[As part of our new weekly column by Mr. 1500 of 1500Days.com]
I left my job about 4 months ago and haven’t regretted it a bit.
My career didn’t even last 20 years. I started my first real job in January of 1998 and my last day was April 13th of 2017. Leaving wasn’t an easy decision.
I have money security issues and suffered from an acute case of One More Dollar Syndrome (the first cousin of One More Year Syndrome). When I started my journey to financial freedom way back on January 1st of 2013, I figured I would need about a million to quit ($40,000 per year per the 4% Rule). When I left, I had almost $1,400,000 saved up. And this didn’t include $400,000 in home equity.
Despite the big nest egg, picking up the phone to tell my boss the bad news was one of the most difficult calls I’ve ever made. Over four months later, I’m still adjusting, but life is pretty great.
How I Learned to Stop Worrying about Money and Quit my Job
The numbers part of retirement is easy. Figure out your annual spending and sock away enough to last a lifetime. The emotional part; not so easy.
Here is how I learned to stop worrying and quit my job:
#1. I’m frugal and flexible
I planned my retirement money needs according to the 4% Rule which has no shortage of detractors. It isn’t 100% safe, but nothing is. My advice is to stay frugal and flexible:
- Frugality: If you can live on $40,000 per year, it doesn’t take much income to move the needle. Just generating an extra $10,000 turns the 4% Rule into the 3% Rule, drastically improving your odds of never running out of money. You can make $10,000 by renting a room, driving for Uber or getting a part-time gig.
- Flexibility: Being able to react to the curve balls life pitches isn’t just a good strategy for early retirement, it’s a good strategy for life. Don’t get set in your ways. Be mindful of the world and be ready to pivot in the unlikely event that your net worth craters by 50% the day after you quit.
#2. I considered the worst case scenarios, and created backup plans for my backup plans)
Some of my worst case scenarios include:
- Massive stock market drop early in retirement
- Lack of meaning in my life
And one my biggest:
The worst case scenarios are not that bad once you start thinking about them. If the market tanked, I’d step up my side-hustles or go back to full-time work for a year. If I was bored, I’d hire a life coach.
Perhaps my ultimate worst case scenario is this:
I die regretting all of the things I didn’t get around to doing!
I’ve helped eliminate that one by leaving my job. But, I still needed to come up with backup plans for financial disasters. My worrying brain constantly barrages me with what-ifs:
- What if the stock market drops by 50%?
- What if health insurance costs $3,000/month?
- What if my wife or I come down with a major illness?
Here are my backup plans, in order of mild (stock market drops 50%) to terror (in a temporary bout of insanity, I “invest” all of my money in an MLM and lose it all):
- Pick up a side-hustle
- Go back to full-time work
- Sell my home to get the equity ($400,000) out
- Move to a foreign country for cheap living and health care
- Create my own MLM!
Hmmmm, maybe I should implement that last one today… Brace yourselves readers. Today I’d like to introduce you to my new business: Mr. Money Marshmallow!
Just kidding. As much as I enjoy marshmallows, I really, really dislike MLM schemes. And now I’m all distracted. Pull yourself together man!
I don’t think that I’ll have to do any of those things, but knowing that I’ve thought through my worst case scenarios gives me peace.
#3. I realized that risk is OK (or even great!)
Quitting work at 43 isn’t the safe route. If I wanted that, I’d work until I’m 62 and continue to stockpile money. I’d have good insurance the whole time, a decent car, and maybe even… Oh wait, I feel something coming on:
To hell with that. A normal life of safety sounds pretty damn boring. I want to live on my own terms and follow my own ambition. Besides, no one ever did anything great taking orders from Mr. Bossman in a cube, right?
#4. I know that the work I love is my best work
I learned an important lesson on my journey to early retirement:
You can’t retire to nothing.
Retiring just for the sake of retiring is a horrible idea. Any well adjusted human needs meaningful activity to be happy. Many of us get it from work, and if that’s you, you better have something lined up when you leave. TV won’t cut it.
I have my writing. Without it, I probably wouldn’t have left my job. Financially, I would have been better off sticking with my career as a programmer. However, money only funds a certain amount of happiness. At some point, you max out that happiness account and need to move on.
This is exactly what I had to do. I realized that more money wasn’t going to make me happier, but working on my blog, a book, and related projects would.
I Should have Done it Sooner
Everyone says it. And here I am saying it too: I should have left my job sooner.
Chances are, you’ll say the same when it’s time.
Humans have a tendency to let their fears stand in the way of their dreams. We cling to worst case scenarios to justify the chains that bind us. And to make it more difficult, leaving work before you’re old and grey is still an unconventional concept! Humans are followers, and not many members of the herd leave their jobs early.
But I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying my life now. Every day is different. This is how one played out earlier this week:
- Woke up at 5am (life is too good to spend it sleeping)
- Biked 20 miles up into the mountains (life is too good to not be in optimum health)
- Ate breakfast with my girls
- Worked on three different blog posts for two hours
- Biked with the girls to the library
- Went home for lunch
- Spent the afternoon at the pool with the girls
- Polished up a chapter on a book I’m working on
- Family walk
- Played Ticket to Ride with the family
I left my job about 4 months ago and haven’t regretted it a bit. I encourage others who’ve already reached FIRE to strongly consider it too.