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Thoughts on one year anniversary of ESR
Old 05-11-2014, 06:52 PM   #1
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Thoughts on one year anniversary of ESR

It was a year ago this week that I left my position as CEO of the company I worked for. I was burned out, and I was convinced that I never wanted to be in the work force again after what I went through. While I came down from that radical position within a few weeks of my departure, I have remained in ESR status for the entire year. I now work for a company that only requires me to go into the office one day a week. When Iím home I may end up spending an hour or two a day answering calls and responding to emails, but itís very low stress and can be done at my convenience. In fact, there is virtually no pressure on me to do virtually anything, so any work I take on is purely my own choice.

The first six months were fantastic. I took long walks along the beach every day, took up swimming, went on long bicycle rides, read the newspaper cover to cover every day, spent more time cooking my own meals, and slowed down from the fast paced life that I have been accustomed to for so many years. Every day I would wake up and think ďI canít believe life can be this great!"

In the past few months, Iíve noticed a change in my way of thinking. I started to get a bit more involved in some work related projects that reminded me just how much I enjoy a good challenge in the business world. In the past year I have renegotiated several contracts for my new company which have resulted in savings in excess of $1M per year for the company. Iíve closed deals with my prior business contacts and added several employees to the organization. And I really enjoyed doing all of this. Now I find myself looking around for other projects that look like they might be fun.

I restructured the company 401K program by adding a number of Vanguard index funds. Previously the only funds were actively managed, with high expense ratios. Iíve replaced the corporate email system and am working to replace the phone system. Iíve identified a number of business processes that needed to change and continue to work on implementing these changes throughout the organization.

But for the most part, other than the one day Iím in the office, I find myself having a lot of free time. And what I miss the most is the intellectual challenges that the business world offered me throughout my career. Of course I still get some of it, but much less than what I had before, and perhaps a bit less than I would prefer.

I promised myself I wouldnít go back to work full time for the first twelve months, and I didnít. And even now the thought of getting up every day and going into the office has no appeal to me. This office is almost sixty miles from my home, so even commuting one day per week is nasty. I do it because I need the face time with the employees to be successful, but spending 4-5 hours per day in my car is just plain awful. Realistically, even if it was right around the corner, I don't have any desire to go back to a five day a week office gig.

So I find myself continuing to think about whether Iím ready to retain my part time status at 47 years old, or if something else out there is calling for me. Part of me is quite content being home four days a week, and having enough work to dabble in without being overly busy. But I really do miss the challenge, and I donít want to get so comfortable that my brain turns to mush before I even reach 50 years old.

My partner will continue to work for another 10 years or so. Iím not the type to need to spend every day with him anyway, so I have no problem with that. Iíve thought about volunteer work, but nothing has really resonated with me. And if Iím going to do real work, I think Iíd prefer to get paid, selfish as that may sound.

So Iím curious if anyone out there has had similar experiences to me, and wondered if retiring this early was the right thing or not. And what did you do to replace the part of your job that challenged your brain and kept your thinking sharp, or gave you a sense of satisfaction when you solved a tough problem you were working on?
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Old 05-11-2014, 07:26 PM   #2
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So Iím curious if anyone out there has had similar experiences to me, and wondered if retiring this early was the right thing or not. And what did you do to replace the part of your job that challenged your brain and kept your thinking sharp, or gave you a sense of satisfaction when you solved a tough problem you were working on?
Yes, I did, and it took a while to find it. I'm retired law enforcement, and when I retired I was at the top of my game in computer forensics which at the time was still somewhat of a "black art" although in reality it was mostly just data recovery coupled with a knowledge of evidence handing and search and seizure law as it applied to data.

I like tech stuff, although I'm nowhere close to having the knowledge/experience of any sort of engineer.

While I've always enjoyed photography, the costs of film and processing, not to mention the cost of equipment, were a barrier. To me there is something magical about capturing in a still photograph a moment in time that will never occur again, especially when they are of people I care about or are unique in some fashion. Or of a scene that is unique to that time and place.

