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A Different Perspective On Retirement

by retirebyforty on August 9, 2013 · 43 comments

in early retirement, employment, entrepreneurs

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The following is a guest post from my good friend, Steve @ My Wife Quit Her Job. His side income is going to surpass his computer engineer salary this year so he is contemplating his next step. What do you think he should do? 

Should Steve quit his engineering job?

One of the reasons I love reading Retire By 40 is because Joe and I have very similar backgrounds. We both graduated from college at roughly around the same time. We both majored in electrical engineering and we both decided to take on jobs in the technology sector making pretty good salaries.

In fact, I even interviewed at Intel in Portland and considered working there at one point. Heck, we could have been coworkers! But that’s pretty much where our similarities end.

I’ve been in the computer hardware design industry now for well over 15 years and I still enjoy what I do. My job is not especially stressful. I work pretty much an 8 hour day and I have most weekends off.

Also, I don’t seem to be exhibiting any of the physical ailments that Joe had while working his day job such as headaches, backaches or depression. Everything is pretty chill in terms of my day to day and I display no ill effects from cubicle confinement.

But here’s the thing. I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for so long that I’m starting to get a little antsy. While I still enjoy my day job, in the back of my mind I often dream about doing something different, something that has a broader reaching impact.

I often wonder what it would feel like to sleep in and not have to drive to my office every morning.

In fact, I keep thinking about quitting my job but I have a whole bunch of reservations in my mind which I have yet to address. Here’s a snapshot of my thoughts.

Money Is Not A Factor

When people think about retirement, most are worried about having enough money. But fortunately, money is not one of my concerns. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not rich but I have my finances under control.

I have many years of living expenses saved up, a house that can be paid off at anytime and a pretty good handle on what I spend my money on.

A lot of would-be retirees also worry about health insurance. But after doing a bit of research, it turns out that finding a decent HSA plan is very manageable and definitely within my budget.

While I do have a spouse and 2 young kids (which are expensive), I also have several other revenue streams outside of my day job. For example, my wife and I run an online store selling wedding linens that has been extremely profitable for us.

We started this shop when my wife wanted to “retire” from her job to take care of the kids (just like Joe). Also like Joe, my blog provides me with some passive income as well. In fact, the earnings from my blog should surpass my day job salary this year.

Overall, everything is pretty kosher in financial land. But here’s the thing. What’s ironic about my financial situation is that I’ve worked so hard for the past 6 years to get to this point and now I’m a little apprehensive about “pushing the retirement button”.

My Greatest Fear

My biggest fear about the whole retirement process is that I don’t have a good game plan about what I want to do next with my time. When Joe retired, he had a purpose. He wanted to stay at home with his kid.

Right now, I’ve got nothing solid figured out. First off, my kids are older than Joe’s and they are in school full time. While I would love to spend more time with them, I think interacting with other kids at school is more important than hanging out with dear old Dad all day. Plus, they already have Mommy available in case they need anything.

I have several friends and relatives who are “retired” and I can tell that some of them are bored. Sure, they are able to play golf every day and they have their daily relaxing routine but there is no way that I could live that lifestyle.

I’m sure that it could be fun for a while, but there is only so much golf that I can play. Plus, almost all of my friends work during the day and I would get bored way too easily by myself.

What About My Businesses?

People often point out that I could simply run my online store or my blog for a living. But while running my shop and blogging have been very rewarding experiences for me, I don’t think managing them full time would float my boat either. Deep down, I’m a technology guy at heart.

Currently, I design microprocessors for a living and it’s not something I could do on my own without significant funding from an outside source. So if I were to quit, I would no longer have access to the necessary resources to do hardware design.

Furthermore, technology is something that you have to keep up with otherwise you’ll become obsolete. If I were to leave my day job for even a year, I probably would not be able to go back that easily.

Also, I’ve discovered that I’m a very social being and I need human interaction on a daily basis. One of the perks of going to an actual office is that I can meet new people and blow off some steam with coworkers.

Being stuck at home alone in front of a monitor just doesn’t seem that appealing to me.

Weighing The Options

At the expense of coming across as an ungrateful person, I just wanted to point out that I’m extremely lucky to be in my current position and I really have nothing to complain about. I have a loving family, I’m financially secure and I have a lot of good things going for me right now.

