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Giving notice soon - would appreciate feedback before I pull the plug...(long)
Old 01-21-2010, 02:09 AM   #1
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Giving notice soon - would appreciate feedback before I pull the plug...(long)

Hi everyone - 3 years after finding this great forum, I'm finally on the verge of giving notice at work. I'm giving myself a 'cooldown' period until the end of the month to finish thinking things through, however, and make sure I'm not hurrying through this or missing anything. I'd love to hear your thoughts on whether my plan makes sense to you, as well as any personal opinions.

So, here's my story:

Three years ago, I found the best resource for someone thinking about FIRE - this board. I over-analyze by nature (I think I'm INTJ?), so all this additional input is both a blessing and a curse. In the end, it's taken me these three long years to convince myself that I'm finally ready to FIRE. Back then, my net worth (excluding home equity) was about 25x my annual expenses, and I was fretting about how to account for expenses related to child-raising (my child was one year old at the time), dealing with elder care issues with my parents' deteriorating health, and generally unsure about how my portfolio would perform. Add to that a manageable job (mentally painful but easy, low hours, high pay), and I ended up sticking it out the last three years.

So why, three years later, am I now ready to pull the plug?

* Income has been great, and now my liquid net worth is about 30x pre-tax annual expenses. Artificially lowering market performance by 2% (by raising investment expenses by that amount) in FIRECALC still gets me 90% on a 55 year plan.
* I have a much better understanding of my expenses, and know that I can dial down expenses if needed to be only 1/35 of my portfolio
* My parents' are still iffy on health, but I've realized that I can't worry (too much) about the unknown, and that my time will likely be a much bigger factor to them than my money in the event things turn for the worse
* Although I'm still young (40), I can't believe the last three years are already down the drain - and would hate to look back when I'm 43 and have the same sad realization that I've lost time trying to build up my portfolio further.
* DW has always been hesitant about my doing this, but I've worked on her long enough to get her comfortable with it
* I've build up a cash/bond reserve that could provide 7 years of living expenses w/o impacting my equity investments in the event the market crashes again
* I've talked myself into being comfortable with the idea that, if my portfolio doesn't perform as well as I am hoping, I'd rather take the time now and get back to work in the future, than give up my quality years in my 40's to work.
* My child is about 2 years away from starting real school (Kindergarten/elementary). The next two years would be a great opportunity to explore the world, and I'd hate to lose this opportunity by waiting.

And why am I still not sure if I'm doing the right thing?
* The biggest factor is giving up the income. I know I don't need it to support my lifestyle (I'm definitely LBYM), but my annual income, after taxes, works out to about 3x annual expenses - and the extra cushion each extra year of work provides sure would be reassuring. As much as I've talked myself into believing that I'm OK with returning to work if need be, I sure would hate to know that a couple more years of work now, when I'm earning a very high income, could have prevented it.
* Early retirement guilt - related to the above, I find it hard to justify cutting out when I'm only 40 - I keep thinking 45 sounds more reasonable, and the extra 5 years of income would make a big impact to the survivability of the plan (although based on my analysis, it would be very unlikely I would need it, but I could use it for more travel, helping parents, etc.)
* My job is still quite easy, so it wouldn't be that hard to stay another couple years. I know a lot of people hate their jobs, and I do too - but the demands of my job are quite minimal - it's easy, close to home, and barely requires me to work 40hr weeks. However, what I've come to realize is that it's not the type of job, but rather the fact that any job will take me away from what I want to do.
* What's my kid going to think? I know this has been recently discussed on the boards, and I definitely have concerns about my kid seeing me not work during the bulk of his childhood

Misc
* House is essentially paid off. Assuming the real estate market doesn't fall significantly further, I could always move to a lower cost region of the country and cash out about $400K as a fail-safe
* I'm budgeting $12K/yr to cover medical expenses. Family is in generally good health, and we plan to get a high-deductible HSA plan once COBRA runs out. Based on eHealthInsurance.com, it looks like such a plan would cost about $5K/yr, so I can budget the difference for the expectedly high premium increases
* One child, no more planned.
* No pensions, about 70%/30% split between taxable and retirement accounts
* Approx 80%/20% split between equity/cash-FI
* Discounted expected social security payments by 25%
* DW is currently a stay at home mom, but is willing to return to work with me if the plan falls apart

Questions
* Am I being overly conservative? Any holes in this plan?
* What's your opinion on a FIRE age of 40? Any thoughts on balancing earning power vs. lost time at this age?
* Potentially returning to work later in life is a big safety net in my plan. Do most of you even consider this an option? If anyone has a similar 'safety net' in their plan, can you share your logic around it?

