OurNextLife.com // early retirement, financial independence, adventure, simplicity, mountain livingthe process

Reconsidering When to Give Notice

Since FIRE is mostly a waiting game, we often pass the time pondering questions that are so academic as to be essentially hypothetical, like how our plans would change if Obamacare goes away, or what we would do if our house burns down in a wildfire. Today’s post is about another one that I’ve been spending waaaaaaaay too much time thinking about — put it in the daydream category. What hypothetical questions or daydreams do you find yourself lingering on these days?

The current debate in the ONL house is when to quit our jobs. Barring a major market correction, we feel pretty good that we’ll hit our magic numbers ahead of schedule next year, possibly as early as Q2 of 2017. And this was after deciding about a year and a half ago that we’d quit at the end of 2017 even if we didn’t hit the number. So it almost feels like we’re double ahead, even if that’s not a thing. (Can we make it a thing?)

The question that follow is: Okay, we’re ahead. So what? Does that change anything? We each go back and forth on this, between maximizing our financial cushion by finishing out 2017 as originally planned and maximizing our time by quitting as soon as we can — all of which is entirely hypothetical at this point, because we really won’t know anything until this year’s year-end bonuses are announced — but somehow we never go back and forth at the same time. I’ll be thinking about sticking out the year because I am more risk-averse and want a bigger cushion while Mr. ONL feels like our assumptions are too conservative and we can quit. And then we’ll trade positions (where we are currently and have been for a while — I just want out! But Mr. ONL is being more practical). It’s like the when to quit seesaw — one of us is up while the other is down, and we haven’t yet figured out how to get to a place of balance on this question.

We had assumed, because of our incomes being so heavily weighted toward year-end bonuses (really it’s deferred compensation, and “bonus” is just short hand, but it all does happen at year’s end), that we’d have to stick it out until the end of 2017. Then we heard the potentially game-changing rumor that both of our employers may give us prorated bonuses if we leave earlier than year end. While that is crazy awesome news, it has also created a lot of unnecessary hand-wringing, because suddenly a question that had felt settled (when to quit) is unsettled. Yippee.

The Cascade of Questions

But of course before we can quit, we have to give notice. And that brings with it a whole bunch of other questions:

  • How much notice should we give?
  • Should we leave our end date up to our employers?
  • Should we offer to quit gradually, maybe working part-time for a bit?
  • Do we need to wait until we have every penny we need to give notice, or can we plan on some prorated bonus to top us off?
  • Etc., etc., etc.

This is how we’re currently thinking about all of it. Hypothetically, of course.

OurNextLife.com // How much notice should we give at early retirement?

How Much Notice Is Just Right?

First, there’s the question of relevance once we give notice, and not wanting to either rush the transition or stretch it out too long. We’ve learned a lot from Mr. Fire Station‘s recent announcement of his early retirement, and his retirement itself. It was heartening, for example, to see that he got pulled into some meetings and discussions because people wanted to pick his brain while they still could. But other pieces of his work wound down quickly. Unlike his situation, we’re in client work, which has a lot more entanglements, and which would require more in the way of hand-offs and transitions — there would be a hand-off on every project and with every client, not just one hand-off for each of us. We’ll definitely need to give more than two weeks’ notice for that reason alone, and it may need to be more like two to three months.

Should We Offer Flexibility?

Of course, since we’re not quitting our jobs to take other ones, we probably won’t have a hard stop, and we could theoretically say to our employers that we’re game to stick around for whatever period they feel like they need from us, especially given our long tenures at our organizations (both upward of a decade). But do we want to make that offer, and risk having things stretch out? Or do we say something like we’re willing to stay up to three months more, but we’re happy to make it shorter, so we build in some outer limit? Or do we offer some other arrangement, like having a longer notice period, but going down to half days or two days a week?

Wait Until We Don’t Need Another Penny?

This is of course the real question, and gets at that prorated bonus question. While we’ve gotten some very good advice that we’ll never regret quitting as soon as we can, we don’t want to rush things and end up with an insufficient cushion to last us through the first 18 years of our early retirement (we’re good on the age 60+ part either way), or a too-small emergency fund, or no slush fund to make some updates to our house (assuming we don’t downsize) or to buy a travel trailer.

Though we’d always assumed that our final year-end bonuses would push us over the tipping point into magic number land, as well as do some functional things like help us build up our cash buffer, the possibility that we may give notice before year-end bonus time has us thinking very differently about all of it. Before, we assumed we’d find out about our bonus amounts, and then give notice. Done. But now, we’re wondering if instead we give notice and then try to negotiate for as much of a prorated bonus as possible. It’s a tough bargaining position to be in, and all we can really use as leverage is how long we stay, offering to stay long enough to ensure smooth transitions if we can get the bonus we feel we’re due. But even that feels kind of icky, and isn’t the way we want to go out, given how close we feel to our companies’ leadership. We’re all about going out on good terms, with lots of good vibes all around.

But regardless of what we try to bargain for, we’re both pretty set that we wouldn’t give notice in anticipation of hitting our magic number at some date within our notice period, or in anticipation of a partial bonus. Instead, if we’re going to leave our jobs sooner than end of 2017, we’ll only give notice once we have every single penny banked that we need to live a long and minimally stressful retirement. So that if they say, “Great! You can leave tomorrow!” we’re not screwed and scrambling.

