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Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-12-2006, 09:03 AM   #1
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Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

I'm a few years away from FIRE but quite a few posts around here go something like this:

I am ready to retire, but just got a raise/promotion. While I figure I can exit now, that extra year would by me an additional $$$ and sick leave; never hurts to have a little extra in the retirement buffer account; the house is just 2 years from payoff; my SO's pension will go up another 5%; really should wait another year to strengthen the safety net...

You get the picture: no matter when you FIRE, there is always some set of reasons why you should wait "just one more year." Yet this also seems like a psychologic trap - you can always justify waiting, and in the meantime precious years of FIRE go slipping away. In the end, you will never have complete reassurance about your finances when you retire.

So, how did you know when you have reached the proverbial point of diminishing returns? What told you the time was right? I guess I'm not looking for a number, but rather a strategic or emotional "perfect storm" for cutting the cord. Or is it really as simple as when the money and lifestyle align?
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-12-2006, 09:32 AM   #2
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

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Originally Posted by Rich_in_Tampa
Or is it really as simple as when the money and lifestyle align?
Well, yeah. Although sometimes your priorities are realigned to realize that living is more important than earning money.

In our case it was number-crunching at our investment portfolio after 9/11 and realizing that we still had enough to afford ER at our standard of living. When retirement time came around (nine months later) we had more money than that rock-bottom number so we felt comfortable making the leap. Besides I was willing to let spouse volunteer to return to the workforce if necessary...

I agree that many finally achieve FI and start with the "Yeah but--" phase of their ER decision. Usually that's nudged along by a big workplace bonus, a buyout/layoff, a friend's health crisis/death, or a personal health crisis. Or in Martha's case, by having to deal with more ugly lawyer stuff when she'd rather be traveling!

I know a realtor who cheerfully believes that his savings will never support his retirement spending. His words were "Every year my cost of retirement living gets more expensive". (I think he's referring to upgrading from first class airline tickets to NetJets charters.) OTOH he's in his 70s, he owns the business, it's staffed by family, and he & spouse are at that stage of their lives where they pretty much do whatever they want. I don't think he's run an open house since the '80s. They spend most of their time traveling to real estate conferences, working with a Mainland firm that finds undervalued rentals & TIC commercial properties, and attending college reunions. Works for him, and he'll probably die on the road with a smile on his face.
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-12-2006, 10:06 AM   #3
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

I think a lot of people who ER are strongly influenced by a death or health crisis of a loved one. I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer when she was only 63, and just as my Dad retired at 65. After that I never looked at the future in the same way.

A lot of people experience a strong "wake-up call" that puts things in sharp perspective.

You know how much money you have, but you never know how much time you have left on this earth (or good health for that matter).

At some point for me, my personal time (and energy) became far more important than the money I was making.

Not having a monthly paycheck still took some getting used to. I think it took a couple of years for me to get used to living off my investments. I also saw my living expenses gradually come down during that time - that helped me feel more secure financially.

If you don't have a clear idea of what you would be doing if you weren't working - then it might be hard to leave the financial security of a regular paycheck.

Are there any things you really want to get to do before you die? If so, you have to figure out how you're going to do them while you still have the health.

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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-12-2006, 10:10 AM   #4
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

To some of us, the money is there but we wonder what we'd do all day and worry about getting bored.

I won't make up some long winded rationalization about why I'm working. Work gives some of us some meaning. The extra money is great, of course, but that's not why all of us keep working.
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-12-2006, 10:29 AM   #5
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

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...but we wonder what we'd do all day and worry about getting bored.
If there was an easy answer to that question then I'd put it in my user profile. Life's daily bureaucratic minutiae contain enough crap to keep you doing something all day if you let it. And even on those days I haven't been bored!

A more humorous approach to the issue is Paul Terhorst's essay on Bodywork.

I think the best solution is for people to take enough time off to develop their own answer to the question. A year works every time, six months works great, three months is probably enough for most, six weeks will probably point people in the right direction, one month might be enough to let the fog start to lift...

... two weeks just can't cut it.
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-12-2006, 10:44 AM   #6
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

I said in another thread that I made my decision to retire when I decided that having one less year of retirement to do what I want to do whenever I want to do it was more important to me than additional money.

It took me a year to come to the realization that one more year of income and investment growth wasn't really going to change my retirement lifestyle. It became a no brainer that my time was more valuable than more money. I gave notice for retirement effective May 1 this year.
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-12-2006, 10:45 AM   #7
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

Oh my!

You opened up a question that is foremost in my mind, today. *In essence, I (and DW) are F.I. at this time. *Why don't we "pull the plug?" *For me, it's a bit of a "habit", due to the reason that we are F.I. is that we've been "trucking" the last 40+ years to get to where we are, today.

