An End in Sight

When I first started thinking about retirement, it seemed really far away. Once I understood my expenses, I knew I had at least 3 and probably 7-8 years to retirement.

As I brought my expenses down, that number dropped a bit – but it still seemed uncountably long.

I naturally focused on retirement more whenever things were tough at work. When I had to work long hours, or had a demoralizing shift, or felt unrecognized, I wanted an escape.

Through all that, I never put a timeline on a quitting date. Counting the days felt morbid, and 2000 days (or whatever it would be) is an awful long time to count.

I recently had a change of heart, established a quitting date, and started counting days. This isn’t necessarily a retirement date, although I’ll have enough saved to be comfortable doing work that I want to do, rather than work that I have to.

There were two drivers for deciding to count days: one, preventing myself from getting into a rut. Two, appreciating what I have.

What terrifies me most in life is the older guys I see on the subway each morning. Overweight, balding, sweating in their suits at 7:30 in the morning every day. I don’t want to judge these guys, but I do. If they had different priorities, they wouldn’t have to do something so miserable. They’re not poor, but prisoners of their own lack of imagination.

And yet – I can see myself becoming one of these guys. Afraid of jumping and embarking on something new, I would continue doing the same work. Nose to the grindstone, letting years slip by. Maybe I’d get some promotion, enough to feel as though I had accomplished something. But finally, I’d wake up, blinking, with the most vital years of my life behind me.

So, I set a quitting date. April 1, 2015. Three years, give or take, and then I start anew. Maybe not retirement, but a new job, a change, a graduation from this phase of my life.

The other motivation for ‘counting the days’ is so I can take advantage of what I have.

I live in New York City! Most people get to experience that over a few miserable days, going to Times Square or the Statue of Liberty. And yet, the real charm of the city is the tiny restaurants and grottoes, underground theaters, hidden parks, ethnic communities. That’s what gets featured in movies, and you have to explore it slowly, methodically, over weeks and months and seasons.

To be completely honest, I’ve seen the same amount of stuff in four years as an industrious person could in two weeks.

Mostly, I sleep on weekends, or procrastinate, or waste time online.

But now I know I have about 150 weekends, roughly, until I do something else. I might not be living in the city in 3 years. 150 is a large number, but also frighteningly low. I want to extract as much meaning aspossible, so that when I do move somewhere else, I don’t regret living in a place for 7 or 8 years and never knowing it.

Since I started counting down days, I’ve been much more active. I’m sure the warm sunny late-spring days have something to do with it as well, but I’ve seen more of the city over the past month or two than over the previous year.

So, I think counting the days is a good thing. 1045 days until I quit my job.

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6 Comments

  1. Wow! I think this is actually a very brave step. Even to put an end date that might seem very far into the future is a big. When I was younger I would count the days of school left before summer vacation. I would also count the number of days of summer vacation before the new school year started. What always surprised me was how quickly both of them went once I started to keep track. Sure school drudged on sometimes but usually it was quick sailing. Before I knew it 100 days would be marked off the list. Then all of a sudden summer vacation!

    The cool thing about what your doing is that you don’t know what’s going to happen after you check off that last day. At least right now you don’t. You know a life changing event is coming but at this point it’s not clear what it’s going to be. Another really cool thing is that by investing and saving you have allowed yourself to take this step. If you had to pay a mortgage, or pay down credit cards it would probably be financial suicide to try and quit in three years. But you aren’t strapped down like that.

    I can’t wait to set my own “last day” alert.

    Reply
  2. Brave!

    I live in the Netherlands and would have to pay at least 1000 euros to stay in New York for a week, to see some of the sights. So indeed enjoy it all. I would definitely go and look at some museums (including famous works in art museums), enjoy central park more often, and if there’s a real, decent, on foot tour by old New Yorkers telling about New York’s history, I would walk that tour too. (I hate the ‘ghost tour’ kind of thing).

    Reply
  3. Best of luck to you! Three years is not really that far away, and you’ll probably start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel before you know it. My time horizon to FI is a bit longer than that, but I’m already eagerly anticipating for the arrival of that glorious day!

    Cheers!

    Reply
  4. I totally support the “setting the date” concept. There are three reasons:

    1. Having the date is forcing me to get my affairs in order: Figuring out what luxuries I want to spend on before I quit, re-allocating my portfolio for income, and planning my future adventures. It’s exciting and fun to think about these things.

    2. It helps me avoid getting cold feet. Had I not set a date and shared it with my wife (and blog readers), I think I’d over think it when the time came, and I’d just keep working. But I’m a stubborn guy, so now that I’ve said I’m going to do it – there’s no turning back.

    3. It makes work easier. I can do what I want, and I can push back on the work I don’t want. It’s not laziness that drives this, it’s prioritizing my personal time and family time. Had I not set a date, I think I’d be tempted by my naturally and sometimes unhealthily high level of ambition. But knowing it’s over in a year makes it pretty easy to turn down a promotion that would require me to work more.

    Reply
  5. MDS

     /  July 8, 2012

    Very inspiring. Is there any way I can get in contact with you via email? I couldn’t find any contact info on the site and would like to ask you about contributing to your blog. Thanks!

    Reply

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