gearing up

The Great Flip-Flop // How We’ve Reversed Roles on Our Retirement Timing

It still hasn’t sunk in that, yesterday, I had my last ever review at work. (Thanks to everyone who tweeted words of support beforehand, even those of you encouraging me to quit. Ha.) Regardless of when next year we end up calling it quits, there’s no scenario in which we won’t have given notice by December 2017. My bonus was more or less in line with what I was expecting, but we’ll talk about all of this in two weeks after Mr. ONL has had his review and we know our numbers. For now, it’s enough to say that I feel relieved that that milestone is behind me.


If you’ve been reading here, you may have noticed a theme: I want to quit as soon as humanly possible (and I won’t shut up about it). And because I write the blog and only talk about Mr. ONL, rather than you hearing from him directly, I probably over-represent the collective desire to leave our careers because it’s all I can think about some days. But of course Mr. ONL wants to stick it out all the way to the end of 2017, as we’ve long planned to do, and regardless of whether we hit our magic numbers many months earlier.

We both have completely legit reasons: he wants to put us in as good of shape as possible financially for our early retirement, which I appreciate deeply, and I know that his desire is borne from his wish to put my mind at ease, in light of my financially conservative nature.

Meanwhile I feel – and I know this sounds completely dramatic, but it’s true – that work is killing me, and not slowly. I’ve felt more anxiety this year than I ever have in my life, and I’m feeling its effects every day. I spent the entire flight to my company headquarters for my review feeling dizzy and nauseous at the prospect of having to defend my year. I feel like I’m drowning, and like every day is a new battle. Though I still feel extremely thankful for and fortunate to have my job at a company whose leaders I deeply respect, I don’t know if I can make it through another year. Maybe I’m a first world dilettante who can’t hang, but I suspect it has more to do with the ever-increasing pressure, especially among publicly-traded companies, to continue increasing productivity. We simply are not made to go at this pace, and we all know it.

So that’s where we are now: I want out, and Mr. ONL wants to stick it out. But what’s most interesting isn’t where we are now, it’s where we started: in the exact opposite spots. Today: the story of our great flip-flop, and how we traded places on our preferred retirement timing. // How we've reversed roles on our retirement timing // Retirement planning role reversal, embracing risk in investing, planning for early retirement

The Timing Agreement

One question that we get often – and that I suspect is in some of your minds after reading my anxiety confession – is: why don’t we retire at different times? (And to those of you who’ve suggested I quit first, I love you forever. xoxoxo) It’s a completely fair question.

The answer is that we agreed right at the start of our FIRE journey that we’d retire together. It’s for entirely emotional reasons, not rational ones, namely that we’re each so eager to retire that the one stuck at work while the other retires would feel resentful, and that’s not something we want to invite into our marriage. This is a team effort, and though we haven’t contributed equally in terms of dollars (#wagegap), we both think it’s important to contribute an equal amount of time worked toward the goal. We started this early retirement journey together, and we want to end it together. (Though let’s do take a moment and recognize who will be contributing more air miles to our retirement. Ahem. Because we all know that’s the number that really matters.)

Current mileage balance -- over 1 million!

Mr. ONL makes bigger bucks, but I earn miles like a boss.

Our Big Role Reversal — Where We Started

I’ve written plenty of times about how risk-averse I am by nature, and here’s another confession to back that up: it took me YEARS to feel comfortable investing in anything except bonds in my 401(k). I know. So it makes sense that I would be the one of us who would want to work longer, to make sure we have a big enough cushion to ride out any possible contingencies like, say, a new president who is threatening to take away our health care. I also looked at our earning rate and saw – rightly – that we’re earning money right now at a pace that would be incredibly hard to replicate with any side hustles or even a full-time second act, and so in the interest of total time earned back, it would make sense to push through in these jobs until we were set, rather than find other jobs that would put us on a slower pace to get to retirement. Adding more fuel to the fire? My belief (which I still have, by the way) that it would be much harder to go back to work than many early retirees claim, and that we wouldn’t even want to work in early retirement (that one I’ve walked back… I’m actually excited to work on a whole slew of projects now).

Mr. ONL, meanwhile, was more of the belief that we are resourceful people who’d figure things out, and that we could earn some money one way or another in retirement. What we originally called our “10 year plan,” he kept chipping away at, calling it our eight year plan and our six year plan before we even had a plan. He was feeling the anxiousness to quit that I’m now feeling, and just wanted to hurry up and get out already.

That’s where we started, but it’s not where we are anymore.

Related post: When We’re Not on the Same Page About Money

The Flip-Flop

Writing this blog and interacting with so many of you has given me several key realizations: 1. That we will earn money in retirement, and therefore don’t need to be at my safe-as-Ft-Knox super mega stretch number. 2. That our projections are extremely conservative, and we’ll likely be able to retire comfortably for less than we’re aiming for. 3. That we have way more contingencies in place than lots of folks who are doing just fine. All of that combined with the toll work is taking have gotten me completely past my risk aversion, and have me instead trying to figure out ways that we could possibly quit within the next six months. (Not far-fetched, given our momentum.)

At the same time, Mr. ONL has taken my risk aversion to heart. Hearing me talk about inflationary risk like it’s a revelation (and what helped me finally start investing in stocks!) made him realize that he and I are just wired differently, and that I’d be the one more likely to feel money stress in retirement, even if he’d be able to sleep just fine. And like the thoughtful, caring husband he is, he started rethinking the timing to ensure that we’d both retire with full peace of mind, not just full investment accounts. Though he’s as concerned about my work anxiety as you’d hope, he also believes (and may be right) that my current impatience to quit is circumstantial, and that I’ll look back and regret being so hasty.

Mr. and Ms. ONL holding hands on a plane.

We’re one team, even if we disagree about this little thing.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Of course now the big question is: How do we get on the same page about our timing? We’ve been punting on having the real discussion about this until we hear about bonuses, but it hasn’t stopped me from writing about my impatience for many months. Next week, once we know what our actual year-end figures will come out to, and know how much farther we have to go, this stuff will get real. And then the hard conversations begin.

Have You Flip-Flopped?

We’re so curious: Has anyone else had a flip-flop within a couple like we have, with the more conservative partner suddenly embracing more risk, and vice versa? Or any solo person flip-flops, as you’ve learned more information and changed your views? We’d love to hear how you guys have evolved on this stuff. And bonus points if you can share how you’ve navigated a flip-flop successfully within a relationship and gotten to a place of agreement. Let’s chat about all of it in the comments!

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83 replies »

  1. The only reason we haven’t flip-flopped yet is because we’re still 6.5 years away from our targeted date of our retirement. Right now it’s not really important when exactly we’ll retire, only that we sock away as much money as we can into our investments. We still have lots of time to iron out our exit strategy later on.