My DW dosen't want me to retire, because she knows that I don't really have anything outside of work (started in a family business at age 14, and never really developed any "outside, normal interests").

I guess she's right. *I don't have any "passions" that I really want to do, so I can't necessarly "follow my bliss" as some current retirement book authors have suggested.

It's getting hard, going to work every day, seeing "incompentence" and yet not being in a position to "make a difference". *Every day I ask myself, why I am still doing this (especially since I <on average> get better "income" from my retirement directed investments).

I guess if an alternative presented itself, I would "go for it". *Till that time, I'll plan on "getting out" the end of next year, at age 60. *No, it isn't "early", but it will be before all others in my family, who went at 62.

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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-12-2006, 10:52 AM   #8
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

Quote:
Originally Posted by audreyh1
I think a lot of people who ER are strongly influenced by a death or health crisis of a loved one.
That one really resonates with me. I work with the dying every day. Many were caught off guard by their crisis and I must admit that those who have enjoyed a decade or two of retirement before the lightning struck do seem to be more accepting, feel less short-changed, and are more "ready" for their own departure. Gross subjective generalization, but I think it contains some truth for me.

Pulling the trigger too soon on FIRE can clearly be catastrophic -- but failing to do so can be worse, I concluded. Now, to find that right moment...
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-12-2006, 11:10 AM   #9
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

Quote:
Originally Posted by audreyh1
I think a lot of people who ER are strongly influenced by a death or health crisis of a loved one.*
i lost my partner, then my best friend, all the while caregiving for mom with alzheimer's disease. then my dog died. my job had been awful since they "re-engineered". i figured, i've got enough real misery in my life, why am i putting up with this manufactured variety. i might be shooting myself in the head to avoid a.d. in 20 years anyway. what am i waiting for? more money? yikes.

a colleague there, now 65, was planning to retire in january. we still talk. she still complains non-stop about the bull**** there. yet still she is working when she doesn't need the money.

the year before i quit, i met a guy at the miami boat show and discussed with him my early retirement plans. he was there showing off the dream of his lifetime, a magnificant $4 million, go-anywhere 72-footer. he told me if he had the choice to make again, he & his wife would have quit years ago.

he got to enjoy his new boat for 6 months. they had just started an expedition into the north atlantic. now it is for sale. the listing quotes "health reasons."

ya need money to survive. ya don't need it to kill you. so the value of money declines when living life is worth more.
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-12-2006, 11:36 AM   #10
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

3 Years ago my DW was diagnosed with breast cancer. After one year of surgeries and chemo we agreed that it was time for ER. Actually she insisted! You never have enough money, thereís always a good reason to work just a little longer. Itís easy to get trapped in that mentality until youíve waited too long and the dream is gone. Itís a trade off between money and time. We decided we had enough money, nearly $1.5 M in assets, and there was no valid reason to wait.

If you think youíre close to having enough money, do it now! Donít wait.
You can always get some more money if you have to, you can not regain your health or age.
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-12-2006, 12:55 PM   #11
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

I had been enjoying work less & less for a couple of years, and the positives about my job finally fell under critical mass for me. Didn't help that this was a software company with years of cr@ppy quarterly reports & excuses, or that I was telecommuting from across the country and the sense of cameraderie was leaving me. No retirement benefits, so no golden handcuffs to hold me back, other than a general wish to stuff a little more into my 401k--and that was SO*not worth more months/years of my life! I haven't had a moment's regret in the 6 months I've been retired.

Boredom? What's that? I think (and read, and cook, and have fun, and listen, and plan), therefore I am!
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-12-2006, 01:50 PM   #12
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

"is it really as simple as when the money and the lifestyle align?"

Yes. When we got to that point in time it was time for hubby to retire. (I retired years earlier)

We live a somewhat simple lifestyle since we're homebodies who love the outdoors. We had all the toys (bought and paid with cash) so now it was time to use them on a weekly basis not just once or twice a year. We also wanted to spend time with the parents who are still with us and our grown children. (and eventually grandchildren)

I wanted hubby to stay for 2 more years (he was only 53) "for the financial security". He wanted to go so he handed in the paperwork. I was wrong. We're financially fine and I like having him around more often. Now I'm to the point where I don't even like him having a part-time job but it's something he likes so I go with the flow.
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-12-2006, 03:45 PM   #13
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

I can't answer your question from experience, because I haven't actually quit yet.* But I'll tell you how I plan to deal with it when the time comes.* I've just now started planning the post-employment period of my life.* We're thinking of spending a year or so living abroad . . . maybe Italy, maybe Ireland . . . don't know yet.* But as we start nailing down the details I expect the excitement over our life-altering adventure will overwhelm any thoughts of delay.*

I'll let you know how it turns out in ~36 months.


