Our last 100 days of work, and the unexpected feelings that have come along with processing the reality that our careers are almost over.

The Last 100 Days // On Finally Processing Reality, and the Unexpected Feelings

T-minus 100 days to lift-off.

We have exactly 100 work days to go until our early retirement. The last 100 days we plan to be full-time, salaried employees. Ever. (Forever. Forever? Forever Ever. Forever Ever? Yes.) 

The last 100 days of conference calls and 4 am alarm clocks rousing us to dash off to catch a plane. The last 100 days of steady paychecks and generous benefits. The last 100 days of clients and coworkers, of time entry and expense reports. The last 100 days of important-sounding titles, of assistants, of hierarchy. The last 100 days of energizing brainstorms, late night fire drills, frantic weekend texts. The last 100 days of the most intense, meaningful work neither of us ever set out to do but are so proud we fell into. The last 100 days of our first life.

It’s a big freaking deal. And despite ticking off milestones left and right these last few years — financial independence, check. paid-off house, check. magic number, check. — this countdown feels different. But let’s rewind.

The Reality Disconnect

Here’s a thing you may have noticed lately:

I write a post proclaiming, “It’s really happening!” 

Then I write another post saying, “None of this feels real.” 

Then, “Ohmygod, $#!@’s getting real.” 

Then, “I wonder when this will actually feel real.” 

(Throw in a “big numbers don’t feel real” post for good measure.) 

We’ve been having a bit of a reality problem.

Despite having planned for early retirement for years and having long dreamed of getting to this point in the journey, there hadn’t been a moment when we could palpably feel things go from abstract to real. If anything, things have felt more abstract as the numbers have gotten bigger and the health care unknowns have multiplied. We knew things should be feeling real, we could tell ourselves intellectually that they were, but it never translated to feeling it.

For months, as we’ve been inching closer to our end date, the rational knowledge of the countdown has been spurring us into action. I’ve had more medical appointments in the last month than perhaps any other non-urgently-sick person in the history of the world. (I’m exaggerating, a little. Turns out, if you say to doctors, “I’m quitting my job at the end of the year and don’t know what my insurance situation will be after that,” they become surprisingly eager to get you whatever tests or referrals you need.)

So we’ve been dutifully checking things off of our pre-retirement to do list, but mostly the way I imagine robots would: completing tasks because we’ve been told we have to by a certain deadline, but without the ability to feel the urgency or emotion behind them. For much of this year, the year-end deadline might as well have been arbitrary for all the real emotional weight it carried.

That was true. Until now.

In the last month, our knowledge of the countdown has gone from abstractly true to truly true. Suddenly it’s all palpable.

We have finally processed reality. And it’s really, really, really real. 

Last-100-Days

When the Future and the Present Collide

Humans are bad at focusing on the present. We are future-oriented by nature. And those of us chasing a giant goal like financial independence or early retirement program ourselves to be even more future-focused. While most people are thinking about what they could do next month or maybe next year, we’re thinking years or even decades down the road. We’re the champions of future thinking.

Which is great until the thing you’re actually supposed to focus on is right here, only days away instead of years. When the future you’ve been planning for is suddenly right in front of your face.

When everything is in the future, nothing is real. Tomorrow never actually arrives, after all, as every bar that posts a “free beer tomorrow” sign reminds us.

So having to shift abruptly from focusing on the distant, abstract future to the very real present is not as easy as we would have thought.

Ms. ONL and Mr. ONL at an owl cafe in Tokyo, Japan
Apparently you can hang out with owls in Tokyo and also be bad at connecting with reality. I’m sure one has nothing to do with the other.

Summertime, and the Quitting Is(n’t) Easy

I’m pretty sure every human on the planet has let some fantasy play out in their mind about quitting a job or leaving some situation they’d rather not be in. Aspiring early retirees do not have the corner on that market. For the first few years of our early retirement journey, I would write resignation letters in my head, most often while commuting to and from the airport. I bet I wrote a few dozen imaginary letters, full of grace and magnanimity, or maybe just pomposity dressed up as something more virtuous. But for all that “practice,” it was still fantasy.

Fantasizing about something is easy. Actually doing the thing is much harder.

We aren’t retiring early because we hate our jobs. We actually love them. Not every minute, of course, because work is work, and every job, no matter how important, involves some stuff that’s frustrating or feels like a waste of time, or just takes up too much of our time. Those things being true don’t make a job something you must retire from, they make it worth the paycheck. Why would someone ever pay you to do something you love every minute of? That’s called a hobby, or vacation. Not a job.

We’re retiring early because we see our lives as a series of chapters, and we’re ready to close this one and move on to the next. But we’ll always cherish this chapter, and probably look back on it as one of our favorites — the one where the most action happened, the most conflict and resolution, the most memorable characters, the biggest feelings.

We’ve been imagining closing that chapter for years, but now that the time is quickly arriving to do the thing and not just imagine it, it feels so much different from what we expected.

It feels sad.

When I think about giving notice, something I’ve now assigned to an actual date, I feel the tears start to well up. It’s like the dread I’d feel if I knew I had to break up with someone I still loved and genuinely wanted to be happy, knowing that my assurances that it’s not you, it’s me, would ring hollow. That my hopes for them to go off and live their best life without me holding them back would come off as self-serving and faux-gracious. Because it really is me, and they really are great, and I really have nothing but gratitude and admiration. I’m just afraid they won’t hear that, because who feels that way but then leaves anyway?

So many things have surprised us in this journey that we really shouldn’t be surprised anymore. I’d always expected to feel jubilant at this point in the process, but I don’t, because I have to do this big hard thing I don’t want to do but want to have done. I want to be retired, I’d just rather skip the last few steps necessary to make that the reality. Mr. ONL feels the same way.

We’re not sad to stop working, but we’re sad to quit.

