gearing up

The Ups and Downs of Getting Close to Early Retirement

Yesterday, the ticker on our sidebar went from 22 months to 21 months. And every single one of those ticks gives us a little thrill. As we get closer and closer, of course we get more excited. But it’s not all puppies and ice cream sundaes, either. There are some definite ups and downs that have come along with our journey, even when you leave the stock markets out of it.

One of the things that we notice a lot is how our retirement plan and our proximity to actualizing it impacts how well we roll with the punches at work. Some of this stuff is hard to disaggregate, because as we’ve gotten closer to early retirement, we’ve also moved up in our companies and taken on increasingly greater responsibilities. So the years of being close also happen to be our most stressful — we suspect we’re not alone in this, since most people will retire at their most senior in their careers. And they’re the years of the most travel (I’m writing this from an airport hotel, listening to planes landing and taking off — hey, at least I can watch a little free HGTV! Evidently shiplap is now a household term).

Related post: Why We’re Not Going to Complain About Work Anymore

We can’t know what it’s like to be 21 months away from early retirement in minimally stressful jobs. But we can use ourselves as a highly unscientific sample of two to look at the effect our retirement plan has on how we handle the stress of our work. And the answer is: very differently.


The Ups and Downs of Getting Close to Early Retirement // Our Next Life -- financial independence, early retirement, adventure, emotions, finance

Ms. ONL — the plan and its downs

I’m in a place with work right now where being so close to our exit date makes things tougher. And though 21 months isn’t itself super close, we think of 2017 as our “senior slide” year, when we’ll work a lot less hard and coast a lot more. So in many ways, we just have nine and a half more months of real work, rounded down to nine for the holidays.

So even though I only have nine more months in my whole life of having to work my butt off, I’m struggling. #firstworldproblems, for real. I know. But if we were going to be working for several more years, I would be strongly considering looking for a new job. That would be tough in our mountain town, for sure, but I would be using my network to try to convince a contact that they want to hire me remotely. I feel pretty certain I could do it, but given that we have so little time left, it doesn’t feel the least bit worth it. Actually, it would feel dishonest, since I wouldn’t be willing to commit to any reasonable period of time.

On an emotional level, I want to react to drama moments at work these days by shouting, “I don’t need this crap! We’re financially independent!” I’m sure, in the past, I had thoughts like, “You can’t speak to me that way!” or other indignant, self-righteous reactions. But I definitely don’t remember having so many urges to tell people to shove it before we got so far along in our plan. Or maybe I’ve always wanted to tell people to shove it, and I have just let that stuff fade into the fog of time. :-)

I’m also just the kind of person who sees problems and wants to fix them, and it’s hard to accept that I need to stop trying to fix problems at work. Because I won’t be there long enough to make a real difference. But old habits die hard, and that desire to improve things has turned into bottled-up frustration.

Mr. ONL — the plan and its ups

On the other end of the spectrum is Mr. ONL, who is finding that being close to the end of his career is an incredibly freeing, positive thing. He is not ambitious or type A like me, but is still an uber-achiever, and is crazy valued at his company. But he would tell you that that comes from a place of extrinsic motivation, which is a fancy way of saying that he works hard out of a sense of guilt and obligation, not because he innately wants to prove himself.

This feeling of guilt is something he’s been struggling with since before we met. And he’s actually finding that being so close to retirement is the only thing in his almost 20-year career that has helped reduce that sense of obligation. He’s actually letting himself phone it in a little more, and not spend too much time on projects that don’t warrant it. He’s not bending over backwards as much to please obstinate clients who will never be happy. And he’s not letting bad coworkers get to him.

Navigating the ups and downs as a couple

It’s a great time in our relationship in that we’re both on the same page about our finances (mostly), and we’re super duper crazy excited about our future which is not so far away anymore. But it’s also a challenging time because work is so all-consuming, and because we’re both experiencing very different emotional reactions to the closeness of our end date.

This is definitely a one-day-at-a-time kind of thing, and something we’re continually navigating, but it’s proving to us once again that our marriage is our most important asset, and it needs tending. We can’t just tend to the investments, or track our net worth diligently. We have to make sure we’re taking good care of each other, too.

Ultimately, we know these last less than two years will fly by, and they’ll be barely a blip in the rearview mirror of our lives. But for right now, they’re our reality, and that reality isn’t as easy every day as we might like to think it should be. That just makes us all the more thankful that we’re in it together!