But this whole retirement thing has been on my mind for quite some time and I’m still struggling to find a resolution. For the most part I like working at my day job except for the fact that I have to physically go into the office everyday:)

My ideal situation would be to wake up every morning and be completely excited about what I have planned for the day but right now I’m just not there.

Anyways, one of my motivations for writing this post is to point out that retirement may not be all cake and rainbows depending on your personality and that’s it not always about the money.

Even more important than financial security is the need to be happy and fulfilled with how you spend your time. I’m obviously not at that point just yet so I’m currently stuck in what Joe calls the “One More Year” syndrome.

In my ideal situation, I would like to:

  • Do something I’m passionate about
  • Do something more meaningful with my time
  • Not feel obligated to show up at any particular location on a daily basis
  • Devote a significant amount of time for family

Anyways, I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are. And Joe, what do you plan on doing once your child goes to school full time?

Retire By 40′s response

I think Steve has the chance of a lifetime to quit his job and take it to the next level. I’m sure once he leaves his job, he’ll see a ton of opportunities. He is an active thinker and I have no doubt he’ll find something worthwhile to occupy his time.

It sounds to me like Steve is starting to get a little bored with microprocessor design. This might be a good time to explore other fields that are more friendly to a self employed technologist – like app design or something like that. Human interaction is no big deal. I have more human interaction now than when I was working at my office. I was one of those grumpy old guys because I was feeling bad and it didn’t endear me to anyone.

As for me, I do plan to do more once RB40 Junior starts school full time. Ideally, I’d like to start a micro business that I enjoy. I don’t have a solid idea right now, but I still have 3 years to figure it out.

What do you think Steve should do? I think he should take a 3 month sabbatical and see what he can figure out. If he still want to go back to work, then perhaps work for a few more years until he really gets tired of it.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Rico August 9, 2013 at 1:36 am

I dont think he should retire. It is the greatest situation you can have to be on a job that you like without being afraid that you will fall in a deep whole once you lose it.

Steve: You could ask your boss to reduce working time, to work only 4 days a week and one day from home, or cut down the job to part time or increase the amount of holidays in exchange for lower pay. There are many options to enjoy the time at work without have to work 5 days a week full 8 hours. Maybe that would something, that could fit much better on your situation.

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Steve |MyWifeQuitHerJob August 9, 2013 at 8:09 am

Hey Rico,

I actually have the flexibility of working from home when needed. But in terms of going down to 4 days a week, I don’t think that would work out. The projects I’m currently working on require my full attention. If I went down to 4 days, most likely the interesting projects would get taken away from me and given to someone who is working the full week.

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Jeremy p August 11, 2013 at 4:59 pm

I took a five week sabbatical from my job earlier this year because I was burned out. I decided to donate some of my time to Habitat for Humanity so I could give back to a worthwhile organization. I did work on a couple of projects and learnt how the organization runs. I would have liked to have worked more hours but they seem to have a cap in FL. Anyway, I’m back at a job that after 14 years just doesn’t provide me with any sort of fulfillment. I find that I’m forcing myself to go in every morning. I do have a couple of years of expenses saved and my wife works but quitting is still a difficult decision. I’m 51.

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retirebyforty August 11, 2013 at 11:02 pm

I was forcing myself to go in every morning too. It will keep getting harder and harder to do so.
You should try to cut back your expenses more and then try to find a different job that you care about. Good luck!

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sendaiben August 9, 2013 at 5:27 am

Hi Steve

Sounds like you’re in a good place (through your hard work and diligence: score!).

I agree with Rico: why not try to negotiate a part-time position with your employer? If you don’t need the money you can be flexible with regards to remuneration…

Good luck and please let us know if anything changes.

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Steve |MyWifeQuitHerJob August 9, 2013 at 8:11 am

Thanks sendaiben.

Yeah, it’s not about the money. It’s about staying excited. As I mentioned in my reply to Rico, I think going down to 4 days would actually make things worse in terms of work satisfaction.

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Greg@Thriftgenuity August 9, 2013 at 5:35 am

I think it is definitely worth the question to work from home. If I didn’t mind my job, I’m not sure I would take the plunge into retirement until I knew what it was that I wanted to pursue. I think the key is to be in a place financially where you can pursue whatever that ultimate passion is and not have to worry too much about the income from it.

For me, for example, some years down the road, I might dabble in recording bands or maybe even running a music venue, but I don’t want it to be a scenario where I am depending on that success to stay afloat.