Mr. ONL standing in deep snow
All smiles last winter, before we knew this stuff would get heavy

The End of the Double Life

Though we’re 99 percent resolved that we’re going to give notice at slightly different times, by early October — just over two months away — we’ll both have bucked ourselves up to have the hard conversations, we’ll have had them, and we’ll be on the other side, for better or for worse. My guesses about what I’d feel when have often been wrong, but I’m going to wager this guess anyway: that’s when the jubilation will kick in.

Because this whole double life we’ve been leading for years now has taken its toll. Remembering who knows or doesn’t know what, being careful not to share our real news when people ask us what’s going on, being super diligent not to let our blog world and real world touch — all of this takes mental energy.

Remembering to check to see if I’m wearing this dress in any of my real life social media pics before posting this, and taking off my engagement ring before snapping, lest anyone recognize it. That kind of thinking is normally reserved for criminals, or spies, neither of which describes us. (Sorry if that’s a disappointment.) ;-)

Ms ONL working from an emoji-bedecked hotel room
Counting down to the end of my emoji-disguised days.

If nothing else, giving notice will feel like a relief. We can stop carrying around this heavy, intricate lie that this blog has only compounded. We can dig up that telltale heart at last, and show it to everyone, and apologize for keeping it a secret if we have to, but at least have the paranoia of being found out disappear.

And then we can focus solely on the excitement that we do still feel now, just tempered by the reality of what still has to happen before we begin the next chapter.

Being Present in the Present

I think it’s important right now to let ourselves feel the full range of feelings that are coming up, and, because I write this blog, to share them with you.

It would be easy to just spout our excitement and focus on only one strand of what’s going on right now, because having an early retirement blog obliges us to be early retirement cheerleaders, and we’re getting to the best part. Or given the many human cognitive biases that serve to reinforce our belief in the rightness of our own choices, we could reassure ourselves that we feel nothing but joy and elation, getting so close to the goal we’ve put so much energy toward achieving.

But instead, we’re going to try our best these last few months to feel all the things honestly. To stay focused on the present, not only the quickly approaching future. To be mindful observers of whatever comes our way.

If that means mourning the end of our careers, then we’ll mourn. If it means panicking that we have too much to do before we lose our paychecks and health insurance, then we’ll freak out a little. If our giving notice turns into a non-event, then we’ll lick our wounds and ice our bruised egos. We don’t have to reduce our messy, complicated, human feelings to singular, positive concepts just to tell a good story.

We know the pure joy is in there, too, but it’s okay if we don’t feel it for a while. It will only make it that much sweeter when it comes.

What’s Surprising In Your Journey?

The journey to financial independence and early retirement is a long one, with many twists and turns along the way. Have you encountered anything surprising lately? Any feelings coming up that you didn’t expect? Anybody else think you might be sad to quit, even if you’ll be glad to retire? For those who’ve already retired, were there any unexpected feelings that came up along the way for you? Does the relief and jubilation come quickly after giving notice? (Please say it does!) ;-) Share your thoughts and let’s discuss in the comments!

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106 thoughts on “The Last 100 Days // On Finally Processing Reality, and the Unexpected Feelings

  1. Tick tock tick tock!

    Quitting will feel a lot like college graduation. The years of hanging out with friends, battling through school, and then one day it’s all over – time for the next chapter. People go their separate ways, live separate lives, and maybe you run into them into the future but it won’t be the same. It’s a little sad to close that chapter but no one expects to be in college forever. It’s a hard transition but people make it. :)

    It will probably be good to drop the subterfuge though! :)

    1. Good analogy.

      My college used to get pretty excited about “100th Night” before graduation: special dinner, countdown timers, skits… it was a big party marking how far the seniors had come and celebrating the next phase of our lives.

      1. Ooh, I want a special dinner! And if anyone wants to perform skits for us, feel free to post the YouTube links here. ;-)

    2. That is the PERFECT analogy, Jim. And you can always look back fondly on the college experience and the friends you made there, but not be trying to relive that. (Okay, maybe just a little.) ;-) Thank goodness, unlike college graduation, we won’t starve if we don’t find a job quickly! Hahaha. (Although if anyone wants to hire me to consult on how to stay anonymous online, I’m game!) ;-)

      1. I am on the flip side of this situation. My company is going through significant reorganization & many of my long term buddies have retired or left. I feel like a fifth year senior left among the giggly freshman to finish up my 77 weeks to go!

  2. I’m not going to lie, I get excited every time you post! I think I’m semi-living vicariously through your journey as you approach a very imminent early-retirement!

    I think the surprise that has come up for Mr. Adventure Rich and I recently is the possibility of a mini-retirement. I don’t know if it is right for us, if it would be both of us or just one of us, or if we can swing it, but after following the mini-retirements at Montana Money Adventures and Keep Thrifty, I definitely have a bug in my ear… :)

    Looking forward to the next 100 days!

    ~Mrs. Adventure Rich

    1. Aww, thanks! That makes my day! :-D I think semi-retirement is a super tempting idea, and I don’t blame you guys for thinking about it! We realized it wouldn’t work in our situation since we’d become irrelevant pretty much instantly in our fields with a gap like that (and given where we live, there are no comparable jobs remotely nearby). But if it could work for you, then I say go forward in exploring it! (Though make sure you’d actually be willing to go back to work after enjoying paradise for an extended time — that, to me, would be the big drawback!) ;-)

      1. The work-gap/irrelevancy is a big issue for me, but less so for Mr. Adventure Rich… so we may have an option of doing some type of staggered mini-retirement (he goes, then I figure out what I do while sticking with my career). Oh the possibilities… :-)

        1. How great to have those options! Though I know we would go crazy if we couldn’t have that time off together. ;-)

  3. A 12 step program taught me that there are 3 answers God gives when asked for something: yes, no, and not now. When I’ve asked the questions, “can I quit?” “can I retire?” “can I leave?” the answer is “not now.”

    I don’t have the necessary funds saved at this time, I don’t have a plan for what is next, and my work situation has been getting better. So at this point, I am far from ready, in a variety of ways, to retire.