    That being said, changing my job made me more willing to work more. I still want to retire and it’s still a job that slowly chips away at my health (though I now have the mental capacity to try to attenuate this). But it’s no longer so stringent as 2 years ago when my job was driving me insane. I was tired all the time, I was afraid/anxious all the time and I hated evaluations with the power of 1000 suns.

    So I feel your pain. I think that an entire year is too much in a job you hate. More money can always be made, but health cannot be bought back cheaply.
    I would suggest that if you want to stick it to the end of 2017 you should at least try to give no Fs about your job performance. Do it to your own standards, rather than somebody else’s. If you’re happy about how you’re behaving as a professional this should be enough for your last year.

    • I’m so glad you escaped that old job! It sounds truly awful. :-( It’s fantastic that you are in a more positive and sustainable job now. We’ll see what we end up deciding… I do think that I will set clearer boundaries for work either way this year, and start saying “no” more of the time. Worst case, if they decide that I’ve made myself expendable, they can always lay me off. And we’re far enough along now that that would be just fine. ;-)

  2. My husband retired 3 years ago at the same time that I moved from my administrative role at school to being a college professor. It didn’t feel weird because my stress went way down and he was doing a lot of work on our rental properties – so he still “worked” (and still does). Now that I am working full-time again (and still have a few side gigs) and the rental property work has slowed, we are having to navigate that “what should you do today” so that we both feel good about what we are doing. He is handling all the housework, cooking, and he’s doing some work on our own house. But to be honest – if I had to do this for 5 more years (until my “real” retirement) – I think it would cause some stress too. We have kids – so they play into it too but I totally get why you want to retire together. I think the two of you have really clear “end goals” in terms of finances. And it seems like you do for “the things that matter most” to you too – but they are the hard ones to navigate because they are “qualitative” and not “quantitative” – if that makes sense. Some extra work with each other in that area might help when it comes to making the final decision. We’ll be following you and cheering for you no matter what happens ;)

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Vicki! Who knows what the future holds for us: it could be that we find compelling reasons like you did to do more “real” work after we quit, and could find ourselves in a similar situation. But you’re right that we really do want to be done together… whenever that ends up being! Thanks as always for your support and cheerleading! ;-)

  3. I am jealous of the United mile balance, but have you thought of padding a few other mileage accounts while you are still employed? A married couple could probably grab 2 million miles/points in a year with sign up bonuses. It just might be harder to get approved for cards after retiring.

    • So far travel hacking has seemed like too much of a headache (I’m the person who can’t even get my expense reports in on time, let alone manage minimum spends and such), but it’s something we’ll explore in the future!

  4. At some point, this shouldn’t be about money anymore, or about “both sharing the load equally”. At some point, if your health suffers and if you’re at risk of suffering even more (with even the risk of never recovering fully, physically or mentally), I’d say in a relationship you adapt your original ideas so that they fit the current reality.

    I’m actually quite mad at the two of you for not even considering retiring at different points in time. You’re a bit stubborn, aren’t you? It probably brought you were you are now, but it has its downsides.

    And as I pointed out before: if Mrs. ONL were to retire for example in April or so, both of your lives will get easier, not only hers. And I doubt that retiring at that point will make any difference to the chances of your future success or failure as early retirees.

    Well, good luck guys. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you two anyway!

    • I appreciate your concern very much! And you are absolutely right that we ARE stubborn. :-) And you’re right that it has helped us get ahead in our careers, but it’s coming back to bite us now. We’ll get all of this figured out soon, and we’ll let you know. Thanks so much for your well wishes! ;-)

  5. I can’t say my spouse has flip flopped on anything because I don’t have one :p However, if you would like to talk about me personally, I’ve flip flopped more than a thong on an Australian beach. It depends on how work made me feel that day. I have a dreamer personality so I always want to go off and do something. “Oh I could totally go be a worker on a super yacht!”

    Then I remember I have the cat and I can’t just run off around the world…. So I filed that one away for maybe somewhere down the road! Dang adult responsibilities….

    • Haha. ;-) Though you know you could find someone awesome to watch your cat for a while if you really want to go travel! Or you could take kitty along. Keep dreaming, my friend. :-)

  6. I haven’t really flip flopped with my wife because I’ve always been the dreamer and she’s always been super supportive of all my crazy dreams, only asking that I try to keep is on a somewhat steady course. I’ve personally changed my “retirement” date back and forth from anywhere around 4.5 years from now to 7.5 years from now to tomorrow. I don’t plan to fully retire, but more along the lines of stopping saving for retirement and just worry about making enough from side hustles, prn work and volunteering with international missions organizations to get by from day to day without touching our shiny nest egg. It may also be my wife’s turn to explore her career once our kids grow up.

    Best of luck with your decisions! Also, if Mr. ONL is comfortable continuing to work for a bit, you might reevaluate retiring at different times. You can still contribute significantly to your marriage and retirement plan without having a formal job. I would never suggest that I could be anywhere near as far along as I am without my lovely wife who stays home and homeschools our children despite having stopped just a dissertation short of getting her PhD. In fact, one of our retirement goals is for her to finish her doctorate.

    • That’s great that you guys have had that supportive dynamic! And I do hope your wife can finish her PhD in retirement… that’s a great accomplishment. In my mind, something like your goal is totally doable — more like semi-retirement where we just try to cover our low living expenses rather than banking a high percent of our income, because — like you — I don’t want to touch that nest egg as much as possible! :-)

  7. Interesting–I didn’t realize Mr. ONL was the one wanting earlier retirement originally. I’m wondering if caring less is a practical possibility to help you survive work? I’m sorry to hear it’s killing you–that is hard to bear, even for a short time.

    I can’t think of a time we flip-flopped entirely on a point, but we’ve certainly been swayed by each other. Though I just suggested we turn the thermostat down at night and Neil said no thanks, so maybe we have!

