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Old 08-29-2014, 08:15 PM   #61
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Wow, excellent post, Clifp.

When I was in my 30's and 40's, I didn't WANT to quit work. I wanted to find out if I was going to change the world, if I was destined to greatness, or in summary, who I really could be in the big scheme of things. I was working to fulfill my place/destiny in the universe as much as anything, I suppose.

By the time I was 50, I was done with that and ready to retire, which I finally managed to do at age 61.

Now that I am 66, I am beyond cynical. In my youth I bought into the whole work ethic thing, hook, line, and sinker. Looking back I wonder if this values system had nothing of substance to it other than encouraging maximum production for the benefit of individuals higher up in the food chain. This probably is an overreaction but this is how it looks from where I sit. I could go on but will spare you.

I am so glad to be retired and out of the ratrace. I have never been so happy and fulfilled, and I think my health may have actually improved a little over the past five years of retirement.
Excellent post, W2R. It pretty much sums things up for me... I felt the career thrills and ambition in my 30's... and into my early 40's.... but cynicism grew pretty quickly as I saw corporate bigwigs make decisions that created great bonuses for themselves, with high RIF numbers. But we were told to work harder/smarter as we had the staff cut in half, deadlines get more aggressive, etc. By 45 I was seriously cynical and starting to do the math on my retirement plans.

My biggest mindset change happened soon after. My brother (age 49) and father (age 77) dying a few months apart when I was 47 confirmed my decision. (My mom died a few years earlier - less than 6 years after she retired at age 62.) Life may be shorter than we plan for - and what good is a pile of money, twice as big as you need, if you die right after you retire... or worse, before you can retire.

Dave Barry has a line that has resonated with me for years. "Don't confuse your career with your life". I'm not defined by what I did to earn money. My life is what happened outside of my work.
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Old 08-29-2014, 10:10 PM   #62
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Over my 23-year working career, I liked my job a lot and tolerated the commute in the early years. Then the commute took its toll on me as the job satisfaction began to dip, not a lot but enough so that after 11-13 years I had to start thinking about how to change things. At 16 years in, I was able to switch to part-time to lessen the commute. I was 38 at the time and began putting together an ER plan which at the time had me getting out in my early 50s.

I never thought I was abandoning anything because the dang commute was just wearing me out more and more. I wanted my personal life back, plain and simple. And I had to get rid of the commute as much as possible. Once I had my personal life back, I hated the commute more and more, even only a few days a week. It became a bigger and bigger challenge to juggle my limited work schedule with my personal life's activities.

Once I had enough money so that I did not need to work any more, I retired. That happened ahead of my earlier timetable, at age 45. And I never looked back or felt I was abandoning anything. It was time to go.
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Retired in late 2008 at age 45. Cashed in company stock, bought a lot of shares in a big bond fund and am living nicely off its dividends. IRA, SS, and a pension await me at age 60 and later. No kids, no debts.

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Old 08-29-2014, 10:42 PM   #63
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Charities, civic organizations, and causes all are worthwhile activities to find the sense of teamwork that a job provides. Still my experience is that most volunteer activities are rather mundane: clean up a park, read to kids, give tours, help with fund raisers. For the most part entry level jobs with some nice perks and for a good cause. I estimate that less 20% of volunteer really get into the activity. Jobs for most people provide that sense of team and being part of cause greater than your self interest, which fills a need. Getting a paycheck provide a sense of validation that volunteer jobs don't generally provide.
Like others here, I found your whole post thought-provoking, but I'm going to zero in on your discussion of nonprofits and volunteerism.

Earlier in my career, I considered working for a nonprofit that focused on one of my passions, but the pay was abysmal and the workload unhealthy. I now think I dodged a bullet -- I wouldn't have been able to retire early if I had accepted that job offer.

I've also served on several nonprofit boards and have found them, for the most part, unfulfilling. Often, you're expected to fundraise (not enjoyable to me) or contribute considerable money (not possible for me). Therefore, I thought I'd do more frontline volunteering in retirement, but unfortunately, I suspect you're right about the tasks being mundane.

