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Retiring - What I've Learned

Twelve years with big corporations and eighteen years with venture backed startups, six to be accurate.  Venture backed startup are like young fish in the sea, most are going to get eaten before they're adults and only a few will live long enough to become adults and start eating other yound fish.  That's why I was part of six startups; but, while the risks are high, so are the potential rewards if one goes public and the stock one gets, from the option that are part of their compensation, become valuable and can then be sold in the public market (NASDAQ or NYSE).  The hours were always long, but the brass ring (or pot of gold) was always just one IPO away.

That IPO finally happened on December 12, 1997.  Over the next three years the stock went from it's offer price of $8 to around $130.  Like others, I sold perscribed amount of stock each quarter and by 2000 realized my life long goal of making enough money to be free to do what I want.  I just started thinking about it as retiring, with no particular plans for what I would do to be productive.  I just knew that after all the years of long hours and lower pay than if I stayed in large corporations, I was taking my "winning" and heading for Maui, another life long dream which eminated from my love of tropical blue waters and plenty of places to dive.  Was this acting responsibly, hell, I didn't care, this was payoff time.

My wife was ready for a change too, since she lived through all those years of work-a-holism with me.  To her, Maui was the ultimate spiritual mecca.  We had bought land, had a house built and moved in, in the fall of 2000.  We were operating in what felt like a fantasy land at the time.  Maui, wow!  Some of my peers were congratualating me, a few of them were bemoaning that they didn't feel like they make the break and do something new.  Several asked me to tell them in a year how I felt about being retired.  I happily said, no problem, I'll let you know.

Well, it took a lot longer than a year to understand the impact of quiting not only my job, but my career.  Being a VP, expecially a CFO, came with perks I did not realize, namely prestige, power, satisfaction from being perceived well by most of the organization and other affirming feelings that came with the job.  When I left, it was all gone over night.  Now, for someone who was more psychologically balanced than me, they would have, no doubt, handled it better.  But, with a lousy childhood, the need for affirmation was much stronger in me than it would be in that better balanced person.  I was learning my first of several hard lessons I would eventually learn regarding the unintended consequences of retiring earlier than I should have (in hindsight).

Now, after eight years I have a better perspective on my retirement.  First, knowing what I know, I would have stayed at the company longer.  Second, if I was still going to "retire", I would already have thought through what I wanted to spend my "retirement" days doing.  Basically, I would have decided on a second career that I could focus on after "retiring".  Third, I would have been more realistic about whether the funds I had amassed would be adequaate for a long lifetime yet to go.  I began realizing that I could have more years ahead of me than I have already had during my entire 30 year professional career.  That's a sobering thought.

Where does that leave me?  Here, creating a website and blog to spill my story in a way that might be helpful to someone, or anyone, else who is either contemplating or has already jumped into retirement.  There is a lot I believe I will end up saying on the subject.  Much more than I can include here.  I will say this here because I believe it is vital for everyone, since we all retire sometime, or at least we intend to.  That one thing is...whatever you think your annual budget or spending level will be after retirement (and therefore what you need for a nest egg or savings), it is not enough.  Not even taking into account losing some of your retirement funds to a down turn in the stock and bond markets, many people will spend at a level they are spending at before retiring.

So, retiring isn't necessarily easier, nor is one necessarily happier, than they where before retirement.  It is a challenge.  But, it's a challenge that can be met, with rewarding results.  So please drop by the blog occasionally and see what's up.