    • He was! It’s funny to think about now, but it makes sense given that I’m more of the planner, and he’s more about going with the flow. I do think I have to force myself to lower the bar, to say no more of the time, and to find other ways to dial it back now that I’m not expecting another full bonus… I don’t know if caring less is possible for me, but at least trying to put up more boundaries will be a good thing. :-) And your thermostat story made me laugh — you guys definitely reversed the stereotypical gender roles on that! :-)

  8. Mr. AR wanted me to retire years before I did so. In addition to a six year age gap, he’d become disabled, forcing his own early retirement. The prospect of waiting years and years for me to retire while he puttered around the house, waiting for my meager few weeks of vacation so we could spend some time together was not an appealing one, and caused quite a bit of friction between us at the time. I had no intention of retiring at any time, and even said repeatedly I would never do so. I’d watched his difficult job grind away his health and was well aware of the toll a high paying, high responsibility job for a demanding employer could take, I just felt like I wasn’t in that camp (and at the time, I wasn’t).
    When my employer subsequently went through a major expansion, I was hit with increasing responsibility with no assistance. I had no time off, and became glued to my phone and email 24/7 as the demands on my time and expertise spiraled out of control. Time off didn’t exist, issues cropped up around the clock (I was the HR Manager and the company now ran 24/7). There wasn’t a weekend, holiday, vacation or family event that wasn’t interrupted with something work related. Even with the eventual addition of several staff members, the demands of the job outpaced our abilities. When the ACA was implemented our work load became impossible, and the owner of the company was unwilling to outsource or provide additional staff out of concern costs for the program would have a huge impact on profits just in providing the benefits. My health began to suffer. I had difficulty sleeping, headaches and anxiety attacks. I started to feel taken advantage of and unappreciated. Despite salary increases, I continually felt underpaid based upon my contribution as the only female manager, and the reality that many of the changes impacted only HR and benefits management, while other departments were essentially unimpaired. Eventually the loneliness, isolation and constant lack of attention caused a rift between Mr. AR and I, and he routinely made the case for me getting a different job if I was going to continue to work. I had reached the point, both physically and emotionally, where I realized I was trading the company’s money for my time and health, and I began spreadsheeting out a plan and looking for employment elsewhere, even at a lower compensation rate. I quickly discovered that getting hired, regardless of your skill set, as you approach the age of sixty is nearly impossible, concerning me deeply and frightening me into staying where I was, regardless of how unhappy I was. I had a few health scares those last few years, as the job consumed my positive disposition and my husband’s health deteriorated, straining our thirty year marriage. I began seriously contemplating selling the house, which effectively solved the affordability issue of early retirement. The ACA solved the medical insurance issue for me, so it became a game of where would we live at that point. I went from planning on retiring at 62 (so I could obtain social security to offset the ACA premiums) to walking out the door a few months after my 58th birthday. We had to make a lot of swift decisions at that point, and my departure wasn’t as clean as I would have liked or I envisioned, but it’s a decision I’ve never regretted and in fact, were it not for knowing this lovely house was only on the market and available right at the time I hit the wall, I would say I should have done it sooner. I will say this: Mr. AR and I are very fortunate our health and our marriage survived that last year or so of my employment. I would not (and could not) deal with that stress level again, and that very difficult last year of employment is the reason I haven’t felt the need to seek employment, even part time and/or in a different field, since retiring. I’ll never again trade my health, my time and my serenity (all precious commodities I can’t get back) for money.

    • Isn’t it so interesting how we think about our own situation so differently than we do for friends in the exact same situation? Like if we hear a friend beating herself up for criticizing her appearance, we say, “No way! You’re beautiful!” But then we continue criticizing our own appearance. It feels sort of the same with this — like I can read your descriptions of your work near the end, and the toll it took on your marriage, and think, “Get the heck out of that job!” But then in my own situation, I keep thinking, “Well, maybe I can last a little longer…” But you’re right that it’s taking a toll not just on me, but on the relationship as well. And while we know we can work it all out because we’re completely committed, I do worry that we’re doing more damage the longer we work. But on the flipside, we don’t have a pension or any other guaranteed income, and will be highly reliant on our savings and investments, and it might do a different kind of damage to the relationship to feel like we’re scraping for money all the time in retirement. We definitely do NOT want money stress to be in our future, and I think that’s still our shared motivation at the moment. But who knows… maybe Mr. ONL will get the biggest bonus of all time next week and this will be a moot point? ;-)

      • I sincerely hope so. Reading how you were feeling leading up to your annual review brought me back to those days big time! I loved my job, I excelled at it and was well compensated for it, but I watched other managers drop like flies with one serious illness after another, and when I finally stopped denying how much my own quality of life had deteriorated, as well as my health, I walked away. If I’ve learned anything these last two years in retirement, it’s this: no matter what you have, or how much of it you have, without your health it’s meaningless.

      • All so true. And I’m starting to get to that health place a little bit where it’s worrisome — until now I’ve managed to cope okay, but it’s finally gotten to be more than I can handle. Many convos to be had at the ONL house! ;-) Thanks as always for your wonderful advice and perspective! I’m sorry you went through such a stressful end to your career, but it helps me a lot to learn from your experiences. :-)

  9. Though I admire your hubby’s perseverance with seeing it through until the end of 2017, I am muuuuuuuuch more in line with you on this one (big surprise, I know!). We didn’t flip flop in our situation. The wife has always been the more conservative / risk averse one and I’ve always been the more risk tolerant guy who just wants to dive in and see where it takes us.

    Interestingly, my wife and I are retiring at different times, but it also doesn’t really have much to do with money. We could both retire now, and easily. But, my wife works on a relatively small team doing a very specific type of engineering work that takes a LONG time to gain access to. She feels connected with her team and doesn’t want to leave them in a lurch. Originally, her plan was to retire on her birthday, which is at the end of February. But, her boss practically begged her to stay on through March, so she’s doing the guy a solid and working through March 31st.

    I, on the other hand, am calling it quits December 23rd. I already have a number of projects (both paid and unpaid) lined up that will keep me busy and productive. I’m so looking forward to being able to focus *entirely* on the projects that I actually care about rather than *being forced* to think about stuff that doesn’t hold much interest with me.

    But regardless of the circumstances involved, it is interesting to observe how different we are as people. Retiring in your 30s is risky, plain and simple. Some of us want to just jump in and do it and others are like, “Wait, I don’t want to die miserable and broke”. Luckily, there is no right or wrong answer to this one. Ultimately, we all gotta do what makes us the most comfortable.

    To me, though – if you feel like work is “killing you”, that might be a sign that something is seriously wrong and needs fixing. Quickly. Of course only you guys can make that decision, but I’d be hard-pressed to work another YEAR in a job that I felt was detrimental to my health. I totally get your desire to retire together, but I also feel like there are times where it might make more sense to prioritize health. But again, these are just my thoughts without knowing your situation well, so take with big grains of salt!

    And if I read into your blog post appropriately, it *seems* like your bonus (deferred compensation) wasn’t really what you were expecting. Yes, it may have been appropriate “by the books”, but it didn’t give you a lot of confidence about the future. I could be way off, but that’s kinda the way I read it. If so, I know that feeling. Very well, in fact.

    In the end, you guys are going to do whatever is in your best interest. You’re kicking some serious ass over there and will probably make our net worth look like chump change by the time that you call it quits.

    Keep rockin!

