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Royboy65's Sequel: What drives the desire to planning retirement?
Old 08-19-2009, 10:40 PM   #1
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Royboy65's Sequel: What drives the desire to planning retirement?

In 1983 I graduated from High School at the middle of my class. All but one of my classmates was either going to work or going to college - basically, everyone had a plan, with the exception of me. I moved to Hawaii and lived in the mountains in a pup tent for a year and a half - just surfing, meeting tourists and eating guavas. I doubt that I can do that in my upcoming rebirth, but there is one similarity in yesteryear's story to today's story - my lack of individual solid planning while peers around me had a "plan". Some plans were successful, others were not - nonetheless, their plan existed and mine did not.

26 years later, nine investment properties, a couple of steady income streams and I still don't have a plan. (Maybe not having a plan is my plan) I envy those that have plans - writing a book, starting a small business, realigning financial portfolios - all noble activities. What drives you to do it? What makes you get up and say to yourself, "Today, I'm going to edit Chapter 8 of my book" or "Today, I'm going to realistically review my list of dream income-stream ideas and scratch something off"? When the reality of "Oh crap, at this burn rate, I can maintain today's standard of living for 32.79 years" sets in, does a plan miraculously materialize? Is the desire to return to work exasperated by the desire to eat three square meals a day?

I'm interested in hearing any and all ideas from folks that have to work as well as folks that don't have to work either based on accepting simpler less-costly lifestyles or just personal desire. For me, I've got ideas from writing the next reality television show to pursuing the construction of a string of grocery stores. At some point (I'm arbitrarily giving myself six to eight months from today) I've got to narrow my choices - or do I? If uncertainty is an unknown outcome to a plan and risk is the unknown certainty of variable factors that compose that plan, maybe statistically I'm just as well off wandering. After all, "not all those that wander are lost" (I read that on a car bumper sticker).

Please chime in and share your thoughts.

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Old 08-20-2009, 07:09 AM   #2
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Good post!
A view from the opposite end of the spectrum...I spent the majority of my life having the plan, cranking very diligently away at it, and getting to the end of the rainbow.
I'm now 2 years FIRED, most of which was spent de-cranking myself.
I think I've hit an equilibrium point where I still have small plans, but devote a lot more time to just doing the basics.
Simplicity suits me these days.
As a bridge between being an overachiever and being a slug , I use my email calendar to "jot down" ideas and set the reminder to chime at me every 2 weeks or monthly. If I feel like doing that activity, I do it. If not, I dismiss it for another time. Otherwise I delete it.
It may sound screwy to do this, but it w*rks for me.

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." - Walt Disney
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Old 08-20-2009, 08:46 AM   #3
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I never "had a plan" concerning work or career. "Stuff sorta just fell in my bag" so to speak. In fact, I hated generating medium range and long range career plans. I had to crank them out a few times in various mandatory development programs at work - they were always BS and felt like BS. The one area I did do some planning for was ER. That was something I could clearly see approaching quite a ways off and I recognized that it wouldn't just fall in my bag .

Edit: lots of short term plans at work -- those make sense to me.
Every man is, or hopes to be, an Idler. -- Samuel Johnson
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Old 08-20-2009, 10:23 AM   #4
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Not sure that you have to have a plan as such. If you are the type of personality that can role with what is going on and taking things one day at a time, I would not try and change to fit the mold of having to have a plan.

Personally my entire adult life has been lived in 2 year segments and I have no problem with that. I like the flexibility of being able to change direction without too much effort.

I be a girl, he's a boy. Think I maybe FIRED since July 08. Mid 40s, no kidlets. Actually am totally clueless as to what is going on with DH.
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Old 08-21-2009, 08:30 AM   #5
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In high school I decided that a job as a police officer would be good, as in "OMG, I'm going to graduate in six months. What am I going to do?" I hated the idea of working in an office and that was outside work, it paid regularly, and in general just looked like fun and it would be doing something useful. So I eventually got a 2-year degree in Criminal Justice, got hired, and stayed there 29 years.

Retired from there, took a 5-year sabbatical from being a useful member of society, and now work doing armed security at one of those secretive government installations.
I heard the call to do nothing. So I answered it.
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Response to Walt
Old 08-24-2009, 01:02 PM   #6
Confused about dryer sheets
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Response to Walt

Walt - you're amazing. Honestly, I'm struggling to get out of bed and drive to work - I'm pushing year 18 going on 20 for retirement. How did you do it for 29 years? Amazing. It sounds like you enjoyed what you did.

