyone to do.  The danger becomes when you apply the same thinking to everything in your life.  When you seek to be independent of everything does the trouble start to come home.

You see you can start to apply the idea of being independent of your job to other parts of your life. For example, why should I buy power from the power company when I can setup my own solar and wind power?   Or why should I buy my vegetables from the store when I can grow my own?  These types of independence aren’t really a bad idea depending on how much you enjoy the project, the costs versus the benefits (not all power generation systems make economic sense) and how much time you have to work on them.

The trouble can really kick in when you start applying the idea to people and think:  I don’t need to be nice to the people I work with since I’m leaving in a few years or perhaps I don’t have to hang out with my friends that spend too much.  This is where you start to become too independent.

“No man is an island entire of itself” – John Donne

It may pain people to recall this but you can’t live without other people.  We are social beings and while I’m a strong introvert even I realize that I need other people at times.  So that means you can’t just focus blindly at savings money and ignore the social impacts of your choices.  By never going out with friends you are social isolating yourself at the cost of a few drinks or a meal out, which really shouldn’t make or break your plan to retire early (because if it is, then your margin is far too thin and you need to go back and increase your spending estimate a bit).

The same idea applies to being a self absorbed egotistical ass to other people just because you are good at saving money and they are not (yes, even I have done this and regretted it).  Everyone has their particular gifts and skills so don’t just burn bridges to stroke your ego, you might find out that you being an ass has a much higher price in your life than you realize.

You see your social network also provides a degree of support to your early retirement plan.  For example, a friend will typically look after our house when we go on vacation.  Or if you need help moving something heavy to the dump a friend with a truck can save you the cost of a rental.  You in turn also help your friends with projects like painting a fence, installing a patio or putting up a garage.  It’s called social capital and it is just as important to have access to as financial capital and it works on a give and take basis…you help others and they help you.  I caution you not to underestimate the value of this…I mean having a friend to call when the world goes to shit on you is nearly priceless at that moment in time.

That same capital even applies outside of your good friends.  Think for a minute about work when you have two tasks to do to help two different people: the first one is for a nice guy who helped you out of jam last month and the other is an over demanding prick who is never helpful back…which one do you help first?  Sort of obvious, right?

So in your focus to financially independent don’t forget to also grow you social capital as well of your financial.  Both will serve you in the long run to getting to a better place in life.  Also there is the nice side benefit of feeling better by helping others…especially those you actually know and like.

Have you ever gone too far and become too independent?  What was your wake up call and how did you turn it around?