    • You’re very perceptive, Steve. :-) I would say that my bonus was fine, not awesome. Though I pushed back, so may get an amendment today… not holding my breath, though. But I have generally just said thanks with regard to money and not pushed back, so it was a nice feminist moment to negotiate harder in my last review. Haha. ;-)

      As for you guys, I didn’t realize that Courtney was working through March. I knew she had to work a few more months for Social Security credits, but that’s cool she’s staying a little longer to wrap up her project. If our work was like that, we’d probably have given notice already, but it’s so different when you do client work. And you must be down to 13 days left of work?! SO AWESOME! (And this is me –> So jealous!) ;-) Can’t wait to hear what adventures you head off on first!

  10. There’s been some flip flopping around here for sure. First, I generally scoffed when Mrs. SSC would share her retirement spreadsheet with co-workers and they would exclaim, “Wait, you guys are retiring at 45?!” I’d reply with, “Ummm, yeah, I don’t see that happening… I don’t care what that sheet says.” That was 2008/2009 and Mrs. SSC hadn’t even discovered FIRE yet. Fast forward to her being in a situation like you where she hated her job, got no satisfaction from it, and it was just a timesuck of 9 or so hrs a day and she stumbled across MMM.

    Well, that catapulted our plan forward even if I was only vaguely aware of said plan. I was aware, just non-believing. When I finally got my lightbulb moment and realized that “Holy crap, we can retire by the time we’re 45, and maybe even as soon as 40!” then I was on board and then some.

    Fast forward couple of years and I’m looking at quitting around 42, and Mrs. SSC is happy with working another 10 or more years, maybe longer! Seriously! She finally got to leave her soul sucking job – it too was having a negative effect on her health, and now she’s loving teaching. I left my job after a solid year of it taking way more than I was getting back from it. Looking back, I was only really happy at Megacorp ~3 out of the 6 years I was there, but the last year was the worst. It affected my moods, my eating, my weight OMG I was up to ~196 lbs the heaviest I’ve ever been, and my blood pressure was in the “worry about it” range.

    When I started my current job, all that changed. My mood changed, life seemed better, and I ended up dropping 16 lbs over the course of a year. The beleagured point is that no amount of money is worth working a soul sucking, anxiety inducing, health destroying job. Even Mrs. SSC saw a huge turnaround in sleeping better, losing some weight, being happier, and just overall less stressed when she quit and started teaching. That was losing $100k from the paycheck. We were just discussing last night that if she was still working at Megacorp, we would probably have hit our number this coming summer…

    Would it have been worth it? Nope. Not for us. Our Lifestyle changed for the better, even though our income severely dropped. We’re still on track for 2018 though, so it didn’t affect things too much. Everyone has their own drivers, but I’ve yet to see someone quit a job situation like we’ve experienced, and like what you’re dealing with to look back and wish they’d stayed longer. Like most retirees, they just wish they’d done it sooner.

    Good luck with your decision, and your health! :)

    • It cracks me up to think about you going along with Prof SSC’s plan haplessly without even believing it, but I know that’s how it all unfolded for you guys. Mr. ONL was the one with all the retirement spreadsheets before we discovered FIRE, while I was the one tracking debt and savings (that’s still true, actually). I just knew I didn’t want to work forever, but had no clue what kind of math that required. I probably thought we’d need $10 million, which was the same as saying “We need to get to the moon to retire early.” LOL

      I’m glad you were able to leave that unhealthy job at your megacorp. And I know I will wish I’d left sooner, but the concern about my future money stress is legitimate, because that’s definitely me. Of course, I’m now convinced that we’ll work and earn a little in retirement, and that will take the stress off of our portfolio, at least in good economic times. Because I still think I will freak out when we start selling shares… maybe we can make enough to never need to withdraw those funds and we’ll leave a ginormous bequest behind instead. ;-)

      • I was like most Americans and my younger colleagues now just taking the approach of, “I max out my 401k, why do I need to more?” I was stuck in the traditional retirement box and it was only during those “sad” years at work that I would think about what to do differently. Even then retiring early wasn’t in the picture, it was more about “in another 10 years when I get more experience, I’m leaving megacorp and selling out to the highest bidder!” Effectively having enough FU money I could work for a smaller company and not worry about getting laid off.
        Now, ten years is right here, and I’m a year or so away from being able to say, “Meh, I may not need to work, much less go looking for a more stressful, higher paying job.” Score one for the win!

        I do ahve a side project in mind that Mrs. SSC has agreed to fund, that still keeps geology in pay, I just haven’t put the time into making it happen. it’s still churning in my head taking shape. I don’t want to rush into it without a clear vision of what I want it to be.

        To get back to the original thought of elaving even earlier, as Prof SSC put it last night, “Um, with Trump winning and healthcare so uncertain, we wouldn’t have pulled the trigger summer of 2017 even if we had met our target.” Peace of mind “trumps” quitting work. See what I did there? :)

      • I love how your story shows, as ours does, how FAST you can get to FI or at least to FU money if you really focus on it. I can’t wait to hear about your side project! I get not wanting to rush into it, but don’t hold yourself back overthinking it forever! ;-)

        And yeah, good Trump joke. :-) It’s looking like the ACA will stay in place for a few years at least at this point, and GOP plans are evolving so quickly at this point that I think they’re realizing they can’t really repeal. But the timeline is now looking long enough that we can’t wait around in our jobs for health care to be certain. Sigh…

  11. Hmmm…I don’t know that we’ve flip flopped per se, but every once in a while my husband spouts off some really sage $$$ advice (for someone who is largely disinterested in money). He does this a lot when I’m having one of my many meltdowns about investing. And it always gives me pause. It’s fun (and crucial!) to have someone be your counterbalance even if the ways in which you balance each other changes.

  12. I flopped completely. I feel like work stress and lack of time to devote to working out has declined my overall health. I used to want to be in the C Suite and lately I just want to be done and have time to pursue my passions. My partner has never flopped though – he never wants to retire because he likes what he does. It’s me that has flopped! Good luck with your decision and congrats on that bonus!

    • Hey lady — aren’t you supposed to be getting married?! :-) Yeah, I totally hear you on the career ambition. That was me, too. But I’m thankful that we figured out our plan before my last promotion three years ago — it made that a fun thing, knowing “This is my last promotion ever.” I bet you still have another one or two in front of you, but I’m keeping fingers crossed for you that you can exit ASAP! And hope your wedding is awesome! xoxoxxoxo

  13. Ugh, I hope this doesn’t come off as amateur psychoanalysis, but here goes nothing. Obviously the hope is that there you might have written this post with some intentional hyperbole. But I’ve never known you to be inauthentic. Needless to say, if I saw my wife publish a post like this, I’d feel horrible about her working another day. Why would I subject her to another day of a job that is so clearly grinding her down to unhealthy levels? Sure, we agreed on retiring at the same time, but she didn’t loathe her job like this before. Plans are allowed to change, hence ONL has a million more early retirement contingency plans than everyone else. You both end up with a better long-term retirement if you’re not so broken down that you’re a fraction of what your personality used to be.