    I guess it’s surprising to me because when I am off work like I am in the summer, I feel like I never want to go back. I guess my instinct is to think that if my feelings say it’s so, it is, when really perhaps it’s my anxiety and fear speaking.

    So far, then, what’s surprising in my journey, but perhaps shouldn’t be, is that it will be a long one, and I’ll likely learn a lot along the way.

    1. I think you can always count on learning a lot along the way! If we ever stop learning, we’re doing it wrong. ;-) I think your observation is a really important one, and it IS impossible to know if we like not working because that’s truly when we’re happiest, or if it’s just in contrast to something stressful. (The yin/yang effect.) But if you reach FI and you decide you miss working, then you have clear marching orders about your next step. :-)

  4. I appreciate the honesty. It’s easy to pick an angle and stick with it in writing. It is harder to stay present and convey the shifting emotions.

    I am too early in the journey to really feel those mixed feelings. I’ve got a bunch of money in investment accounts, but I still have years to go and there will be a lot of life changes in those years. I don’t know what level of spending to plan for or how long I’ll be able to keep up current levels of saving. I don’t know whether I will stay in this job the whole time. I don’t know whether we will settle down here or find someplace else. There is too much up in the air to really feel much of anything at this point. Just saving and investing as much as possible so that whatever happens in the future is a bit easier.

    1. Thanks, Matt! I don’t think it does anybody any good to get reductive about what we’re feeling. There’s a full range right now. ;-)

      And I definitely get that big sense of uncertainty that surrounds your journey at the moment. That’s super normal. Knowing the end goal helped us a ton when we weren’t sure what our journey would look like.

  5. I hate to break this news to you: but you guys are NOT going to do well in early retirement. I can tell, just by reading your words, you guys are NOT going to last very long. You all should be back at work in no time. You do not have what it takes to retire early. You over think, you over plan, you over strategize, you just over do it. Period.
    That’s your reality.

      1. This gets my vote for the absolute best response ever by a blogger to a rather “interesting” (sarcasm hidden with that word?) comment by a reader!! You had me chuckling all morning…

      2. You mean, other than your fantasies, you have nothing else to write about?
        Blog about your actual daily life. Sweeties, trust me, the best laid plans for early retirement will abandon you quickly. Life is looooong. Life is full of twists and turns. It’s not going to work out like you think it is. Early retirement means you are going to lose some money along the way. Believe me.
        Make your plans. Do your best. But you better be able to roll with the punches. You have to want early retirement MORE than life itself in order for it to work out. You have to be extremely creative, and you have to know how to sacrifice. Sometimes the sacrifices are HUGE. Most people, cave in during early retirement and head back to the job market. Or blow all their retirement money trying to be self-employed. Most of the time, it just doesn’t work out. I know I am brutal in my opinions but I am sick and tired of false prophets telling the masses early retirement is a panacea. It is NOT.
        Again; good luck!

        1. You reached Financial Independence and then continued to work another year or so afterwards, getting more stressed out, falling behind in your chores and maintenance, etc?
          As I said, you have absolutely no idea what FI is. When you truly reach Financial Independence, YOU STOP WORKING. YOU DON’T KEEP RACKING UP THE BUCKS! WHAT FOR??? DUH??
          As I said, you guys will NOT make it in early retirement. You don’t know when enough is enough.
          I didn’t ‘work’ per se to become a millionaire and retire early. I bought a house in the Hamptons in 1987 for $135K and after living in it for 16 years I then sold it in 2001 for a high six figure, thus ensuring I could finally be financially free for the rest of my life and never work again. I used my brain. NOT my brawn. I did NOT keep working. I retired early. Get it?
          Obviously not. :(

    1. There is no value whatsoever in your comment cindimatography. It is void of guidance and serves no purpose whatever, other than to perhaps assuage your own fears. What a difference if you said: “sometimes you over analyse and this could become a problem for you in early retirement; I suggest you tone it down going forward or it will drive you crazy as you enter this brave new world.”

      What a difference huh? You spew forth your criticism but also provide her with a mechanism to overcome these “limitations”.

      Criticism belongs to the masses…but the power to enlighten only to a few.

      1. Excuse me idiots, because that’s what you people are. I’ve been retired since I was 50. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what nimcompoops you people are. Ridiculous. I know what I speak from EXPERIENCE. Don’t tell ME how to speak to YOU. That’s probably your problem. You do not reside in reality. You’re living in some La La Land. Retirement ain’t nothing but a thing. You have over analyzed retirement to no end. I find it laughable. You guys don’t know the first thing about early retirement. I am predicting: the first sign of trouble that you haven’t planned for yet, you guys will be crawling back to work begging for a job.
        I have no fears. I’ve been happily AND successfully early retired for over 16 years now and counting. Reading your blog post gave me the biggest laugh I had all week. Thanks for that.
        As in the words of Nike: JUST DO IT!
        For Pete’s sake already.
        It (retirement) ain’t nothing but a thing. For early retirement, you have to want it more than anything. More than life itself. Otherwise, you’ll never last. You guys IMHO and from MY experience, do NOT have what it will take to retire early.
        Mark my words.
        Good luck. You’re gonna need it.

        1. Congrats on your happy, successful retirement spent reading and commenting on blogs you hate. Sounds rad!

        2. Yes, that’s what I do all day long. Read loser blogs so I know what to avoid in my own good fortune and future. And of course, I spew hatred. LOL :)
          I just wish I could be a fly on the wall when real reality knocks at your front door.
          As I said, good luck!

        3. I’m curious to understand why the animosity? Yes, there seems to be a lot of analysis before retirement, but is not a good thing to make sure no stone is left unturned before leaving the workforce?

          Do you mind heading over to my site as well and giving me some critical feedback? I left in 2012, and it’s been a wonderful journey. But I certainly didn’t just do nothing. I started doing things that I really wanted to do without the focus of making money because I didn’t need to anymore.