While the cost of the best equipment is still somewhat of a barrier, the capabilities of current affordable gear far surpass what was available even a few years ago. The tech stuff comes relatively easy for me, the relationship of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, the details of photo editing software like Lightroom and Photoshop I can figure out eventually either by myself or with the help of books and online articles and instructional material.

What comes hard are the artistic issues of color, composition, the subtleties of lighting and the like. The Art of a good photograph. Why is one an eye-grabber and another so-so? I still struggle with that.

This is something that I've never explored before and it is fascinating.

And when the weather is suitable for it I'll go for a long motorcycle ride along the West Virginia back roads. Like flying an airplane (which I've also done) the penalties for miscalculation are severe so that focuses one's attention on the task at hand. Riding a motorcycle is "living in the moment".

And the best part of retirement is that I'm not on someone else's schedule!

So I guess you could say I found a hobby that is complex enough to replace the challenges of work.
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Old 05-11-2014, 07:41 PM   #3
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This is really an interesting post to me. 4 years ago I ESR'd and continued working for the same employer one day a week. My job duties were a little different (basically I got to do all the fun parts of my job and none of the stuff I didn't like). Over the first 3 years or so I worked up to working 2 days a week at the office plus a little bit at home and then during 2013 started trying to reduce it some. By then we had moved and I know had about a 60 mile drive to my office and the long commute was super unpleasant, particularly being 2 days a week. The work itself was still fine. I was mostly being asked for my opinion on stuff and it really was the part that let me use my brain. I liked it.

On the other hand, there were things I didn't like. The commute was No. 1 on the list, but also the fact that I was basically always on call. That is, at any moment of the day I could be called and asked to do something. So, last summer I went in to resign fully. I was talked into staying with an offer that was very attractive -- I could work entirely from home and wouldn't have to go to the office. And, I could work less. So that's what I've been doing since then.

We're now down to a few hours a month and I think that this won't continue much longer. I have enjoyed what I've done during the past 4 years and there is something satisfying in the intellectual part of the work.

I've thought a lot about how to replace that part. Most of my work I haven't missed, but that part I will miss. I've thought about volunteer work and I could find something like that and maybe I will. But, I am reluctant to do something where I would be expected to meet a set schedule. I understand why an organization might need someone to commit to a set schedule, but I'm not sure I want that to be me. And, to be able to have intellectual challenge in such a role I would probably have to spend way more time at I than I want to.

The best thing that I have found is that a few months ago I started a blog (it is not financial related and it doesn't make me any money). I enjoy writing my posts and getting feedback from others. I feel that I have something to say that maybe is of value to some people. I like that I can pretty much do this whenever I want to and however much I want to. And, it is something I only will do as long as I enjoy it.
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Old 05-11-2014, 07:55 PM   #4
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Friend of mine took a one year sabbatical from working as head of IT for megacorp. Worked as a volunteer mentor for SCORE Become a SCORE Volunteer | SCORE Still volunteers but went back to megacorp. She said she needs the challenge. Think she has a 1 1/2 hour commute 1 way by train. She doesn't need to work just wants/has to.
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Old 05-11-2014, 08:17 PM   #5
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And what I miss the most is the intellectual challenges that the business world offered me throughout my career.
I am fascinated by this post and will be very interested in the discussion. One of the things that has frustrated me the most about my career has been the utter LACK of intellectual challenge in the jobs that I have held. I worked as a exploration geophysicist (computer data processing), a classroom teacher, a petty bureaucrat for the Department of Energy, and as a director of a teacher professional development program for a non-profit. The most intellectually challenging things during that time were editing a research journal for undergraduates during my time at Energy and a summer internship where I had the opportunity to design an optical system for a device used in sub-atomic physics research. Working with people and business situations just doesn't do anything for me. My hobbies have provided me with intellectual stimulation, not my work. I have always been jealous of people who have found the opposite.
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Old 05-11-2014, 08:26 PM   #6
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Congrats on your success!!! IMHO- Keep doing what you're doing. Sounds to me like your PT 'w#rk' is really an enjoyable hobby for you. Take on those "fun" projects & devote as much time to 'em as you like (inc FT hours if you choose). Many have found that a great hobby ain't fun anymore when they turn it into their structured 'j#b'...particularly with a 60mi commute
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Old 05-11-2014, 09:34 PM   #7
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We have a couple of little hobby businesses that can scale up or down we work on from home. I like the mental challenge of work and the extra money. I base our ER plan on zero part time income so whatever we make is just bonus money.