More Reconsideration to Come

All of these questions are ones we can’t act on for at least a year, probably longer. So I’m sure we’ll be revisiting this topic plenty! In the meantime, tell us: How are you thinking about your eventual departure, if you’re still working? Any lessons learned from those of you who are already retired? Any snippets from your resignation letter that you’ve been drafting in your head for a while now that you’d care to share? (I’ve written that letter in my head at least 20 times!) And back to that question at the start of this post: Any other hypothetical or daydreamy questions you find yourself stuck on these days? Let’s chat about all of it in the comments!

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Categories: the process

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86 replies »

  1. As a teacher, I have a pretty distinct ending point–the end of the school year, so that might make leaving easier. Also, there are usually others leaving at the end of the year, right now for retirement, though I’m sure others have left at the end of the year for other jobs. Not being the only one to leave would make it easier for me, I think.

    In terms of notice, I would likely give at least half a semester (8 weeks) if not a whole semester, and I think that I could tell my chair but not tell my colleagues for a while if that’s what I wanted. I think more than a semester would feel too early, like too much transition time. I’d think to myself “ok who knows that I’m leaving? are they thinking ‘this is the last time she’ll do such and such'” and that would make me crazy.

    The main practical aspects of leaving would be to make sure my chair had enough time to assign my classes and any committee work to other instructors, so giving him time to work on the schedule would be my main consideration.

    Telling people I’m leaving has never been easy and I’ve always gotten responses other than the ones I anticipated–one supervisor asking if she had done anything wrong, which was not a part of it at all, and a boss/friend who wasn’t happy to see me go to grad school, when I thought he’d be proud of me.

    Anyway, those are some things I’d think about, and I’d talk them over with my therapist for probably a year :)

    • Instead of talking to a therapist for a year, I’m talking about it here for two! But you guys give me advice for free! :-D

      I envy you having school years to create natural break points, but I get your concerns, too. Though I think the bonus is kind of a curse in this regard — it makes it a much more calculus in terms of when to give notice, because we know that once we say we’re leaving, there’s no incentive to give us a big bonus. Whereas with teaching, it’s not like they’re going to replace you mid-school year, so you could give lots of notice and not risk any pay. (At least I assume it works that way!) We’ll for sure keep writing about our evolving thinking on this — and look forward to knowing what you decide to do next school year!

  2. I like posts like this, keep doing more!:) I like thinking about the same and it’s good to hear other thoughts.

    It sounds like your employer knows it is coming, or at least on the horizon, since they’re offering the prorated bonus. If it were me, one possible avenue I’d consider is waiting until I hit my number, give three months notice tops (as a courtesy) and exit.

    But ultimately I’d probably choose to work the full year. Once you exit it’ll be hard to ever come back if you wanted the extra money. Plus it is only another six months, not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I don’t think you’d regret sticking it out and having the extra cash. And then once you do exit, pure elation!

    I look forward to following along through the process!

    The Green Swan

    • The prorated bonus has not been offered — it has been rumored by other colleagues. So it’s definitely not a sure thing, and we are staying anonymous in hopes that our employers don’t find out until we’re good and ready to tell them! :-) And you’re definitely in the consensus in recommending we stick it out til year’s end. Thanks for helping to set me straight on that. :-)

  3. While I would love to say I would walk out early, I would probably finish out the year. Not for my employers benefit, but just to make sure I had enough and then some (I like safety nets).

    I do daydream about telling my boss that I am quitting and when they ask who I am going to be working for – I get to say “myself” or “No one”

    • We think we should have a good safety net earlier than end of 2017, but you’re definitely right that a bigger safety net would be a good thing! And won’t it feel so good to say, “I’m off to work for no one!”??? :-)

  4. I would wait until you’re comfortable with retiring right that moment and give the same notice as you would for leaving your position for another job– two weeks, maybe a month tops. If they ask you to stay a little bit longer until X end date or deadline, part-time, or contract until your current commitments are over, it’d probably behoove you to do so if you’re worried about your SWR generally and keeping bridge un-burned. But unless you’ve seen instances otherwise with your colleagues, you probably shouldn’t expect that they’ll even want to keep you so long if they know you’re one foot out the door. You’re a potential competitor once you leave and soon-to-be-gone employees can do a lot of damage on their way out.

    • Hi Taylor. Your comment reminded me how grateful we are that we don’t work for companies where this thinking prevails. Neither of us have that wagon circling or stonewalling culture that we’ve heard about at other companies, and we plan to make it clear that we’re retiring completely, not going to a competitor or taking clients with us, which we at least imagine will help us get a warmer send-off, at least in terms of the vibe if not in terms of money. :-)

      • That’s great! The fact your companies don’t work like that says to me your firms both put out good product and care a lot about their employees (and thus do not expect clients to jump ship or bad leavers, respectively). In any case, good luck with your decision! Retirement 2017, woohoo! :)

  5. I too would wait until you have every penny you said you wanted in your accounts. Then it doesn’t matter how they react. I wouldn’t put any faith in receiving a pro-rated bonus. Either stay for the payout or imagine you are working for quite a bit less during your last year. If it were me, I’d wait until the bonuses pay.
    You don’t have One More Year syndrome, but it sounds like you think you do. I know you really want to quit, but is waiting a few more months really going to make that much of a difference to your sanity when it will have a big impact on your finances?