          Sam

        4. Sam, I don’t like inexperienced, potential early retirees to tout the benefits and glory of an early retirement. It gives a false sense of hope and an askewed (?) slant on life. I feel it is a disservice to do to unsuspecting readers. I believe in telling it like it is because I have the experience. I falsely was led to believe early retirement is the end all of the cure all. It is not. It’s hard and it’s difficult. Encouraging people to quit their jobs is a very serious matter. Not to be taken lightly.
          I’ll head on over to your site and give it a read. Thanks for the link.

        5. I’m sure there are folks comfortable winging it, but I only sleep well at night if I know I’ve done the analysis and planned for contingencies!

      2. Appreciate you chiming in — and sorry some of that venom came your way! We are always open to good advice from those who’ve been there, but I’m less of a fan of attacks from people who clearly haven’t read the blog and just feel like sharing their negativity. I hope you’re having a fantastic day! :-)

    2. Just remove the word “over” and I think that is a GREAT set of traits for early retirement: Think. Plan. Strategize. Do it. Period.

      1. You have to apply the “X” factor, which everyone seems to forget. The “X” factor is that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong and you had better have a Plan B, C, D and a Plan E!
        Early retirement is NOT the dream everyone thinks it is. Don’t believe me? Ha! Good luck!

        1. “Comments (if they are civil) are most welcome. You can drop me an email at: PhotosByCindi (at) yahoo (dot) com”

          Now that I know your definition of a civil comment, I look forward to reading and commenting on your blog, retiredandthrifty.wordpress.com.

        2. Cindi, this is my last note to you. I’m disappointed that you’ve now called my readers names in two separate comments. Calling me names is one thing. I write a blog and put my story out there, and I expect to get some attacks from time to time. But I will not stand for you insulting my readers. I’ve never banned anyone from the site before, including people with whom I strongly disagree but who proved they were capable of being civil, but I’m banning you. Any further comments will be immediately deleted, and I’ve reported you to WordPress. I hope for your own sake that you’ll find a more productive outlet for your anger.

          It’s too bad you didn’t take the time to read here before lashing out, because I think you would have found I actually agree with you quite a bit. Many of my posts are about how not everyone should retire early, how it’s not a panacea, how we should be skeptical of those who claim it’s easy and perfect, etc. We’re all just humans, trying to do the best we can, and we should be supporting each other, not tearing each other down.

  6. It is sad to leave a job that you like. I’ve always done a “Maybe we can work together on a contract basis at some point.” We both know it isn’t going to happen, but it makes the goodbye easier.

  7. I was sad leaving because so many people showed appreciate for me being there – especially at the end (and having a few 6 year olds come and cry to you to stay doesn’t help either!) I haven’t felt the “jubilation” part yet because we are so busy with home renovations. I’m hoping it will kick in more this fall when a few projects finish up. I appreciate you just accepting the feelings as they come!

    1. Awww, if that had been me in your shoes, I would have been an embarrassing waterworks. Haha. Here’s hoping you get to that jubilation soon! I have a feeling it’s right around the corner for you guys. :-)

  8. I completely understand the sad part. When I thought about giving notice, I would tear up too. My work life and real life had much more overlap than yours–I live and worked in a small mountain resort town. I run into my old colleagues a lot. You’re not just saying goodbye to your careers, you are saying goodbye to friendships that won’t ever be the same. You’ll lose the work glue and will have to come up with another way to create commonality if you want the relationships to continue. It’s sad–you’re smart to recognize and mourn it.

    And you’re right, the actual giving of the notice won’t be sad. I felt jubilant–kind of like I was high fiving myself for accomplishing this–because no one high fives you for leaving them behind . . .

    Congratulations on reaching the final countdown! It’s a huge, sad, scary, thrilling, overwhelming accomplishment.

    1. Thanks for sharing that, Liz! What we lack in in-person overlap of work and life, we make up for in tenure/history and work that has defined a good portion of us for a long time. So yeah, those are real friendships that are about to change (and, in most cases, end, other than perhaps the odd Facebook note). Thanks for the well wishes on the final leg of the journey, or this chapter of it anyway! ;-)

  9. I can understand the feeling of sadness in resigning. Even when I’ve left awful jobs, I still feel sad because I know I’ll miss my coworkers. Those relationships are real.

    I’m still at least 9 years out from retirement so I can’t even imagine what it would be like to leave the workforce altogether. So many emotions!

    One of the things I love about your blog is that you look at things from various points of view. It’s been helpful to read about not only the financial aspect, but all the other things that go along with a huge life change. It’s important to acknowledge and understand the emotional impact as well and I appreciate the honesty of your posts :)

    1. Thanks, Kate! Though I’m blogging for many reasons now, this all began as an attempt to chronicle the journey, and I have no interest in leaving behind the all-spin, nothing-but-happiness narrative when that hasn’t been what’s actually happened. ;-) The happiness and excitement are here too, of course, but we are complex creatures capable of feeling many things at one time. And yeah, totally with you — leaving relationships of any sort it hard, period. And it’s silly to pretend that this isn’t what we’re doing! ;-)

  10. Woot woot! Congrats on the last 100 days! I think what you’re feeling in relation to quitting is similar to reaching any big goal. It brings up a sense of ‘now what?’ Obviously, that’s a little different for you since quitting is the beginning of your goal, rather than the end. But, whatever happens when you quit, you’ve still got your blogging fam here to keep you company!! 😉

    1. Thank you! :-) There’s probably a little “now what?” in there, too. A good analogy might also be making a big move. (More apropos to you right now, right?!) You’re stoked to live in a place that suits you better, but you’re sad to leave some people behind. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to move or are any less excited about it, you just don’t look forward to the goodbyes. ;-)

  11. Very exciting! The mix of emotions sounds pretty normal to me. But I don’t think you’re really questioning your plan. If you are, just think about actually not doing it and continuing to work for at least one more year. That should be enough to bring to mind the negative parts of work like constant travel and convince you to stay on plan!

