Psst. Monday marks the two-year anniversary of our first post here at Our Next Life. We’re working on a big retrospective and forward-looking post that we can’t wait to share with you!
Our power has been going out a lot lately. Like a lot a lot. #mountainproblems While it’s made work and blogging a little tough, it’s given us a lot of time to sit by the fire and chat about the things that we don’t otherwise make time for. (Other upside: We now know where every candle, lantern and flashlight in the house is!) And a recurring question in those chats by the wood stove is:
What happens when it’s actually time to quit our jobs? How will we do it? What will we say? And, perhaps most importantly in our case:
How will we actually gather up the nerve to do it for real? The quitting, that is.
Not because we don’t think we’ll have enough money saved. Not because we don’t trust our math. Not even because the world is turning upside down right now and who knows what the heck is going to happen with the markets in the short term or long term.
But because we don’t know how to quit things. We never really have.
When we got together 12 years ago, we were already both fairly seasoned in our jobs, especially Mr. ONL, who is three years older than I am. And we still have those jobs. Different titles and higher salaries, of course, but we’ve both been with the same employers for virtually our entire careers. We haven’t even changed departments or job functions, we’ve just made our way steadily up our respective ladders.
So after a gajillion years with our companies, it’s not a cliche to say that we consider some of the people we work with, and especially those who’ve mentored us along the way, to be family.
And frankly, when we think about the actual act of quitting, sometimes it feels like we’re asking to get disowned.
It’s All Economic, But Also It’s Not
We imagine that our friends who’ve moved employers every few years, like normal people, wouldn’t have this same sense of dread at the thought of delivering their early retirement news. Several wise friends have said some version of this to us:
It’s still ultimately just a job. They pay you to do it, and you’re free to go any time.
It’s an economic arrangement absolutely, but it’s also more than that — and I don’t think this part is unique to people who are long-termers in their jobs.
Work is something most people do more than any other thing in life. It’s the thing that defines us for the longest stretch of our lives (FIRE community possibly excepted), and it’s where many people invest their passion and most of their energy. If you’re invested in your job (as we’d argue you should be until your last day) and your coworkers are too, then it’s natural that you’re going to bond deeply with some of them. You’re sharing this big thing in your life, maybe you’re working long hours together, working toward a shared goal, and that can be an incredibly intimate thing, especially if this happens over the course of years.
Though we’re financially prepared to walk away (or super, super close anyway), we’re definitely not emotionally prepared to break the news and walk away from that intimacy.
Related post: Why We’re Not Going to Complain About Work Anymore
Our Career Loyalty
We don’t see ourselves as any more loyal than the next guy, but we’ve certainly approached our careers in ways that aren’t so typical anymore. Before we started planning for early retirement, whenever we’d think about the future, we always pictured ourselves with our companies. When we’d go into our performance reviews, we’d talk about our thoughts on how the company could grow long-term. Even now, as we’re on the verge of walking out the door, we’re still thinking about what we can improve on our way out, and who we can position for future leadership, to make sure our companies thrive without us. Throughout our careers, we’ve barely ever looked around at what other jobs might be out there, almost certainly to our financial detriment, and certainly never leveraged other job offers for promotions or higher pay.
All of which makes us sound like suckers. Which maybe we are. But we work for companies that reward loyalty, and we know we’ve both been fast-tracked in our careers in part because we have stuck around and haven’t played those games to get ahead.
So we have no regrets for being career loyalists. It feels like it has worked out well for us. But it does now pose this problem that we’re so invested in our companies and our colleagues that actually pulling the ripcord feels a whole lot harder.
The Planning Is Worse Than the Quitting
I’ve often wondered if it would feel easier to quit if I could go in and announce that we’ve won the lottery, or that some long-lost uncle has left us a massive inheritance. There’s no premeditation in that, and who could blame us for wanting to sail off to Tahiti with that kind of windfall.
But what we’re doing isn’t exactly a spur-of-the-moment thing. Even though our timeline has been faster than it is for a lot of folks (no kids plus above average incomes help), we’ve clearly spent years planning for this. And since we’re not big on lying, we can’t hide that fact. We know there will be people who will feel like we should have told them, or at least given some hint. They’ll feel betrayed. It’s a little like that expression:
It’s not the crime. It’s the cover-up.
Who could blame us for retiring when we can, but they sure could blame us for covering it up for so long.
The Weirdest Reverse Ageism
In our most recent power outage chat, we wondered if either of us would still be getting promotions if we were 62 or 63, and getting close to what most people think of as “retirement age.” It certainly seems like our employers would have less incentive to invest in us and entice us to stay when we only have a few more working years ahead of us.
But at our ages now, they’re sure to tell us how much they value us and see us playing pivotal roles in our companies. Because no one would ever assume that we might now be on our way out. Thirties and forties are not what we collectively think of as retirement age, so therefore, someone leaving at this age is deviating from the system, doing something wrong, breaking the rules. (Of course I prefer this interpretation from a good friend of mine: Beating the game.)
Retirement wasn’t even really a thing before the New Deal. It’s still a very recent concept, historically speaking. But the anchor effect of that Social Security and Medicare age is so powerful. If we were announcing our retirement in our 60s, we’d be greeted with congratulations and no surprise whatsoever, but doing it at our ages puts the onus on us to explain ourselves.
Getting Over It
Of course we’ll get over it. When we hit that magic number or reach the end of the year, whichever comes first, we’ll know it’s time to suck it up and do it. And that’s something we know how to do. We might bellyache plenty about it in advance — no, I guarantee we will totally stress about it and overthink it and script out the conversations ten different ways. But then when it’s time, we’ll just do it.
Because we know what’s at stake. We know why this is so urgent. And we have zero desire to fall into the One More Year trap. 2017 is the year we quit, no matter what.
Any other work lifers out there who shudder at the thought of delivering the news that you’re quitting? Or have you just left a job you were in for a long time, and have any tips to share? Any job hoppers want to give us a swift kick in the pants? We’re all ears. :-)