I made the decision to quit full-time work and retire early two years ago. After being an educator for 27 years, I was financially independent and ready to start redefining how I’d spend the second half of my life.
My definition of retirement never included ending all paid work. At 49, you wouldn’t catch me in a rocking chair any time soon. I planned on using my advanced degrees and experience to write a book or start a consulting business. My entrepreneurial spirit was calling.
As my first summer as a retiree came to a close, I faced not going to school for the first time in 44 years. But the phone rang late in August and by the end of the call, I’d agreed to be back at school for opening day. That’s right: I’d failed early retirement after only two months.
Going Back to Work
The job I accepted was an interim position, and I was supposed to be done in eight weeks. Ten months later, I was ending another school year. That’s when I realized I had a really bad case of one more year (OMY) syndrome.
You might think it’s crazy to work an extra year when you’ve already reached your financial goals. But it’s a much more common problem than you might think. Even if you’re confident about your decision to retire, walking away from a steady paycheck and benefits package isn’t easy to do.
Here are four reasons I struggled with OMY syndrome, and what I did so that I wouldn’t go back to full-time work again.
No More Direct Deposits
After 35 years of earning paychecks, the first month without a direct deposit was stressful, even though I didn’t need the money. To relieve the stress, I set up an automatic transfer from my high-interest savings account to my checking account. I paid myself on a regular schedule.
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Going From Saver to Spender
The shift from being a saver to being a spender was much more difficult than I anticipated. You know the saying: Old habits die hard. I had to stop looking at the balances in all of our accounts and focus on using a budget and tracking expenses. If there was extra money at the end of the month, we could spend it or add it to a special travel account.
Giving Up a Big Salary
I woke up some nights thinking about all the money I was leaving “on the table” by walking away from my job during my highest earning years. It eventually sunk in that almost everyone retires during their highest earning years, and I would keep working forever if I didn’t just let this worry go.
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Skyrocketing Healthcare Costs
The cost of health insurance premiums and long-term care are rising at rates I can’t predict. Since there is no way to determine what will happen with the healthcare system in the United States, I’ve budgeted for substantial premium increases each year. It’s a process to learn to manage what I can control and let go of what I can’t.
How Do I Spend My Days Now?
I’m happy to report that I’m cured of OMY syndrome, and I now spend my days doing what I want. Some days I write, some days I consult and I’ve even gone in to substitute teach in a school. But I’m done with full-time employment. My new job is enjoying retirement by choosing what I do each day and exploring many new places.
Click to read more about what it’s like to retire early.
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