    I’m not retired yet myself but from what I’ve learned from others, you’ll feel a little turmoil when quitting but then have a nice “honeymoon” period that seems to last between a few months to a year. Then there will be a “down” period for another year or so as the initial excitement wears off. Hopefully you’ll be able to minimize this by focusing on the busy “next life” activities you have planned. Those that sleep in and watch TV become depressed soon. Those that retire “to” something seem to minimize this phase. But you’ll very likely go through this phase like everyone else so don’t be too concerned when it happens. Everyone says it’s temporary and just takes some time (i.e. you can’t actively control this so just relax). They are very happy once they come out the other side!

    I’m quite certain you both will do great. You’ll still be busy but you’ll be doing things you like more and you’ll have more balance in your lives.

    1. Haha — definitely NOT questioning the plan, just dreading the next step! ;-) But there’s a reason why “No pain, no gain” is a phrase, right?

      And yeah, I’ve read about those stages of retirement, too, though I’ve read enough conflicting accounts to guess that everyone processes it all a bit interesting. It will be fascinating to see how it feels for us — and even if we both experience it the same way, or have different feelings at different times. Whatever happens, we’ll share it here! ;-)

  12. Woohoooooo! I’m sorry to hear you’re sad to quit, but that’s natural for anyone who cares about their job. It’s time to be selfish though and take advantage of all your hard work. ;)

    1. Absolutely. Given how long we’ve been in our jobs, it would be weird if we didn’t feel some sadness! This is just a temporary waypoint, though, on the overall happy journey. :-)

  13. So happy for you and Mr. ONL. The best part of my work week is when I get to take a break and read your new posts. Although we’ve never met, I truly feel I’ve gotten to know you through your website. As a kindred spirit, I’m invested in your journey… and can’t wait to read more. We’re 46 and 48 with 3 boys in high school next year. On paper, we’re about 4 years away from total financial independence… this includes both retirement and fully funding 3 college tuitions. We’ve been on the journey for 23 years… the last 13 of which we got REALLY serious including paying off our mortgage 5 years ago. What has surprised us on our journey is… the closer we get, the less we feel compelled to completely stop working. I’ve been downsized twice in my career… each time with 6 months off. I can tell you one thing is for certain… I’m not retiring early if my wife isn’t retiring with me. It’s no fun having all day to yourself. Even assuming our magic number is reached and perhaps surpassed in 4 years, there’s still a good chance we may stay in the game a little while longer. My degree is in elementary education, but for the past 20+ years, I’ve been in manufacturing where I’ve done well working my way up to a very comfortable salary. I don’t hate my job… but every day, I find myself missing my wife. I just want to spend more time with her. When we were dating in college, we spent every second outside of classes with each other. During the summers, we were both camp counselors together. My wife is a parochial school kindergarten teacher. Her teacher aides are paid little, and as a consequence, come and go every year or two. My semi-retirement may very well have me working as her aide for a number of years. We’d be able to keep her benefits at least until our 3 boys graduate from college and have benefits of their own. And we’d be able to live on our income, letting our magic number grow a bit more so no matter how conservatively calculated, we’d have no worries. Our retirement goal has always been that we want to see, tent camp and hike all over this beautiful country. But when you break it down…at the very heart of it… it’s WE… together. So if that means working TOGETHER teaching 5 year olds for a few years with our summers off… I’d be a very content man. Prayers for good health… without it, plan are just plans. Our very best to you and Mr. ONL.

    1. I so totally appreciate your comment! Thank you! :-) Your story illustrates such a huge problem that we need to grapple with collectively — that you all can be fully prepared to stop working, and yet you keep doing it — for YEARS — essentially just because of the health care uncertainty. And totally with you on spending time together. Ultimately, that’s all we actually care about. I love hearing stories from others who truly just want more time together. Yay love! ;-)

  14. I can appreciate that it is cognitively dissonant and hard to keep such a big secret to yourselves and not come out with it at work. I was in talks to join a new firm for a couple of months, and I felt like such an imposter at work. Every time I was given a new project I felt kind of bad knowing that someone was giving it to me in good faith, and I was going to be bailing on them. And that was only a couple of months. It was kind of hard to balance everything. Once I got the official offer, I gave notice right away. I worried and strategized about my notice and worked all these extra hours to comply with the “rules” in these situations and to plan ahead for giving clients notice. Lot of blood and sweat went into it!
    Yes, but after all that build up, the giving notice part was anti-climactic. In fact my firm responded very much with a “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” type of way. They weren’t crushed, but they just moved on right away to strategize how best to move on without me (and keep those clients!) In fact they asked me to leave early (I gave them 2-weeks).
    I guess what I’m trying to convey is that this part (prior to giving notice) is probably the hardest part, and also, as critical and important as you feel to your job, don’t be surprised if after just a day or two, their focus will be on moving right along and getting things squared away for your upcoming absence. Nobody is irreplaceable. Missed, yes; irreplaceable, no!
    My date is January 1, 2020 if I can make it that long. However, I am beginning to realize that it is a real process to find something to retire to. In other words, I need to have a new focus for when that time arrives.
    Best of luck!

    1. I think all of this is right. I think the build-up to giving notice will be worse than giving notice itself, our companies will quickly move on, and it’s still fundamentally an economic arrangement, not a personal one. But I do think the long tenures we have with our companies complicate the feelings piece, and mean that many of our work friendships are more deeply ingrained than they could be. So we’ll see! But I definitely appreciate you sharing your story, especially the guilt you felt at getting knew projects when you knew you were leaving. Trying my best to minimize that now without making it obvious! ;-)

  15. Hey, Ms ONL and all. I’m just getting started here an hope maybe I can contribute a bit. Sorry for a long introductory post, but your dreams really can and are coming true!

    First of all, I think these last 100 days of yours (shorter now!) are not only exciting and a bit frightening, but due to the “overthinking” (quoting, not agreeing), drag the time out as well as seeming to come to an abrupt end. My experience when retiring 14 years ago at 55 was much different in some ways. I had a job I loved (mostly) for 20 years when things went quite sour for 2 years. Then, after accepting a new, much sought-after job position, I had an immediate, severely painful, chest-tightening anxiety reaction. (That had happened only once before — the night before my Masters’ oral exams. I knew what it was.)