Do you notice that you handle work stress better or worse as you build up your savings and get closer to financial independence? Have you had any situations like ours, where you and a partner react differently to the same plan? Tell us all about it. :-)

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80 replies »

  1. Dear Mrs and Mr ONL, my wife and I are in a similar position to you but a bit closer, being ‘only’ three months away from FI, so much of what you say here is familiar to us as well. I agree completely with the sentiment of having little patience with the frustrations of corporate life and the temptation to tell people where they can shove their demands! I think it’s always there in the background of your mind through your working life but we all suppress our most honest gut reaction to things, instead saying the politic thing in order to ‘play the game’. It’s refreshing to know, once you get close to the goal of FI that you can soon leave this overly PC version of yourself behind forever when you hit your date. The nonsense is still frustrating, but I do take comfort from the fact that I will soon be able to just speak my mind when I don’t like something or just choose not to participate. When I do get stressed by it I will try to remember your hashtag #firstworldproblems to bring myself back to the awesome reality that it will all be over soon, and that I should be grateful for what I have.

    • How exciting that you guys are so close! Hooray! I’m sure at some point I will be able to just smile to myself and laugh at the absurdity of the game, maybe in a few more months, but I am not quite there yet. And haha — #firstworldproblems is definitely not our invention, but it’s a good reminder whenever we’re letting ourselves get frustrated by stuff that ultimately doesn’t matter one it. :-) Good luck on your home stretch — so exciting!

  2. It is so interesting to hear how people react to the same scenario so differently! During the home stretch before a job change, I’ve felt both more irritated at the problems of the system, and more relaxed about my performance and trying to prove myself. In a similar situation, Neil seemed to focus on the new journey ahead, but also felt it was a bit surreal that he was leaving the company he’d worked for since graduation. I’m not sure how we’d feel approaching retirement as quickly as you, though.

    • I think your analogies to leaving jobs apply here, too, since it’s all just how we handle impending transitions, right? I’m sure we’ll experience bits of all of what you mentioned when we get close to actually leaving!

  3. We’re less than 7 mo away and for the last few weeks, I’ve wanted to quit every day. Mr G even said, go ahead, but I’m holding on.

    My position is not nearly as senior as either of yours. But 2 people in my small department quit. They’re being replaced but everyone’s responsibilities are shifting. I thought I’d be coasting until the end but now I may need to learn new things – things that won’t involve personal growth in any way, shape or form, because the machine is so dysfunctional. Originally I planned to only give 2-3 weeks notice, but as I get closer to 4 months I may give my boss a heads up. If they want to replace me at that point I should be due almost 3 months severance since they would not be letting me go for cause. Still, they could play games, and I really don’t want to end my working life angry, and in a battle.

    • Oh, I completely know what you mean about not wanting to end things in a battle! I very much want to go out on a good note, and that definitely affects how I think about leaving, how much notice to give, etc. Same for Mr. ONL. We both want to leave with lots of good vibes behind us! But yeah, I can definitely relate to your wanting to quit ahead of schedule! :-)

  4. Congrats for getting so close, guys! We are only 36 and have two kids (ages 4 and 6) so we are far away from calling ourselves financially independent or walking away from our “jobs.” The fact that our online jobs make us location independent does make things a little easier. Still, I very much look forward to the day when I can work because I want to, not because I have to.

    • Thanks, Holly! We’re technically location-independent, too, though with my work travel almost every week, we can’t actually just be working from Maui or Jackson Hole or NYC. :-) So I think it’s awesome that you guys get to be for-real location independent!

  5. My favorite part about this post–aside from the honesty, of course!–is the fact that you explain how you navigate this as a couple with different perspectives. Sometimes I read blogs and get really nervous that Mr. P and I aren’t always lockstep in-sync with each other, especially in terms of how we react or our perspective. Congratulations on being so close! It’s been fantastic to follow you on this journey!

    • Thanks, Penny! And haha — there’s tons of stuff we don’t see eye-to-eye on, and we try to share some of that here because we agree with you. A lot of blogs present couples as completely in agreement, and that for sure isn’t how we live. We’re too stubborn. :-) But we’re in a good place in terms of supporting each other even if we don’t agree or have the same perspective, and I’m super grateful for that!

