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Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-13-2007, 09:31 PM   #1
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Introduction: Pondering ER

I've been reading this forum for the last few months and officially registered a few days ago. The following is a brief introduction (well, I guess it isn't so brief).

First, I'm 47, single with no dependents except for pets, live in the suburbs of the San Francisco Bay Area, and hope to ER sometime between 10 minutes and 6 years from now. I've been a research scientist at a large government laboratory for the past 15.5 years (in school or the equivalent before that).

Based on the methodology outlined in previous threads, my net worth is a little over 2M (680K non retirement accounts + 300K retirement accounts + 600K pension + 550K house - 110K mortgage + 10K misc). I'm a relatively conservative investor (65% equities, 15% bonds, 20% cash or equivalent).

I consider myself a frugal person. In fact, some people here might prefer the words deprived, cheap, or stingy. My expenses over the last 6 years have averaged about 30K/yr (12K mortgage + 3K property taxes + 2K utilities + 1K house maintenance + 0.5K home insurance + 0.5K auto insurance + 1K auto expenses + 3K charity + 1K other gifts + 6K general living and recreation expenses). That's been pretty constant, except for 25K in veterinary bills two years ago.

My income (salary) is currently about 180K/yr, and it has significantly increased since 1995 (i.e., 72K in 1995; 115K in 2000). My expenses to salary ratio is about 16%. Minus 50K taxes, I'm currently able to save/invest about 100K/yr.

Although I've been thinking about ER for the last 7 years, I'm more motivated today because I hate my job. It has been immensely stressful and unrewarding over the past several years and it has taken a physical toll. I have headaches and wake up in the middle of the night with dread. I've gained more weight than desired over the last two years (my fault, of course). The technical work itself is quite interesting, but there is a crap level that is unbearable. Much of this is caused by a management structure that means well but is grossly incompetent. We are a government organization so there is no need or profit motive to eliminate bureaucratic and other waste. They cause far more problems then they solve. I cost over 3 times my salary, with most of my time spent doing meaningless drivel. Your tax dollars at work.

I will not get medical and dental unless I wait until 50 to ER. However, there are many complexities and other scenario's that could change this.

I'm interested in this forum for several reasons. I enjoy many of the financial discussions. More so, it is beneficial to get multiple perspectives and experiences about ER. I'm probably in the 99th percentile with respect to the amount of time I currently spend at my job, so I don't know how ER will impact me.

I have a long career history as an earthquake seismologist (contact me if you want more information) and don't know if this will cause a sense of loss and depression. For example, in my current job I have the opportunity to use the fastest computers in the world. That said, I do most of the interesting work on my own time. I get paid to do crap. I accomplish meaningful objectives at night or on weekends and holidays. In ER, I may be able to continue some of the enjoyable work by accepting an unfunded position at a nearby university (e.g., UC Berkeley).

Likewise, I may enjoy "being bored" in ER because there is pleasure and a sense of accomplishment from doing those mundane activities that can take up a day (raking leaves, going to the hardware store to get a thingymagig, buying an ice cream cone, changing a light bulb, reading a magazine, etc). I'm physically active (running, bicycling, hiking, backpacking, etc) so there would be more time for these activities. I enjoy road trips, but in the past always have been in a hurry to get from Point A to Point B. I'd like to start spending a few minutes on side trips to see the "biggest ball of yarn in the world." A dream is to summit Mt. Everest. Mostly, I believe the most enjoyable part of ER would come from knowing that I no longer need to go to work and can enjoy Sunday evenings. Freedom to do what I want, when I want.

That's me in a much longer than intended nutshell. I don't have any particular questions or comments at this time except for, "What the heck are dryer sheets, anyway?"
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-13-2007, 09:58 PM   #2
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

Welcome to the board, Shawn.

Have you read Scott Berkun's essays? You'd appreciate his perspective on a number of areas, but here's his advice for a bad boss:
"The best advice for having a bad manager is to seek other employment. Donít undervalue your happiness: itís impossible to be happy if you work directly for someone you canít stand. It may be difficult to find another job, but if you are willing to make compromises in other areas (salary, position, project, location, etc.) it will certainly be possible. Being happy and underpaid is a much better way to spend a life than unhappy and anything else."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shawn
I will not get medical and dental unless I wait until 50 to ER. However, there are many complexities and other scenario's that could change this.
You may see medical & dental as an obstacle to ER, but perhaps it's better treated like just another utility bill. Estimate the expense of health insurance in your area, take a high-deductible policy, and cost it out until you're eligible for Medicare. You may find that you have plenty of assets to make it. Many ERs don't even carry dental insurance.

