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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Repressing the Urge to Run

Posted by Tim Stobbs on October 24, 2013

I’ve noticed something odd in the last year.  Since we have paid off the mortgage on our house and we have a sizable nest egg started I occasional have the urge to say “screw it all” and quit right away.  Why?  Because I’m slowly closing in on the amount saved that I could reasonably downshift my job and work half the time at significantly less pay and still cover all of our expenses.

The obvious downside to doing something that drastic would be locking myself into needing to work part time for the next 30 years at a higher rate than I ever planned.  Yet is a bit more freedom now worth less freedom in the longer time frame?  I really don’t know the answer to that some days.

I suspect this entire mindset is merely a result of having enough saved that I could actually even entertain these thoughts.  I can actually ;ook a scenario in my head and not feel guilty because it isn’t that far off the realm of possibility.  In effect, I’m daydreaming thoughts like this merely because I can.  Unlike the average person my age, I really don’t fear a layoff so what’s the big difference to intentionally downshifting your job?

The other reason to these thoughts is my job has recently been more stressful which makes me a bit unhappy.  I know it is the result of temporary issues of a lot of expectations for getting work done, but not enough staff to really do it all.  The good news is more staff have been approved, so its just sorting out the workloads for next year and hiring someone.  So my daydreaming is also likely the result of my mind looking for a stress relief.  After all, not working half the time right now seems really appealing when you have had a bad day at work.

In the end, usually a good night sleep helps clear my thoughts and gives me a bit more perspective.  I don’t need to do anything drastic and waiting a bit more to see if my day to day workload improves won’t cost me much.  It’s a few months at worst until things get better.  So I play with my daydream and usually put it back in the box.  It’s comforting just to know the option exists…even if I decide to never use it.

So how often do you daydream about saying screw it all and quitting?  Did you find the frequency goes up when your stressed?

Success is Hard

Posted by Tim Stobbs on October 3, 2013

I read something last night that has stuck in my brain “A little success is even harder to deal with.”  Then the author went on to explain how he felt the imposter syndrome for years.  He expected a man with a clip board to show up and declare “You sir are a fraud!” who would then haul the author away and force him to get a job that wasn’t fun.  I understand this feeling extremely well…why? Because I have the same feeling a lot of the time.

I understand on an intellectual level that I know a lot about retirement.  After reading, writing and talking to retirees for years now I likely have a better understand of how retirement works or doesn’t work than a lot of people.  Yet at the same time I constantly doubt myself because I have never been retired.  I keep expecting the Internet Retirement Police to haul me away to jail and shut down this blog for being a fraud.  Yet after all these years I still wrote a book on the topic that did fairly damn well for sales, got some very nice book reviews, people still read this blog and somehow people still want to talk to me about the retirement plans.  Obviously I’m doing something useful, but often I don’t know what.

So while I don’t entirely know what I do for people that is so helpful, I’ll take a guess at it: I remind you all that you are not crazy.  Early retirement for a lot of people is largely pure fantasy, their current situation makes it impossible.  Yet if you are willing to adjust a few parameters on their lives, the impossible suddenly becomes a potential.  Yet that potential is a fragile dream that you think if you even breathe too hard might break.  So when you come across some guy from Regina, SK who is doing something vaguely similar, there is a sense of relief…you are not crazy for wanting to retire early.

Your plan might not be perfect, you may need to adjust things as you go, but listen to me when I say: you are not a fraud either.  There are just too many cases of people making early retirement work for it to be a fluke.  It will be hard to do.  You will feel like giving up, but if you can hang on life will get better.  In the end, a little success on a retirement plan is also hard to deal with, but remember to hang on to your dream.

Up and Out

Posted by Tim Stobbs on September 27, 2013

You are standing on a cliff with the best view ever, but you are also strapped into this device that is suppose to make you fly, but you keep doubting it will work…so do you ever jump off?

While that might sound extreme, it happens all the time to people on the edge of retirement.  You can apply logic and do math for years trying to sooth your fears, but in the end the final jump off that cliff into retirement is all about emotion.  Can you answer the question: am I ready for retirement with a firm “yes!”.

After all you are entering an entirely new phase of your life where you will start living off your assets rather than focus on growing them.  Fear is a normal response and frankly damn useful.  It’s good to have some fear and double check your numbers and get a second opinion (but don’t take the results too seriously…some places don’t really handle early retirement financially modelling all that well…case in point I’ve seen online calculators that won’t go low enough for my target retirement age).

It’s also good to do a little fear testing by playing the game: what’s the worst that can happen?  Some classic examples are: what if I run out of money when I’m 80 (solution: sell the house), what if I get bored (solution: have some hobby or travel plans lined up to keep you busy), what if I miss work (solution: consider what jobs that you could do part time or seasonal).  A large part of fear is not knowing the answer, so if you can come up up with some answers there is less to fear about the decision to retire.

Then once you address the fears about retirement you might need a bit of motivation to pull the pin.  So turn the fear game around and play the other side: what if things go better than I expect?  What if I get an inheritance that I wasn’t expecting? Go travel more!  What if I excel at one of my new hobbies and make money at it? I could buy better supplies and try out some really big projects! What if I find a part time, low stress job that I LOVE to do? Enjoy some of the extra money and then perhaps do some charity work with the rest.

Life isn’t typically all bad, there are some good things that happen to people as well.  So keep that in mind when you are standing on the edge of your retirement.  That way you can jump off your cliff and go up and out.  So what are your fears about retirement or ideas on what could turn out better than expected?