What I’ve Learned Throughout My Final Year of Work

What I've Learned Throughout My Final Year of Work

Well, that does it… I’m officially FIRE (financially independent / retired early).  12/31/18 was my last day of “working for the man” hopefully for the rest of my life.

Whoa.  Hang on – I just need a second to process that.

Damn, that feels good to think about!  Woo-hoo!!!!

Ok, thanks for that – I really needed to get it out of my system.  The idea is still a little surreal and will probably take a while to make it feel like more than a normal vacation.

Let’s get back to why we’re here today though.  I thought it would be interesting to talk about what I’ve learned throughout my last year of work.

Some of the things that transpired at the office were expected and some weren’t.  Regardless, it’s a good time to reflect and determine what’s useful and what’s not.

What I’ve Learned Throughout My Final Year of Work

Co-workers surprised me on two fronts

What I've Learned Throughout My Final Year of Work - Coworkers surprised me on two fronts

When I initially told people at the office that I was leaving, I was a little uncomfortable saying that I was retiring early.  I hemmed and hawed and came up with different lines as to our plans.

However, the amount of support I received from co-workers made it much easier to just tell it like it is.  Some were a little surprised, but no one really balked at our plans.

The other thing that was unexpected in my head though was that no one asked me for more details on how we’re pulling this off.  After all, it’s not every day that someone retires in their forties.

I actually thought there would be more people curious about the whole idea of FIRE and how life-changing it could be.  But, even though I get very excited about the subject, I try not to preach to anyone who doesn’t ask.

What I’ve learned: Be careful making assumptions about people – they might surprise you.

FIRE is outside of the realm for some to accept

What I’ve Learned Throughout My Final Year of Work - FIRE is outside of the realm for some to accept

I worked at my company for 19½ years.  Believe it or not, there were a number of folks who have been there longer than I was, but the amount of time is far from minuscule.  I developed some strong bonds with the people I saw and worked with on a daily basis.

And because I was in management, I worked alongside the president of the company helping make company decisions as needed.  The two of us have had a good working relationship over the years probably because we tend to think pretty similarly on a number of things.

The company is around 40 people strong and the average tenure is around 13 years (including all the new hires).  In other words, it’s not a huge company and there’s a closeness that you don’t always see in organizations with higher turn-over.

Over the past handful of years, we’ve had a number of employees retire.  And with every one of them, we’ve thrown a surprise retirement party.  It’s a way of saying goodbye and good luck to the retiree.  As a nice gesture, they also usually receive a Chromebook or other nice gift.

I didn’t get the same treatment.

Although the HR manager had talked about a retirement party for me in months prior, her tune changed as we got closer to December.  And then one day, she mentioned that there wouldn’t be a retirement party for me because I’m not really retiring.  She said that I’d probably end up working at some point.


I have a pretty good feeling that her thoughts changed to coincide with the president’s view.  And it didn’t really bother me at first though – I’m not a guy who wants a big hurrah.   I like a good get-together, but I don’t need it to be about me.

But then it did start to bother me… a lot.

It wasn’t so much about the party – it was more about the idea that my retirement was being thought of as less important than others.  I worked hard to be able to make this happen and now it was being dismissed as unlikely to work.

I don’t mean to be a crybaby, I just felt like it was a real slap in the face after working for the company for all these years.

In fact, I couldn’t sleep one night thinking about it and decided to sit down with my boss to discuss it.  I didn’t want to leave with a grudge for something this silly, so I wanted to talk it out.

I asked him if the lack of real acknowledgment was because of my age (43).  He quickly said it wasn’t.

He tried to say that I would probably end up working again so it wasn’t really retiring.  I told him that I was in better financial shape than most of the other retirees that left the company.

What I've Learned Throughout My Final Year of Work - FIRE is outside of the realm for some to accept

Then he tried to build me up by saying I’d find some work to fill my days so it’s not really retiring.  When I mentioned that another former retiree spends his days working on all his rental properties, he had nothing to say.

We went back and forth on it until I finally ended up funneling him into admitting that he wasn’t considering this to be retirement because of my age… bingo.

I like him a lot, but he’s a very conservative guy.  And I could tell that the idea of doing something outside of the norm like this doesn’t sit well with him.  The idea of early retirement is not something he can easily wrap his head around.

Although we didn’t really come to an agreement on this, I felt better getting it out in the open and talking about it.