You may also find that places like UC Berkeley could help subsidize the cost of healthcare.

You don't sound like you'll have any problem finding things to do all day. What's of a much greater concern, however, is the toxic effect your current environment is having on your health. You're already financially independent, and I suspect that's the case even if you're buying your own health insurance.

So... plug some more numbers and answer your own question: What are you waiting for?
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-13-2007, 10:15 PM   #3
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shawn

I've been reading this forum for the last few months...

47...

single with no dependents...

hope to ER sometime between 10 minutes and 6 years from now...

conservative investor (65% equities, 15% bonds, 20% cash or equivalent).

frugal...

expenses to salary ratio is about 16%.

more motivated today because I hate my job.

immensely stressful and unrewarding over the past several years and it has taken a physical toll.

I've gained more weight than desired over the last two years (my fault, of course).

The technical work itself is quite interesting, but there is a crap level that is unbearable.

management structure that means well but is grossly incompetent.

I will not get medical and dental

long career history

don't know if this will cause a sense of loss and depression.

I may enjoy "being bored" in ER because there is pleasure and a sense of accomplishment from doing those mundane activities that can take up a day

enjoy road trips, but in the past always have been in a hurry to get from Point A to Point B. I'd like to start spending a few minutes on side trips to see the "biggest ball of yarn in the world."

Very scary. The part I have snipped above is me, right down to my friends teasing me about me being willing to travel to see attractions like the "World's Biggest Ball of Yarn" on some of my road trips. (No, haven't actually seen that one!)

Say, are you secretly someone from work spoofing me?

Assuming not (!), I can't do much to help you except to say: "Welcome Aboard" , and I'll be listening to hear what people have to share with you, because much of it would likely apply to me, too.







Oh, and 'dryer sheets' is a local meme regarding people who are considering FI/RE being frugal, and having little habits like re-using dryer sheets more than once; hence the idea of a hierarchy of rank based on mastery of dryer sheet principles. :
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 12:33 AM   #4
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

Hi Shawn:

I'm a cagy person so perhaps my own defensiveness/reticence is showing here....but do you really want to publish your real name and net worth, your employer (not explicitly stated, but easy to guess) and your general location?

Winnie
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 07:13 AM   #5
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

Quote:
Likewise, I may enjoy "being bored" in ER because there is pleasure and a sense of accomplishment from doing those mundane activities that can take up a day (raking leaves, going to the hardware store to get a thingymagig, buying an ice cream cone, changing a light bulb, reading a magazine, etc).
I find I enjoy mundane activities immensely. I enjoy cleaning up the kitchen, puttering in the yard, and rolling around on the floor with the dogs. I doubt you will be bored.

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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 07:34 AM   #6
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

Quote:
Originally Posted by winnie
Hi Shawn:

I'm a cagy person so perhaps my own defensiveness/reticence is showing here....but do you really want to publish your real name and net worth, your employer (not explicitly stated, but easy to guess) and your general location?

Winnie
Yes, I agree.

Mods, if Shawn is not on line should you do some judicial editing to protect his identity until he can consider this?
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 08:20 AM   #7
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

Quote:
Originally Posted by winnie
I'm a cagy person so perhaps my own defensiveness/reticence is showing here....but do you really want to publish your real name and net worth, your employer (not explicitly stated, but easy to guess) and your general location?
Quote:
Originally Posted by F M All
Mods, if Shawn is not on line should you do some judicial editing to protect his identity until he can consider this?
My goodness, imagine if people on this board knew our real names! Although bad things can happen anywhere, I've noticed that the main reaction to uncloaking is... apathy.

Shawn seems to be familiar with discussion boards and cyberspace nakedness. He can edit the post if he chooses.

Of course on Monday he could be having a really interesting conversation with his manager, who might be one of this board's other Bay-Area posters...
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 08:20 AM   #8
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

I agree with all that has been said so far. I would add/question the following.
Are you retiring for the right reasons? It doesn't sound like it so far. I get the sense it is because you just don't like your boss and other negative reasons. You should want to RE for positive reasons - The RE life is more appealing than the working life.

I would guess from that your work history you have have some very cerebral interests that might be difficult to fulfill in RE. You should think and plan for how you will satisfy those interest.

You are in a good place with time to decide. Once you decided that you really want to leave you will even have more options because you don't have anything to loose.
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 08:30 AM   #9
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

Shawn, I'd be really tempted to stick to 50 just for the health insurance. That issue scares me a lot, and Medicare is a long way away.

It sure sounds like you've got the finances covered, even after the price of a trip up Everest.

You sound pretty employable -- could you get a job you'd like if you retired and decided you didn't like it?

