"Soft Retirement" possible?

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JGM1965
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"Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by JGM1965 » Thu Jan 01, 2015 9:42 am

hi all, 49 y/o, $1.4 M invested in stock and bond index funds like a good boglehead should and employed in public service for 24 years. I don't like my job much anymore and really don't care for the city we live in. I have a very secure position making $125k per year with great benefits I just don't feel very energized anymore after all these years.

Recently, a good friend offered me the opportunity to partner with him in his consulting/ auditing business where I will have the opportunity to make decent but less money on a part time basis until I'm ready to draw on my pension at 55-or better yet 60 to max my $. Obviously, I'd be trading security and adding to my pension service time vs pursuing work I think I'd rather do and being able to move to somewhere more appealing. Deciding whether to make the jump is about the hardest decision I've ever made in my career to date. I will have the opportunity also to work part time away from the office in an advisory capacity forseveral years, guaranteeing about $50k per year with the agency I'm working for. This I don't mind doing. Our home is paid for and kids are on their own. My wife is willing and wants to go back to work perhaps part time- she's been a homemaker raising our daughters for the last 15 years and wants to build up her social security time.

Am I being premature? I've done the math using quicken and I think this is doable if we lower our expenses some. This is more of a "life decision" question than a financial one but I'd love to hear the opinion of this community before pulling the trigger.

david99
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by david99 » Thu Jan 01, 2015 11:07 am

What will your pension be at 55 or 60 ?

cherijoh
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by cherijoh » Thu Jan 01, 2015 11:35 am

JGM1965 wrote:hi all, 49 y/o, $1.4 M invested in stock and bond index funds like a good boglehead should and employed in public service for 24 years. I don't like my job much anymore and really don't care for the city we live in. I have a very secure position making $125k per year with great benefits I just don't feel very energized anymore after all these years.

Recently, a good friend offered me the opportunity to partner with him in his consulting/ auditing business where I will have the opportunity to make decent but less money on a part time basis until I'm ready to draw on my pension at 55-or better yet 60 to max my $. Obviously, I'd be trading security and adding to my pension service time vs pursuing work I think I'd rather do and being able to move to somewhere more appealing. Deciding whether to make the jump is about the hardest decision I've ever made in my career to date. I will have the opportunity also to work part time away from the office in an advisory capacity forseveral years, guaranteeing about $50k per year with the agency I'm working for. This I don't mind doing. Our home is paid for and kids are on their own. My wife is willing and wants to go back to work perhaps part time- she's been a homemaker raising our daughters for the last 15 years and wants to build up her social security time.

Am I being premature? I've done the math using quicken and I think this is doable if we lower our expenses some. This is more of a "life decision" question than a financial one but I'd love to hear the opinion of this community before pulling the trigger.
If I were you, I would run the numbers through some financial calculators. The wiki has a good list. (FireCalc seems to be a popular one with Bogleheads). IMO, the main danger is that if the economy tanks, your portfolio will shrink at the same time that opportunity to earn money shrinks. But if you have enough income assured to cover your basic expenses and are willing to tighten your belt, you might be able to weather a squall. Only you can decide if you have enough of a cushion. Just keep in mind that finding a new employer at your age can be challenging. (I know from personal experience, since I did it at 50 in 2009).

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PaddyMac
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by PaddyMac » Thu Jan 01, 2015 12:09 pm

I would think if you could avoid withdrawing anything from savings until you are 60, that nest egg should grow (maybe double). Then you'll be fine at 60 with a pension and SS coming later I assume. So if you can manage over the next 10 years, and the numbers don't lie, then I would do it in your shoes. You are only young once.

Look at where you might be at 55 on both plans. If there's any possibility of losing your shirt, or the new business not making it and folding and you being unemployed at 53, then it might not be worth it. But if the business plan is solid and you have the chance to grow and make good to better money, then the odds are in your favor to make the jump.

Is the new location to a lower cost of living area that you could remain there in retirement? There is something very energizing about moving to a new location (we moved at age 47 to a new state and started a new chapter of our lives, and don't regret it for a minute).

chaz
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by chaz » Thu Jan 01, 2015 12:12 pm

Do what makes you happiest.
Chaz | | “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons." Woody Allen | | http://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

JGM1965
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by JGM1965 » Thu Jan 01, 2015 12:34 pm

david99 wrote:What will your pension be at 55 or 60 ?
I just ran the calculators on our pension fund website. Approximately $4600 a month @55, $7k per month @60. They present several scenarios which swing wildly depending on Amt for my beneficiary, how much sick leave I retire with any anticipated final (or highest) pay per year.

leonard
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by leonard » Thu Jan 01, 2015 12:39 pm

OP - so is the core issue the time commitment to the current job?

Or, is it truly being burnt out on the duties of the position/profession?

