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Counting Down to ER - How best to do it?
Old 05-05-2010, 11:26 AM   #1
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Counting Down to ER - How best to do it?

Please everyone! Please write and share with me your thoughts, comments, and advice--especially of the pep talk category. I welcome anything and everything on the topic of counting down to ER.

For starters, the following are what I am hoping to hear from you all on:

1) If you have succeeded at ER, can you share with me when you started to seriously "counting down" to the date when you ER? How many years out before your actual ER date? How did you feel during those years or months as you saved up your stash and counted down to THE DAY? Did you feel excited? Impatient wanting to just ER with less money but ER sooner? Did you like your job more or less because you were in countdown mode? Did you spend most of your free time fixing up your house, getting rid of extra stuff in yard sale, to downsize your home, or whatever else besides saving and investing in order to expedite your ER? How did you motivate yourself to stay on track and to not go into your boss's office to give your notice before you have saved up enough for a secure ER? Were you from time to time just obsessed with thoughts about ER?

2) If you are in countdown mode NOW, please share how far away are you from your ER date. Share your thoughts, motivations, frustrations, fears, anxieties, strategies for staying focused on how to make ER happen for you. Are you from time to time just obsessed with thoughts about ER? Are you doing things in your free time to help expedite actual ER, i.e., cleaning/fixing up your house for sale or to move, etc.? Are you planning to work parttime in ER?

Thank you all. My situation is I still have 4 and 1/2 years left to ER and I am feeling so impatient because my work situation has gotten too stressful that many days I just feel like ER now and worry about not having enough money later but I am still working. I am trying to find ways to make the next 4 and 1/2 years more bearable. Please lend me your support in anyway that you'd like.

Thank you everyone so much!

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Old 05-05-2010, 11:39 AM   #2
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When you can count down the days on your fingers you know you are getting close. Save every cent you can between now and then.
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Old 05-05-2010, 11:51 AM   #3
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1) If you have succeeded at ER, can you share with me when you started to seriously "counting down" to the date when you ER? How many years out before your actual ER date?
About 2650 days, so a little over 7 years out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Retire2014
How did you feel during those years or months as you saved up your stash and counted down to THE DAY? Did you feel excited? Impatient wanting to just ER with less money but ER sooner?
I felt determined. Not excited, not impatient, but determined. Nobody was going to stop me, no matter what, by gosh.

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Originally Posted by Retire2014
Did you like your job more or less because you were in countdown mode?
The same.

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Originally Posted by Retire2014
Did you spend most of your free time fixing up your house, getting rid of extra stuff in yard sale, to downsize your home, or whatever else besides saving and investing in order to expedite your ER?
I spent most of my free time checking to see how my portfolio was doing compared with my projections (and doing and re-doing various projections), and investigating potential retirement locations online (plus spending all of our vacations checking them out in real life).

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How did you motivate yourself to stay on track and to not go into your boss's office to give your notice before you have saved up enough for a secure ER? Were you from time to time just obsessed with thoughts about ER?
I wasn't eligible to officially retire until two days before I actually DID retire. I waited until then to get lifetime health coverage and a tiny pension. It was harder to wait after I received my inheritance, sixteen months before I retired, because I thought I could probably afford private medical insurance. But, with the health care situation up in the air, and hearing stories about people having insurance problems simply because they got sick, I decided that I should wait.

While waiting, I posted a lot on the forum. I tried to lose weight and exercised more, hoping to retire in good health. I cleaned out the clutter in my closets, trying to minimize my stuff so that we could move north (which we haven't really done after all). I officially gave notice about six months before retiring, and then I went through the many, many old files at my office and got rid of those that nobody would ever want or need. I also went through thousands of saved e-mails and did the same thing. I wrote a manual on how to do my job, for those taking on my duties.

I don't think I was obsessed with retirement, though I spent a lot of time reading and learning. I think that retirement is a big change in one's life and it helps to prepare for it.
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Old 05-05-2010, 11:53 AM   #4
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I semi-retired this week going from working long hours in a high stress job to working one day a week (same place, lower stress work). DH will retire in July.

To answer your question I went back and read my intro post to the board last August. At that time I had an estimate for what DH's lump sum retirement would be (he can take either lump sum or pension). Based upon that I had us retiring in 3 years or so. I found not later that my estimate of his lump sum was significantly low (about 30%). It wasn't that I had made a mistake. I had used an estimate from a year earlier. What I didn't realize that due to various factors his lump sum amount had increased markedly. Once I realized that I realized that we would have now the same amount of money I thought we would have in 3 years I realized it was possible to move up the retirement by 3 years. (I also found that retiree health insurance was available to me from DH's employer so that also made it much easier).