  6. Our situation was quite different in that I hadn’t planned on retiring until age 62 (I actually left at age 58), so our plans were years out when I left the work force suddenly and forever. Mr. AR had been out on disability for two years at the time (one year temporary while we navigated the labyrinth of permanent disability, and one year subsequent to that). We had already dealt with his employer, his union, SDI, social security and the associated drama, and were just settling into the new reality of one (admittedly, generous) paycheck and a pension and social security. I was deathly afraid of retiring, not just at age 62 but ever. My biggest fear was medical insurance, which the ACA resolved at the best possible time. I had savings and retirement accounts as well, so as soon as Obamacare became a reality, so did the possibility of retirement for me. I ran the numbers over and over and over again, and every scenario pointed to working until age 62, then taking the (greatly reduced) social security benefit to offset the cost of my medical insurance, and that’s the path we were following. I was already very disillusioned with my job, and actually sought other avenues, but I was too highly compensated and could not match the salary or the commute. I felt beyond stuck. I became more miserable every day, the work frustrations mounted, and four years started to seem like an eternity. At the same time, Mr. AR was already retired and quite lonely, but we were stuck in avery expensive, very crowded urban are because of my 24/7 job. The little time off I did have was not nearly enough to decompress, and stress levels for both of us were the highest either of us could recall. As his health deteriorated I found myself feeling guilty at work because I wasn’t with him, and guilty at home because I wasn’t working. My own health began to suffer, I resented the amount of time and energy the job was taking, and found I not only no longer enjoyed it, I had begun to resent it. I always said that if a certain line were to be crossed (an ethical line, in my opinion), I would walk out the door regardless of the financial and/or emotional consequences, and when that aet of circumstances actually happened (to my complete surprise), I shocked myself and everyone around me by picking up my keys and walking out the door. That one decision changed everything! I often say I should have left sooner, before the frustration and resentment lead to the disillusionment that it did, but I firmly believe life is timing and it simply ended up working out exactly as it was supposed to. We had to make some major adjustments, and not just financially, but we did and we’re fine. The bottom line is I actually could have left long before I did, I just wasn’t willing to do so. I was a prisoner in a jail of my own making. If I knew then what I know now I would have gone to work every day with a giant smile on my face, turned off my phone and not read my email messages on nights and weekends and vacations, and not taken any of it nearly as seriously as I did. In retrospect, none of it was that important. I just didn’t know it at the time. No regrets at all.

    • I love learning more about your story! And gosh, so much interesting stuff here! It’s a good reminder to stay aware of whether we’re getting disillusioned, and to see that as a major red flag. And your last point speaks to me in a big way — that it’s okay to disconnect more and take it all less seriously. We want to show total commitment this year, but next year it’s all about unplugging more, working less and caring a whole lot less. :-)

  7. Please keep your shove it language to yourself. If you think about it too much, you may say it out loud.

    I figure I’m roughly 10 years away from being FI and I can already see it impacting my mindset. I have a big cash cushion right now (extra big because of the house fund) and its giving me incredible peace of mind. Work doesn’t bother me (even when it sucks) and over the last few months, I’ve been calm in the storm. So much so that my boss asked me how I could be so calm at a time like that.

    I’ve also found myself working harder. My job gives away pins to signify your years of service. I thought from Day 1 that I wanted to make it to 10 years so I could get the 10 year pin that had my birthstone in it. Now I think, 10 years could be all the working years I have left, so I need to make the most of it. I’ve found its a helluva lot easier to light a fire under my butt if I only need to work 10 more years, than if I was facing 35 more years of work.

    • If you can believe it, I’m called the Zen Master at work — it’s still crazy to me, because I am not Zen in my head. :-) But I’m not too worried about accidentally saying any of that stuff. If I do, it will be on purpose — just kidding!

      I completely know what you mean about being willing to work harder because you know it’s not forever, and that’s definitely where I am. I’m working harder than I ever have, and I’m actually happy about that. I want that one last hurrah of giving it my all. But it’s complicated, of course. I’m glad to know, though, that building up your savings has given you new peace of mind and zenlike calm at work!

  8. I had to laugh at your “shove it” comments. Definitely been there! I have long way to go (8-10 years) but I’m fortunate to have a job where people don’t drive me crazy and I like the work I do so it’s rare that irritating situations arise. I’ve worked for some awful managers (and with horrible coworkers) so I’ve paid my dues :) Hoping I can stay with this (very large) company until I leave the workforce altogether.

    My dad told me a story about a coworker he had in the early 80’s. One day he got fed up with something that was going on and he really did tell people to shove it! He stormed out, saying he didn’t have to deal with it anymore (he was old enough to claim SS). I would love to see someone do that! Talk about a memorable exit…

    • Hahaha — Most days are not “shove it” days, but then some days…
      And OMG — that story about your dad’s coworker! I definitely don’t envision going out in a blaze of glory like that. I love and respect the people who run my company (for the most part — ha!), and I want to go out with good vibes all around. I’m glad you have a good vibes work situation now, so it feels like you can hang on while you keep saving. :-)

  9. Oh my gosh, I just want to hug you guys! In reading your post, I feel like I’m re-living the start of the voyage! I remember it all, from the “I don’t have to take this crap” (You don’t have to have a job that makes you cry), to the feeling of leaving while you are at the top of your game. I especially love, love, love your understanding that your marriage will require tender loving care. I am sooooo excited for you both. I’ll be following along every step of the way. You’ve got this! Don’t panic – the best is still ahead!