    • You already know this cracked me up, because you totally called it: We don’t have One More Year at all, but sometimes I think I worry that we will stay too long. Hahahaha. And of course you are wise as always that we should just stick out those last few months and get all the dollars we’re entitled to. I think I’ve just needed some excitement this winter/spring because of the crazy work schedule, and the thought of an earlier escape has kept me going. Oh well. It’s not much extra time in the scheme of things.

  6. Regardless of which date you choose, and how much notice you ultimately give, I would stick with a hard stop. Dragging out the process by extending it beyond your end date, whether you work full time or part time or remain “on call” and available by phone, email and/or text, will definitely alter your feeling of being retired. If you feel staying until the end of the year in order to obtain the entire bonus is a worthy use of your time (and you’re both young in terms of chronological age), then I would suggest staying with your original plan and sticking it out. After all, it’s hard to argue with too much money! If you know you can accomplish everything you set out to accomplish much sooner, without every dime of anticipated compensation, you can always accelerate the date and negotiate for as much of a proration as you think you are willing to delay your retirement for. But having one foot in your future and one foot in your past sounds like a halfway measure that, in the end, may not be emotionally satisfying to you or provide the necessary clean break to your clients and employers required for everyone to move on cleanly. I’d set a firm date based upon the amount of money you agreed upon, and stick with it, despite the firm tug of your employers to work out some halfway measures. It’s hard to soar with one foot tethered!

    • All great advice. You’re so right that extra money would be a great problem to have. :-) And I think I’m leaning toward asking them how long they want me to stay when I give notice, but then make that date firm. Of course we’re still a year and a half away, so that thinking could change. Maybe by then I’ll be at the point where I say, “You get a month and that’s it.” :-)

  7. I’m glad you opted for doing a 3rd post this week :)

    I’m with other people in that I’d stay the entire year to get the full bonus. It would be a different story if you had specific plans that you wanted to fit in earlier in the year. You’ve earned the money so it’s worth staying a few extra months to ensure you get it.

    • Thanks! Another mark in the column of full year. That’s 0 in favor of leaving early, everyone in favor of sticking it out. :-) Sometimes I need my better angels to remind me not to be a financial idiot after working for this goal for a big chunk of time!

  8. Would you ever pull the Financial Samurai method and negotiate a lay off, instead of resigning? If not I think 2 months notice would be fine, and then you could extend it to 3 months if your’e feeling good-willed in nature. I wouldn’t offer much flexibility after that. They have already gotten 15+ years of your flexibility in your personal life :)

    • I wish we could do the engineered layoff, and certainly if the company happens to be considering layoffs next year, we’d try to get in on that. But it also feels karmically weird to do this when we’ve been where we are for so long and think of our companies’ management as family. Just bad juju. But we love the idea for people who aren’t so personally entrenched! And yeah, I think three months is really the outer limit — beyond that, it just doesn’t seem like we’d take the work seriously or our colleagues would take us seriously!

  9. My situation is a little different because I’m hoping to do a little bit of work for my current employer after we reach semi-retirement, but I will be gone for six months or so on our big road trip. I’m thinking that both will need to be discussed at the same time. I don’t want them to give me a six-month leave of absense, but then expect me to be returning to full-time work. Unfortunately, that conversation won’t take place for several years, so I have plenty of time to think about it.

    FWIW – I might tell your employer that you will stay until the end of the year, so you get the full bonus, but have a hard end date.

    • I think it makes sense to discuss your whole plan at once, as you said. Though it seems like it could also be tricky, and is worth feeling out once you get closer. We’re definitely getting a lot of advice today to stay til the end of 2017, so you’re in line with the consensus! :-)

  10. Here is my take on this subject. I am approaching my notice to the company like I would any other notice. Meaning, this isn’t my “retirement notice”. This is just my notice that I’m moving on. In essence, this probably shouldn’t be any different than a regular departure notice because, well, it’s all the same in the end to the company. It is true that we are retiring this time instead of finding another job, but the organization is still losing you in a very similar fashion as if you were just moving on to another company. What you’re doing AFTER leaving the company is different, but the process itself of leaving probably isn’t all that different from any other job that we’ve held.

    So for me, I will probably give a couple of month’s notice because my boss needs to plan coverage for his staff out into the future, and I wouldn’t want to stay silent and leave him to craft a plan by depending on me working for the company, then simply “up and leave” with two weeks notice. I don’t believe that would make for good business, and it definitely wouldn’t do me any favors with the whole “burning bridges” thing. It’s a small world and you’d be surprised at how many people you’ll run into again. Note that I’d take the same route if I were just moving companies as well, provided that my next employer didn’t want me to start two weeks after signing the job offer!

