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.
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.)
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
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.
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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