Have you thought about doing something like Sigma Six consulting? It sounds like it would be a good fit for your skills and what you enjoy doing. Maybe you could just take contracts closer to home if you did that kind of work.

If the job you have now isn't a perfect fit, it sounds like you have the time and financial resources to explore other careers. I had that option when my husband worked and I just wanted to find something to do when the kids were in school. I went back to school and took classes in different career areas, including Enrolled Agent, CPA, and Java programmer until I found something that really clicked.
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Old 05-11-2014, 09:41 PM   #8
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I too am interested in this thread for similar reasons. I know the vast majority of people here really dislike their work and I can understand that on many levels. I love what I do for a living. My career combines my intellectual as well as my artistic sides.

But I hated commuting and hated the huge projects I have been working on BUT which I was paid very good money to do. But the big projects left me feeling unfulfilled and had lots of stress and pressure. Not as much fun.

So about 3 years ago I opened my own practice and I do 6-8 small projects but the bulk of my income has come from consulting for big architectural offices. My part on my last big project (a 400' residential tower) will be done by end of September. The project continues but I have told them that I am only working until the end of September.

After that I will consider myself retired. But I will still have my office and I will still do the 6-8 small projects that I seem to find on my own. These projects are small (think--kitchen remodel or small addition to a house or a small brewpub, etc.) Nothing I am going to get rich off of, but I enjoy the intellectual challenge and they aren't everyday. Sometimes I will go 3-4 months with no new projects and then have 2 in a month. None of these projects take more than 4-6 days to do so I don't anticipate a big time pressure on my other activities. Any money I make is just that much less I have to take from my retirement funds but if I make nothing, well that is fine too as my retirement is set up assuming I make nothing from my practice.

The bigger issue will be NOT being enticed by these other firms to do these big projects. This last one I threw an hourly rate out there that I thought they would say no to--but they said yes! I also stated that I would work from home and only go in 1-2 days and they said okay. But I still haven't enjoyed it, it is easier than commuting but the projects are too big and frankly too soulless. The small additions give me the intellectual and artistic stimulus and I get enjoyment out of helping people fulfil their dreams, something I don't get from the big projects.

Good luck on your thought process and hopefully you can find a balance. I like to think I have.
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Old 05-11-2014, 10:18 PM   #9
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I think it has to do with where you derive your happiness from. It is not a questions of the mental exercise, so much as the mental challenge is what makes you feel good and fulfilled. If you need that mental challenge, then keep up the PT work. If you can find a substitute that could become your new mental outlet.

I would also suggest that you are still adjusting to the slower paced and more free time of being retired. As previous CEO, you were used to the longer days and fast paced work being your life.

Certainly it seems you have some good skills that give good results for your efforts. Maybe do the consulting gig, but take on the amount you want. Working because you want to, not because you have to, is a great position to be in.
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Old 05-12-2014, 08:22 AM   #10
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Similarly I structured a part-time ESR situation for myself, 5 years ago at the age of 52. I had also burned out from management reponsibilities and downsized my job to continue doing the parts I enjoyed, largely self directed and responsible only for my own performance. 3 days per week, my commute is only 15 minutes, and I really do enjoy the folks I work with for the most part.

I am now preparing to to completeley RE at age 57, and I have thought a lot about the intellectual and social aspects that my job brings into my life. I think the 5 yeas of ESR have allowed me to adjust somewhat, so that the upcoming full retirement seems less drastic, and I fell very confident that I will find ways to fill those voids thru family and friends, writing, photography, music, etc. I have a number of hobbies that I am eager to spend more time at, and are mentally stimulating.