    In the end, I’m approaching my notice like I would any other notice. I’ll give my organization as much time as I reasonably believe that they’ll need to fill the void that I will be leaving upon my departure and call it good. I’ve found that thinking about this as a “retirement notice” is a little more stressful than just considering it a regular departure notice – at least for me. And I don’t like stress, so I’m removing the word “retirement” in my case to this whole process. :)

    Regarding my retirement letter, I wrote that tongue-in-cheek letter on my blog, but I haven’t actually written my REAL letter. I’m going to give notice either in person or over the phone, and I intend to be very frank. I’m leaving because my wife and I have a dream to travel the country, and we are now in the position to make that happen. I’m not going to B.S. my way through by saying that I want to “spend more time with my family” or something. I’m proud of what we’re doing, so I’m going to be truthful about it all.

    And I’m not going to offer to stay on longer because, from my experience, they will ALWAYS accept your offer and you’ll just end up working longer. It’s expensive to replace people within organizations, even promoting from within. The longer you keep the door open, the longer you’ll be in or around that door. For me, I just wanna walk back out through that door, wave bye to people, and be on my way.

    • Retiring early, then people are more likely to second guess your retirement AND it’s also probably for the best to keep doors open just in CASE you change your mind later. Don’t burn bridges and it’s a small world, as they say. You have no idea if after a year of travel, you’ll want to go back into your industry or not. Some people do and some people don’t and I’d rather not make it impossible to do so even if I don’t want to!

      • Different strokes for different folks, but not burning your bridges is ALWAYS good advice for anyone leaving an organization. I’ve known many people over the course of my career who didn’t exactly leave under the best of terms, and I’d never work with these people again. Be smart. Be professional. Believe it or not, it just ain’t that hard. :)

      • Seriously — NOT HARD. :-) We are not bridge burners by nature, but we’ve also been at our orgs for so long that we feel like a ton of the people are family. And we want to treat them accordingly on the way out!

      • We don’t expect to change our minds (though we could be wrong, of course), but this just seems sensible no matter what! Plus, we genuinely like the people who run our companies, and are grateful to them, so it would just be bad form, bad karma, etc., to be anything but gracious in our exit!

    • I think your approach makes total sense, especially given that you’re not in a senior management position (I know you were in one and opted out!) and you haven’t been there for ages! I think being direct and keeping the term short-ish is smart. For us, we’ve been with our orgs for what feels like freaking ever, and we have senior management roles. So that changes the situation a bit, makes more time important, and means we really will treat it as a true retirement. We want them to know we’re not going to a competitor or doing anything that will threaten the business, which we think they’ll appreciate!

  11. Every situation is a little different. In my case, our company is not that big (under 50). I work hand-in-hand with the CEO and have a good working relationship with him. Even though I will probably be there for another 9 years, I may actually give an informal heads-up sooner than later – even as soon as next year. That might seem like a bad idea from the outside, but I anticipate it will help with his planning and may actually work in my favor money-wise in the long run based on how I play the card.

    Regardless, depending on how the company you work for handles notices and how close you are with the higher-ups should help dictate your game plan. If they usually just cut people loose when they give notice, then it would probably make sense to just wait as close to the last minute (e.g. two weeks). But if the company is on the other extreme, then maybe you could work it in your favor with a longer notice and try to get some severance out of the deal (like Financial Samurai preaches).

    — Jim

    • Sorry for the delay in responding. For some reason, your comment ended up in the spam folder. If you comment in the future and don’t see it pop up right away please message me on Twitter to let me know! But hoping the fact that I cleared this comment means they won’t flag you as spam again. :-)

      I completely agree with you that it really just depends what your relationship is with the company and top management. We both have really good relationships with the top bosses, but… We’re also practical that they have no incentive to give us a sizable bonus once we’ve said we’re leaving. So we’ll be mulling this over until the day finally comes to give notice. :-)

  12. Thanks for this, I can feel the pain of your dilemma. For what its worth I think I would stay for the bonus being as it is such a lot.
    Mr BOTRA and I are both thinking two or three months notice, given at first as an informal chat with our managers. Notice in writing won’t be done until the one month required in our contracts. That way we can all start to plan the hand over of workload and the pretence is over – I have just had my annual appraisal and much of the discussion about my objectives for the next year felt irrelevant when I will be leaving in eight months time but it felt to early to say anything. This might seem boring but my resignation letter won’t be anything exciting, it will just be the formal letter. My employer isn’t a bad employer on the bad to good scale and I don’t resent them I will just be ready and able to move into none-paid working life.

    • You are definitely falling into the consensus in advising us to stay til the end of the year! It’s definitely great advice — no rational arguments here, only emotional ones. :-) Two to three months notice is definitely in line with what we’re thinking about, too, though we’d be fine with less. And nothing wrong with a boring resignation letter! Our actual letters will probably be boring formalities, too, because we expect to give notice in person or by phone, but we hope to send exciting sign-off letters to our colleagues! :-)

  13. I would try to stay till your end date. Max-out and use as much of your benefits as possible before you leave. With the economy they way it is, it would probably be a good idea to have a little more than enough just to be safe. Easier to stay there than to try and find another job later that might pay less to make up any short fall.

    • You are definitely in with the consensus today. We are hearing this loud and clear: Stay through 2017 and get that full bonus! :-) Thanks for weighing in!