Edit: the last sentence absolutely needed a smiley face
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-12-2006, 04:14 PM   #14
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

I just resigned from my teaching position last week after 20 years.* I agonized over whether or not I should follow through with my resignation for about the last six months. It was especially difficult, because I could have doubled my pension with another 5 years, and tripled it with 10.* What made me finally pull the trigger was my age.* I turn 55 this month and am* still very healthy.* Will I still be healthy 10 years from now, 5 years from now or even 1 year from now?* No one has the answer to that question.* There are a lot of things I'd like to do in the coming years.* Unfortunately, I would have to be healthy to enjoy these things.* Poor health would preclude my being able to experience these dreams at an optimum level.* Not retiring, in my way of thinking would have been a lot* like gambling. Only, I wouldn't have been gambling with money, I'd have been gambling with my quality of life. I could have chosen to work more years, but if someing happened, money would never buy those years back for me.* I now feel a tremendous amount of peacefulness and relief with last week's decision.
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-12-2006, 04:57 PM   #15
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich_in_Tampa
That one really resonates with me. I work with the dying every day. Many were caught off guard by their crisis and I must admit that those who have enjoyed a decade or two of retirement before the lightning struck do seem to be more accepting, feel less short-changed, and are more "ready" for their own departure.
Rich: I pulled the pin close to 20 years ago to have an opportunity to play a lot of tournament golf, and fly-fish.

I'm ready to go when I can no longer be competitive in tournaments. (Co-incidentally, as Nords has pointed out, my wife will be ready about that time also.

But no big rush.
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-12-2006, 07:23 PM   #16
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

Pulling the trigger too soon on FIRE can clearly be catastrophic -- but failing to do so can be worse, I concluded. Now, to find that right moment...

This really rings true with me. I'm a mathmatical geek and have done all kinds of number crunching. I'm in that "one more year" mode. After a lot of thinking I look at my personal situation this way. I'd rather be 80 and broke thinking I should have worked longer, than 60, a boat load of money, dying, thinking why didn't I just enjoy the moment.
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-14-2006, 07:58 AM   #17
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

You're absolutely right, garrynky.* Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what should or should not have happened in the past, or should or should not happen in the future that we are unable to* enjoy the moment.* It's often said that the present is exactly that--a gift.
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-14-2006, 11:33 AM   #18
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

Quote:
Originally Posted by garrynky
I'd rather be 80 and broke thinking I should have worked longer, than 60, a boat load of money, dying, thinking why didn't I just enjoy the moment.
That's very true.

This discussion seems to be linked to money and the implication that a good time can't be had without spending more of it, or that a better time can't be had without spending more of it.

Yet when I think of the things I'll be doing and the places I'll be going this week, I doubt if I'll part with more than $20-- including the $12.97 for Friday night Costco pizza & dessert.

It'd be especially sad to work longer for more money while missing an opportunity to do the tremendously satisfying things that don't happen to require much money at all...
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-14-2006, 11:59 AM   #19
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

Spending more money never did bring me any additional happiness. To be honest, I'm happier spending 20 bucks on McDonalds and bringing it back to the house with my buddies, and just hanging out watching tv and drinking or whatever, than going out to Outback, where one time we ran up a tab of something like $105, including the tip, for 3 of us!

Last Friday, I had about an hour and a half of overtime in, so instead of logging it, they let me ditch out at 2:30 instead of 4. After taxes and everything else, that 1.5 hours would net me about 20 bucks on my paycheck, and maybe 12 bucks added to my 401k. It was worth it though, to just go out for a walk in the woods, to an isolated area, and not even see another human being for several hours. I also saw something that I've never seen in the wild, unless it was dead along the road...a fox! I stumbled across it in the woods and it took off running. It was a beautiful sight, seeing it bounding across the marsh.

All in all, it was just a nice, peaceful relaxing day that is really hard to put a dollar value on.
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome
Old 03-14-2006, 12:14 PM   #20
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Re: Handling the "just one more year..." syndrome

Retirement plans tend to be seductive...to draw you into the "one more year" syndrome. Ours REALLY seems to penalize you from leaving even just a couple years early.

Here are some of my choices:

Retire 6/30/06 $46,104 per year
Retire 6/30/07 $52,872
Retire 6/30/08 $59,916
Retire 11/10/08 $63,528

Staying "that extra year" would increase my pension by over $500 per month per year. In this case, getting an extra $17,424 per year for less than 2 1/2 years of additional service is something to think about.
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