    • Aww, thanks for the virtual hug! :-) And for all of the great encouragement. We know we’ll get there, and that the good stuff is on the other side. It just can’t come soon enough! ;-)

  10. We (hubby and I) also had very different approaches to work stress and to how we are dealing with retirement.
    I realized with about “4 years” to go that I was way too stressed with the system, but finding another well-compensating job (Yes, I was high level and well compensated) was almost impossible. So it looked like 4-more years of stress or 8+ years if I could find something more reasonable. And there was the “grass is always greener” worry as well. Then my 4-years turned into 2 years with a surprise early retirement package.
    The last 4 months (when I knew early retirement was imminent) were a mixture of panic to leave the work in a place others could take over the projects (high sense of responsibility to my team) and some “so what” attitude about things. I think I did politely tell my boss to “shove” the work I didn’t want to do a few times. It was nice to “leave work on a high note”… going out at the peak of my career and not be one of the ones they say “finally” when the person retires.
    Even now in retirement, hubby and I are adjusting differently. He has slid into it with no mental anguish at all. I am the worrier. Are the finances truly OK for the long haul? Where should we live? Should I work part-time to keep an edge and some mental stimulation? Who am I if I’m not working? He just shakes his head at my anguish and tells me to chill – you’re retired, take one day at a time and enjoy it. A super nice balance to my anguish!

    • I have one of those husbands, too, who likes to tell me to chill. :-) (And he reads all these comments — Hi, Mr. ONL!) You raise a point that will be even weirder for us, or maybe it will be a relief — after we’re “out” with the news that we’re leaving. We anticipate having two or three months when people know, and I suspect I’ll have a lot of the same emotions you did, with a mix of anxiety and “so what.”

  11. I worry about how the last year or two will be for me. I had bad “senioritis” before my maternity leaves – and I was actually coming back to work afterwards. It was so easy to blame pregnancy aches and pains for being lazy and I knew that my work would soon be someone else’s responsibilty.

    On a related note – are you going to take me up on the challenge to describe your kaleidoscope?
    I think we’d all like to hear some more specifics about your next life . . . although, daydreaming about the future could result in even less focus at work :)

  12. Though you describe your two approaches to work and this home stretch as very different, I can definitely relate to both.

    In some ways I simply have no tolerance for things that I hate about my job and find myself getting frustrated really easily. It was actually getting so bad that Mrs. EE and a co-worker that I am friends with both pointed out how negative I had become. I heard people talking about giving things up for lent, which I have never done, and just on the spot committed to giving up complaining at and about work. I can’t say I’ve been 100% successful but I’ve tried to put some social pressure on myself by telling everyone that will listen that I’ve given it up so they can call me out on it if I slip up.

    On the flip side, I find I am much more patient with co-workers or difficult clients. I have really begun to appreciate how close we are and I try to by empathetic to the situations of others that have challenges of their own and no end in site to look forward to.

    • I love your lent choice — congrats for recognizing that your work negativity had reached a bad level and deciding to do something about it. I can definitely relate to that — that’s what motivated that post from last year on not complaining about work anymore. But at the same time, it’s great that you’re more patient with coworkers and clients! Empathy is always a good thing. :-)

  13. Talk about timing, I was seriously just having some of those same kind of thoughts this morning. Mine went like this, “I wonder if I’d be just as happy at this job if I had another 10 years to work here, or even 20 as per the norm? Maybe that’s why some people are such drama queens, is because this stuff really does matter to them. Would it matter more if I was going to be here in 2 more years???”
    This was as I was staring at my “window” working out a thought problem (I’ll tweet a pic of my new “window” in a few). I realized that I’d continue doing this from Whitefish or wherever if they let me do remote work in a few years. I mean, Why not? It’s fun, and until someone makes it not that way, I really have no reason to dislike it. They’re not going to let me work remotely, but you never know…
    Until then, I am just rolling with the punches and saying to myself, “Meh, this doesn’t really matter and it sure doesn’t need me getting worked up about it. Whatevs…” Things that are a hassle and not necessary, I can easily avoid. Like when someone stole my project and turned it into a worse version to show to our CEO as their work and ideas. The old Mr. SSC would be pissed, and then probably pout about it for a bit, but instead I am almost done with an even better product than what they took and maimed. Woohoo!
    My belabored point is that I am definitely in a “focus on what I have control over, stay out of the stuff that doesn’t concern me, and take nothing personal” kind of mindset. I think even more so knowing that this job isn’t a 10-20 year commitment.