Thanks to anyone/everyone for their responses...
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Old 01-21-2010, 07:28 AM   #2
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Only you can make the call. It sounds like you would do well with either choice. If you pull the plug now you should be in good shape financially. If you wait 5 years you will still be a very young ERer and your child will still be in the early years of elementary school. I was conservative like you -- I wanted to be sure I was financially ready before I pulled the plug. The only thing you mention that raises a caution to my conservative ear is the fall back of returning to work. I would only leave with that option if I was desperately unhappy. If you stay a few years, could you pop for an SPIA bridging the gap between ER and SS to ensure that you would NEVER have to return to work?
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Old 01-21-2010, 09:03 AM   #3
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skyline, I think you've got the financial side figured out. One caveat -- when using FIRECalc and historical data, the longer your period of retirement, the fewer trials FIRECalc can run. 55 years is a long retirement. I'd review FIRECalc results with 20 and 30 year runs just to see how those look.

But I don't think your dilemma is financial. I can imagine you finding retirement unsatisfying and going back to work for the rewards that can bring. If this turned out to be the case, it seems to me you're in good shape. You're currently making 3x expenses, so you could go back to work making a lot less than you do now and still protect, and even add to, your nest egg. That sounds like a valuable option to me -- you might even find something you really enjoy doing. Going back to work is an option I've held out for myself, should it prove financially necessary. I'd never make as much as I did in my "career", but I could pay the bills and wait for the financial recovery that would let me continue retirement.

I'm 58, and very aware of the fact that I'm aging. In retrospect, I spent the best years of my health in a cubicle. If I had known then what I know now, and if it had been an option, I think I would have retired at 40 even if that meant there was a chance I'd have to work from 55 to 65.

Retirement guilt is an interesting issue that I think you will just have to resolve for yourself, and you might have to retire to do that.

I don't have kids, but it seems to me you're setting a fine example of LBYM already. I don't see you sitting around in PJs watching soaps all day, so I'd expect you'll set an example of making good use of your time, even if it's not by working. I think kids these days see a variety of families with a variety of ways of sustaining them, and you'll provide another example.

Are you being too conservative? I'd say you're being conservative, but not too conservative. More importantly, it feels right to you.

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Old 01-21-2010, 09:11 AM   #4
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The only hole I see is if you retire now and after six years decide to return to work . Will there be jobs available and will you be satisfied doing the same job for a lot less pay ?
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Old 01-21-2010, 06:33 PM   #5
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A few point to consider but not saying you are not ready.

1. Your expenses will go up much more than inflation per year. As your kid ages you will need to plan on spending more each year. Think hundreds more per month as they go from toddler to teenager. This can significantly lower the 30x number if factored in.

2. Do you already have health Ins. If not and you plan to buy you need to buy it now if possible and probably keep working for a year while on private Ins to make sure you are happy with it and to see what the increase will be. This is what we did. Of course you also need to never get really sick since you risk losing it depending upon the state you are in. The fact that they can take it away by rescinding it or raising premiums will always be a concern if your stay allows those policy's as most do. We plan on 15% increases per year for health premiums and that has been about the average for the last few years. you should also plan to fully meet your deductible each year if you have a plan that pays 100% after that.

3. You probably will find that you want to work part time while they are in school once they start. This can help the finances and be very rewarding in several areas.

4. College should also be considered. We decided to pay for a full ride at a state school and put back enough to cover that amount. This amount should not be included in your net worth and it will need to grow by at least 6% per year to keep up with education inflation.