The biggest variable for us at that point was that we own an expensive to maintain house that I knew I didn't really want in retirement. So we decided to downsize. For a couple of hundred thousand more we could have kept the old house. We did consider it. However, it wasn't just the cost of the house. The old house is very expensive to maintain. I realized that to keep the old house we would either have to work another couple of years or would to cut discretionary spending during retirement more than I wanted to cut it. So, despite the loveliness of our old house we decided that it had to go.

We spent a good bit of the past several months getting it ready to sell and in January started casually looking at houses to buy. I didn't really think we would find what we wanted right away, but we did. We decided to buy the new house now and went ahead and did that (no mortgage).

The old house recently went on the market to sell and we hope it sells fast (market where we live is fairly good).

It would have been financially wiser, of course, to wait to ESR until it was sold. However, my work was high stress and for a variety of reasons I felt that now was the time (and I think I have protected against disaster by continuing to work 1 day a week).

We are retiring with about 25% less than a few years ago I thought we would need. The main reason we can do that is that we have worked hard to reduce expenses (our early years retirement expenses are still higher than most as we have 3 teenagers). My main goal was to get to a place where we were totally debt free and had few financial commitments so that we could adjust expenses as needed.

I have a budget that I would like but I also have a bare bones budget that we can use if needed. Regardless, I am glad that we spent the time to reduce expenses and gain flexibility.
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Old 05-05-2010, 12:10 PM   #5
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My original planned retirement date was November 2011. But work situations made it that I ending up calling it a career earlier (Jan 2008). There were times under stress (and BS) that I wanted to just go home and not return the next day.

To help me from doing just that (just being a no-show one day), I built myself a spreadsheet called "retirement countdown" that calculated how may years, months, days away til I was going to get out. It was a way of reassuring myself that no matter how crazy and stressful my j*b was, there was light at the end of the tunnel as I saw the time at w*rk decreasing instead of increasing.

Before I pulled the trigger, I made sure I had my other part in order (could I do it financially?, I got afforadable private health insurance coverage on my own, etc.)

A stress reliever during the w*rk days would at lunch time I'd always try my best to go out for a walk to clear my mind of of w*rk, if only for an hour. Spending that time to window shop or run a few errands reminded myself that I wasn't totally chained to my j*b.
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Old 05-05-2010, 01:02 PM   #6
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My situation is I still have 4 and 1/2 years left to ER and I am feeling so impatient because my work situation has gotten too stressful that many days I just feel like ER now and worry about not having enough money later but I am still working. I am trying to find ways to make the next 4 and 1/2 years more bearable. Please lend me your support in anyway that you'd like.
IMO, it's all about attitude.

You need to envision your job as one that benefits you. Try to turn it around and be thankful you have a job that enables you to pay your expenses and save money.

You will start to see the light at the end of the tunnel more clearly as each day goes by. Believe me, delayed gratification is very sweet.

(I retired in 1998, DH in 2009)
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Old 05-05-2010, 01:21 PM   #7
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We are in countdown mode right now. We plan on semi-retiring (ESR) in or around March 2013 (DW plans on working part time after that date and I plan on retiring completely). At present, our main focus is hitting our financial milestones. So we work hard and save harder. Off course, I am aware that if we lose our jobs or if the market implodes again, our retirement date will probably fly out the window. So I make sure that we don't get too hung up on that date either. So far, no fear or anxieties about ESR but,I am sure that as we get closer to our planned semi-retirement date, we'll have plenty of doubts about the sanity of our plan... We will deal with the doubts if/when they materialize.
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Old 05-05-2010, 02:24 PM   #8
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I am trying to find ways to make the next 4 and 1/2 years more bearable. Please lend me your support in anyway that you'd like.
Not sure if this will be supportive, I can only say that I am in a similar boat - cant's stand the job, but have to stay here about 3 more years to qualify for a pension. So all I can offer is a sense of companionship and that it is also tough for me to to wait.

I think what works is keeping myself busy - I'm learning a lot about finances and doing budgets and investing money and "seeing the light at the end of the tunne" - reminding myself that it is coming. And I also make less effort at my job - my only goal is not to get fired in next 3 years, so I can do only what I have to do to get by. That makes it easeir. Also lots of walks outside as someone else suggested.

Best,
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Old 05-05-2010, 02:54 PM   #9
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My goal is Sep/Oct 2015 and my wifes goal is Dec 2015 as that is when my wife gets her pension--which would put us both at 55. We have enough now to ER but the pension would be a big fall back position that we just feel more comfortable with as it gives us a significant base to bridge the gap before SS. It also would help on the insurance side. That base will allow us to travel more and thus for us it is worth waiting for.