  14. My thoughts? Leave at the end of 2016. Then you don’t have to worry about the pro-rated bonus rumor… you can leave at the end of a year… and it can be THIS YEAR! Also, start telling people 2-3 months in advance. These are all based on my “feelings” – so no hard science. :)

    • You have no idea how much I wish we could be done this year! (Okay, actually, I bet you have some idea.) :-) We definitely don’t won’t have enough this year, or if we do, it will be because the markets get super inflated, and we don’t want to quit on the cusp of a bubble burst. But I love your enthusiasm and cheerleading! :-D

  15. Looks like you’ve already build consensus here, so I’ll just chime in to agree with everyone else! I have to say I am astonished by the comments you’ve made about your leadership, and the fact that both Mr. and Ms. ONL have such strong relationships with their co-workers and organizations as a whole. Perhaps my very bad toxic-boss first job has just tainted my perspective of all workplaces, but I perceive your experiences to be quite unusual. When you do reveal yourselves I’m looking forward to finding out who these great organizations are, and wishing I could have worked for one!

    • Thanks for adding your vote to the year-end tally! It’s unanimous so far, except for Maggie arguing for end of 2016. :-) As for our employers, we definitely know we’re super lucky on that front. I don’t think we each would have stayed in our jobs as long as we have if we didn’t feel that we were treated respectfully and fairly by good people making sound decisions. Mr. ONL doesn’t want to share our employers once we quit, but there will always be Google once our names are up here. :-)

  16. I definitely have also spent a lot of time thinking about how and when I’ll quit. I plan to give a full 3 months notice to be as professional and respectful as possible b/c I think it is always a bad move to burn bridges and I want to do things right. I think a good way to look at all things you do is to leave them better off than when you started.

    I picture a “Seinfeld” type of break-up, “It’s not you, it’s me”. Though it is not entirely true and I don’t think my employers are perfect, they have been great with me since I’ve been here and I want to go out showing them gratitude.

    I will however give a firm end date that I will be done by so it doesn’t drag on any longer than necessary (and offer to leave sooner if they can find my replacement sooner).

    • I think your approach sounds totally respectful and fair! I’d definitely be okay if our employers said, “Thanks for the three months notice, but we only need one.” :-) And as for “It’s not you, it’s me,” why does it have to be anyone? Your FIRE plan is bigger than your job, right? Our current thinking is to say something more like, “We’ve loved spending our careers here, and now our careers are done. Thanks for everything!” We’re definitely going to go loud and proud with the retirement lead, not acting like it’s just a job we’re quitting.

  17. I’d suggest just tabling the matter until the 2016 bonuses come through, or some other major relevant change hits. You’re happy, healthy, productive, and without benefit of major windfall. Why worry about it now? Put the energy into further realizing bits of FI life into current life!

    • Haha — you’re making a rational argument to an emotional question! :-) Just kidding — you’re totally right from a financial perspective, but emotionally it has been tons of fun entertaining the notion that we might be able to move up our end date. We need those little daydreams to keep us going sometimes!

  18. We meet people in a certain way in our jobs and in life in general.
    On the way up and on the way down.
    On the way in and on the way out.

    In each interaction, the same behaviors of courtesy, respect and understanding apply.
    I have no doubt that you both apply these in ample amounts in everything you do and that won’t change here.

    At the end of the day, seeking advice and diverse input for a decision like this is always healthy.
    You owe your company? You owe your colleagues? Check. Check.
    Most importantly, you owe yourselves .

    I am guessing that it will be gut instinct that will reveal the answer to you.

    • So much truth here! We do try to be respectful in all things, and we certainly care a lot about going out on a good note, because we’re grateful for everything. But, we also know we’ve provided a valuable service, and we know our own worth, and that’s why they’ve been paying us all these years! As you say, I’m sure our guts will give us a message that’s loud and clear — let’s just hope it ends up being the same for both of us! :-)

  19. If I were you I’d tried to engineer your own layoff. Have you read Sam from Financial Samurai’s book? That’s a book I’ll have to get once I’m closer to FI. Having said that, I think a short notice will probably work best if you don’t want to continue answering questions from your co-workers.

    If Q2 2017 is the target date I’d wait till Jan 2017 to decide. You’ll know what the right answer is by then. :)

    • Definitely familiar with Sam’s book. Engineering a layoff probably isn’t right for us, given our relationships with the leaders of our companies. Too weird of vibes to go out on… Unless of course layoffs are happening anyway. ;-) And you’re right that we won’t know anything until this coming December at the earliest.

  20. I can certainly see how this may be a tough one since life as we know it is unpredictable.
    From the perspective of one who used to work as a human resource manager, the standard notice in our industry was two weeks regardless of the reason for leaving (not including medical). At least, this is what we hoped for. But the reality is that we would get a little of everything.

    In terms of when to leave, well, I guess this is based on whether or not you would feel comfortable being retired during another market downturn. I work in finance and we are hearing the rumblings of another recession, but of course this is based on the latest GDP readings showing continued slow growth. We are beginning to see companies scramble to deleverage which is always an ominous sign, but anything can happen.

    Regarding Obamacare, I agree that you should watch this carefully. Now that one of the largest health insurance providers (United Healthcare) has left the market place, others may very well follow suit. Cigna/BCBS are in a merger, and it is rumored that they will eventually leave the exchange as well. This could leave slim pickings if this trend continues.