Perhaps you might consider staying ESR until you get to the point where you don't have any doubt that full ER is the way to go. For me that was about 4 years of ESR. Now I am really ready!
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Old 05-12-2014, 09:16 AM   #11
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This is really an interesting post to me. 4 years ago I ESR'd and continued working for the same employer one day a week. My job duties were a little different (basically I got to do all the fun parts of my job and none of the stuff I didn't like).
Katsmeow - it sounds like we had similar paths from full time work to ESR. If my path follows yours, it sounds like I'll be moving on from this sometime in the next few years, which is fine if that is what feels like the best path for me when the time comes.

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I like tech stuff, although I'm nowhere close to having the knowledge/experience of any sort of engineer.

So I guess you could say I found a hobby that is complex enough to replace the challenges of work.
Walt34 - yes I like tech too, and that seems to have made me the household IT manager. Unfortunately, since I worked in IT for 20 years prior to a career change, it sometimes feels a bit more like work to me. But I do enjoy keeping up with the latest in consumer electronics and gadgetry.
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Old 05-12-2014, 09:21 AM   #12
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Friend of mine took a one year sabbatical from working as head of IT for megacorp. Worked as a volunteer mentor for SCORE Become a SCORE Volunteer | SCORE Still volunteers but went back to megacorp. She said she needs the challenge. Think she has a 1 1/2 hour commute 1 way by train. She doesn't need to work just wants/has to.
Splitwdw - your friend sounds a bit like me. I'd be curious to learn more about what her activities were like working with Score. How many hours was it? How long did it take to match her up with a company in need? Did she enjoy the experience? It sounds like it may be a great fit for me.

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I am fascinated by this post and will be very interested in the discussion. One of the things that has frustrated me the most about my career has been the utter LACK of intellectual challenge in the jobs that I have held.
jjquantz - Because I was the CEO of the company, I had great control over who we hired. I made a point to surround myself with people who were a lot smarter than me. It made good business sense to do so, and it enhanced the intellectual stimulation involved with running the company. In reality, my executives ran the company and I was the company cheerleader in the end. But this can only happen when you are surrounded by brilliant people. In my current company, I have hired a few executives, but most of the company has been in place for a very long time.
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Old 05-12-2014, 09:51 AM   #13
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I can relate to a lot of what has been posted in this fine thread.

Before I fully ERed back in late 2008, I had been working part-time for 7 years after 16 years of full-time work at the same company. When I first switched to working PT, I worked mostly from home and went to the office one day a week. I hated the commute but one day a week I could tolerate. My type of work was good for working PT, as it was mostly programming so I could still be everyone's "answer man" via email and run programs to produce end-user reports for my division's staff. Being able to run my programs from home and during the off-peak hours at night made for an efficient operation.

But the best part was regaining control over my personal life and being able to do things I could not do before. Most of the time that did not involve ay of my vast computer skills but I was able to find a few ways to use them and keep my "big fish in a small pond" status alive. One of those was setting up a rather complex spreadsheet to aid me in running the many school Scrabble tourneys starting in 2005. I found that spreadsheet more gratifying than anything I ever did at the office. And the teacher-coaches think I am some kind of genius the way I can determine the pairings so fast for each round under tight time schedules. I also get an ego boost from being able to boss a roomful of kids and adults around for 6 hours akin to my former supervisory position at work.

Another personal-use spreadsheet was one I created to more efficiently oversee the elections for my co-op board and determine the presence of a quorum for our annual shareholders meeting. Before I took on this role, these processes were difficult and time-consuming done by hand using at best a calculator. Now, with my not-so-complicated spreadsheet it takes very little time to determine a quorum and less than hour to determine the winner of a contested election (not every year, thankfully). In a co-op with mostly elderly people, my computer skills make me look like a wizard and enable our annual meetings to end sooner and determine the winners of any contested Board election.