I enjoy my profession, just not my current position. It has moved too far away from 'why' I became an Architect to begin with. But the pay is good and the job is comfortable and I know many people who love to have my job. But when I retire from this position I will just open a small shop and do small projects that actually benefit people, etc.

I was interested in this thread as I was curious as to how other people get through the last 3-4 years without driving yourself crazy! Sept 2015 seems almost within my grasp--how do I keep myself from going stir crazy between now and then? Some mornings I wake up and think 'why am I going to work today?" But it also has allowed me to basically call BS on things at work and shockingly no one pushes back. So it has certainly afforded me a lot of freedoms as I know I could just leave and retire if I wanted to. So there are plusses to it too
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Old 05-05-2010, 03:51 PM   #10
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I started my countdown in 2004, 6 years ahead. I'd planned on RE'ing at 55 when eligible for a DB pension but the countdown really started then as the MegaCorp that had acquired my MegaCorp and been imposing its corporate control and culture for 4 years by then and it was like a big snake was choking all the creativity out of me in that it was taking control of the systems I was responsible for and I really hated it.

By that time we were in very good shape financially but not FI. DW was not exactly enamored with her job either and had been through multiple down-sizing exercises over the previous 6 years. So I applied for a new job within Megacorp in another State and got it. DW RE'd and we set off on a new adventure for the final few years before ER. DW was ER'ed for 6 months then started doing part time contract work with her old firm, logging onto their systems remotely.

I spent most of my free time checking to see how my portfolio was doing compared with my projections (and doing and re-doing various projections), and trying out apartment living as we planned to travel a lot by living for weeks or months at a time in different places, and having a "lock and leave" place was part of the plan.

I also found and joined this forum in 2005. We both joined the YMCA and exercised more, hoping to retire in good health. I also started playing tennis again and we both got into cycling.

After 4 years I got fed up with what was going on where I was at and applied for another job within MegaCorp and moved States again and this is where I finished out my last 2 years, back as an engineer, working on big capital projects with no more employees working for me - it made the transition to ER very easy.

I was probably obsessed with retirement in the end but I spent a lot of time reading and learning and preparing, so that the transition to ER was "bumpless".[/QUOTE]
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Old 05-05-2010, 04:29 PM   #11
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I was probably obsessed with retirement in the end but I spent a lot of time reading and learning and preparing, so that the transition to ER was "bumpless".
I suppose ours was bumpless as well, but I have to admit we've skidded a time or two....
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Old 05-05-2010, 04:36 PM   #12
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I suppose ours was bumpless as well, but I have to admit we've skidded a time or two....
I think we left skid marks as well. I retired on a Tuesday and the moving company came the next day and off we went to Texas
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Old 05-06-2010, 12:17 AM   #13
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Zero countdown. Went from thinking that retirement was something way way off in the future, to it suddenly happening with a bang. Laid off in the tech crash at <50. Was in a bit of a daze, then figured we could do it. Found FireCalc and this website after I had made the decision not to look for further employment. In ER year #8 now, all systems go. Health and mental outlook much better than megacorp long hours, high stress, PITA people.

Not that I got to experience it, since it turned out to be after the fact, but I would think that once someone gets in the FI ballpark, that the crap at work would be easier to take.
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Old 05-06-2010, 03:29 AM   #14
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If all goes well we will be ER in Feb. 2012. However, there is a slight risk that pension date for DH will be pushed up by politics (he is teacher) for 6 months by then.

We enjoy our jobs most of the time but we will enjoy much more having a schedule of our own, travelling out of school holiday periods and (me) not having to clean up the mess that others caused (in-house counsel).
We are not obsessed with ER but we check financial situation regularly and try to live on the after-retirement-budget already now, saving the rest of our income.
In the meantime we enjoy life, each other and try to build and maintain good social relationships with others.

If I really suffered in my job I would probably look for something else, find ways to delegate or modify the bad parts of it or develop skills for a parttime job in ER.
Life is too short to suffer for such a big portion of my time.
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Old 05-06-2010, 11:19 AM   #15
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1) If you have succeeded at ER, can you share with me when you started to seriously "counting down" to the date when you ER? How many years out before your actual ER date?
As Joe Walsh says, ER's been good to me so far...

I knew I'd be retiring from the military in 2002 and began seriously considering ER in the late 1990s. It was more from frustration with the typical post-military career search than from any unhappiness over the work environment. There didn't seem to be anything better than the job from which I was retiring. Not that the job I was retiring from was such a hot endorsement for working, either, but I'd had much worse and my standards were very low.

In the 1980s hardly anyone thought of, let alone discussed or planned for, ER. Most of the focus was on LBYM and financial independence, with ER being a happy afterthought caused by other events outside of one's control.

My ER checklist kicked in about 18 months prior and revved up with about 12 months to go. But by then we'd been saving for nearly 20 years.
How do/did you prepare for ER?