    Sorry for the lengthy comment! – Mrs. FE

    • We love long comments! Don’t apologize! :-) Oh, those downturn rumblings… If we’ve learned anything as investors, it’s that the markets aren’t rational, nor predictable. So we’re not going to try to time them. And yeah… Obamacare could get interesting!

  21. My thoughts on this are very void… it is too far away for me.

    I second the answer from Tawcan…

    When I look at ow I change job: I keep it for myself until final decision and contract signed. Then I announced and worked out something that is reasonable for both. In the process, no boss killed me yet! ;-)

  22. Reading this post sounds exactly like the back and forth conversations we have in our house every day. Although I’m in a senior management role, I definitely don’t have the same feelings for my company so my situation is a bit different. I think there is a real possibility of them saying “Great. You can leave now.” So I’m definitely waiting until I reach THE NUMBER before giving notice.

    • Glad you can relate! And yeah, it’s weird to know that even in senior leadership, you can still be treated as expendable. But at least you’re practical about it, and won’t expect them to shower you with money and give you as much time as you want after you give notice. Better to be clear-eyed about this stuff!

  23. My views on this are closer to Maggie’s than others in the comments. I’d leave as early as you felt comfortable. It’s clear you both are sharp and I’m super confident that you will come across extra money doing fun stuff that you won’t need additional safety nets. Though the peace of mind they bring is surely nice.

    As far as the length of notice, my situation is somewhat unique. When I found out we were moving overseas, I told my employer the next week, a full six months before we’d be leaving. It was partially to see if there were any remote working options, but secretly I was hoping there wouldn’t be. Now that everyone in my office knows I’m leaving, it’s almost like I am an example of the sacrifices our members and their families make.

    To take it one step further, I had a quarterly performance evaluation this week and since I’m in IDGAF mode, I decided to push the envelope. While talking about my goals for the rest of the year, I pretty laid out my ER plan at a high level. I wasn’t sure how my boss would take it, but it actually turned into a really great conversation! This may be because my employer stresses financial security. At any rate, I feel like a weight has been lifted off me and I don’t have to pretend anymore which makes me feel a lot better.

    Hope this helps!

    • I’m so happy you feel like the weight has lifted! That’s so awesome. If bonuses weren’t involved (they’re such a huge deal that we really can’t ignore them), Mr. ONL could probably do what you do and give notice early. His work is more about one-off projects, and so he could stay relevant for a longer time. My work is more focused on long-term client projects, though, so I think a long notice period (beyond three to four months, I’m guessing) wouldn’t fly. I wouldn’t get put on any new projects, and people would focus on covering existing projects quickly. BUT, I’m super glad for you that the long notice period works! (And where you work probably doesn’t hurt in terms of being out with your plans.) ;-)

  24. I have a non-compete clause in my employment contract. Once leaving the company, I am contracted not to work for a competitor for a period of time, and my employer would still pay me salary during that period. This is typical in my industry, and the typical length is 1 year, but I heard as long as 3 years. Income in my industry is usually heavily weighted in bonus, it’s actually a set back for the person leaving the company since there’s the opportunity cost of forfeiting bonuses. But for us early retirement folks, this is a blessing, since we aren’t planning to go back anyway.

    Here is what makes it more interesting: my company has the rights to exercise the clause and determine the length of the non-compete period up to a maximum number of years. So when I give notice, I need to give them the impression that I have the intent to go back to the industry, so that I get the longest possible non-compete period. Obviously, I have a long way to go and this is based on the assumption that I don’t switch industry during my working years.

  25. Not that any expertise in this area, but if I were you, I’d stay till the end of the year and give 4 weeks notice to finish up before the Xmas break, and not offer flexibility.
    Then you have no worries, get your bonuses and it is a clean finish at a natural time of the year. I know you are not thinking this way, but I wouldn’t rely on pro-rata bonuses – the whole point of the end of year bonus from the company’s point of view is to keep you there for the whole year.

    • One more vote for staying til the end of the year! It’s unanimous so far. :-) And yeah, your concern about the bonus is exactly ours, and why we’d always planned to stay until the end of 2017! We know they have no incentive to give us a cent once they know we’re leaving. Our colleagues who have negotiated partial bonuses have been leaving for other jobs, with a new paycheck coming in, so the amount of the bonus would have been less important to them than it will be to us as our very last influx of cash, maybe ever! :-)

  26. I know I’m late coming to the comment table, but I still want to take a crack at this :)

    How much notice should we give?
    In my opinion, I would give the same notice you would give if you were simply switching jobs. It sounds like you will need to give a minimum of one month with your current projects and clients.

    Should we leave our end date up to our employers?
    No. No. No. Your early retirement is yours – you call the shots.

    Should we offer to quit gradually, maybe working part-time for a bit?
    I would only make this offer if you truly WANT to work part-time. If that is the case, maybe you could offer some remote work or consultation services. I would not offer to work part-time in the office in any capacity. Again, just my 2 cents.

