This post has been in the works for some time, nearly two years. Talk about a bit of writer’s block!
Attending FinCon14 (The Financial Bloggers Conference) gave me a chance to share my story, and hear so many people encourage me to write and share it with my readers as well.
Two years ago, shortly after my 50th birthday, my wife and I were both let go in a company layoff. 30 years, working for the same company, had come to an end. We both had our eye on our number and we had already agreed that she could retire as soon as she was ready to. The numbers all pointed to me taking a bit of an early retirement by 55 or so. Our jobs were in high tech sales, and I started out really liking it, but the last 10 years or so, I grew to dislike it more and more. So much so, that when I got word I was getting let go, I had a sense of relief. The real question is why I stayed so long at a job I grew to hate. And a great question that is. The money was good, but any lateral move in the industry would have replaced the salary. In fact, depending on the economy, there were times I could have landed a higher paying job. Familiarity. Fear of change. Stockholm syndrome?
Regardless of why I stayed, it was over. On the ride home, I told my wife it was time to move on, and do something completely different. Neither of us were in too big of a rush, as the severance and unemployment benefits were enough to float us for a full year without needing to tap our savings. Many times in life, one observes that timing is everything, the layoff was in late 2012, and in 2013 the market had its best year since 1997, returning over 32%.
Had the movement of the market been different, I might have felt pressure to go in another direction. As 2013 moved along, our number seemed much closer to achievement. We sat down and reviewed our budget, and found that our spending was a comfortable 50% or so of our last few years’ income. On a side note, the rules about 80% replacement rate are rules of thumb and little more. What really counts is what you spend, not what your final gross income was.
One interest I’d always considered was a career as a math teacher. I took the qualification exams for both middle and high school math. Despite what they say about the lack of teachers, in my area, every position had a line of dozens of teachers applying. If I were hiring, I’d look for someone with experience, too. Just as I was pondering the idea of simply being retired, I was contacted about a position as a math aide. The job was part time, just 2 days a week, and the responsibilities included giving exams to students, tutoring students to help them catch up on missed classes, and helping them study for upcoming exams. The key things missing were any required interaction with parents, prep for lectures, and any paperwork. Even for this position, there were multiple candidates. Whatever I said during the interview must have made an impression. A combination of fondness for my own study over 3 decades ago, sharing how I was helping my daughter, an 8th grader at the time, and feeling that I could make a difference in his department. The next night, I had an email saying the job was mine.
By coincidence, a neighbor was expanding his own business as a real estate investor and developer. He approached me and asked if I’d like to come work for him. I started both jobs the same week and within two months, I had my real estate license. Both jobs started as trial positions, and as it turned out I am having a blast in both fields. Both of my bosses asked me when I planned to work for them full time. For now, the two jobs are ideal for me. I’ll share some stories of my days at both jobs, and why I wake up with a smile at 5:15 AM when I swore I wasn’t a morning person. I’m also investing in real estate again, an endeavor I’d given up on over 20 years ago, but I’ve now been given a second chance.