    • Is Whitefish a high contender now?? I’ve heard great things! And I loved seeing your “window” on Twitter. :-) I’m so glad you’ve achieved the “serenity prayer” mindset at work. I wish I could get there! Maybe I still will, but I’m not there yet. Though I’m heading into a two or three week stretch with no travel, so I’m hoping that will also provide a much-needed reset. I am hoping I can actually get caught up (so easy to get behind when traveling!), and maybe if I don’t feel like I’m failing all the time, I also won’t feel so stressed about it all. :-)

      • If you talk to Mrs. SSC we’re Montana bound! I haven’t committed to anything, but she seems fairly set on that area, and there are a decent number of rentals. More surprisingly, in the outer areas away from Whitefish, but still within 30 minutes or so driving, there are a lot of houses and land for well under $200k. To the point, it might be tempting to just go that route… Oh the decisions to still be made.
        Hopefully, your non-traveling spell gets you a good reset.
        As far as my “window” I decided that since I am not getting moved to a window, I’ll put one in so I have something to stare at when I’m working out problems. :)

      • I hope you guys can take an extended trip up to MT (I’m sure the FI Big Sky couple could give you pointers) to see if you like the feel of the place, not just the numbers. Talking to locals is SO informative. We have found that so much of the west is biased against outsiders coming in, so you want to be sure you find a spot where you won’t feel like outcasts. You guys seem super friendly and open, so I’m sure you’ll do fine anywhere, but always good to get that real sense before committing. And, I’m just super excited that the west is now in serious consideration, not just Appalachia! :-)

      • We are hoping to get out there this fall, but we’ll have to see how timings of life work out. At this point, out west first is the new plan. Hmm, maybe we should update our plan again in a post. Except people would be like, “we get it, you guys are wishy washy, good grief…” Hahahaha
        Coeur D’Alene seems a bit biased about CA folks “moving in” and taking over the town, so we definitely want to visit our final choice town a lot before we commit. Currently, Whitefish and CDA are back at the top of first places to check out, and most likely relocate to in a few more years. :)

      • Hahaha — I think you can still write about your thought process about where to live. If you didn’t have evolving thoughts, it would be a boring blog! Nobody wants to read about perfect robots. :-) But I’m super happy to know that you’re thinking about the west first, and agree — lots of small towns in the intermountain west have a strong “locals only” vibe, so it’s good to be sure you don’t end up someplace like that.

    • Um, hi. Had to jump in here because “Whitefish,” “Montana,” and “FI Big Sky” were all mentioned in a single chain and that never happens.

      While certain parts of Montana have the mindset of, “Ugh. Those Californians. Seriously,” most of us just love having people here who love being here. If you love the outdoors and are okay with the fine-print found in MT mortgage contracts asking all residents to remain hush-hush about how great it is to live here (it is, after all, called The Last, Best Place and we’d like to keep it that way) then you’ll do just fine.

      All silliness aside, if you have any questions we’d be happy to try to answer them. It’s a big state and people are different wherever you go, but many a visitor from outside of MT has told me that they think we’re a pretty friendly group. :)

      • Haha, that’s a good point, that this may be the first time all 3 of those are mentioned in a single comment chain. :)

        At least we wouldn’t be coming from CA, but I don’t know if “Texans” are seen any better, although to be fair, I’m actually a Kentuckian. Hmmm, maybe that’s worse… haha

        There is a lot that seems to come together in all the elements we’re looking for in MT, and since CDA is so close by as well, we thought we would try to bundle the two into a trip and just get to explore that general area.

        I’ll definitely get in touch with you guys if we have specific questions, and let you know when we’re headed out there. To be honest, there are towns in every state I’ve visited that seem to have the attitude of “Ugh, those people that moved here and aren’t from here…” lol Like you said, most places though people just lie nice people that enjoy being in their town.

    • I was a Texan, too, so I think you’ll be alright on that front. I’m not sure about Kentuckians…I’ll ask around.

      As for skiing attire, I’ve yet to see someone go down the slopes in a cowboy hat, but jeans and a windbreaker are quite common on those warmer, spring days ;)

  14. Interesting stuff, we are not as close as you guys when it comes to FI (maybe in 10 years or so?) and our plans are not super concrete yet. I can definitely see getting slightly more stressful once you get closer to the set FI date because there are so many unknowns. I think the thing to do is to not worry about what’s going to happen in the future. Take one day at a time and be flexible with whatever the outcomes are.

    • I think that is very wise advice in all life situations. :-) Miraculously, I am actually not too worried about the retirement plan itself — just about how I’ll manage to get through this last period of work! :-)

  15. Wow, I can totally relate!

    I think I’m definitely closer to Mrs ONL. My manager wants me to get a promotion next year (to which I enthusiastically replied “Of course!” – I assume most of us are undercover at work, I wouldn’t say “hey man, sorry, I intend to ditch this place in 2 years so I think you’re betting on the wrong horse”), and that means lots of additional work.