I'm hoping that my rebirth will open my eyes and I'll do what I enjoy. My problem is - I get sucked in by the money. Can anyone tell me - will this dreaded materialistic ritual end?!?! Will this drive (originating from my younger days living in near poverty) force me to reincarnate into another Federal job position? I pray not. I've been quoted as saying "I'll cut grass for $20 per lawn before I accept another Federal position even at $120K!"
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Old 08-24-2009, 01:51 PM   #7
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Tried college briefly. Majored in alcoholism and sexual promiscuity, but while they gave quality points for such things they did not award any credits for it. Decided I wanted to be an officer in the Marine Corps (saw a cool commercial on late night TV), but after Vietnam the budget cuts delayed my trip to summer training so I decided to enlist just to try it on for size. Short active duty commitment for a longer reserve obligation found me stocking shelves in a grocery store, working diligently on consuming alcohol and seeking women with loose morals, while working not very diligently in school. Decided I didn't want to be an officer anymore, at least not during Jimmy Carter's presidency.

Another late night commercial, for police work this time, suckered me in and I spent 25 years doing big city police work.
Originally Posted by royboy65 View Post
Federal job position? I pray not. I've been quoted as saying "I'll cut grass for $20 per lawn before I accept another Federal position even at $120K!"
I'm the bigger fool I guess. Decided against federal job because I just didn't want to go back and try to finish college, plus, at the time, the pay was not any better. Later I spent 5 years assigned to a three-letter federal agency where I had a GS-14's job while getting less than half the pay from my agency. Wish I had known Reagan was going to boost the federal salaries. "How Not To Do It", will be the title of that chapter in my book, if I ever write one.
Originally Posted by royboy65 View Post
I'm hoping that my rebirth will open my eyes and I'll do what I enjoy. My problem is - I get sucked in by the money. Can anyone tell me - will this dreaded materialistic ritual end?!?! Will this drive (originating from my younger days living in near poverty) force me to reincarnate into another Federal position...
Having been poor has a definite impact on my viewpoint of all things financial. In my case it was a dirt poor childhood and not a self-imposed hermitage. For me that meant that I worked years after I could have quit. Loving the job, but not the employer, was a big plus in staying. But I stayed 5 years longer than I originally intended because the money kept getting better. We'll call that chapter, How To Do It Right By Accident - (or, even blind hogs find acorns every now and again).

I could have kept working, but financially there was no longer a need and I had wound up in a spot where all the fun was sucked out of the job. It was time to walk and I knew it. Yes, I'm lucky as hell and know it. It ain't utopia, but I'll enjoy it until perfection finds me.

The Excel spreadsheet was always open on the PC and more and more I told myself, "you really don't have to work." But then doubt would jump up and I'd create a new scenario trying to imagine the end of the world and why it meant I had to keep working. In the end I finally believed what I was seeing and all it took was one little jab from my employer to say "sayonara". Well, not quite, but I did ask, "If I'm retiring does that mean I don't have to accept said miserable assignment?" When they agreed that retirement was the only way to dodge that bullet, I knew I was toast.

I'm not sure at what point the spreadsheet did the trick, maybe it was cell AAA597, but I rode the freaking Great Recession (yes, we are capitalizing it now) down and didn't sell with two fists, horde canned goods or go back to w*rk. For a kid who grew up not knowing where the next meal was coming from, that was a big leap of faith. But I know I can ride that ride again and still survive. Not any time soon, please. A diet-cola DB pension, healthcare, and a portfolio of stocks with purchase dates back to the early 80's doesn't make me bullet proof, but I never got past plan "B" when the bear was mauling us all.

You can plan it to death, but now matter how much money you have, it will take a leap of faith to jump into retirement. Even if you have bizillions you could still find yourself tempted by the just-one-more-year syndrome. That might be true for everyone, but I'm reasonable certain that if you've ever been really poor, you have something of an obsession to not ever be there again. For me I only snapped to how ridiculous I was being when I got to something like plan "G" or "H".

Riding the elevator up to HR to sign the papers was scary. After I signed on the line it felt like a huge load had been lifted from my shoulders.

