Our minds have shifted away from money questions lately to the questions surrounding the end of work:
How much notice will we give?
Do we have to give notice at the same time?
Shouldn’t we try to give notice in person, even though we work remotely?
We’ve been giving these questions a lot of thought (and mentioning them a lot here!), because it all feels like it’s right around the corner, even though it’s months away. We’ve been on the planet long enough to know that months tend to fly by.
But recently something else has occurred to us:
Our employers might actually try to keep us.
I’ve always expected that my conversation would end with something like, “You’re doing what? Oh, well then, good luck to you!” The nature of my work would make it especially tough to go part-time, and so I’ve just never bothered to wonder if my employer might try to sweeten the pot.
And though Mr. ONL’s very well might make that kind of offer, it’s not something we had seriously considered before, namely because we’re just ready to move onto our second act.
BUT. The current health care uncertainty has us viewing everything through a different lens. If our options for even semi-affordable coverage evaporate, then it’s not crazy to figure out under what terms we’d be willing to stay on in some capacity if we get health coverage in exchange for staying.
What’s especially weird to me is that it’s taken us this long into our early retirement planning to even consider that we might need to be prepared for the hard sell when we (attempt to) give notice at work.
Several other well known bloggers have gotten offers they couldn’t refuse, after all, and they did end up staying on a bit longer before retiring fully. For some reason, it just never occurred to us that we might get similar offers.
But now that we’ve realized it, we’re determined to figure out what our terms would be. What it would take for us to stay.
Possible Terms on Offer
In beginning to think this question through, we’ve realized that there are several categories of terms that could be up for negotiation, assuming that either of our employers are motivated to keep us on in some capacity:
Money — Obviously either could offer more of it, either as an incremental raise or a fairly massive one (theoretically, if not realistically). For those of us who know what our enough is, money may or may not be a motivator once we’ve reached the point of being ready to walk away.
Other Compensation — Given that this thinking is all motivated by our desire to keep health coverage, interesting terms for keeping it could be on the table. Full health coverage only available to full-time employees made available even if we only work part-time, for example.
Time — A slightly or dramatically reduced schedule could be on the table if they want to keep us badly enough. Time parameters could also be on the table, such as never working evenings or weekends, or certain days of the week. Or only traveling in a limited capacity.
Work — The terms of work itself could be up for discussion, such as only working on projects where there is a high level of autonomy, or ones that are especially fun. Working in a different capacity altogether, or in a different department, could be up for discussion in some jobs, though not in ours.
Mr. ONL’s Terms
We’re so curious what offer actually comes when Mr. ONL gives notice, but we both feel that some sort of alternative arrangement will be on the table, whether it’s simply increasing the size of the golden handcuffs (throwing more money at him) or offering a reduced workload.
The money thrown at him would have to be significant for him to consider working one more year full-time. Let’s just call it what it is: it would have to be obscene. A truly offensive sum. And that’s probably not going to happen. But barring that, here’s what it would take for him to be willing to stay at all:
Time — Quarter time or less, counted cumulatively over the course of a month. So if he worked 20 hours one week, he’d only have 20 more hours over the remainder of the month. When he would work would be dictated entirely by him, aside from client conference calls.
Work — He would work on one project at a time, and only projects that are completely autonomous or only require oversight from the top-ranking person. Going through reviews with multiple people is too time-consuming to be worthwhile on that limited of a schedule, not to mention frustrating.
Compensation — Health insurance would be a must, along with an hourly rate exceeding what his salary breaks out to hourly now, counting an average year-end bonus in that rate, given that it is deferred compensation.
It feels absurdly academic to consider my terms, because I truly don’t believe I’ll get any sort of a counteroffer. There’s one final promotion they could theoretically offer me to stay on full time, and while my ego would enjoy that offer, the title would come with even more work than I have now, which is a non-starter.
But let’s just pretend I could somehow stay on in a very limited way. Here’s what that would have to look like for me to consider it:
Time — Quarter time or less, divided over no more than three days a week of my choosing. No weekend work. Travel only with lots of notice.
Work — One or at most two projects, unlike the six to 10 that I currently work on now.
Compensation — Continuing full health coverage at the rate we currently pay. Hourly rate would need to increase over what I currently earn, though I care less about the actual rate so long as we’d get to keep our insurance.
I think I’m actually less picky about the terms under which I’d stay on, mostly because I just don’t see that offer coming, whereas Mr. ONL’s terms feel like a more realistic possibility.
Our Bottom Line
As we’ve thought more about all of this, we’ve both agreed that health coverage alone is not nearly enough reason for us to stay beyond the end of 2017. We would consider one of us staying on only if doing so would make a tangible difference in two areas:
1. Our standard of living in our early retirement/phase one years.
2. Our ability to give to charitable causes over the course of our early retirement.
The second one is self-explanatory, but we define the first as being able to increase our annual spending by at least 30 percent on average in our first 18 1/2 years of retirement, until Mr. ONL hits 59 1/2 and we increase our spending. A 30 percent increase would mean roughly a doubling of our discretionary budget, and would equate to one splurgier trip each year, being able to travel a little nicer in those years, or maybe the ability to buy a nicer RV at the outset of it all.
That’s a high bar, we know, but given that we’re very nearly ready to walk away now, it would take our employers getting over that high bar for us to be willing to get sucked into the one more year trap. We would have to feel that benefit in our lives in a real way for that extra time spent working to even begin to be worth it.
And we don’t foresee any situation in which we both stay. Though we’ve always been determined to leave work at the same time, despite some legitimate reasons to stagger our timing, this case would feel different. Mr. ONL told me yesterday that if one of us stayed, it would make much more sense for it to be him, not only because that seems like a more likely offer, but also because I am already lining up projects to do next year and he isn’t. (Because, you know, nobody ever really retires.) ;-)
What are your parameters?
What would it take for you to consider working longer than you’d planned to? What are your deal-breakers? For those who’ve already left your career behind, did you have an offer of more favorable terms to stay on? What did you ultimately do? Anyone stay on a little longer with better terms and ultimately regret it? Anyone who wouldn’t stay a day past your FIRE date, no matter how much money or flexibility was on the table? Let’s discuss in the comments!