    Do we need to wait until we have every penny we need to give notice, or can we plan on some prorated bonus to top us off?
    I would not plan on the rumor mill churning out a possible prorated bonus to reach my goals. Stick it out until you hit your magic number, even if it means you’re stuck there another few months. You’ll feel so much better giving notice knowing you have everything you need. No hand-wringing required ;)

    Mrs. MMM

    • Agree with you on lots of these points! We definitely aren’t going to quit like it’s any other job, though, because we have had these jobs for almost our entire careers, and we don’t have the typical employer-employee relationships there. It’s important to us that our colleagues know we’re not becoming their competitors or taking clients with us on the way out. And we want to be able to celebrate our careers with our bosses instead of having to have the “what could we have done to keep you?” conversation. But we know that doesn’t apply to most people! :-)

  27. I would have the conversation sooner rather than later with your company. It sounds like you have a strong relationship with the company leaders and it will be better for your state of mind to feel that you left on good terms.

    I would have a specific walk-away target date in mind – somewhere between 1 and 3 months – but be open to staying longer or working part-time if they request. It can be hard to fill positions with qualified replacements, and again, you want to make sure you’re giving them enough time.

    As for your state of mind, I think once you tell the company your plans, it will be a relief and you won’t nevessarily feel like you need to get out sooner. You’ll be working for yourself at that point and it will be better.

    • I think that’s super sound advice for folks whose compensation isn’t so skewed toward the bonus. Our added challenge is that our employers have no incentive to give us a good bonus once we make it known we’re leaving. So in a *perfect* scenario, we’d wait until we learn about our bonuses, and only then announce our departures. But that’s impractical on a lot of levels, and, as you said, it doesn’t totally feel right in terms of leaving on good terms. So we’ll be spending the next year-plus trying to figure out the right way to balance those two competing concerns! :-)

      • Good point about the bonus. I admit that in almost every instance where I left a job, I always waited not just until the bonus was announced, but until after it was paid. And that was how everyone I know handled it as well.

        If the bonus has any discretionary element at all, it will be at risk as soon as you tell them your plans.

        I am rethinking my earlier comment.

      • That makes sense! If we have to wait until bonuses are paid, that will force us to stay until early 2018. Since we hope to avoid that, we’re obviously going to keep mulling this over. Stay tuned! ;-)

  28. This gets discussed quite a bit around our house, as you could imagine. Especially, now that Mrs. SSC may have a teaching job (we’re still waiting for the paperwork/official offer that’s been “on its way” for 3 weeks now, lol). It tends to go like this:
    Mr. SSC: So, based on your last email update to our timeline, we’re good for 2018 for sure, maybe 2017? I think I’m done as soon as 2018 incentives are all paid out (July).
    Mrs. SSC: Well, you enver know, you may still really like your job and with an easier commute, you might want to work another year, especailly if oil rebounds and things are busy. Think about how we could pad the account with another year, especially if the good bonuses come back then.
    Mr. SSC: Nope, consider me stay at home dad summer 2018, maybe sooner. If the markets are doing well, it could be sooner!
    Mrs. SSC: It’s not going to be sooner…
    Mr. SSC: But, it could be!! :)

    That being said, I will wait to give notice until after the incentive gets paid out and then I’ll probably give a month or so. Since I’m not going to a competitor, there’s no need to rush me out the door and it would give time for them to get the knowledge transfer to the new person, they could find a new person, and all that. Hell, maybe they’ll offer a remote work option or part time deal, who knows. I think if they offered a big raise (30%) or 2 more weeks vacation, I might consider sticking around for 12 more months, but I doubt it. And those offers are very improbable anyway. I’m good, but probably not that good. :)

    • Hahaha — I know that feeling “I’m good but probably not that good”! We’ve talked about that, too — what if they start throwing things at us (more money, more vacation, highest level titles). While it would probably depend on WHAT they offer, I really do think we want out badly enough to ignore most of it. But impossible to say for sure until we’re in that moment!

      I completely understand your debate on timing vs. more cushion… story of our lives. :-) And I think it’s smart that you wouldn’t give notice until you’ve received your bonus!

  29. My notice will be two weeks right after my bonus hits the bank. I would be willing to negotiate for longer on my terms (i.e., 2-3 days per week). My employer is unlikely to negotiate though, they run a pretty rigid ship.

    • If that’s how your company operates, then your plan makes total sense! We definitely couldn’t do just two weeks notice, but we see the appeal of that approach for sure!

  30. If I were in your situation (hopefully in the future :) ) I would be upfront with my employer a few months before I planned to retire. If they truly value you, they would plan an exit strategy that would allow you to transition out without hurting the employer and making you stay too long. You don’t want to burn any bridges :)

    That being said, it’s a business – it’s nothing personal. You should give as much (or as little) notice as you see fit. I think there should definitely be a limit though – because you could constantly be getting pulled into other projects that last longer than you anticipated and one month could turn into four.

    • All great advice! The interesting thing will be trying to figure out timing with regard to bonuses, too — we don’t want to stay past the end of the year, but we also don’t want them to reduce our bonuses, which they could quite reasonably do if we announce our intentions before bonus decisions are made. We’ll see!

      • When I was an assistant to a Real Estate agent, he would pay me a bonus based on his commission. When I left it was 4% of what he made (which was a lot because he made $$$). But what he would do is give me 2% when he closed a deal and 2% a year after. He said it was my way of building equity. I say it was his way of keeping me from leaving as future bonuses would always be looming, tempting me not to quit.