    It’s obvious by what you write that you aren’t going to sit around on the couch in early retirement, so I think you need a better answer to the question: “Why can’t I focus on my passion projects now while Mr. ONL beefs up our portfolio for a little while?” If you have an answer that’s better than “Well, we agreed we’d both stick it out six years ago when we both were tolerant of our jobs”. Great. But if that’s the only reason….bruised ego is a little better than a job that is killing you.

    But of course, you also haven’t expressed if Mr. ONL feels similarly increasingly beat down by his own job as time goes on.

    In regards to the question you asked…have I flip flopped? Uh, yeah. I’ve done a lot of flip flopping. And I’m super stubborn like you. Completely allowed. My varying thoughts in the comment section of this blog alone over the past several months is quite the bizarre journey.

    • I’m really touched by this comment, TJ. And now I’m worried that I’ve made Mr. ONL sound insensitive when he is the exact opposite of that. The reality is that we’ve been in our careers a relatively long time (him: almost 20 years!), and while my trajectory has marched pretty consistently toward more pressure and anxiety, his has been more up and down. So he’s had years like the one I just had, but then it’s usually gotten better again. And he sincerely believes that this year was an anomaly for me and that next year will be better, so doesn’t want me to make a decision I’d regret over a short-term problem. And I think that’s a totally reasonable way to look at it. I think if I still feel this way in, say, March, then we’ll have that conversation and the decision might change. Call where we are now “wait and see” mode.

      As for you, I don’t think you’ve flip-flopped as much as you’ve been feeling things out and testing out different ideas. That’s super important to do and never a bad thing!

  14. Oh my. “I feel like I’m drowning, and like every day is a new battle.”
    This is rough. It’s common, but still sad and difficult to go to work every day feeling like this.
    You’re in a wonderful and unique position, though, in that if you lost your job tomorrow you guys would still be okay. Mr. ONL could continue working or not, or you could rest up and find another job in a little while, or you could live a little more frugally, or… You have so many good options.

    Can you set more reasonable boundaries and expectations for yourself? You can share them with your boss or not, but consider what you would expect of an employee if you were the boss and hold yourself to that, not to the superhuman expectations you have now.

    When you do, you might find yourself happier and more productive. And you might not. But it’s worth a try.

    If your company doesn’t like it, they’ll give you a warning or two or ten before they do anything about it, so you can decide then to change back to misery or to quit.

    Big hugs.

    • You are 100% right that we’re lucky all the way. We’d be completely fine if we lost our jobs at this point (especially if we got severances that reflect our long tenures!), and would have multiple options for moving forward. I sometimes wonder if knowing that, though, makes things MORE stressful because I feel like I should be able to quit already. Geez, how spoiled do I sound writing that?!

      I am with you all the way, too, on setting more reasonable boundaries and expectations for 2017. That was something I talked about in my review and which I’ll write about soon in our year-end wrap-up — and the company was supportive. So I’ve now set more reasonable expectations, and I just have to actually keep myself to them… easier said than done. ;-) And hugs back at ya!!

  15. I’m really sorry to hear the level of stress and unhappiness you’re facing in your job. One caution is think about how much of the stress and pressure is self-induced and how much is inherent in your job. Most of us can set boundaries better than we think but it’s so uncomfortable to do so that we’d rather run away. This is especially tempting now that you’re FI. They say only 10% of your happiness is based on circumstances (I believe this is higher myself) and that you need to retire too something, not escape from something. It sounds like you have plenty of exciting future plans so that is covered but maybe you can improve your current situation and mindset for the remaining time. You mentioned you will set boundaries at work which I think is a great idea. With some sleep, less travel, and/or fewer hours, plus focusing on the positives, you might feel a lot better during the last year of your career. I wish you a great 2017!

    • Such an important reminder. And I fully know that a lot of the stress IS self-induced because I still feel pressure to say yes to all requests and to perform at a certain level even though I know I’m out in a year at most. I really do think that I’m just coping badly with the circumstances at work… but I’ve also tried coping better and it’s not working, so it’s a bit of chicken or egg. We definitely have things mapped out in terms of what we’re retiring to, but there’s a heavy dose of wanting to escape as well right now, obviously! Working on those boundaries for 2017! :-)

  16. I didn’t realize from your previous emails how stressful you found your job. Now I feel bad for even suggesting that you stick out another year to get another bonus (since you were already working half the year).

    I’ll flip-flop and suggest that you just bite the bullet and retire early, even if it is against what you two agreed upon when you started the journey. You are allowed to change your mind as the journey progresses, right?

    I’ll think you’ll find that you are able to save money or do other things (maybe make more money with this blog) to fill in that gap.

    As you like to say, “personal finance is personal” and I guess the question is whether the value of the extra, extra security is worth the sickness in your stomach that you currently feel. I’d listen to my gut (literally).

    • Don’t feel bad! Sticking around for another full year is definitely the right FINANCIAL decision, and I haven’t shared just HOW tough work has become before. :-) I think you’re right that we could make money other ways, and we’ll for sure have a lot to talk about after next week, when we find out what Mr. ONL’s much bigger bonus looks like!

  17. No, it doesn’t sound like you’re a ” first world dilettante who can’t hang” (lol). It sounds like you have a seriously stressful job that is actively making you unhappier. And for what? To eliminate a bit of financial uncertainty?

    I can’t imagine that the amount of uncertainty caused by not working all the way through 2017 will outweigh the happiness that leaving your awful-sounding job will bring.

    But of course some days I think about quitting my job even though it’s not stressful and I don’t have a stash big enough to support me, so don’t listen to me too hard!

    We haven’t been in the FIRE game long enough to flip flop. I’ve always been the FIRE pusher, and Mr. Chedda has always been the one saying “If it happens, it happens.” We’ll see if that changes over the years.

    At this moment in my life, I can’t actually imagine what it feels like to have the real opportunity to leave my job and still be financially secure. Maybe when I get there I’ll feel a lot different.

    • Haha, thanks for not deeming me a dilettante. ;-) My job is truly NOT awful — it’s meaningful work that I enjoy in more reasonable doses, I’m just undersupported and have too much on my plate. It truly is the set of circumstances, not the job. But that said, your points are still good ones, and there’s no denying the toll it is taking.