Most of my other spreadsheets relate to my reborn interest in the Strat-o-Matic baseball game in the last 9 years. I don't play the PC version of the game, preferring the cards and dice I have owned since the 1970s. But I have developed spreadsheets to aid me in the prep work for my Strat baseball projects, especially stat recording and compilations. With my eyesight not as good as it was 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 years ago, this process has become much faster, easier, and accurate.

Even with my square dancing, another resurrected hobby in the last 13 years, I found a way to use my PC skills to fix a nagging problem. We use these computer-generated cards to rotate the couples around so everyone gets to dance with everyone and nobody has to sit out too much if we have an odd number of couples. But these computer cards are old and have become worn out and sometimes tough to read. Furthermore, a few of them have small errors on them (unreadable, incorrect, or missing numbers) and they all needed a thorough review. I was able to create a spreadsheet to compile all the numbers on these cards and enable me to find all the mistakes. I then figured out what had to be fixed and printed out new cards on card-stock paper to replace the ones which had errors or had become unreadable. I also gave our club's treasurer, who keeps the cards, a generic printout of all the cards in case one gets lost or does taken by mistake by one of our dancers. This would have been a difficult, tedious task without the spreadsheet. The dancers like being able to read the cards more easily and the club's treasurer and club's president were amazed that I was able to find and fix everything so fast (took less than a week). The prez was so pleased she waived my dance admission fee that week LOL!

For my ladyfriend and my best (male) friend, I have devised spreadsheets over the years to help them in various ways, from helping me do their tax returns to keeping track of my friend's investments (I have posted about that in other threads) to, for my ladyfriend, keep track of her work hours (gasp!) one year when she worked a lot of overtime and some weekends so we wanted to keep track of all of her hours to make sure she got paid correctly and had a correct number of hours in each PTO category (since been consolidated).

I guess my point is that these uses of my PC skills I have found more satisfying than anything I ever did at work using my PC or other computer skills. Once I know I don't need the money for my PC skills, any time I get to use them it is a "labor of love," so to speak.
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Old 05-12-2014, 05:13 PM   #14
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I can relate to a lot of what has been posted in this fine thread.

...I guess my point is that these uses of my PC skills I have found more satisfying than anything I ever did at work using my PC or other computer skills. Once I know I don't need the money for my PC skills, any time I get to use them it is a "labor of love," so to speak.
It looks like you have found some helpful and interesting ways to use your PC and XLS skills. I think this is a big victory and something all FIREes need to at least consider.

Good "job" scrabbler!
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Old 05-12-2014, 07:40 PM   #15
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Scrabbler1, you sound so busy with your hobbies I wonder how you ever found the time to get any work done! It sounds like you've filled your life with some very nice activities to replace the time you previously spent working. That's a pretty ideal ER situation.

I have to admit, reading the articles about how Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre started a headphone company and are now selling it to Apple for $3.2 billion has me thinking that maybe I have one big thing left in me to do in the working world before I hang it up for good. Not that I have any desire to grow a company that big, nor the need for billions of dollars to maintain my relatively simple life...but something about that story has really got me thinking about whether I need to do it one more time before I call it quits for good.

Has anyone out there tried ER only to find out that it wasn't what they thought it would be, and ended up going back to full time work?
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Old 05-12-2014, 09:26 PM   #16
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...

So Iím curious if anyone out there has had similar experiences to me, and wondered if retiring this early was the right thing or not. And what did you do to replace the part of your job that challenged your brain and kept your thinking sharp, or gave you a sense of satisfaction when you solved a tough problem you were working on?
This is an interesting post. It sounds like you received great satisfaction, intellectual stimulation, and other rewards while working. To me, it's not retiring early that's the issue, it's not exploring all the other options that are available, including working, but without the hassle you describe (i.e., the commute). Financially, you're set, so now you can go out and simply play, whatever that looks like for you.