    The result is much more stressful hours and projects. I actually think I haven’t been that stressed in my life, making the whole process even more frustrating. My path to Financial Independence almost feels like a race against insanity at this point.

    • “A race against insanity” — oh my gosh, YES. What a perfect way to put it. It really does feel that way sometimes. Like I worry that work is changing us in some big and negative ways, and we won’t be able to change back. All the more reason to hurry up and get out the door! :-)

  16. Since we were forced out and did not leave voluntarily, I can’t really comment. But I do know once we were both finally out and had given up on getting back in, we both felt a lot freer We are also both working a lot harder than we ever did but only on those things that are important to us. For example our book is coming back to us in proofs and we expect it to be out in print about May. I know I never would have completed that book if I also had to be working at a job, mainly because it goes against the grain in academia and presents a novel idea that won’t get you any grants. And it’s done. I don’t spend all my time worrying about he next grant now.

    • I love how positive a force retirement has ended up being for you both. And your book! It’s so great that you’ve had the time to finish that without worry about grants or funding!

  17. As much as I want to care less, it’s tough. I don’t like doing a crappy job, plus I’m still early on this FIRE journey so pleasing my bosses/coworkers and keeping a strong network is definitely still important. But I definitely don’t suck up as much as some do. If I ever got let go, I already have my expenses pretty low and a good network that I could find something else at same or higher compensation. So no reason to bend over backwards or brown nose in my book :) I’ve also found that as long as I get stuff done on time and with quality, no one really cares about all the other stuff which definitely is a stress reliever.

    • I relate to a lot of this, FF! It IS hard to care less, but I’m also perfectly happy not sucking up. :-) That must be a good feeling to know that you’d land on your feet quickly if you were let go!

  18. Fascinating that 2 people can have such a different reaction to the same plan they agree on. Given that my wife and I have a very different personality -opposites attract – I can imagine in 10 years from now a similar situation. I can switch off work things way faster than her, I can focus faster on the ned goal and see the bad things as necessary evil.

    As suggested by Tawcan, a day-by-day approach would suit best. That being said, I can relate to your frustrations at work: you know you do not really need them anymore, so, you want it to be as you want. A good curse or yell works miracles from time to time…

    • It IS fascinating, in a way. We have the same reaction about the FIRE plan itself, but then handle our work stress very differently now. Ironically, I used to handle it better, but now Mr. ONL has become like the Zen master, and I’m the stress case. And I’ll keep that in mind about a miracle curse once in a while. :-)

  19. It’s tough to say because I’m nowhere close to being as close as you are to retirement. I think for me I think a bit shorter term (as far as how to handle stressful work situations). I mean all we have is right now, so might as well make the best of it and make it work however we can.

    • That is a very healthy attitude. :-) Focusing on the present is absolutely the way to go, and same for making the best of things. Glad you’re able to do that!

  20. Awww. You two are my favorites. I wish I knew what it felt like to be that close. :) Mr. T hasn’t processed anything I think. I’m afraid he will never feel confident enough walking out of work. I also don’t think he’s decided whether he would rather work 10 more years and be totally FI or work 5 and start his own business venture. We’re in the process of recalculating… :)

    • Aww, thanks, Maggie! I definitely wonder if anyone feels completely confident walking away from work (or if they do, maybe they’re overconfident!). But I’ll let you know when we pull the trigger — I’m sure we’ll still have tons of doubt at that point, but will just have to decide that the risk of our money running out does not outweigh the risk of missing our lives. I look forward to hearing about your recalculations!!

  21. I’ve been on a path of a long gradual goodbye (~1.5 years) as a way of dialing down stress on my own terms. The first step was to become a consultant (no more managing employees, performance reviews or “critical” projects). Next was working from home more frequently. Lastly will be part time work until I gently fade away from corporate life. Each month becomes less stressful than the one before. Instead of a singular event at FI I think of my time left as how one would watch a sunset. The sky is ablaze in reds and oranges right now and I can’t wait to see the stars this fall. How could there be any stress with that perspective?

    • Wow, what a cool way to do it! That isn’t possible in our cases, but sounds like an ideal way to transition out gradually, and while reducing stress along the way. Congrats for making that work!

  22. Not close enough to be able to relate, but I do understand that very favourable situations can bring their own brand of stress. After we had paid off one significant debt, my husband was so shell-shocked, he almost took a wrong turn on our way home from the bank. It was disorienting. If you weren’t going to reach FI so soon, I can’t help but think you’d be more tempted to self-medicate through purchases – like dinners out, massages, shopping sprees – at this high-stress time at work peaks. I know I would. One day at a time. So great that you’re facing each one together.