      I would put money down that Mr. Chedda comes along at some point… some people just need more time to process it all and to see the math proven valid. And your point about not imagining what it feels like to be able to leave a job… it will be here before you know it. But, it’s not as easy as it seems to be in this place mentally. I really thought that once we hit FI, work would become less stressful, but that’s not been my experience at all (obviously!). I didn’t stop caring about work or meeting my targets just because we are technically FI, and if anything I’m finding myself more anxious. So that’s been a big surprise! :-)

  18. Great, thought provoking post (per usual, of course!). Since DH isn’t really on board with the whole ER part (well, he can envision retiring at about age 52, which will be WELL after we hit FI according to even the most conservative projections), the flip-flopping is all on me. And boy, have I been doing it!

    Retiring at the same time as your partner is a big issue, and one I struggle with. I will not be able to wait as long as he says he will, but I am nervous about going too early. I don’t want there to be a build up of resentment. I also don’t want to feel like I have to work hard at all the household chores simply because he is pushing himself hard at work. But I know I will feel guilty seeing him work hard if I’m spending my time reading a book and sipping my hot cocoa.

    At the same time, our wage gap is ridiculous, so me continuing to work doesn’t add nearly as much to the savings accounts as OMY for him. So probably time for me to kick back and take care of the kids, right? The merry-go-round in my head continues…

    • Aw, thanks! Sounds like you guys are going to be up against this same Q at some point, though maybe on a more extended timeline. I can definitely see why you don’t want to retire at different times either — but I’m completely with you in not wanting to let your husband dictate your retirement timeline just because he’s got a vision for his career, especially if you no longer need the money. (And if you’ve already hit FI beforehand, I say you should have no guilt about sipping that hot cocoa!) Good luck navigating this — though I also wouldn’t be surprised if he comes along over time.

  19. Can you go part time? That might be a good compromise.
    Mrs. RB40 flipped a bit too. At first she didn’t want me to quit working full time, then she became supportive. Now, she wants to quit too. It’s a bit uncertain at this point because we don’t know what’s going to happen with Obamacare. She needs good health insurance coverage.
    I think it just depends where you are in life. When I quit, Mrs. RB40 likes her job. Now it’s becoming too stressful. Going part time would be ideal, but she can’t do that at her current job.

    • Gosh, I *wish* that part time was an option! It’s definitely not an option for me, and we doubt that it would be for Mr. ONL. I think the better option in our cases would be to just start actively pursuing side hustles to earn enough to cover expenses, even if we couldn’t save much extra for FIRE. Oh well.. we’re close either way. ;-)

  20. Would a hypothetical help? What if when Mr. ONL walks in to retire at the end of next year he is offered a $500k bonus (this is our hypothetical, so feel free to raise that to whatever number it would take for you to not be able to say no to. Imagine an offer you couldn’t refuse) to stay on for just six more months. Would you, because of your pact with him, continue to work alongside him? If the answer is yes, yes you would, because a pact is a pact, then that makes it clear that the pact means enough to you to go to the end of 2017 with him. If the answer is nope, no, no, no – he gets to do that last 6 months on his own, then why not have you quit six months earlier now?

    We are too new to FIRE to have flip flopped much in this area but I’ve done my share of flip flops in the past. One of the biggest changes of position was around children. For the longest time I didn’t want a child (Mr. BITA did). I changed my position on that one eventually and now I am so very glad that I did.
    Changing your mind in the face of new data is a sign of strength and maturity. If you flip-flop back and forth over and over on the same issue, something is probably not quite right. But learning and growing and changing your position is healthy. It exercises your mind. Once your position on anything never changes anymore you probably have one foot in the grave.

    • That hypothetical is a good thought experiment, and the truth is I don’t know the answer! We’d have to talk a lot about that if an offer we couldn’t refuse came along. (Fortunately I doubt that’s in the cards — haha!) I’m so glad you changed your view on having a child since that has brought you so much happiness. And I absolutely agree that not evolving on things as we learn more is a very bad thing — it’s just amusing to us that this is the one case where we’ve swapped positions rather than both evolving more or less together. :-)

  21. We have flip-flopped on moving, a bunch of times. A few years ago, I saw my friends buying larger and fancier homes, and I was totally bitten by The Joneses Factor. I wanted to move, and I wanted IT ALL. Mr. Green was content staying in our current home and putting some more money into renovations. Then, we renovated our (only) bathroom, along with a few other small renovations, and that made things a lot more livable. Shortly thereafter I caught the FI/RE bug, and was determined to stay in our tiny (cheap!) home forever and continue socking away cash, while Mr. Green started looking at newer properties that didn’t require so much maintenance. Then it was a question of timing – we both agreed we’d probably move eventually, but did we want to consider building a new garage on our current property? Now I think we are both on the same page – actively looking at properties, etc. I think we’ve both settled on “newer than our current home but not new construction,” a budget range and a few desirable neighborhoods. Hopefully we will eventually be on the same page once we find “the house” and hopefully it’s in the near future!

    • So interesting how that stuff evolves! We definitely would have been on board for a bigger, nicer home (although our current home is plenty nice and big for the two of us!), but fortunately we were stubborn on the budget. ;-) Good luck to you guys as you seek out a “new to you” place — and stick to your guns on the budget. Don’t let the bank or your emotions sway you to spend more than you’re comfortable with! :-)

  22. We have certainly been back and forth between the two of us, and have had a hard time getting on the same page. That said, I would not say we have flip-flopped as much as you two have in that I have always been more of the one driving the bus on getting us to FIRE and Mrs. EE has been more hot and cold on the idea, at least the RE part of it.

    On to what I think is the bigger point, beyond switching rolls where I think flip-flop is an appropriate term, I wouldn’t call anything else that changed a flip-flop, as I think that gives it a negative connotation. As you have pointed out recently, the words we use matter. When I think of flip-floppers I think of someone who can’t make up their mind b/c they’re indecisive or maybe a politician who promises one thing to get votes and does something else due to lack of integrity. I prefer to think of these changes as an process of evolving and learning which has a much more positive connotation.

    Quite frankly, people who think exactly the same way now as they did 5 or 10 years ago are kind of pathetic IMHO (or maybe just IMO). We should all strive to be learning and changing as we incorporate new knowledge into becoming better versions of ourselves. It sounds like you hold certain things sacred (your commitments to your spouse) but are open to new ideas in other places (changing your approach to making money in retirement). For us, we have a similar focus on making sure we consider our spouses needs and comfort levels, but have otherwise completely changed our definition of retirement and are striving instead for more life balance, as the whole idea of retirement kind of feels unappealing to us the more we have actually thought about it.