Or better yet, how about a year leave of absence? You could practice for retirement.

Coach
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 08:33 AM   #10
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

Quote:
Originally Posted by Coach
Shawn, I'd be really tempted to stick to 50 just for the health insurance. That issue scares me a lot, and Medicare is a long way away.

It sure sounds like you've got the finances covered, even after the price of a trip up Everest.

You sound pretty employable -- could you get a job you'd like if you retired and decided you didn't like it?

Or better yet, how about a year leave of absence? You could practice for retirement.

Coach
I just realized that if I had health care 'in the bag', I would probably make Monday my last work day.
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 08:53 AM   #11
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords

Shawn seems to be familiar with discussion boards
Nords, you may be right, and Shawn is an adult, but where did you get this impression?
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 09:45 AM   #12
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

Quote:
Originally Posted by F M All
Nords, you may be right, and Shawn is an adult, but where did you get this impression?
From his post-- the same place you got the impression that he's an adult!
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 10:19 AM   #13
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

Hi, Shawn,

Welcome!

Nords said...
Quote:
You may see medical & dental as an obstacle to ER, but perhaps it's better treated like just another utility bill. Estimate the expense of health insurance in your area, take a high-deductible policy, and cost it out until you're eligible for Medicare. You may find that you have plenty of assets to make it. Many ERs don't even carry dental insurance.

You may also find that places like UC Berkeley could help subsidize the cost of healthcare.
Shawn, let me emphasize that Nords is talking about an individual health insurance policy. You should go to an independent insurance broker to get one. Check into it. Read more on the subject on this board in several places. Use the search function.

I read some of the articles in the paper Shawn referenced, talking about The Big One. "No place in the San Francisco Bay area is safe." I am thinking that maybe Shawn may be considering moving from the area? : If that is true, when you check out private health insurance, ask about what to do if you move.

Coach had a good suggestion. When was the last time you took a vacation? Can you take longer ones? That is, if you only get 3 weeks a year, can you take longer ones or more than one without pay? It seems like you can afford to do so. Use these vacations to research a place you might want to relocate to.

Think about what you would do with your time, too. Don't forget social life. For someone single who has been stuck in one place for a long time, it may seem daunting, but make it your job to figure it out.

Maybe you could check out, take a break, then come back as a contractor. Minimizes office politics, too. Having experience with the world's fastest (this week, at least) computers must be a marketable skill.

I got the impression this was a bad week for you. Listen to a little Jimmy Buffett and cruise the Escape Artist web site (but don't buy anything!).

Cheers,

Gypsy
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 10:40 AM   #14
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

How do we know Shawn is really Shawn, and not someone trying to screw with him by posting his name in an "I hate my boss and my work" thread?
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 10:43 AM   #15
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

Quote:
Originally Posted by jphripjah
How do we know Shawn is really Shawn, and not someone trying to screw with him by posting his name in an "I hate my boss and my work" thread?
Niccolo, I thought you died in 1527.
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 10:48 AM   #16
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

Quote:
Originally Posted by F M All
Niccolo, I thought you died in 1527.
You're right. I'm a natural cynic, but this would be a pretty absurd way to try to undermine your enemies. It 's much easier just to put porn on their work computers.

Shawn, tell us something only the real Shawn would know, so that we know you're you.
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 10:51 AM   #17
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

F M,

Judging from his pay rate, HE may be the boss.

And, there are the other details. I accept him as shown.

But, good point. Annonymization would remove that question.

Quote:
Shawn, tell us something only the real Shawn would know, so that we know you're you.
Yeah. Where is your tattoo?
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 10:56 AM   #18
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed_The_Gypsy
F M,

Judging from his pay rate, HE may be the boss.
Every flea has another flea on his back to bite him!!

[My dad used to say this - does anybody here know where it comes from?]
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 11:36 AM   #19
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

Quote:
Originally Posted by F M All
Every flea has another flea on his back to bite him!!
[My dad used to say this - does anybody here know where it comes from?]
Yeah, I heard this a lot when I was growing up too. From Wikipedia:

The 17th century writer Jonathan Swift mocked the idea of self-similarity in natural philosophy with the following ditty:
"So nat'ralists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey,
And these have smaller fleas that bite 'em,
And so proceed ad infinitum."

Which was itself parodied by the Victorian era mathematician Augustus De Morgan:
"Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on,
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on."
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER
Old 01-14-2007, 12:08 PM   #20
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Re: Introduction: Pondering ER

Nords, thanks.

I had misty-eyed moment seeing that. Dad died in 1972 and Mum last August, products of a totally different time and place................
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