Sunday, July 11, 2010

On Retiring Early

Vacation time is here. Four blessed weeks of freedom. I filled out an online survey recently that had to do with how people felt about their work, and many of the questions had to do with what one preferred, e.g. a salary increase accompanied by more hours at work, or more free time. I answered-- more free time. Ten years ago I would have answered--salary increase, which is more evidence that I have definitely changed over the years. Free time is worth gold to me now.

I am not the only person who likes free time. Many people I have talked to recently say the same thing. They are tired of working and they love their free time. I listen to what they have to say and I weigh it all against my own feelings. I think what we’re all tired of is the push to produce, compete, produce more and compete more. It never ends, and enough is never enough. And against the backdrop of business corruption, the global financial crisis, layoffs and unemployment, outrageous salaries and retirement benefits for company leaders, and outsourcing of jobs, it seems strange to me that more people don’t want to quit their jobs, just out of pure anger at the unfairness of it all. But I’m guessing that many do and just don’t say it because to say it rubs more salt into the wound. They know they have to work to keep adding to their pensions, and some people have lost their pensions due to the corruption and bad investments that we’ve all read about. This hasn’t happened to me, thank God, because I don’t know what I would do with the amount of anger I would feel if my company had betrayed me like that. I get irritated enough with other types of unfairness at work. I want to take early retirement and I will spend the next ten years of my work life saving as much money as I can, living simply and effectively, and not spending extravagantly. My husband and I have lived like this most of our adult lives already because working as scientists has never been about making a lot of money. We have lived non-extravagantly for many years now. The word ‘budget’ has always been part of our vocabulary and will likely remain so for the rest of our lives.

I was talking to my good friend in NY recently about working and being tired, and was probably complaining a bit, and she just said to me, you want to retire now. It took me all of about two seconds to realize that what she said was true. But of course I cannot retire now. I think it is strange to consider that I want to retire now because I have been a near-workaholic for years. Perhaps that is why I am tired. The long hours have caught up with me. Or perhaps I just need a change--maybe a different type of job would be the answer. It is worth considering. Another good friend said to me that what I feel now has more to do with that I have achieved what I want to achieve in my current profession, that I have reached a plateau and now feel like a drone. Also a very interesting idea to consider and it may be true. What I do know is that retirement for me will be a time of adventure, new challenges and creativity. I have no plans to sit around doing nothing. I want to use my free time well—write (and hopefully publish what I write), read all the books that are on my list, take language courses, travel, do photography, do some consulting work, do volunteer work at my church, and who knows what else. Time will tell. It will be the next phase of life and I think it will be a very interesting phase. I hope so at least.


  1. I could not read this and not say a word. Yes, I am about to quit my job. I am only 35! Yes, I know I will regret it. Yes, I want to retire now (I am already 35!), because I am fed up of the system. The system works for some people. Not people like me: eager to learn and no one to teach! That's it! After September, I will grow wings...and will be ready to jump!

  2. I think we all need the wings to follow our dreams, and too often we live with clipped wings. I have and I know others have too. We are told that it is the sensible way to live and of course it is if you look at life pragmatically. We have to pay our bills. But after a certain point, you realize that life is short and if you are going to realize any of your creative dreams, you've got to start sometime. Some people never get the chance to try, others don't want to or are scared, others don't have the health in later years. The system does work for some people, but I for one don't fit the system and that is why it doesn't work for me. I cannot be a part of something I don't believe in. Perhaps you have found out the same thing. That is a good thing.