I don't retire untl 1/15, but have been researching retirement's various aspects, including the psychological and social dimensions. I know that I am not the kind to simply retire and hang out (heresy on this forum I know ). More and more, I see myself involved in some external projects after retirement (but not in the first few years, as I have to many backlogged personal projects to complete). There are issues in this world that I still feel passionate about and I'll be involved in them in some fashion. I just finished an excellent book entitled "Working Identity" by Hermnia Ibarra and I highly recommend it. It helped me to see that this "retirement thing" is also a change in identity for me personally. Retirement for me personally means I am now financially free to play whatever game I want (hint: it won't have anything to do with my current career, which I'm now totally disidentified with). Whatever I do, it won't be a "job", it will be something I want to do and something I care about.

Another book I read that was helpful and which I've recommended previously is "What Color is Your Parachute for Retirement?" by John Nelson and Richard Bowles, and which you might want to take a look at. The book is actually written entirely by Nelson, not Bowles, and assembles the latest research from major universities and elsewhere concerning retirement, including work and identity.
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Old 05-13-2014, 09:34 AM   #17
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Unless I needed the money, I think I am done with 40 hour a week office jobs. I don't think it is healthy for me to sit at a desk all day. I like being able to go for walks, sit outside under the trees, and get some vitamin D during the week days. One of our kids interns at a start up and the founder's level of responsibility (making payroll) and work hours aren't really something I'd be motivated to do any more.

If I didn't have a family and pet at home I'd probably go back to consulting work for more social interaction, though I wouldn't do anything where I had to be onsite 40+ hours a week.

You might want to check out Michael Leboef's The Perfect Business if you are interested in consulting for a variety of places and/or working from home. The book is a bit older but with the advent of the Internet the ideas are actually easier to implement even from the era when it was written. If you make something like headphones you can scale it to make money, but once you sell one set of headphones you have have to make another to make more money, but if you sell intellectual property you can sell the same property a million times over without having to actually create more.
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Old 05-13-2014, 11:03 AM   #18
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I started ratcheting down in 2002, eventually to full retirement on April 2. I've developed a lot of outside interests (biking, hiking, boating, brewing, woodworking, photography, and tech gadgets) over the past 12 years that keep me busy 24/7.

As a project manager, most of my work projects were a series of interrelated tasks and sub-projects that eventually came together as a finished project. Brewing and woodworking are hobbies that have similar characteristics. I also do a little consulting work and volunteer services to our HOA. So my retirement activities provide me with challenges similar to those I experienced while working.

My advice would be to develop outside interests that provide challenges and mental stimulation similar to those that you experience at work.
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Old 05-13-2014, 03:27 PM   #19
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Very interesting to read OP's thoughts especially since I'm in middle IT management and do many of the things you mentioned as far as renegotiating contracts, updating technology whether applications, servers, storage, network, telecom etc. I have a pretty broad IT background.

Computers and cars were my passions but since the former became work it's lost its luster and become a chore with 24/7 production worldwide env on my shoulders. I'm sure once I retire I'd love to do IT contract work once again but then depending on what I'm in the mood for I could do lots of other things too such as building/restoring cars, doing real-estate stuff or even teaching etc. Working at Starbucks, Home Depot or as a Walmart greeter are also possible options: Them: "what did you do prior to seeking employment with us". Me: "Oh, I just worked as CIO for a fortune 1000 company"
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Old 05-14-2014, 10:18 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by splitwdw View Post
Friend of mine took a one year sabbatical from working as head of IT for megacorp. Worked as a volunteer mentor for SCORE Become a SCORE Volunteer | SCORE Still volunteers but went back to megacorp. She said she needs the challenge. Think she has a 1 1/2 hour commute 1 way by train. She doesn't need to work just wants/has to.
+1 , this is exactly what I thought might be a fit for Ready, if he/she would accept pro bono vs getting paid.

And Ready, I originally retired at 54 and also suffered from the not having interesting projects to engage me, so I went back to work with 10 yrs of OMY to follow. I probably should have investigated SCORE back then.
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