Don't let the above points discourage you as they are just a few more areas that need to be considered. We are in our third year of ESR with kids and are loving it!
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Old 01-21-2010, 11:10 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by donheff View Post
Only you can make the call. It sounds like you would do well with either choice. If you pull the plug now you should be in good shape financially. If you wait 5 years you will still be a very young ERer and your child will still be in the early years of elementary school. I was conservative like you -- I wanted to be sure I was financially ready before I pulled the plug. The only thing you mention that raises a caution to my conservative ear is the fall back of returning to work. I would only leave with that option if I was desperately unhappy. If you stay a few years, could you pop for an SPIA bridging the gap between ER and SS to ensure that you would NEVER have to return to work?
I talked myself into accepting the fall-back option of returning to work because a) I love to travel (in fact, the whole point of retirement is to open up travel opportunities), and b) because my kid would be in middle & high school when I'm 50-55. I figured I wouldn't be doing much traveling during the school year anyways. But you're right - I definitely would prefer to not have to go back if I don't need to.
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Old 01-21-2010, 11:16 PM   #7
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...You're currently making 3x expenses, so you could go back to work making a lot less than you do now and still protect, and even add to, your nest egg...

...If I had known then what I know now, and if it had been an option, I think I would have retired at 40 even if that meant there was a chance I'd have to work from 55 to 65...

...Are you being too conservative? I'd say you're being conservative, but not too conservative. More importantly, it feels right to you.
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I'm thinking about this the same way as you are - if needed, I hope to do 1x to 1.5x annual expenses in income if I were to return to work down the line. It seems like a reasonable price to pay to have the next 10 years free while my kid enjoys hanging out with me.
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Old 01-22-2010, 10:39 AM   #8
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I'm going to disagree somewhat with the previous answers. If you focus primarily on your child, 2 years old isn't really old enough to appreciate what traveling has to offer. That usually kicks in somewhere around middle to early-high school. Consequently, it sounds like you would prefer to FIRE now because you want to travel and your child isn't tied down by the school year. This is an interesting thought, but I would think that there are a sufficient number of breaks throughout the school year, plus summer vacation, that would provide more than enough opportunities for you to travel with your child.

Maybe I missed it, but does your DW still work? If so, even if you FIRE and your child isn't yet in school, you will have to work around your DW's work schedule, which is far more restrictive than the school year.
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Old 01-22-2010, 11:34 AM   #9
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I'm in the camp to just go for it. Just this week we know someone who at 42 has been diagnosed with lung cancer and a second person who dropped dead of a stroke at 55. I think the financial side is set.
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Old 01-22-2010, 01:17 PM   #10
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I am in a somewhat similar situation. I am about your age @ 41, married no kids. I quit my job nearly 7 months ago, being totally burned out.
Same as you, my net worth can cover >30 times my annual expense (including health insurance premiums and a decent additional reserve).

My wife (30) took off all this time too, but is otherwise still at the beginning of her career, and needs to build some reserves for her personal expenses and a personal cushion for the future. When she returns to work we will be less flexible than you in terms of moving and traveling or engaging in common daytime activities.
Future kids could also potentially complicate these financial plans in the future.

It's been very enjoyable to travel in the past 7 months with relatively little scheduling, however I keep an open mind and haven't completely ruled out a return to some part-time job down the road.

While obviously the longer you work, the better off you are financially, only you can decide if that compensates you adequately for the time spent in the cubicle.
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Old 01-22-2010, 01:30 PM   #11
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Hi. My last day of work was last November at the age of 39 and while our life circumstances are not similar - I am single with no kids - we are obviously similar in age and both clearly have a yearning to travel without time concerns...we are both INTJ as well. I suspect that the general desire to travel at the expense of having to continue to work is simply a psychological manifestation of our desire to cease what we know is not the right answer in life: Who knows what the true meaning of Life is but it certainly can't be to slave away at a job for the remaining prime yrs of our life if the option exists not to. I would also point out that I find comfort in my mind by accepting the fact that if some calamity were to occur at a future time that returning to work for remuneration is always a reasonable and viable option.