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Steve |MyWifeQuitHerJob August 9, 2013 at 8:14 am

That’s cool Greg. It sounds like you have something that you are passionate about that you can pursue in retirement.

When I was younger, I used to think that I’d be happy hanging out at home all day and playing with the kids. But my kids are getting more and more independent and I’m already seeing signs of them not wanting to hang with dear old dad, especially around their friends.

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retirebyforty August 9, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Heh, that’s a little bit sad. We’ll get there someday too.
I don’t think working from home is the answer for you either.
It sounds like you enjoy the corroborative environment.

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Insourcelife August 9, 2013 at 5:59 am

If you could work from home and/or part time it might be a good transitional step to see if you are ready to close that door permanently. Is there anything else outside of technology that you might have liked to try but did not have the time? Real estate? This might be a good time to see if you can develop the same passion in a different industry. If you are pretty much set financially your biggest asset is time so you just have to figure out what you want to do with it.

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Steve |MyWifeQuitHerJob August 9, 2013 at 8:15 am

Closing the door permanently…sounds so final….:)

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Mom @ Three is Plenty August 9, 2013 at 6:05 am

I agree with the others, try to negotiate lower hours for lower pay or take a sabbatical for a few weeks to take a break and clear your head. It’ll give you time to think about what you want. It sounds like you’re happy with your current job, so there’s no reason to leave it permanently, but you can try to alter your arrangements.

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Steve |MyWifeQuitHerJob August 9, 2013 at 8:16 am

A sabbatical sounds great actually:)

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retirebyforty August 9, 2013 at 2:23 pm

A few weeks isn’t enough. You should try for 3 or 6 months. That will give you enough time to see if you can handle it.

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No Waste August 9, 2013 at 7:05 am

Steve seems to have an embarrassment of riches!

I can’t imagine boredom in retirement, all that time to fill with what I want to do? I can almost taste it.

Regarding health insurance, that was always the great mystery to me about early retirees and discovering there were ways to make it work was exactly what I needed to start putting together a plan for early retirement.

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Steve |MyWifeQuitHerJob August 9, 2013 at 8:18 am

I was a bit worried about health insurance too. But there are some reasonable family plans that cap your maximum yearly spend. The only problem with these plans though is that you basically have to pay out of pocket for every little thing until you hit a certain point. Every plan is different and it depends on how much you are willing to spend monthly.

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so August 9, 2013 at 7:25 am

I’d just stay the course and stack paper. Take a long vacation over the holidays and chew on next steps, but why mess with a good thing.

Maybe work more on physical fitness (train for a marathon or something) or some other hobby. I’ve found physical training helps a lot re: getting over boredom and antsiness.

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Steve |MyWifeQuitHerJob August 9, 2013 at 8:20 am

Speaking of which, I’m working on a 6 pack and working out more as we speak:) At WDS, Joe probably noticed that I wasn’t eating any carbs.

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Financial Samurai August 9, 2013 at 7:28 am

Steve, take a 3 month sabbatical. It’ll do wonders.

I understand it’s hard to let go of a six figure paycheck, but it’s harder to look back and wonder with regret more.

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Steve |MyWifeQuitHerJob August 9, 2013 at 8:21 am

Hey Sam,

We should chat some more since you’ve already gone through all of this already. Though last time we spoke, you were kind of itching to get back into the workforce.

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Jason August 9, 2013 at 7:43 am

It doesn’t sound like working from home would be the right option for you since you enjoy the interaction. Negotiating part time though might be just the solution – you still get a little of the microprocessor design, but get a bunch more time outside work to start looking at new things. My dream would be three 10-hour days. Enough time for benefits, but more days away from work than at work.

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steve August 9, 2013 at 8:02 am

I was in a similar situation about 12 years ago. I started out by negotiating a 3 month unpaid leave of absence every year and spent it going on backpacking trips in the 3rd world. This kept me happy for a while, but eventually even working 9 months/year felt like too much, so I quit the job and became a consultant. I kept reducing my work hours until I was working 20 hours/week 6 months/year but even that interfered with my life so I quit high tech entirely for full-time RE.

Moral of the story: The less you work the less you’ll want to work.

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Steve |MyWifeQuitHerJob August 9, 2013 at 8:23 am

So you gave up on tech altogether or do you still do consulting on the side? I’m assuming by RE, you mean that you now oversee a vast real estate empire:)?

Do you miss it at all?