    I immediately retracted my acceptance of that position, and after discussing with my wife, literally the next day submitted my resignation — I suddenly had only 4 months to go! We had been planning (fortunately) for retirement in 3 more years, but the longer prep time like yours suddenly ended, and for four months, preparing for an end-of-work-life and fixing in place a financial plan totally dominated our lives. (It only took me a couple of weeks to convince my wife to also leave her job which had similarly turned sour — good choice, that.)

    So we had little time for pre-retirement anxiety (not that we didn’t experience it). The retirement stress played out in frantically trying to make final arrangement and plans and praying that our tenuous financial position would hold up — fortunately it did. With a small pension and Soc Sec beckoning 7 years later, we had a thin lifeline — if only it didn’t break. And then when 2008 came along, we made it through.

    Both us us “planned” to take part-time jobs with our employers after six months. Both of us found ourselves so busy with retirement, that we had no time to “work”. (I say that knowing that my own effort to make a new part-time career out of my woodworking hobby absolutely consumed me!) There are thousands of post-retirement options for activity. For you, Ms ONL, your blog, etc. will help provide release. Just find another dozen or so things to also fill your time :<) Mine included a new grilling hobby (say "hello" to a grill master), my financial planning spreadsheet that now contains our automated budget manager for the next 30 years, significant travel by cruise and auto trips around the US (more than 35,000 road miles), major time invested in caring for and improving our home (which we had paid off a year before that fateful decision), studying a/v technology and developing my home theater, and continuous retirement "research" (like stumbling onto your blog).

    Along the way numerous family, community and health crises (to say nothing of the current national and worldwide situation), sparked our lives with some unexpected and troubling issues. As they say, life goes on and yours will also.

    1. Fortunately, finding things to keep me busy is not a concern. That has never been a problem of mine! It’s always been more about what NOT to do. ;-) But you’re definitely right that this blog will stay in the mix, and we’ll feel some other things out as we go, being careful not to take on too much too quickly.

      Thanks for sharing your story — how fortunate that you were able to listen to your body’s very real reaction to a job that involved too much stress and pull the plug early. Man, if that isn’t the real benefit of financial independence, I don’t know what is! So glad it’s worked out for you guys!

  16. Well this is an entertaining thread! There are many ways to get from here to there and one is not better than the other. Well maybe one is, but who cares? And if you end up deciding to work again, then embrace that … the exec-perks don’t suck if you truly like what you are doing. If you hate it, then that is a different story. As for leaving, don’t expect a bunch out of your employer. They will initially try to see if they can salvage you, but when/if you totally close the door then they will move on quickly. They have to … you’re either part of the road forward or not. If not, then it’s a quick adios. It’s easy to confuse work with friends/family, but they are not the same at all. It will be mostly up to you to cultivate those work friendships that you want to keep going. Most will stop. I do have one question though … why extend the agony of the reveal? If it is financial (like a EOY performance bonus or stock vesting date) then that is understandable. If not, then just unmask! Put a note in your calendar that says “Off the clock” starting on your last day. If your boss discovers it then great, then you can have the conversation. Or just go public on the blog in a simple post and and change to About page. If your colleagues discover it then good for them. A little gamification is fun and leave some Easter eggs around. But mostly for your own sanity. The double agent life is agonizing for you. As for will you stay retired or not … who are we to judge or care about that. You have demonstrated that you can set hard goals, achieve them and reap the benefit. People that can do that will sort out the rest. Personally, I’d take the bet that your contributions to the world aren’t quite over yet and that you will deserve to be paid for some of them. This whole “never get paid again” attitude is something that I will never get. Monetize the blog! No guilt in providing a product that adds value to people and that you get value from too.

    1. So many things here! First, thanks. :-) Second, the giving notice stuff will make more sense after we can say more, but the biggest thing is, given the fact that we do client work, we can’t just peace out like that, haha. We need to be allow time for transition of teams and client relationships, etc., unless we want to incur serious bad work karma (we don’t). So I know the work conversations will be tough, but we can handle it. :-) And the earning more in the future — we’ve totally come around on that. I’m still 100% averse to smacking ads up on the blog, though. ;-)

  17. I appreciate how much thought and effort you have put in this blog to create a community that can share similar goals and life interests and especially the genuine honest part which makes this blog so human and approachable.

    I am not early retired yet but I retired from a previous life that took a couple of decades (with full on focus) to master (I say I did that professionally as I got paid for it) – before I transitioned to a ‘real / corporate’ job. I was so ready to quit and start something new, and was sad to let that identity go of course, but oh man it was so exciting to start the new and reinvent myself! I felt proud of what I had accomplished and ready for new goals.

    Obviously it is sad to leave something like this behind – it is part of your identity and a huge transition. All necessary loses are hard, but I have noticed in my life most transitions left me in a better place, reading me for new discoveries and personal growth.

    As far as unexpected feelings so far: I will say “amusement” by reading some interesting comments on these kinds of blogs. The internet is a funny place. :)

    1. Thanks for that wonderful compliment. :-) I’m touched. And I’m totally with you on those transitions — I know they’re hard, but I’ve so rarely regretted any big change (maybe never?). This is just the dread of having to rip off the bandaid. ;-) And yeah, kind of a crazy day here in blog comment land! But thanks for chiming in with a wonderfully positive one to balance things out. :-D

  18. So excited for you guys and can’t wait to learn about your “secret” identities ha! Wow I’m very impressed that you went that far to make sure your real life and your blog life don’t cross. I was way less fuzzy about that when I was blogging anonymously.

    1. Thanks! And to meet for real at FinCon! After we’re “out,” I’ll write another post about blogging anonymously. I’ve learned a LOT!