More importantly, the VP of the company stepped up and we got about half the company out for drinks one evening.  So, no formal retirement party, but I’d prefer this any day… it was a really fun night out!

And, I went out and got a Chromebook for myself.  I decided I wanted to give this a try over a regular notebook.  Since I’m pretty picky about things, this gave me an opportunity to get the exact specs I wanted anyway.

What I’ve learned: Some people struggle with non-traditional ideas… such is life.  It’s hard to fault him.  FIRE is a tough idea to understand for someone not in the mix.  It even took Mrs. R2R a long time to get on board until she understood it a lot more.

I’m through with IT and management

When I first started in the realm of information technology, I loved it.  I was blown away by the excitement of something new and exciting.

Getting my first job in IT in 1999 was wonderful.  Going to work was truly fun – every day was something new and different.

What I've Learned Throughout My Final Year of Work - I'm through with IT and management

On top of that, I got to be a part of something that involved helping people.  Customers were happy to have an engineer helping them get things up and running again.

But over the years, things changed.  IT got so much more complex – the number of new products and technology continue to grow and everything now integrates with everything else.  Getting things to work together has become extremely challenging and that’s if you can get it to work at all.

And then the people have changed.  Customers have become a lot more demanding.  Everything’s now a life or death situation (it’s not) and it seems like the friendliness has decreased over the years.

In other words, it’s not as much fun to me anymore.

Besides that, I moved into management in 2005.  Middle management is unfortunately right up my alley.  Organization is one of my biggest strengths, so after a while, I was able to get the position pretty streamlined.

However, if you haven’t been in that position before, know that it’s generally one of the crappiest jobs in a company.  And it also wasn’t IT anymore – it was managing people.  That’s fine, but my technical strengths have slowly started to diminish since I haven’t had a need to keep up on that side.

But honestly, I’m glad to be out of touch with a lot of that.  I still enjoy keeping up on the device side of things (like Android phones and such),  but I even bailed and got my first Chromebook to use for my day-to-day tasks.  No more IT problems for this guy!

What I’ve learned: Some stress is good for you and can help keep you motivated to learn and grow.  However, too much stress isn’t good.  I’m glad to be done with management as that’s the “too much stress” part of things in my life.

I’m also glad to be done with computers.  I enjoy some tinkering, but I think after doing this for almost 20 years, we should just be at the point where things just work.  So, I’m now going for some more simplicity in life – no need to complicate things that don’t need to be.

I’m ready

What I've Learned Throughout My Final Year of Work - I'm ready

I would have thought that as we got closer to my last day of work, I’d start to get a little nervous about not having a perfect road ahead of us.

I didn’t.

Things can go wrong… and they will, but the key is to just adapt and figure it out.  And the good news is that we’re good at that sort of thing.

A great example just took place on 12/31 – my last day of work.  Because the health care system is more complex than it needs to be, we’ve been jumping through hoops to get Liberty HealthShare some documentation they need from a visit Mrs. R2R had at the doctor’s office a couple of years ago.

The problem isn’t Liberty at all – the problem is with the hospital.  Skipping all the boring details and the huge amount of cursing the hospital we’ve shared over the past month, we just found out that we’re not going to have coverage starting on January 1.

One idea is to panic, but it’s really not that big of a deal.  We took a breath and I talked to the HR manager.  We’re going to utilize COBRA if needed for the month of January until everything gets processed with Liberty.  Yes, it will cost more money for the month, but it’ll let us sleep a little better at night.  Problem solved.

What I’ve learned: Just because we’re no longer going to be working at regular W2 jobs anymore doesn’t mean that all problems disappear.  And does that scare me?  Not in the least.  Life is an adventure and I want to make the most of it.

We’re going to be moving to Panama in the summer and there will be @#$% that is going to go wrong.  In fact, there will probably be a ton of @#$% that will go wrong since you don’t know what you don’t know.

But, I’ll take that over just sitting at home and doing the same old every day.  We’ll save that boring stuff for when we’re old and gray.  Now’s the time we want to see what’s out there and give it a shot.

New beginnings

What I've Learned Throughout My Final Year of Work - New beginnings

You’d think that we’d be excited about this being my last year as an end-of-the-road type of thing.  But it’s exactly the opposite.  This is the start of an entirely new adventure and we’re super excited about it.