    • You make such a good point that we hadn’t directly thought about before: that we *would* still be spending to self-medicate against the stress of work. So maybe my frustration is actually because we’ve stopped most of that spending, and I miss the splurgier things. :-) But we’re close… that’s what I have to keep reminding myself!

  23. Thanks for this post, it rang some bells with me. We are now just 12 months from FI and counting and yes we are both individuals and so dealing with it differently, although we have planned this and saved for some time. While Mr BOTRA has concerns about our financial security (even though we have done and re-done the budget), I am impatient and ready to jump in to retirement sure that everything will be fine. I have certainly taken my foot off the pedal at work now and I think Mr BOTRA is starting to adjust to a new pace too. I am in the process of writing a post at
    where I explore how I am feeling at the moment as the company I work for faces a reorganisation and how this will change things for me. Thanks again.

    • Glad to know we’re not the only ones experiencing these mixed feelings! It’s funny because I’m *both* the one who’s anxious about whether we’re saving enough and the more impatient one who wants to quit already. LOL

  24. I became FI at the end of 2013 and I recall it being a very exciting time knowing that I had around 6 months to go. The work pressures / stress to me completely changed because I knew that in a worse case scenario (I got fired) it would not really change the dynamic that much. So I was as relaxed as I ever was in my working career. I still tried to do a good job, but I took liberties as needed. I came into the office later than the general start time sometimes, left early at times, etc. Again, I took care of business and finished my work, but I was not going to worry about perception anymore.

    Frankly, that is one of the reasons we become FI in the first place. To take power back. To me it is a partial waste to get to that point only to “run scared” at work that last 6 – 9 months when one has already essentially crossed the finish line.

    • You are describing exactly the mindset we hope to have next year, in our final “coasting” year. :-) We’re not quite there yet, and are still working hard for big year-end bonuses this year, but after we have those in hand, then we’re all about beginning our senior slide. :-) Or, as you said, taking the power back. But we feel like we still have to prove ourselves as good little worker bees this year to maximize our income.

  25. I’m not anywhere close to retirement, but I do feel liberated that my wife and I have good savings and a healthy retirement account. I was laid off for close to four months and we didn’t feel it AT ALL. Well, actually my wife felt a little pressure being the only one working :(. But financially we were fine. Hurray for emergency funds!

    • First, I’m super glad that you’ve found a new job. But second, I think it’s so awesome that you were completely fine financially during your funemployed/SAHD period. :-) That’s what it’s all about, right?!

      • Definitely! If my wife was ok with it, I wouldn’t have minded being a SAHD indefinitely!

        To be honest – I actually stumbled upon my current job. I got the job from a previous interview last year for a job I didn’t get when I was still employed. They called me back early this year to see if I wanted to interview for another job and I got that! So it’s funny to think that all the job searching I did during #funemployment resulted in nothing, but I got a job from a previous lead!

  26. Yes it’s interesting how sometimes my wife and I react opposite to the same circumstance/situation, but we clearly aren’t alone! I have to say that it’s tough to relate to someone who plans on early retirement in 21 months. My wife hasn’t even started her career in counseling (still working on her masters) and I really can’t see myself switching my current career path for at least 5 years, and even then it would be because I’m working a different job or running a business.

    • You are definitely not alone in that! We react differently to stuff all the time, even though we generally end up in about the same place. :-) And even though ER may not feel relatable, we will have only been saving with real focus for about six years by the time we retire at the end of next year — so it’s not something you have to plan for decades!

  27. With just about 4 months to go, I’m coasting without any worries or stress. The crazy thing I’ve learned about myself is that I’m just not a very good employee or an “individual contributor” as they call it. This is surprising since I have an amazing work ethic when I’m focused on doing my own thing.

    It’s probably best that we’re moving when we are before I get too negative at work. It’s interesting watching others trying to prove themselves and impress management. So glad I’m almost done.

    • Haha — I can completely relate to that! I too have an incredible work ethic for my own projects outside of work, but am much more of a slacker when I’m actually getting paid. :-) I’m sure I’ll probably say it 5,000 more times, but I’m SO EXCITED for you guys! And so jealous that you’re getting to leave the workplace so soon! :-)

  28. The feeling that you and The Mr. have is very similar to what we’re feeling over here. I think my wife is sensing a little more work-related stress than I am (okay, a lot more, but only because I don’t really have any). Less than a year out, I have definitely fallen into the coasting mentality. I just do my job the very best that I can, then forget about work for the rest of the evening…then do it all over again the next work day.