    • The political meaning of flip-flop is a whole ‘nother thing, and makes me sad, actually, because people have become so afraid of being labeled a flip-flopper that they can’t evolve their views on an issue. But not to get us into that whole rabbit hole… ;-)

      But speaking of evolving views, I’m totally with you on it, and think it’s normal and GOOD that we’ve evolved on lots of stuff. I think I put the flip-flop term on this mainly because it’s the one thing where we’ve traded places. In most things we’ve tended to evolve more or less together as we’ve learned more, but this in the one thing where we’ve completely reversed our roles. So it’s just funny. :-) But good reminder as always that words DO matter!

  23. You two are the cutest. :) Awww. I forget… retiring early in the year doesn’t take away ALL of your bonuses, right (since it’s deferred income)?

    • Thanks my friend. :-) And the short answer on bonuses is: We don’t know for sure, and suspect we could get some partial bonus (but not fully prorated). So we can’t give notice until we’re at our number and we can treat anything we do get as gravy.

    • I still know how fortunate I am to have this job — there’s no manual labor, abuse, subsistence wages, or any number of other poor conditions that others are forced to endure. But the anxiety is real, unfortunately. Oh well… almost done!

  24. A conversation in my relationship last night was her asking me if it was possible for me to manage my expectations around my clients/business better and to care a bit less. She was worried about my stress, and knows that I care deeply about my impact on their lives. Hearing her worry was important, especially as she immediately followed it up with, and of course you are not going to care less because you are you and your work is valuable for the world. I definitely needed to hear both things. Then I listened further and turned off my internet and read a book for pleasure before sleeping. It was precisely what I needed.

    • I’m revisiting the topic of caring less for our first post in January! (I don’t normally write that far ahead but it’s a special case post.) It’s always wonderful when our partners get us but also show concern — glad you’re getting that! And even more glad that you were able to unplug and do something just for the enjoyment of it. :-)

  25. My wife and I flip-flopped but it wasn’t about money. When we were young, I was the laid back one, who didn’t have a care in the world, and I breezed through life having fun. She was always the worrier and the planner.

    One day for the fun of it, she and I went to see a psychic at a festival. She kept saying how my wife’s life was destined to be stress-free and I’d become the planner and the type A personality. I swear, I’m convinced that our souls must have switched at that moment.

    I suppose it has turned out for the best, as my wife is staying home taking care of our kids and I’m the primary breadwinner, but something I want my care-free life back! Now, where can I find that psychic….

    • Wow! What a trippy story! :-) And I think we ALL want our care-free lives back one way or another… that’s why we’re all here talking about FIRE, right? ;-) Hahaha.

  26. I found this post very interesting, not because we have had a flip flop, but because I sometimes assume it is only us as a couple who has different views on the FIRE plan. I actually wouldn’t describe myself as particularly risk averse, but it’s me who runs the numbers over and over and wants to build in about a bazillion different contingencies. Poopsie still wants contingencies, but he is the same as Mr ONL was at the beginning- he thinks we will be fine and if we do happen to fall short on money, we’re smart and will be able to figure something out. You guys I think have been on this FIRE journey a while longer than us, so I wonder… is a flip flop coming for us?

    • It’s possible that you have a flip-flop in your future, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more it all makes sense to me. I just needed longer to get comfortable with the math and concepts, whereas Mr. ONL trusted them innately from the beginning… and now that I’m comfortable, I’m willing to be a bit more aggressive. I’ll be interested to know if you find the same thing happening! :-)

  27. “Meanwhile I feel – and I know this sounds completely dramatic, but it’s true – that work is killing me, and not slowly. I’ve felt more anxiety this year than I ever have in my life, and I’m feeling its effects every day. I spent the entire flight to my company headquarters for my review feeling dizzy and nauseous at the prospect of having to defend my year. I feel like I’m drowning, and like every day is a new battle.”

    Honestly, this made me so sad. At one point, I worked in a fairly toxic work environment where I dreaded going in to work every day, and it was one of the worst periods of my life. It only lasted eight months, but that was about eight months too long. I was laid off because their business slowed down, but if I hadn’t been laid off, I likely would have pushed through it and kept being miserable. That would have been a huge mistake. I think pushing yourself to stay in your position when you clearly feel it is toxic to you is also a mistake.

    I’m sure you COULD push through and last six more months or one more year, but I think it’s obvious to everyone who read this that you probably shouldn’t, for your own mental and physical health. By the sounds of it, your future is already very secure. Most of the risks you are now trying to mitigate are largely outside of your control. Perhaps your efforts could be better focused and have more of an impact on improving your present situation instead.

    • Thanks so much for your concern, Katrina! <3 I would say the thing that makes all of it tolerable is that my work environment is definitely not toxic. It's a lot of pressure, but it's still a fundamentally good company run by good people I consider friends — and that makes a HUGE difference. I think your point is a good one that no amount of money is worth sacrificing our health, and that's a conversation we'll be having very shortly! Here's hoping we can shave a little time off of our quit date! :-D

  28. 100% I have. I, like you, started out with a super conservative financial outlook because of the very awful circumstances under which I built my career: piles and piles of family debt, managing the household while my parents dealt with health issues, horribly toxic work environment.

    The latter is why I absolutely empathize with this: “Meanwhile I feel – and I know this sounds completely dramatic, but it’s true – that work is killing me, and not slowly. I’ve felt more anxiety this year than I ever have in my life, and I’m feeling its effects every day.”

    I spent 3 years dreading going into work, nearly throwing up at the front door every single morning when I arrived at 6 am hours before everyone else so I could get work done before the hordes descended, working 15 hour days, with awful awful caricatures of human beings for bosses and coworkers. It was what I had to do to build the foundation of my career but oh my gosh, I came out of there with PTSD and a determination to NEVER AGAIN be subject to financial folly and need. Never ever. Unfortunately all of that didn’t pay any kind of salary that came within shouting distance of the neighborhood of your income (I am just speculating) because it meant that I felt like I needed to work forever too, to ensure that I had the financial stability to never have to work for evil people again. It’s perhaps a tiny bit irrational but that was well before ever encountering the notion of retiring early.

    Ten years later, I’m willing to entertain the thought that I don’t have to be a billionaire to retire early – but I’m not turning that down by any means – and that we could earn, save, and invest enough to create a situation where we COULD retire early. These are two huge changes for me, and PiC’s needed some time to digest the huge flipflop in my future outlook for us, but he’s also come around and I have free rein (heh, like I ever didn’t) to go for the gusto with our investing. :)

    • Wow, what an awful work experience! I can relate on the anxiety, but I’m thankful that my company is run by people I respect and like, and so there’s not that same moral reprehension to it all… thank goodness! I still owe you a response on your email, but it’s the same general topic, of how conservative is TOO conservative, and how much money forces you to work longer than you need to. I suspect you’re aiming higher than you must, which I understand! :-)

  29. I love reading a blog authored primarily by a woman! Like you, I’m financially conservative, and I’m also the one with way more anxiety about my job. It sounds like our families are similar in that we all have “good jobs” with some golden handcuffs that are tough to break out of.