I’m looking forward to being able to put some more time into this site.  Hopefully, in the near future, you should see some changes for the better on my site layout along with an improved logo.

And, I really need to update the format of my mailing list.  It serves its purpose and gets the information out there, but it really looks like crap.  Yeah, I said it.

What?!  You’re not on the mailing list?!  Well, you need to be – you’re missing out!  Seriously, sign up here.  I won’t send you a bunch of useless emails (generally one every Tuesday morning) and your info is kept private.  And soon enough, it’s going to look a lot better as well!

What I’ve learned: Money is a tool and that’s it.  If you can change some minor habits and become more conscious in your saving, you can get to the point where you can focus on what’s more important… living the life you should be living.

More importantly, if you’re not a subscriber to my blog, you should be.  Seriously, do it.  Do it now.  Stop reading this until you click the Submit button on the form.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year!  Don’t let the year decide how it’s going to be for you – make your own path and live the best life you can!

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

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36 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned Throughout My Final Year of Work”

  1. Great comments Jim. Being in a technical field myself I too sometimes get overwhelmed by how fast the industry is moving now as compared to even 10 or 15 years ago. It’s exhausting.

    And I too do not like middle management. Escaping that role was one of my leading reasons to go part time and semi-retire. I still haven’t had the courage to fully pull the plug and I’m not sure I really want to yet, I’m doing something that’s okay now for 20 hours a week.

    Best of luck and let’s make ’19 ROCK!

    1. Exhausting is a perfect word to use, Dave. If I could have gone part-time, I probably would have stepped things down a little more slowly like you did. Smart move and best of luck to you as well!!

      — Jim

  2. Richard Engelhardt

    LOL! You just HAD to drag me into a one last time conversation with the boss didn’t you? 😀 😀 (says the retired guy that spends his retirement days working on his rentals).
    You sound a lot like me now – my goal in retirement has been to forget one thing about computers every day I’m retired & it’s working like a charm.
    Just hang in there & it won’t be long until you come over to the “cellular one” or Tracfone side of the fence and shun that smart phone stuff. 😉 ….

    You are correct about the IT field. It’s only a shadow of what it once was. All the fun has gone out of it & the customers treat people like they treat the copier repair guy. I said that about a decade ago when I started winding down my IT career.

    Anyhow – – -you MADE it! Kick back, take things in your own time & launch your new – – career! Oh yeah, wait until that first rush you get listing your employment status as “Retired” ! As stupid as it sounds, that’s when it all becomes a reality that your done with the 9 to 5.

    1. Personally, I don’t even really have a hate for IT – it’s just something I’m ready to move past now. Like you said, it’s just not the same anymore.

      Haha, I can imagine that putting “Retired” as an employment status would make it real.

      Thanks, Rich – have a great New Year!!

      — Jim

  3. I find working one or two days a week adds a lot to my life. I’m naturally lazy and it provides me some incentive to still think hard and study things. I also volunteer one or two days a week because it helps others but it isn’t as satisfying as my paid gigs. You’ll know pretty quick I think if you will be happy not working at all or if you want some part time gigs. They also don’t have to be in your old specialty, I mostly consult in an area that comprised a very small part of my old career, but it was an area I enjoyed and one that didn’t require me to manage a large workforce like my main job did. As far as the party, that decision had nothing to do with you, it was about you doing something out of the box. When you choose to retire early you became controversial, and organizations dislike and do not reward controversial behavior. You really should have seen that coming. I did get a party but I was much closer to conventional retirement age and I also gave them a reason they could grok, I told them I had received a large inheritance, which was true. However I still would have left at the same time because I was already FI.

    1. I like your thoughts on giving yourself a reason to keep at it. I know I’ll have to figure out some kind of work to fill my days – maybe not 40 hours a week, but at least a few days every week. I think a lot of people just kind of wilt away over time if they don’t do something useful (use it or lose it!).

      Have a wonderful New Year!

      — Jim

  4. Great article Jim. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I won’t have the same experience as you once we hit FIRE. But your article will help prepare us for what’s in store for my husband in a few years!

    I would’ve been pretty upset if my boss handled my retirement the way yours did. It’s unfortunate that he couldn’t get past his own hangups to give you a proper sendoff. But you handled in true FIRE fashion, turning it from a bummer into an experience of growth.

    Congratulations on reaching your goal!

  5. Happy New Year and Congrats Jim! Formal retirement parties are not all they are cracked up to be, a night of fellowship outside the workplace sounds like my sort of celebration!