    I truly am working for the weekends. Like you, if we weren’t so close to early retirement, I’d be looking to change my line of work. The pay is wonderful, but it also isn’t the type of work that truly makes me happy. I’ve known that for a long, long time, too. The money has kept me working a job that I don’t truly enjoy. I hate it when that happens.

    Ultimately, being so close makes work both good and bad. When you see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s all you can do to keep yourself from quitting NOW and achieving that light instantaneously. It can definitely be tougher knowing how close you are to the end of full-time work. I guess we humans feel this type of positive anxiety with everything in life when time is a factor. The closer we get, the more we want it.

    And man, I want it. Bad. :)

    • I already know that you chose the demotion over work stress, so you don’t get to complain! Hahaha. ;-) I wish I could pull off something similar without taking a massive pay cut — serious high five for making that work! But yeah, I bet I can relate to what Courtney is feeling.

      And I wonder if people who are still many years from ER look at people who are close and think we have it made. It’s so interesting to realize that it’s tough in its own ways, and the impatience can itself be a major source of anxiety.

  29. While we aren’t anywhere near reaching our FI goals like you lovely folks, I do find myself reacting to situations much like the “less-Zen self” you mentioned as we’ve become more and more financially independent and telling people to “shove it” in so many words when they’re being disrespectful or downright unreasonable. Granted, I only do this to a point (I do need a job for the foreseeable future) and not all the time, but I definitely don’t think that it is something I would have even considered doing in the past. I would have just thought it and pouted at my desk. It’s amazing how much more confidence one can have in the workplace when the realization of not needing a job hits.

    Mr. FI on the other hand is a lot like Mr. ONL. He’s a people-pleaser and works out of a sense of obligation rather than an actual want. Unlike me and my recently developed affinity for bluntness, he just lets things roll off his shoulders more instead of telling people how it is. He’s always been the more laid back one in our relationship, and knowing that this isn’t going to be his “forever job” puts the little annoyances into perspective.

    Long story short, I love how you explain how different reactions are okay and how you and Mr. ONL are taking the feelings of reaching FI in stride, on separate yet parallel paths. I hope that once Mr. FI and I are as close to the finish line as you two are, we’ll remember to focus on each other and the end goal through what sounds like a very emotional but liberating time. :)

    • It sure sounds like you guys have lots of dynamics that are similar to ours — more Type A wife, more laid-back husband, etc. :-) And yeah, you put it perfectly — it’s a liberating but still emotional time!

  30. Wow! Great article. I’m about 15 months away from early retirement myself and I can relate big time. I’m much more anxious to move on to the next thing. I’m in a commissioned sales job and the funny part about the ER thing is that I have changed my focus and marketing completely to make my life less stressful and reduced my circle of influence dramatically, but I’ve become busier than ever! It’s like I should have made these changes 5 years ago. But I’ll take it and maybe I’ll hit my goal sooner rather than later. I’m focusing on trying to leave with my integrity intact but I find myself pretty anxious to progress towards the goal and checking in with my personal capital account a couple times a week to make sure things are moving in the right direction. Now that the goal is in sight, I can’t get there soon enough.

    • Hi there! You’ll beat us to ER by a few months — we’ll look to you for pointers when it’s time to transition! Yeah, I’m same as you — busier than ever despite attempting to say “yes” less of the time, and also equally anxious to get there. Mr. ONL is doing a much better job of taking it all in stride. :-) But we both care, just like you do, about leaving with integrity. We want to leave with good vibes all around, which is forcing us to cool our jets… not the easiest thing to do. But we’re thankful the light at the end of the tunnel keeps getting closer! :-)

  31. This post is really meaningful to me right now and Mrs. ONL – I am with you. I was reading a post by Sam @ Financial Samurai (during a meeting at work where I was not excited to be…) He wrote, “It’s strange, because when you have total freedom, having to do things you don’t want to do feels EXTRA BAD” – and that is how I feel sometimes. I can go along with Mr. ONL at points – but it is a struggle. Glad we are in it together and kudos to putting your marriage first! That will solve a lot of bigger problems down the road.

    • Totally with you! Sometimes being close to ER makes me more Zen about things, but most of the time it makes it hard to put up with things. And so helpful to have a partner on the same page. :-)

  32. Great post, I’m 7 years from retirement early at 62 and I’m already struggling with both the job and the wife at home. My wife wants to move and hates the area we live in. I am bored at work but finding similiar work at the same pay is difficult. I’m trying to stay positive about things and how fast 7 years will go by but when I come home and the wife brings me back down everyday it is tough. I need a positive environment to thrive and I just feel beat…