I'd be curious to know if others have discovered a way to avoid the above pitfalls.
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Old 08-30-2014, 12:29 AM   #64
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I did volunteer work for our kids' clubs, school and sports teams and that was fine. I have also been okay volunteering with hobby clubs we belonged to. I have not had great experiences volunteering for random, non-profit charitable organizations. Most of the time those entry level volunteer positions end up as providing serf labor to unappreciative, more senior volunteers or paid employees that work less than the volunteers.

I do not want the responsibility or time commitment of doing senior management type work at a nonprofit, nor serfdom at the other end of the spectrum, so I also have not found a good balance on volunteer work these days. I feel like I should be doing something for some good karma. Our next move might be to try civic organizations like the Rotary club where they are part social groups and part fundraisers for good causes.
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Old 08-30-2014, 01:13 AM   #65
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Earlier in my career, I considered working for a nonprofit that focused on one of my passions, but the pay was abysmal and the workload unhealthy. I now think I dodged a bullet -- I wouldn't have been able to retire early if I had accepted that job offer.

I've also served on several nonprofit boards and have found them, for the most part, unfulfilling. Often, you're expected to fundraise (not enjoyable to me) or contribute considerable money (not possible for me). Therefore, I thought I'd do more frontline volunteering in retirement, but unfortunately, I suspect you're right about the tasks being mundane.

I'd be curious to know if others have discovered a way to avoid the above pitfalls.
I would also love to hear others experiences also. I think realistically non profits is the way that many (but by no means all) really early retirees will find some the teamwork aspects missing in retirement.

By far my most positive volunteer experience has actually been serving on the board of directors for Pacific Historic Parks. We essentially help with fund raising for the Arizona Memorial and four other other historically focused sites through out the Pacific. Although fund raising is certainly part of the job, most of it involves helping out operations of our 5 "bookstores", keeping an eye on our investments, and planning for the future. On the other hand listening to others who are on the BOD for non profits I think you experience maybe more typical than mine.

I've only had one other volunteer job where I felt my brain was engaged after I left the premises (Ironically both of them involved Nords...). For instance, I am just heading up the committee that is planning events for the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec 7, 2016. At some point some government official will take over the job, and I'll get pushed aside but hopefully I'll be able to make a difference.

The problem with most frontlline volunteer activities, is they are overseen by a volunteer coordinators. Now typically these folks are in the 20s and this their first or maybe 2nd real job. Now while some are excellent, many are not. The reality is many of the volunteers not only have more knowledge about the subject, and have greater passion, but based on life experience have a better idea of how to organize things. Volunteers, especially us maverick early retire types, are unafraid to ask why, and will typical not take "that is the rules" as an answer.

This can create some real tense situations. For instance a fellow board member, a retired Air Force Col. was recently fired from his volunteer position at the Arizona Memorial. The irony of this was that was a month after he was awarded the Retired Officer of the Year for the state, for his volunteer work not only with the Arizona Memorial, but the Lions club, YMCA, the VA, and couple of the other organizations. This wasn't guy who was afraid to get his hands dirty, if trash needed to be picked up, he picked it up. But he had dared to question the 20 somethings authority and that was taboo. Even more ironically the volunteer coordinator got a promotion to a new National Park service unit.

I've have heard that in Silicon Valley some non profits are starting to change how they are organized. They hire folks to do the entry level position, give tours, read to kids, fix the trails, and use volunteers to do the high level planning figured out what to say on the tours, develop the curriculum for the kids, and figure out which trails to fix and how to do it more efficiently. I am not holding my breath this will spread to Hawaii.
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Old 08-30-2014, 02:09 AM   #66
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We managed to "volunteer" by just figuring out what we did that would be useful for a non-profit, and then offering those services. As opposed to signing on as a volunteer, and then doing whatever is assigned. A big part of this for us is giving back to the places that we enjoy so much.

So DH donates nature prints to national and state parks, always appreciated for their education outreach programs as well as showing off what they conserve. We lead some tours in annual nature festivals. We occasionally make graphic design contributions. We regularly post video and photographs of wildlife we encounter in any given park. It's all very much appreciated, and we do as much or as little as we want, with no major schedule commitments.

At this point our "credentials" are well known within our community, so we are drawn on by folks working in nature/wildlife conservation in our area when they need help documenting something important.

