Most days, we can comfortably stay on course throughout the day without having to make choices that are any more difficult or consequential than where to eat lunch or which shirt to wear. (For me, the latter choice is especially easy. If I’m having any trouble at all deciding, I just go with purple!)
But every now and then we arrive at an inflection point, where the choice we make will have a profound impact on the course of our life. Such monumental decisions include whether to move to a faraway place, whether to take a new job, whether to commit to spending the rest of your life with someone, or whether to end a relationship.
I have been confronting such a choice for several months now.
Recently at work, the managers in my organization were directed to have career development conversations with all of our employees. This is a good thing, as helping to develop the people we manage is one of the hallmarks of a good manager.
My manager scheduled my career development conversation for today.
Today, I informed my manager that I am going to retire at the end of this year. (2013)
My plan was to announce this decision near the end of September, so this is almost two months earlier than I would have liked, but I couldn’t see going through the motions of talking about 3- and 5-year goals and creating a development plan when I knew that it was not going to happen this way. That seemed inauthentic, even dishonest.
During this year, my employer has been offering generous incentives to employees whose age and years of service qualify them for retirement. The most salient of these is a financial contribution to fund seven years’ worth of health insurance for Jeff and me. We’re talking over $140,000. They are also offering a couple of transition training options for things such as teaching or entrepreneurship.
I have examined this decision repeatedly from every angle imaginable.
I’ve had many conversations with Jeff and I have pored over our household budget and investment growth forecasting models. We will need to be a bit more conscientious and austere going forward, but I’m confident that things will work out.
We have other potential income streams on the horizon, and we’re even willing to go back to work for a little while if we have to. (Hopefully any future employment will not require use of the phrase, “Hello, welcome to WalMart.”)
There are those nagging “what if…”s.
There’s the opportunity cost of foregoing the next 3 ½ years’ income if I stayed with my original plan to retire at 60 ½. But this is a dilemma each person faces when he or she approaches the big decision. If you work another year, that’s another year of income and another year of not having to tap into your retirement savings. It’s also another year of your life gone. It’s the classic time vs. money trade-off. It’s just kicking the can down the road.
It’s no secret that I’ve been looking forward to retiring almost as long as I’ve been working. It’s exhilarating to see that date approaching soon – and quite a bit sooner than I had thought until recently. The anticipation of my freedom and the opportunity to bring realization to my plans and dreams usually prevails over the financial concerns.
More than anything else, I’ll be happier.
Working at my current employer for 17 years has been richly rewarding in many ways (mostly financial, but in other ways too), as has my 16-year previous career that seems so long ago.
But my company is also an intense, stressful, and sometimes maddening place. Many workplaces are. I’m tired and rapidly approaching burn-out. I often feel like my soul is being sucked out a little more each day.
When it comes right down to it, my happiness and well-being are more important than anything else.
Reigning in some discretionary spending seems a small price to pay.
I’ve been reading a lot and learning a lot about following my passion and listening to my heart. (More about that soon.) In my heart, I know this is the right thing to do. Still…
Shit just got real.
© 2013 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.
Photo credit: BraNewbs. Some rights reserved.