As for the rest of it, "finding" yourself in retirement? We discuss that round here regularly. This is a link to one of the more recent threads:
Slipping into Depression
There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is having lots to do and not doing it. - Andrew Jackson
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Old 08-24-2009, 01:52 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by royboy65 View Post
I'm hoping that my rebirth will open my eyes and I'll do what I enjoy. My problem is - I get sucked in by the money. Can anyone tell me - will this dreaded materialistic ritual end?!?!
The military culture is quite good at giving veterans the impression that they're worthless and weak barely capable of holding down the job they've been "given", let alone somehow manipulating a clueless supervisor into recommending them for promotion. Then the transition assistance classes scare everyone into thinking that they'll be sleeping under highway overpasses within six weeks if we don't "use our contacts" and "network our way to success" before "our skills go stale".

Then the good cop enters the room and shows everyone how to work through the VA's disability-screening process to obtain veteran's hiring preference. Civil-service job databases and executive headhunters hold the keys to our eternal salvation. Some enlightened services even bring in expert consultants to advise on the confusing concept of "dress for success" without actually donning body armor or coveralls. And finally, a motivational speaker leaves us panting with eagerness to get out there and EARN! You're too young to retire, you have so much potential, don't get put out to pasture and waste all that training & experience, you're a covenant leader from a culture of service! Hallelujah!!

Thank goodness that wears off over a weekend. If I'd heard that speaker on a Monday morning then I'd still be commuting through the fog of work.

The culture and its intimidating rituals won't end until you get a new environment and maybe a few new friends-- get out of the command (to which the real retirees hardly ever return) and use your own network to find the retirees who've been able to retire to focus on learning who they are without getting stuck on who they were.

Tell everyone you're going to take a month or two off to enjoy family life and to figure out what you want to do with yourself. (The job-offer phone will start ringing again on the 181st day of retirement anyway, as soon as the govt ethics hiring rules expire.) Catch up on your sleep, exercise and get healthy from chronic fatigue, read the Zelinski books, have long talks with your spouse/family if applicable, and detox. Within a month or two you'll know if you ever want to work again.

Originally Posted by royboy65 View Post
Will this drive (originating from my younger days living in near poverty) force me to reincarnate into another Federal job position? I pray not. I've been quoted as saying "I'll cut grass for $20 per lawn before I accept another Federal position even at $120K!"
Well, I know a retired O-5 (28 YOS) on Oahu who's earning more like $150K/year... doing the exact same job today as a GS that he was doing four months ago in uniform. He even wrote his own PD to civilianize his military billet. His "just one more year" syndrome is so bad that he makes Rich_in_Tampa look like Joe Dominguez.

We all worry that we'll be the homeless veteran waving a flag on a street corner or a bag lady with cats in a shopping cart. One good way to deal with that worry is to keep plugging numbers into spreadsheets & FIRECalc and to keep reading. The more I study investor psychology, Taleb's "black swans", Milevsky's "human capital", and various retirement calculators-- the more confident I am then the less I worry.

For the first year or two of ER it's quite possible that you'll be clenching the financial reins with white-knuckled hands and gritted teeth, but when lightning doesn't incinerate you on the spot then you'll gradually relax and loosen the purse strings a little. If this is as bad as the recession gets, and you can make it from this level, then you'll do fine. If you could survive for months of living in a tent and eating MREs then you'll probably avoid budgetary lifestyle creep. And after just seven years since leaving the submarine service, I've even learned to compost the rotten fruits & veggies instead of eating around the bad spots and feeling that I might not get any fresh supplies for another 30-60 days.

Read around this board for a while. A COLA'd federal pension is one of the world's rarest & best annuities, especially coupled with $40/month Tricare premiums. You'd literally have to spend $1.5-$2M to buy this package from Vanguard or AIG. Even if you totally screw up your taxable accounts chasing penny stocks, you'll still have the TSP. 15-20 years after retiring you'll get a boost from Social Security (with more COLAs). You've set a solid floor on your standard of living, and you have years to decide whether you want to pursue a bridge career or use your GI Bill or bag groceries. I'd especially recommend REWahoo's, Boxkicker's, and Oma's ER stories, and Tomcat98's approach to "the day".

Don't get me wrong-- I hope you discover your avocation and that it brings you a lifetime of fulfilling fun. I was disillusioned by the pre-retirement seminar's "self-assessment" and "skill-discovery" surveys & software, though, and you might be too. I didn't have the time, energy, or thought capacity to work through my options until after I'd retired and taken a month or two to re-integrate with the rest of the human race.

The trick is not to get bulldozed by someone who's selling fear and résumé-prep software at the same time. You may feel clueless and scared, but if they can't understand what your benefits are worth, and if they're not pursuing financial independence too, then they're just as clueless and scared as they're trying to make you feel.
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