        It was a job that I hated, so after awhile I said screw it and gave up those future bonuses. Now, I don’t think you have that similar of a situation, but I think it’s something to keep in mind that sometimes you just gotta make that jump! Especially if you’re not sure exactly what’ll happen with the bonus.

        But take my words with a grain of salt. You guys are the ones that are retiring soon, I got a LONG way to go! :)

      • That is super good advice. And we do have other mid-year bonuses that we for sure will walk away from. But the year-end one is such a biggie, we can’t ignore it! :-) But yeah, we definitely don’t want to fall into “one more year” syndrome!

  31. We’re in the same boat with giving notice for my husband’s job! It is quite hand wringing and nerve wracking, but exciting at the same time.

    When I quit my job last year and gave a 3-month notice, it was fantastic! I had this long buffer period where I could figure out what I wanted to do, and entertain all the counter offers they were giving me.

    I know you don’t want to continue working after giving notice, but maybe you could give your hard line notice and offer to freelance after that? Freelancing gives you the option to control your hours, so you can take on work if you want or not, while still keeping your foot in the door for more income / if you get “bored”. I think you assume you will be neck deep in work if you offer to continue, but that will be entirely up to you and not your clients. :P

    • How is Martin doing, speaking of him?? At some point I lost track of the updates on his health.

      I think freelancing is a great point, and you maybe inadvertently raised a second one: the possibility of freelancing directly for clients instead of having to do the work through our companies. That particular option would depend on our current client load at the time we quit… and just if we’ve got any psychic energy to keep doing that kind of work, or if we’re too burnt out! But it’s a good point overall that we can think of that end date in a lot of different ways. :-)

      • You are burnt out because you are working at max intensity through your employer. But when you freelance, you can control how intense you want it. Like say you hate doing X, but prefer doing Y. You can reject all X jobs that come your way, and make it known that you are a freelancer specializing in Y. That’s exactly what I’m doing. I’ve been cherry picking my work like a princess and feel so liberated it errs on the side of dangerous. :P

        Martin is doing so well!! I will be writing about us more on my new blog. :)

      • “So liberated it errs on the side of dangerous” — I LOVE hearing that! :-) And I love even more hearing that Martin is doing well! Look forward to reading your updates!

  32. I want to add two other ideas that have not been mentioned and may warrant consideration: 1) employment end date in relation to the ski season and 2) taking a leave of absence before quitting.

    The ski season in the western USA is generally November through May. By quitting at the end of the year (December) will allow for your FI life to start as the mountains accumulate with snow and the powder days begin to stack up. Why not begin FI with 100 ski days?

    Easing into unemployment by taking a leave of absence (LOA) from work has two benefits. The first is you have the joy of not working for 6 or 12 months and the reassurance of the job being there at the end, if you want it. Secondly, you can generally stay on your employer healthcare plan. When I utilized F-you money and quit my Big Oil job to be a ski bum for a couple of years, I was offered a 6 month LOA. I took it even though I wanted to make a clean break – having good health care for that duration was reassuring. In hindsight, I would have asked for a year LOA. Quitting at the end of a LOA was no big deal.

    Requesting a year LOA to ski an endless winter (UT, WY, Japan, MT, CA, Alps, Morocco, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, and Antarctica) seems doable given your tenure with your employers, loyalty, and as valued employees. Inquiring with HR about LOA would likely raise fewer concerns then when the bonuses will be delivered.

    By the way, thanks for sharing your perspectives and motivations with the public. I have recently discovered your blog and enjoying the posts. I am connecting with your site more than other FIRE blogs because of the common motives for pursuing FI – to spend time in the mountains while young and strong, and to work on meaningful projects. Keep up the good work of motivating and educating the well funded ski/climber/surf/trail/river bums.

    • You’re totally reading our minds with the 100 day ski season. :-) Unfortunately, we can’t control when bonuses happen (late December), and need to figure out timing of announcing our intentions without jeopardizing our bonus amounts… although if the prorated bonus thing is true, then who knows. The LOA idea is an interesting and new one. Neither of us have heard of anyone in our companies doing that (we also don’t have sabbatical policies), so not sure if our HR folks would think of that as a possibility — but worth looking into. And worth sharing with others who might have that as an option!

      So glad you found us — we love connecting with folks who are motivated by the outdoor adventure side of things. :-) And we have a post on this very subject coming up next week!

  33. So many thoughts on our side even if your date has come and gone :)
    Our bonuses come in April for the previous year, we would still get it apparently if we quit at the end of the year, but I get another special bonus for a particularly challenging 3 months of winter travel that ends after February, also paid in April that is probably forfeit if I left earlier (but I could also avoid the stressful travel). So currently we’re planning on likely letting the tax brackets determine our end dates (aka hopefully with enough tax sheltering we can stay in the 0% div/LTCG range) and getting out around April. Which is kind of perfect anyways for Michigan when spring finally arrives.
    As for giving notice, I’m told our company requires 1-3 months for retirees, but doubtful they expect that with early retirees. But assuming we’re both still happy and on good terms, I expect we’ll lean more towards 3 months to allow a smooth transition (and hopefully it results in a longer rampdown of responsibility).
    Will still need to figure out health insurance for that partial year since we might make too much for a subsidy but with 3 years left we’re not going to put much effort in since ACA always seems to be in peril.