      1. I am confident I am not the only one excited to read that post topic. I would not be surprised if there are more than a few potential future bloggers who are hesitant to begin without being sure they can blog anonymously. Maybe you can give us a little “intro” blog on that topic before you’re “out” (if it doesn’t compromise your identity). Just saying…

        1. I will definitely write that post, but not until after we’re out. Just because I am not 100% sure that I have been totally careful at every step going all the way back to the beginning, and some of what I’ll share could be used to out us! ;-) But I promise I will cover it in DETAIL. Stay tuned!

  19. I love your blog because your thoughts mirror my own, as I go through a similar mental journey. That’s why a small part of me wants to get fired to FIRE!

    1. Thanks! :-) I definitely see the appeal of that outcome, but I think — though it’s harder — leaving this way is better for my long-term feelings. If I got fired, besides having let myself and my clients/coworkers down, it would also color the whole experience, and I want to be able to look back on it all with the rosiest of glasses. ;-)

  20. Good on you for making it to the last few steps! You got this. I had very positive experiences with my colleagues, clients, and referral sources when I shared my ER plans. Y’all have been crushing it at work and I expect that you will have similar reactions. The emotions part, though… I had a lot of unexpected impatience with things that I didn’t enjoy just wanting to get to the end, like trying to slog through those last 6 miles of a marathon.

    1. Oh man, I hope it’s not like the last six miles of a marathon, the “second half.” ;-) I’m sure there’s stuff that will annoy us, but I expect the relief to outweigh it — now just gotta get through these last few BIG steps! We’ll be fine, just have to actually do the thing.

  21. This is very exciting news! And now you are at 99 days 😀! So when does the pool start for us to bet on what your jobs are, where you live, and what your names are? Haja

    1. Soon, actually! Not names, but job and place contests coming up in September. (And you thought you were joking.) ;-)

  22. We possibly could have retired three years ago and probably could have retired two years ago and definitely could have retired last year. In the end we were guilty of OMY syndrome three times over BUT that was because we wanted to build a retirement fund with a huge buffer which meant that we never need any income. For me that was really the key to a worry free retirement, the emotional stuff was easy ;-)

    My one piece of advice to you is to use your power with your employer to maybe negotiate a favourable exit, whatever that might look like. I was able to negotiate a very nice exit package and also the offer of some remote working which has helped ease us into retirement. You have nothing to lose so go for it!

    Looking forward to seeing how the next 100 days pan out.

    1. I don’t know that I’d say that was OMY syndrome. Maybe you just really didn’t have enough three years and two years and one year ago, and now you’ve hit YOUR enough and are ready. ;-) (Also, worrying about whether you have enough money IS emotional. Because how we a quantify a comfortable buffer is totally about our comfort with risk, how optimistic or pessimistic we are generally, etc.) ;-) As for how we’ll exit and whether we’ll negotiate, stay tuned for a forthcoming post on that!

  23. My jokes weren’t that funny, so I decided to opt for a more serious comment.

    Congrats on 100 days! I imagine that it’s a little bit like being in the third trimester of pregnancy only you aren’t waddling quite so much.

    I think it’s all right to mourn quitting your job. It’s a part of who you are right now. And after you quit, you’ll be busy creating a new identity. Plus, right now you’re undergoing a huge emotional transition. When you’re some distance on the other side, that will be your new normal. That said, I think right now would be a good time to review your values and aspirations for early retirement. If they’re still as compelling as ever, you’re on the right track. If they ring hollow, you should re-evaluate. Maybe time to bust out the old ER diagram?

    1. ;-) Thanks! And true — no waddling. (But I think I feel almost as tired!) I love your reminder to review our aspirations and values — we make a habit of doing that often (it helps that I write this blog 2x a week so can’t ever get far from the question), and feel great about the path we’re on. :-)

  24. Congrats on being so close! As you probably know, we went full-bore into early retirement. I personally couldn’t get there soon enough, and so far, it’s been a wonderful experience.

    Less than 100 days is super cool! And remember that just because THIS job might be done with, there’s *always* work out there for competent people. I was utterly surprised at the opportunities that I never saw before because I had a full-time job and that tended to cloud my perception of life. With that lifted, it’s an eye-opening experience…literally and figuratively!

    1. Thanks! I told my first former client our plan this week and he was already suggesting possible work for next year, a board appointment he knows of, etc. His prediction was that we’ll be turning work away. We’ll see! But in the meantime, still lots to do before we hit the next chapter!

  25. Wow, there are some angry people out there!

    I can understand the feeling sad. I’ve left jobs that I despised before, and still felt sad about losing the relationships I’d built over the years. We spend so much time with the people we work with, sometimes more than we do with our partners, children, etc. Change is hard.

    As far as the comment(s) above… Obviously someone who hasn’t spent much time on this blog! I love that you explore every aspect (and feeling!) involved in early retirement. You’ve done an excellent job of pointing out that early retirement isn’t rainbows and butterflies, and that it’s important to know what you’re retiring to. Which definitely is not the same for everyone!

    I’m far from early retirement at this point, but I’ve been able to follow your example and apply a lot of that introspection to my own life and career. I’ve found this blog incredibly helpful and encouraging! I look forward to following your adventures for many years!

    1. Indeed! ;-) And thanks for sharing that you’ve also felt sad leaving jobs — especially given how long we’ve been in ours, we have deep roots there. We aren’t questioning our choice, but we know there are some tough steps we have to take soon. (Deep breaths.)

      And thanks for your lovely note re: our “friend.” It means a lot to know that my musings here have helped you think about your own path. :-) Thanks for reading!

  26. As usual a thought provoking post. Glad you are in the home stretch. For us we are inside a year to early retirement at 52 while the dream house is being built. We have achieved the FI number a few years back but weren’t ready to call it quits then. The new house, the last tuition payment, no mortgage are all milestones we will complete in this next year.

    When I get to less than 100 days I am sure I will feel anxious about leaving something I do find joy in but I know from the many blogs I follow that it is definitely what I need to do and I believe I will be at peace with that decision well before I sign my resignation letter.