I have no desire to be on this forum to advise others on what to do financially but in your case I would definitely suggest asking your employer about potential severance or early-retirement options. Simply to say "I quit" before considering all exit packages is not prudent imo. Severance compensation, extended health-care pkgs, etc. are probably there unless you verbalize "I quit".

Good luck.
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Old 01-22-2010, 01:47 PM   #12
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* What's my kid going to think? I know this has been recently discussed on the boards, and I definitely have concerns about my kid seeing me not work during the bulk of his childhood
At this age, kids don't care. They want your time and your attention and won't have any other questions. They know that all the money they need comes from the ATM whenever you want it.

Later on they might have questions about jobs and money, which can be answered by telling them that you have enough of a budget to take care of the important things like a home and food and school supplies. Toys... well, they're on their own but you'll teach them how to save their money for the things they really want.

Still later they just want your time and your attention. They'll happily take your handouts and your chauffeur services, too, but they're already aware that they have more than other kids.

When they reach 14-16 years of age and express their material desires in a more concrete manner, you tell them that you hope they can find themselves a really good job.

When Jarhead ER'd in the 1980s, his daughter was a teen. He was worried about the example he'd be setting, so every weekday morning he put on his coat & tie and drove away from the house to "work", sneaking back home after her school bus had picked her up. He kept this subterfuge up until she graduated high school. Years later when he confessed, she thought it was pretty funny. She said that she was so busy with high-school drama & angst that she never would have noticed whether or not he was working, and she certainly wouldn't have cared.

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* Am I being overly conservative? Any holes in this plan?
You might want to read Milevsky's "Are You a Stock or a Bond?" and consider annuitizing a portion of your portfolio to support a bare-bones budget. Your spouse might support this idea even more strongly.

I know, I know, I'm the guy with his ER portfolio 92% in equities and who's taking out huge mortgages to invest in the stock market. But the reason that my spouse and I are so leveraged in equities is because of our military COLA pensions. If 2008 happens all over again you can at least take comfort in knowing that your annuitized income will probably survive the trauma.

Another option might be landlording. But it's not a trivial decision, and the market swings back & forth to make it better than a CD some days, worse than a CD on others.

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* What's your opinion on a FIRE age of 40? Any thoughts on balancing earning power vs. lost time at this age?
"Crap, I waited too long to ER!" and "It's only money"...
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Old 01-22-2010, 05:26 PM   #13
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I would front load your medical expenses with more $$ and see how your plan holds out. I'd guess that medical costs will increase more than inflation and as you all age, you'll encounter more health issues. For instance, your child may need braces and there will be female related health issues as your wife gets older.

Also, I didn't see any mention of LTC insurance. I'm still debating it, but have planned for it in my retirement expenses.
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Old 01-23-2010, 02:01 AM   #14
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I'm going to disagree somewhat with the previous answers. If you focus primarily on your child, 2 years old isn't really old enough to appreciate what traveling has to offer. That usually kicks in somewhere around middle to early-high school. Consequently, it sounds like you would prefer to FIRE now because you want to travel and your child isn't tied down by the school year. This is an interesting thought, but I would think that there are a sufficient number of breaks throughout the school year, plus summer vacation, that would provide more than enough opportunities for you to travel with your child.

Maybe I missed it, but does your DW still work? If so, even if you FIRE and your child isn't yet in school, you will have to work around your DW's work schedule, which is far more restrictive than the school year.
You're absolutely right - the travel is more for me and DW than my kid. While it's true that there are summer breaks, I like to take longer trips when I visit a country (3 wks min), and there are lots of places that aren't exactly ideal to visit during N.A. summer breaks. More importantly, although the trips are for my benefit, I think my kid will also get quite a bit out of it - plus, by the time they're old enough to appreciate it, it's likely they won't want to hang out with me anyways (I know the last thing I wanted to do once I started junior high was to hang out with the 'rents on vacation)
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Old 01-23-2010, 02:07 AM   #15
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...Later on they might have questions about jobs and money, which can be answered by telling them that you have enough of a budget to take care of the important things like a home and food and school supplies. Toys... well, they're on their own but you'll teach them how to save their money for the things they really want.

Still later they just want your time and your attention. They'll happily take your handouts and your chauffeur services, too, but they're already aware that they have more than other kids.