    If I shared my other half’s views on risk, we could probably have both retired by now!

    Sometimes I wonder if I don’t need to redefine my definition of financial freedom, especially since Mr. Free plans to keep working.

    I just launched our blog, and now I feel more comfortable commenting under my pen name on the blogs I read. Look forward to reading more from you!

    • Yay! :-) I love lady PF bloggers so much. <3 It DOES sound like we have a lot in common! Congrats on launching your blog, and welcome to PF blogland. Feel free to email if you want to chat about any of it. :-)

  30. We have flip flopped as the plan has evolved. Since we were downsized 4 times in 7 years between us in the Great Recession we each got a chance to see what it would be like to have weekday free time and to be the one going off to the office solo and each a chance to work jobs we hated but couldn’t quit. In that experience I can say the resentment was far worse for our relationship to continue at an unwanted job than be unemployed at different times. As I have gotten older I see it is not just black (keep high paying but stressful job) or white (stop all work) and see more shades of gray (so many possibilities). We are far enough in our journey that our investment compounds with as much as we contribute so it was eye opening to see that working 70% part time only added months to the expected date. I was worried my boss, clients and coworkers would refuse to work with me after that but 5+ years of goodwill building meant the boss accepted my proposal and everyone adjusted. It’s not perfect since there is still pressure to work more than I like, but now the normal weeks are lovely, the super busy weeks are around 40 hours instead of 65 and I no longer travel overnight. I wish I could tell myself to be less rigid because there are many ways that are good enough.

    • That’s great to know from your experience that the resentment was worse in jobs you didn’t like rather than when not working. I do think because it would be a choice for one of us to leave, that makes things different, but it’s still great to know your perspective. And gosh, I WISH that part-time roles in our companies were an option — with our types of consulting, it’s not really an option. Or, rather, we COULD take the pay cut, but we’d still have to be just as available for calls and to travel — not a good trade-off! But I’m so happy for you that you can now cap things at 40 hours for the most part, and cut out that overnight travel. So much better. :-D

  31. At our house, we only had me doing some flops… As I am usually an all-in or not-in person, I went all inon the whole FIR and retire in your thirties things… I came aware only at age 37, so that was a first hurdle… :-)

    Being all in ment that I sometimes questioned too much our expenses or was sceptical on travel and fun activities. Thank god, my wife was less extreme. I am ow in here camp and even increased our holiday travel and want to explore more than before.

    • I’ve witnessed some of your flip flops! :-) And I love that you guys have ended up at a more moderate place of saving but still spending enough to enjoy life now — life is too short to put everything off til the future!

  32. Interesting insights on why you guys have to retire at the same time!

    I took a different route and told my wife: I’m 3 years older than you. Given I’m retiring at 34, you too can retire in 3 years at age 34 if I’m able to generate enough income on my own. And in three years, she left!

    We always think, “There’s no point in BOTH of us suffering. If one can enjoy some better times, that makes the other one happier.”

    There won’t be resentment, trust me! He will see joy that you are happier. AND he will be more motivated to earn and save more to get to retirement quicker.

    It’s been almost 5 years since I’ve worked a corporate job, and leaving was absolutely worth it!


    • Well I will just say off the bat that it wouldn’t be a good thing if Mr. ONL “told” me to do something. Hahahaha. (JK — I know that’s not how you meant it.) ;-) I love your view of if one of you can be happier, that makes you both happier. That’s a great way of looking at things. :-)

  33. I completely understand what it is like to have a job that is killing you and dreading going to work everyday. A few years ago, I moved from a middle management position to a senior management position in a different organization. It was a five year commitment.

    The first year was intense, but okay. Eighteen months in, I was unhappy in my work, but focused on trying to change myself to be a better fit with the organizational culture. By the two year point, I was counting down to the end of my five years — only two years, ten months, and three weeks, and one day left to go, etc. On any given day, I could tell you down to the day how much time I still had left to work in that position, without even having to stop and calculate it. Around 2 1/2 years in, I had an epiphany. I realized that the problem wasn’t me; it was the toxic organizational culture. I began to fantasize about quitting early, rather than completing my five years. In my field, not completing the term that you signed on for is something that is considered to be a serious black mark, possibly a career ending move. I hung on for four years and two months in total. It was health issues that ultimately led me to give notice. (Fourteen hour days and unrelenting stress year after year in a position that you dislike does eventually impact one’s health.) I managed to leave that role without burning bridges, am on a temporary leave, and have negotiated a different less intense role in a different part of the organization that I will return to after the leave.

    As for flip-flops, I used to say I was in the most wonderful field, and I loved my work and would never fully retire. After this recent experience, I am now planning for earlyish retirement. It is not worth losing my health because of a stressful job. In some jobs, it just is not possible to achieve work-life balance, and still do the job that needs to be done.

    My wonderfully supportive spouse retired eleven years ago. He looks after a great deal on the home front, and is emotionally there for me. Although he will support whatever career decision I make, he would love for me to retire.

    Final thoughts: listen to the health signals that your mind and body are sending you. A few extra bucks aren’t worth it.

    • Wow, your work experience sounds intense and awful — I’m so sorry you found yourself in such a toxic place. But congrats for hanging on as long as you did, under those circumstances! And I completely agree — we’ve tried to be mindful about health impacts we can bounce back from (like sleep deprivation) vs. those that will leave lasting scars (mental health stuff), and it has mostly felt like we were only in the former category. But now stuff feels like it’s creeping over, and that’s what has me so anxious to quit. No amount of money is worth jeopardizing our long-term health or happiness! And please stop by any time if you need moral support to retire fully — I’ll happily back you up on that! :-)

  34. I personally flip-flop on a weekly basis. Sometimes I think “if I can make it just 3 more years we will be fine” and then the other side of me thinks “but another year of work can’t be that bad and any extra buffer is helpful”. I think that since many of us are leaving the work force often times decades earlier than the average person we inherently question if it is too soon and if we are going to be OK. Hopefully once you are part of the way through 2017 you can both be on the same page, and my bet is that once you see the light at the end of the tunnel, you will both be there! Good luck!

    • I can definitely relate to that! That’s how I was thinking for our first few years. It was more about building a bigger cushion, but now that we’re close, I just kind of want to wing it. Haha. (Not really — more like I’ve realized that we don’t truly need as much as we’ve been aiming for.) We find out about Mr. ONL’s bonus this week, so we’ll know more very soon! :-)