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steve August 9, 2013 at 9:03 am

I gave up on tech altogether – I haven’t looked at a line of code in 8 years. I still get satisfaction from using my engineering problem solving skills in other areas, like designing the solar system on my sailboat or analyzing investments.

By RE I actually meant early retirement. My vast real estate empire consists of the 4-plex I’m living in and a mobile home park I’m in the process of buying :-)

I miss some of the excitement I got from the creative problem solving aspects of my job and the interactions with smart creative people, but that pales in comparison to my reduced stress level from not having to deal with all the corporate BS.

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John August 10, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Similar situation here. I retired early 8 years ago from an engineering job. I had prepared financially and was having some of the same concerns about having something to be passionate to move on to. Work was ok, but it was a corporate job with a fair amount of BS. In order to motivate myself to make a change I applied for a new position within the company that would take me to Europe for about a year of work abroad. Everyone, including my then boss, told me not to do it because the BS would be brutal. It turned out to be like a like a great chess move… I couldn’t lose. If the new job worked out, I would have a renewed interest in my potentially cool job. If it didn’t, I could bail. As it turned out the organization of the new division fell apart at the seems as many predicted and I gracefully bowed out. I joined a number of volunteer organizations and made a ton of new friends that I never would have had the opportunity to meet. It got pretty tense and uncomfortable in the end between management and some of the other people. I tried hard not to get dragged into it any more than I could help. By leaving gracefully my reputation was undamaged and I have been approached several times about returning. Fortunately as mentioned above the less you work the less you’ll want to work, but it feels good to still be in demand. Going back would be hard at this point because I’ve been away for so long.

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krantcents August 9, 2013 at 8:54 am

There is no magic bullet for everyone! That said, you have to do what will make you happy. I don’t understand why the choice is to continue in your engineering job or quit. I am on my 7th career, so I walked the talk. I have been an entrepreneur, consultant and CFO. Sometimes, you just need to take on a different role.

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Miranda August 9, 2013 at 9:27 am

You’d be lonely? When you could Skype all day? ;)

This is a great post, Steve, and addresses a lot of issues that have to do with lifestyle preferences. It’s great when you can start making decisions based on lifestyle preference and not just worry about the money. And, even when you don’t have a “real” job, you can still get burned out. I love working from home, but sometimes, as krantcents points out, you need to change it up a bit. My husband once pointed out that, given the option, I wouldn’t work any LESS if things changed, but that I would work on something DIFFERENT. It’s all about figuring out what the different should be, I guess.

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SavvyFinancialLatina August 9, 2013 at 9:36 am

If your work still interests you, I don’t see why you should change or quit. I wouldn’t!

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Mr. Utopia August 9, 2013 at 9:40 am

There’s been lots of inspiring stories going around lately about folks who’ve done so well on their side hustles that they now earn more that way than through regular employment. As far as the “tough” retirement choice goes, I think I’d take solace in at least knowing I had the option to make such a decision. Sure, it might be a bit daunting trying to figure out what to do with yourself. However, just having the power to make such a decision must be liberating.

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DC @ Young Adult Money August 9, 2013 at 10:12 am

I am an introvert and get a lot of energy from working alone. Working in an office is pretty draining to me, mainly because of the constant interaction that goes on (we have a very open cube plan…a change that I did not like when we moved to our new building!). I also have a huge desire to run my own businesses, but I don’t make enough from my site and haven’t started another side biz like your linen company that would sustain me leaving my job. Finally, I would be scared to leave my career and I also love the ability to work with the various systems, software, and data that my accounting job allows me to make use of. I think I may one day find myself in your shoes and find it very hard to ever leave my job, even if I did have the option financially.

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Done by Forty August 9, 2013 at 10:27 am

That’s a good problem to have, IMO. Like others have suggested, maybe a conversation with your leadership about a part time and/or virtual position is a way to take the middle road. It’s much easier to transition back to a full time, in-the-office set up from that place, than if you had left entirely. It also gives you the space and time to dip your toes into other options.

Good luck and the best bit is that you’re picking from many good options…not a bad one in the bunch.

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Andrew@LivingRichCheaply August 9, 2013 at 11:01 am

I’ll have to disagree with Joe, if Steve is happy at his job and likes the challenges in that field and it has a good work/life balance, there’s no need to leave the job. Unless there is some other reason holding you back from quitting…

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First Gen American August 9, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Interesting jobs are hard to come by…especially good paying ones. I think I’d try to develop a side tech skill that I can turn into a consulting/side business before I retired. Nothing says you have to stay in your little niche to keep yourself technically challenged..if anything, it sounds like you need to branch out a little more so that you’re challenged again.