When they reach 14-16 years of age and express their material desires in a more concrete manner, you tell them that you hope they can find themselves a really good job...

...You might want to read Milevsky's "Are You a Stock or a Bond?" and consider annuitizing a portion of your portfolio to support a bare-bones budget. Your spouse might support this idea even more strongly...

...Another option might be landlording. But it's not a trivial decision, and the market swings back & forth to make it better than a CD some days, worse than a CD on others...
Thanks for your comments about dealing with kids - it makes perfect sense and seems spot-on. I'm going to save this off and remember what to say when my kid gets to those phases in life.

As conservative as I am, I'm definitely a Stock guy. I'm hopeful that a 5 to 7 year allocation of cash/bonds will help me weather any disastrous downturns in the market. As for landlording, been-there-done-that, and I'm staying well clear of that mess! (I know lots of folks are successful doing this, but it's just not for me)
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Old 01-23-2010, 11:05 AM   #16
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Skyline,

Is this the INTJ thread

You are in a great position at 40. I'm 37 and would love to be in your shoes at this point. I'm targeting to get to FI at 45; maybe sooner depending on profit sharing and how my company's stock performs. Once I hit the goal I'll be in your same situation.

With regards to feeling guilty for cashing out so young, DON'T. There is more to life to slaving away for a wage so you can buy useless crap from discount stores. If people judge you for not buying into this norm then forget them..

As far as what it will say to your child... Assuming you are not someone who places self-worth and value of accumulating material things (a LBYM mentality) - this trait will come through to your kid. You can teach him/her about valuing family/friends/experiences over working to drive a flashy car.

You seem to have a conservative plan figured out so go for it. You can always change your travel plans (S America rather than Europe) if your portfolio doesn't perform as expected.

I went to the doctor this week for a checkup and he found a very disturbing-looking mole that had to be removed right away. Now I'm waiting for the biopsy results. Hopefully it's nothing but it reminds me that you have to live for today. You've clearly saved and sacrificed to get you to where you are. Enjoy it guilt free!
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Old 01-23-2010, 11:20 PM   #17
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What's the worst that would happen? You have to go back to work? Well, actually in this market, that may not be so easy, but it sounds like you have a buffer. Only you can make the call, but you can take a chance of never having to work again with the possibility of going back to work, maybe. Chance = 10%, 20%? Or you can keep working now. Chance = 100%!

Live without fear.
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Old 01-24-2010, 04:15 PM   #18
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* Income has been great, and now my liquid net worth is about 30x pre-tax annual expenses. Artificially lowering market performance by 2% (by raising investment expenses by that amount) in FIRECALC still gets me 90% on a 55 year plan.
* I have a much better understanding of my expenses, and know that I can dial down expenses if needed to be only 1/35 of my portfolio
Quick question. Is your net worth a combination of your wife's and yours? Likewise, are the expenses a combination of yours and your wife's?

I would assume they are both a combination, but just wanted to check.
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Old 01-24-2010, 10:59 PM   #19
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Quick question. Is your net worth a combination of your wife's and yours? Likewise, are the expenses a combination of yours and your wife's?

I would assume they are both a combination, but just wanted to check.
Yup, both net worth and expenses are for the entire family. Luckily, DW is just as LBYM (or more so) than I am
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Finally comfortable with my decision
Old 01-24-2010, 11:28 PM   #20
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Finally comfortable with my decision

All - thanks for your thoughts and feedback on my situation. I think I'm pretty much done thinking this over. Short of a market meltdown this week (not that unlikely, unfortunately), I'll stick to my plan to give notice at the end of the month, with a final date to match the start of my first trip in March.

In the end, the most compelling reason turned out to be completely unrelated to tweaking finances, retirement guilt, returning to work, etc.: I finally sat down yesterday and started planning and prioritizing my post-FIRE travel plans (like I said, I'm INTJ). Thinking about life post-FIRE in more real/concrete terms (vs. just fantasy) did the trick - by the end of the evening, I was so excited about this life change that I can't imagine delaying this any further.

Time to finally put those freq flyer miles to use!

Cheers,
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