Neither DH nor I really feel the "need" for teamwork. Although we do often help out with little volunteer projects here or there that our friends are up to. Most of our post-retirement friends are heavily involved in nature/wildlife as well. That's how we became friends.....
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Old 08-30-2014, 02:18 AM   #67
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There are people I know in this and other forums who retired very early with little money, moved to another country to live on small expense, and living an idle (subjective, I know, no offense intended) life. They are happy without driving fancy cars, and eating 5 star restaurant food now and then. It is unconventional form of retirement as most of us opt to pile up money to live the remaining 20 - 40 years in comfort. My initial question was more for those who decided to quit work in their 30s without striking rich. But I enjoyed interesting discussions hitherto.
It's interesting that you didn't specify that in your OP. If someone did strike it "rich" in their thirties, then it would make a lot more sense for them to retire, no? If they truly no longer needed to earn a living. Unless their career meant significantly more to them than any money they earned and the BS component wasn't so high to make it not worth the hassle.

If someone has barely enough in their thirties to retire - that is indeed taking on a very risky proposition. You had better be very sure you can do it.
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Old 08-30-2014, 10:48 AM   #68
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I would also love to hear others experiences also. I think realistically non profits is the way that many (but by no means all) really early retirees will find some the teamwork aspects missing in retirement.
To avoid hijacking this thread, I've spun this topic off into its own...

How to avoid volunteerism pitfalls - Early Retirement & Financial Independence Community
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Old 08-30-2014, 12:00 PM   #69
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In my youth I bought into the whole work ethic thing, hook, line, and sinker. Looking back I wonder if this values system had nothing of substance to it other than encouraging maximum production for the benefit of individuals higher up in the food chain.
This is completely, and spot on, how I feel.

When I graduated from college, I thought I'd find someplace to work, and be there my whole career. I was at that first employer for about 6 years, and in retrospect, that was about 3 years too long.

I quickly learned that as a "cube rat" and individual contributor, with no desire to move into management, I was there to slave away and provide for those higher up the ladder.

But that view also enabled me to be a mercenary regarding my jobs. I didn't believe in corporate loyalty (in either direction) more than two weeks at a time. With every paycheck, my employer bought my loyalty for two weeks - no more. I always kept my eyes and ears open for better opportunities and when they came along, I took them. Never had any fears or doubts about jumping ship, and when I decided to do that, I never looked back.

I consider myself fortunate that over my career, I've fired more employers than have fired me. I've been fired (aka RIF'd) twice in my career, from two startups that didn't make it. I've fired 5 employers, and will fire my current one in February when I'll quit and walk out the door.

So as much as an employer might have used me, I used them, too. And when I was done with one, I threw them away.
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Old 09-02-2014, 01:19 PM   #70
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I've spent the last few days slowly working through this thread - it's very thought-provoking, and I wanted to chew on my thoughts for a little while.

DH and I were planning on retiring at 35. Of course, we graduated from college in 1997, so the first few years of work were full of stories of people cashing out huge Silicon Valley stock options and retiring in their 30s. Alas, the stock market and our desire to remodel our house pushed things back to ~45, which is still our current plan (5-6 years to go!).

If you ask why, I'd have to say that neither one of us bought into the American work ethic once we started our first jobs. We were working in chip fab and engineering consulting, and neither one of those industries is out there changing the world and doing great things. We've both since moved into Med Device, which has far better impact on society. However, even with being at our career peaks, and having serious positive impact on our companies, our view hasn't changed.

From what I've seen for myself and with my peers, most companies are working to maximize profits and wring every second of work they can out of employees. They use feel-good b.s. to try to compensate for crappy compensation, but "atta-boys" don't put food on the table or money in my 401(k). And if the shareholders are freaking out about profits, out comes the RIF, regardless of whether it's a sound long-term strategy or not.

In contrast, my personal life is filled with amazing,fulfilling relationships. My marriage is a wonderful partnership filled with love and laughter. When we have friends over for game night we eat and laugh and have a great time. I like doing yardwork with my parents. I LOVE reading good books. All of these are things that nourish my soul far better than any job ever has, and are things that my career has gotten in the way of.

Why wouldn't I want to get out ASAP?
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