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How did you feel during those years or months as you saved up your stash and counted down to THE DAY? Did you feel excited? Impatient wanting to just ER with less money but ER sooner?
The military has a formula called the "Happiness Factor" (HF). It's the number of days (or hours or minutes) you'll be on leave divided by the number of days (or hours or minutes) left until you go on leave.

Figure out how many ER years you'll have, and when you're within five years of that date your HF will start rising exponentially.

"Semi-ER" back then wasn't much more than the concept of "Well, if this doesn't work out then I'll be able to get a Wal-Mart greeter job." Or you'd tell skeptical family/friends/co-workers that you'd be taking a few months off while you considered your next career.

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Did you like your job more or less because you were in countdown mode?
I liked my job more, but a large component of that (besides the HF) was another military concept called "FIGMO". (Leonidas is already smirking.) FIGMO kicks in when your retirement/separation orders are actually in hand, or perhaps in anticipation/expectation of that event. In polite terms it means "I'd really like to devote more time and sympathy to your workplace concerns, but these days I'm more focused on my own priorities and I can't actually motivate myself to care about whatever it is that you think I should be doing".

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Did you spend most of your free time fixing up your house, getting rid of extra stuff in yard sale, to downsize your home, or whatever else besides saving and investing in order to expedite your ER? How did you motivate yourself to stay on track and to not go into your boss's office to give your notice before you have saved up enough for a secure ER? Were you from time to time just obsessed with thoughts about ER?
I spent a lot of time reading about ER lifestyles and financial planning. My retirement date was fixed years in advance and not the sort of moving target where I could just tell off the boss and quit, whether we were financially ready or not. But obsession is probably the correct word.
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Old 05-11-2010, 11:05 AM   #16
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Thank you everyone for your words of advice and encouragement.
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Old 05-11-2010, 11:25 AM   #17
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Thank you everyone for your words of advice and encouragement.
You're welcome. Glad to help out. Keep us updated on your ER plans
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Old 05-11-2010, 11:51 AM   #18
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Because I'm young (31) still, there is far too much variability (I'm estimating 8-12 years, depending on many things) so I'm going about it a little in reverse. I've estimated that I'll need about $100/day (in today's dollars) to retire, indexed to inflation. By the rule of 25 (4% yield basically) that means that I can provide 1 day's living expenses for each $2500 I have saved up. So I put together a calendar. As my invested assets increase by increments of $2500, I get to mark off another day of my "retirement year". In order to prevent myself from obsessing too much over my finances, I only update my spreadsheet once a month, barring extrordinary changes (ESOP dividends, end of the year ESOP revaluation, etc) that ought to be captured as large single effects, so the days generally don't come off the calendar much at this point. (That may change as investmest swings more heavily outweigh my contributions over the periods). It gives me a better sense of progress and not feeling that it's a hopelessly long grind, as well as a tracking method that doesn't try to predict too many variables (I have a spreadsheet for playing with variables on the side). Right now, I've almost made it to Tax Day on my calendar! :-P
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Old 05-11-2010, 12:18 PM   #19
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My ER date will be May 1, 2012. Getting under the two more years mark feels good and even more as if the end is really in sight. I don't hate the job any more as I get closer but, as someone else said, sometimes I am tempted to just not show up the next day. Must say I'm obsessed with the idea of retirement.

I like the "delayed gratification is sweet" from bbbamI. Have a collection of motivational thoughts, mostly from this forum, that I visit from time to time when the going gets particularly rough. The amount of money I leave on the table (because of my specific work/retirement situation) by cutting short these last two years is the best motivation of all. Love this kind of thread - I always learn something I can use to make my wait until ER more bearable. Thanks,
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Old 05-11-2010, 12:26 PM   #20
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Interestingly I recently found a letter I wrote to colleagues in 1980 (When I was 28) when the state changed its retirement plan. (Think of the shift from CSRS to FERS and you get the general idea.) I pointed out that the state's assumptions about the new plan were incredibly optimistic. One of my colleagues sent me the letter because he was incredibly happy he stayed with the old plan.
I began doing retirement planning in earnest in 1997. Wrote a note to my wife every year with updated forecasts. When the time was right I made a deal with the University for Emeritus status and a very nice contract for continued services. The fact I was in the "old" retirement system was critical. While not a very "early retiree" by most standards, and still working "part time" the whole result was fabulous. I do the teaching and research that I love and I have no administrative duties or grant writing. The trick is not "dollars per day" The trick is "what do you want out of life"?

BTW My youngest graduated Magna cum Laud yesterday from law school. Since the older one has a full fellowship for her Ph.D at a top ranked university, we seem to be out of the paying for education business.
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