    I have one question for the group – if you had to design your ideal WEEK (not day) how does it feel or look to you if you press repeat 1,000 times (20 years)? Does it feel joyful and fulfilling? For us we have thought about this a lot and as a result we have started to think of retirement in quarters of activity to give us a sense of seasons.

    Of course there is no right answer (5,000 early bird buffets is no ones dream retirement goal) but I am curious how the group here thinks of their days post work life

    Keep up the good work

    1. Thanks, Phil! And wow — congrats on being so close to so many different milestones! That’s going to feel amazing, checking them all off in quick succession! And it’s funny you mentioned “being at peace” with the decision to leave work — we are totally at peace with it, but we know it will be tough to do the actual quitting. I don’t know what a good analogy is. Maybe something like getting a hip replacement. You know your hip hurts and it’s time to get the surgery, you know you’ll be glad to have it done, but you dread the operation and the healing. Something like that. ;-)

      I love your question about time, and that’s something we’ve thought a lot about. Like we don’t need every DAY to be fulfilling, and maybe not every WEEK. We’re probably thinking more along the lines you are, of fulfilling months or quarters, but we’d rather chunk out our tasks and adventures than try to do a little of everything every day or every week. Like we might go on a two-week climbing trip and do nothing but climb, then come home and spend a few weeks writing and volunteering, etc. We’re looking for balance and fulfillment on the big picture level, not the micro level.

  27. I’ve had that feeling even after quitting jobs I didn’t like because there were always friends that I was leaving behind that I’d miss. I’ve never been a fan of change. It passed pretty quickly, though, as soon as I let the feelings run their course and embraced the newness of the next stage in life. And the real friends are still friends today, 15 years later!

    My PF blogger-spy life, though, I don’t think I could ever give up my secret identity without a huge pang and lots of regrets. ;)

    1. Yeah, it doesn’t surprise me that you want to keep up the double agent life. ;-) I can’t WAIT to get rid of it! Haha. And it’s awesome you’ve kept up those friendships after all this time! So curious to see how ours shake out given that we don’t live near our offices so won’t have an easy time keeping up with people. But yeah, it’s totally just the transition itself that we’re dreading, not the new thing that comes after.

  28. Congrats on your 100 count down! It is uber exciting. I recently discovered your blog, very inspiring. We are targeting FIRE by 2020 and we have learned a lot from your blog. It is almost like getting a masquerade-adventure-reality-showi FI-education.

    1. Thank you! So glad you’ve found this place inspiring. ;-) And haha — yeah, the reality show aspect will be ending soon, fortunately! ;-)

  29. The way you describe your job is very similar to the way I see work. I like the twist of chapters that you add. We are on a different page, not ready yet to go the the next chapter.

    Did you consider a job as a spy for the FIRE community? Report back on all actions FIRE people do, fun they have and document this? :-)

    1. Do you know of someone who would fund that job, as a FIRE spy? ;-) I would do it if there’s money to be made! Haha.

  30. I left at the end of last year at age 47. I’m almost scared to admit this… I haven’t looked back. Health care is certainly a question mark but I’m certain we’ll be able to buy a policy no matter what. Enjoy the journey!

    1. CONGRATS, Jay! :::high five::: That’s so awesome. And no need to be sheepish in admitting that you haven’t looked back. That’s why you did it, right?! And I hope you’re right about being able to buy a policy — the disappointing thing to us is that all the repeal proposals that have been floated are MORE likely to collapse the markets. We should be focused first on stabilizing the markets so that we can buy insurance at whatever price, and then focus on the rest.

  31. Keeping things that separate between your virtual life and your corporate life sounds HARD. I hope you have plenty of real life people who know the details as well. I bet once you’ve ripped off the bandaid what you will feel most of all is relief (though probably some wistfulness as well). I finally quit my second (very part time) job in December and while I’ve missed it occasionally, the space it’s freed up in my life has been awesome and totally worth it.

    1. So awesome you were able to walk away, Angela! Congrats! And yeah, I’m looking forward to that feeling of relief! Plenty of people IRL do know, but not the ones who will actually understand our reasons the best. Can’t wait until we can talk about it all with our colleagues who will totally get why we couldn’t do this forever!

  32. This post is so human. And humans are so complicated.

    I also fully believe that you are a spy. I believe everyone is, but I was raised on military bases at the end of the Cold War. YMMV.

    1. Amen, sister! Can’t help but be human over here. :-) Just try to acknowledge all the conflicting feelings instead of telling a cleaner narrative. As for the spy part, you know what I have to do if I tell you. ;-)

  33. Congrats on having 100 days left. Breath. Take it easy. Enjoy the moment. You are almost free. In one year from now, you won’t even remember any of those annoying work issues. The time to stress about work is already over.

  34. I’m a little late to the party since I just discovered this blog. Just wanted to make a comment regarding Cindimatography – she never mentioned that she has a husband who has been employed for most of her retirement,

    Best of luck to you in your future! Do you watch NCIS? Gibbs’ Rule #11 – “When the job is done, walk away.” It worked for me. And I loved my job.

    1. LOL — Good old Cindimatography. Yeah, didn’t seem like we were getting the full story. ;-) And I don’t watch NCIS, but I can appreciate that rule! We’re the types to overthink big decisions ahead of time, but then make them and never look back. So I think, despite what probably seems like a lot of hand-wringing at times, we’ll be just fine after we rip off the bandaid. ;-) Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  35. I am on week 3 of retirement after working 32 years in a Radiation Oncoloogy Department. I was the Dosimetrist and manager. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but each week gets better. My new job is to make sure I stay productive. I gave a years notice so when the day finally came, it seemed unreal. Tears were shed, well wishes given then out the door. My solace is that I will stay on PRN. I’m looking forward to being comfortable in this new life. I have volunteered regular hours for Homecare and Hospice and the Breadbasket so I think I will be good. Good Blog! Thanks, Oh, and I hit the gym every day!

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