    1. I’m with you, Mr. r2e – they can keep the formal stuff for themselves. The night out was a good way to end things and something I really enjoyed.

      Have a wonderful New Year!

      — Jim

  6. And so, it begins!!

    Congrats on a HUGE ACHIEVEMENT, Jim, even if your boss was a prick about it. I’m glad your VP threw the informal party, at least you can feel you got some recognition. What matters is that you’re FREE, and all of THAT is behind you.

    I’m excited to watch you START your race. You’re only a few months behind me on the track, and I’ll be watching you over my shoulder for the years ahead. Good luck on the move to Panama, and let me know if you want to chat about your e-mail (I’ve played around a bit with my format over the years).

    1. I appreciate that, Fritz! I wouldn’t say my boss was a prick about it – he really is a good guy and takes care of his employees. I truly think that he just can’t wrap his head around this idea – it’s foreign to him.

      Regardless, that’s behind me now. It’s time to start the next adventure and see what’s in store!

      I might be taking you up on the email offer here once I toy with that for a while.

      Thanks for your help along the way, Fritz! I hope you have a wonderful New Year!

      — Jim

  7. Congratulations! I remember when I left my job 8 years ago, my boss asked me what I was going to do and I answered “Play Taiko”. He just looked at me oddly and said “ooookaaay”. In my case, I wasn’t sure if I’d stay retired but I have. Sort of the opposite of you, huh?

    As for COBRA, I wanted to mention that when my husband left, the actual paperwork for COBRA took a really long time to arrive. I believe it was 4 or 5 months. So, theoretically, you could “intend” to go on it, but by the time the paperwork arrives, you will know whether you had any actual health issues and probably could just skip it. Oh, I know, you’d feel guilty and you want to pay it. You are so honest, I can already tell!

    1. That’s a great story, Susan! I can only imagine how weird that would have been.

      In regards to COBRA, that’s definitely something we’ll have to be aware of… thanks for the tip!

      — Jim

  8. Jim,

    Great post and Congratulations! It’s too bad your company was so slow to recognize your retirement for what is actually was but glad to hear you at least made it out with some celebratory drinks. Sounds like you are in great shape and prepared for the future, so I’m sure you will have success in whatever endeavors you embark on. Best of luck during your first year of retirement in 2019!

  9. Happy New Year & congratulation on pulling the trigger Jim! This is the way to start the new year.

    It is also quite an achievement to stay in the same company for 19½ year. I was shocked (but not too surprised) that your retirement party got cancel last minute. After the first (and only time) I got laid off, I learn not to be too loyal to a company (especially if you are a high performer) because there are things that you can never control or foresee (like the “re-org” that affected my team at that time). I am glad however to know that things turns out on a positive note at the end and hopefully you made lifetime friends that you are still getting in touch with.

    What are some of your main projects for 2019? If you love books, may I suggest some of the one that have literally changed my wife and I lives? You can check them out on our blog: https://www.nomadnumbers.com/books/. Let me know if you plan to add any to your reading list.

    1. Thanks, Mr. NN – I’ll definitely check out the list (always looking for new books!). For this year, I want to keep it pretty simple… most of my focus will be getting this blog where I want it to be, spending more time with the family, starting an exercise regiment, and getting prepared for the move to Panama in the summer.

      Have a great 2019!

      — Jim

  10. Love it Jim!

    I especially love that you didn’t let your boss bug you and just walk away. I can see you saying, “SAY IT!, SAY IT! Acknowledge your age bias!!” Hahah.

    I didn’t have a good departure. In fact, I got locked out when I arrived Friday morning b/c they said I sent a sensitive file to my personal e-mail address, which turned out not to be. But I did have a small drinks gathering after.

    When word got out that I had negotiated a severance, mgmt wasn’t too pleased b/c more people started to inquire about a severance too!

    Enjoy retirement!


    1. Haha, it definitely wasn’t like that with our conversation – that would have made for a good movie story-line though!

      Wow, I didn’t realize that your leaving was that rough. Glad you still had an opportunity to get together for drinks though – honestly, that’s really all that matters. Plus, that probably got you a nice base of people interested when you published your book!

      Have a great 2019!