I think having a plan before making the plunge is a good idea.

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Rachel August 9, 2013 at 1:14 pm

It sounds like negotiating a sabatical might give you some time to really weigh your options. Another thought is to search out interesting job prospects that others might not be able to consider because they need more security around their pay, such as a startup working on something you find interesting or a non-profit whose mission you believe in. Your current role might not fit exactly into those scenarios, but if you think of areas your skills can transfer into you might think of more options.

My final thought is to remember that this is a great “problem” to have. You no longer need to work for money, rather you have the ability to work for satisfaction in your job. Congrats! I find that situation very inspiring.

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C. the Romanian August 10, 2013 at 12:59 am

This article proves just how different people are and that what some are desperate to get – like a chance for early retirement – others are a bit afraid of. If I had what Steve has, I would clearly retire tomorrow. Really. Quit my job and enjoy my life, while trying to stay as active as possible.

But I also understand Steve’s worries and especially the “getting bored” part and not being able to do what he likes most. Personally, in this case, I would try to find a way to reduce the working hours by half and see where all that extra times goes… maybe it’s not that bad or boring!

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CashRebel August 10, 2013 at 6:42 am

What a cool snapshot of someone who’s in a position most people never reach while they’re young. I think finding fulfilling work is a lifelong challenge, and it’s not different in retirement (if you choose to go that route). Thanks for sharing your story!

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MonicaOnMOney August 10, 2013 at 9:51 pm

I don’t think he should retire if he “doesn’t have a good game plan.” Figure out what you’ll do and then retire. Great question to consider, thanks for sharing the details. I’m interesting in hearing what you decide.

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Jay August 11, 2013 at 12:57 pm

This is a tough call – I’m almost to that point now and I’m starting to realize that it’s *actually important* to have something to do after your job goes away.

My biggest fear is just simply inertia – if you don’t HAVE to do anything then to DON’T do anything. That’s not now I want to spend life, but I can seem myself falling into that.

My advice is to take a year off and see what happens. If you’re a restless sort of person, you’ll be compelled to find something new, something that you may not have even thought about when you were working. If you become a full-time couch potato, then it’s time to go back to work. :)

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Pretired Nick August 11, 2013 at 7:11 pm

I would just invite Steve and others to begin looking at this phase of life in a less binary way. It doesn’t necessarily have to be work, work, work and then drift into an empty chasm. Working part-time might be a way to stay engaged with technology if that’s something you enjoy. Or work full-time but just for fun. Don’t take any crap at work, only work on projects you enjoy and have fun being a primmadonna. Or consult, do a startup, whatever. Bottom line is you never want to spend your life wondering what it could have been like.

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retirebyforty August 11, 2013 at 11:03 pm

I like the primmadonna idea. :)

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Mr. D August 12, 2013 at 10:44 am

Interesting concept. I have always grown up viewing work as something you do today so that you don’t have to do it later. You work for money and you save money so that you can quit working. Perhaps I’m thinking too “black-and-white”, but it has always seemed to me that you either want to do something or you don’t want to do something. Steve seems to be torn between the two. There’s lots of good ideas in the comments about how to try to straddle the fence on this, but I always figured that if you reflect on it long enough, you’ll find that either you want to continue working that particular job, or you don’t.

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Jamin August 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Start your own technical consulting company doing exactly what you are doing now, but getting paid 2-3x more for your current employee or other contacts. Learn how to manage the internals of the business (taxes, accounting, services, …) and gain that life skill. Explore all the cool ways to create a tax optimal business (instant return is about 50% on a much larger income) which you can’t do as a regular W-2 employee. The risk and the thrill coupled with the greatly expanded “earnings” will create a new excitement from the same profession.

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Buy & Hold Blog August 20, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Steve,

As others have suggested, you may want to see if you can do consulting / freelance gigs on the side. If you see opportunities and think that they can sustain you financially, then, ask for sabbatical or extended vacation. At this time, you company may agree or they may deny the request. If they agree, you are in good shape. If they deny, then quit the job and go into semi-retirement doing consulting gigs and then finally transition into a full-time retirement. I wish I could do what you can do.

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