      — Jim

  11. Congrats on your goal, especially at your young age!

    Most people at my place retire at 65. I plan to leave in 4.5 years when I am 54. This is unheard of around here. Some people here say they don’t have time or need to worry about retirement yet, they still have 30 years to go. No, retirement planning starts on day 1, even if you just put $50 into the 401K or IRA at first.

    It seems that people can’t fathom not going to work as part of their day. I can’t wait till 54…

    Have fun on the next chapter of your life!

    1. It is interesting – I’m good with whatever folks want to do. I thought everyone wanted to quit working until my brother one day told me he loves what he does. However, things change whether willingly or not, so financial independence should be something everyone strives for regardless. In my brother’s case, he is realizing he doesn’t want to do this forever so he and his wife are working on changing their plans to try to get prepared to make their own path in life.

      Good luck on the early retirement journey!!

      — Jim

  12. I’m so excited for you Jim on your next chapter of life. Boy that HR person at your old work sounded like a little bit of a snob & jerk. Just give you a farewell party for giving all that time to the company and give everyone a chance to say goodbye to you, especially considering it’s a small company. It’s too bad that didn’t happen at the end. At least the VP stepped up and took a few of you out to drinks. That’s a nice gesture.

    1. Thanks, Bob – I’m not going to hold a grudge as they’ve always taken care of me otherwise over the years. It’s time for me to forget about the 9-5 and focus on my next adventure!

      — Jim

  13. I stumbled across your site on twitter. First of all, congratulation on your retirement! I just retired from a financial service company (one of the top 3 bank in the world) last year at 53. I was ready to retire for a few years ago but chose to wait until I was mentally ready. My husband and I retire to Granada, Spain last September and we love it here! I will keep reading your blog with great interest, especially about your move to Panama. It sounds exciting and wonderful. I am sure you and your family will have a great experience together in Panama. We also blog about our expat experiences at yourthirdlife.com. Perhaps we can compare notes on our expat experiences between Spain and Panama.

    I, too, didn’t get a retirement party or any big send-off. Part of it was that most of my colleagues including my boss work in Charlotte while I was working from home in Dallas so it was a bit difficult. I worked for the same company for 17 years so I got to know a lot of people over the years but only a handful of people reached out to me after my retirement announcement. My husband also got a cold-shoulder treatment from some of his colleagues. Some comments toward him show the resentment toward his early retirement.
    Anyway, I am glad to find your blog and best of luck on your new begining!

    1. Thanks, Jiab – our stories seem to have a lot of similarities. Sorry you guys didn’t get a great send-off either, but the early retirees get the last laugh! 😉

      I’ve heard a lot of great things about Spain. In fact, my financial advisor and his wife just moved back from there and loved everything about it. They only moved back to be closer to family. I look forward to hearing more about your experiences there. Have a great 2019!

      — Jim

  14. Being in a field where people actually retire (in the non-fire, traditional sense) is soo different. I didn’t even think about that, since even at my company I was well above the average age at 36. I think in your shoes I would’ve felt the same about the lack of an similar sendoff too. It sounds like you handled it well and conveyed your thoughts. Always better to do leave with nothing u said.

    Congrats man, and have fun in Panama later!

  15. I must be nuts as I’m going the other way. I was looking at early retirement (well, if 57 is early) to get away from my current job in lower middle management. It is sucking life out of me. Over the holidays I decided to accept a new job at a small (40 person) company working with an old boss of 12 years. Taking a 10-15% pay cut but with better time flexibility and work that is closer to the actual clients. I think I will owe him about 3 years, though.

    Unless the second time around really is no good, I suppose.

  16. Hi. Late reply here, but my thought reading this nowadays, and considering the corporate environment of my career, is -who cares about the party – be glad for the nice career, good boss relationship, and leaving on your own terms. I was laid off twice, and that was even after my 20yr Engineering career became mostly customer service and offshoring. In hindsight of course I take accountability for lack of career management. At one time I was envious of folks in IT, but reading your earlier posts plus previous awareness, many are prone to burnout, especially in management. Despite the benefits and conveniences from technology, it feels like research is only just now grasping the extent of it wearing down the human race. Anyway, a late Happy 2019 ! Year of big changes for you and your family

    1. Thanks, Jim! We definitely feel blessed and the send-off is what it is – I don’t hold grudges so that’s water under the bridge. You’re definitely right about IT being a burnout zone. I think most of the people I know that have been in the industry for that long are feeling it.

      Have a great 2019 as well!

      — Jim

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