Being willing to still do some of the work part time - seems to indicate it's more the time commitment than the "topic" of the job. Is that true?
Leonard | | Market Timing: Do you seriously think you can predict the future? What else do the voices tell you? | | If employees weren't taking jobs with bad 401k's, bad 401k's wouldn't exist.

JGM1965
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by JGM1965 » Thu Jan 01, 2015 12:39 pm

PaddyMac wrote:I would think if you could avoid withdrawing anything from savings until you are 60, that nest egg should grow (maybe double). Then you'll be fine at 60 with a pension and SS coming later I assume. So if you can manage over the next 10 years, and the numbers don't lie, then I would do it in your shoes. You are only young once.

Look at where you might be at 55 on both plans. If there's any possibility of losing your shirt, or the new business not making it and folding and you being unemployed at 53, then it might not be worth it. But if the business plan is solid and you have the chance to grow and make good to better money, then the odds are in your favor to make the jump.

Is the new location to a lower cost of living area that you could remain there in retirement? There is something very energizing about moving to a new location (we moved at age 47 to a new state and started a new chapter of our lives, and don't regret it for a minute).
I believe the business plan is solid, just may take some time to see cash flow in from the projects. The cost of living is probably equivalent as we'd be moving to a larger city in a more attractive area (from a community that has deteriorated markedly in the last decade and declared bankruptcy) but downsizing from a 3500 sq ft house on 3 acres to a town home or condo,

Thanks for sharing your experience and perspective.
Last edited by JGM1965 on Thu Jan 01, 2015 12:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

JGM1965
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by JGM1965 » Thu Jan 01, 2015 12:44 pm

leonard wrote:OP - so is the core issue the time commitment to the current job?

Or, is it truly being burnt out on the duties of the position/profession?

Being willing to still do some of the work part time - seems to indicate it's more the time commitment than the "topic" of the job. Is that true?
You're very perceptive. I am still energized by many of the technical aspects of my job but really don't want he HR responsibilities over the 50+ employees I supervise anymore. So if I can afford to make about half the money In half the time I spend on the part of the job I don't like anymore (maybe never did) that would be ideal.

flyingaway
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by flyingaway » Thu Jan 01, 2015 12:58 pm

You said this is not a financial decision and it looks like you will be financially OK, with a good portfolio, pension, social security, and part-time job(s). I would make the jump. There are new opportunities that may be found.

J295
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by J295 » Thu Jan 01, 2015 1:33 pm

At age 53 I transitioned away from full time professional work to (very) part time status at age 53, during the peak earning years, and am highly satisfied with the life experience of the past two years. I had no expectations of what our life would be like in the next chapter, and have enjoyed all the surprises of the adventure. It is good you are giving your next stage serious consideration. Best regards.

HIinvestor
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by HIinvestor » Thu Jan 01, 2015 1:52 pm

One other thing to consider if you enjoy your part time job and it frees up your time, you may be able to invest more time into a hobby or other part time job you enjoy. As a side benefit, you may be able to earn and get satisfaction in that way as well. Our S has a full time job that allows him enough free time and energy to engage in a hobby that pays more than his job! Good luck in your decision!

Sorry about the crazy autocorrect typos. I have fixed them and now hope that this post makes more sense.
Last edited by HIinvestor on Sat Jan 03, 2015 2:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

JGM1965
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by JGM1965 » Thu Jan 01, 2015 2:42 pm

Thanks all, such thoughtful responses. This is such a great forum!

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Jazztonight
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by Jazztonight » Thu Jan 01, 2015 2:59 pm

J295 wrote:At age 53 I transitioned away from full time professional work to (very) part time status at age 53, during the peak earning years, and am highly satisfied with the life experience of the past two years. I had no expectations of what our life would be like in the next chapter, and have enjoyed all the surprises of the adventure. It is good you are giving your next stage serious consideration. Best regards.
I too reduced my work week to 2 days a week (from 5) in my 50s. The house was paid for, kids on their own, DW self-sufficient in every way, and I was somewhere between burned-out and sick of the entire game.

It was the BEST decision I ever made. 15 years later, I am still energized, working on my own projects, not worried about money (and I never had as much as you have currently).

Life is to be lived and enjoyed. You've put in the time and years, and it sounds like you're developing a plan. Just remember, you need activities and interests to keep you going both physically, mentally, and spiritually (whatever that means to you).

Happy New Year and good luck with your decision. It sounds like your spouse is on-board with your plan to change, which is very important.
"What does not destroy me, makes me stronger." Nietzsche

123
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by 123 » Thu Jan 01, 2015 3:12 pm

For most folks in your situation a primary issue is acquiring and keeping medical coverage. "Part time" usually equates to no medical benefits. Costs of health insurance can easy exceed the cost of housing (even though your home is paid off). If you buy health insurance privately those costs continue to escalate as you age.
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

Pizzasteve510
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by Pizzasteve510 » Thu Jan 01, 2015 3:26 pm

Have you looked into the tax advantages with a professional advisor? With your own business venture and perhaps a personal or corporate max 401k plan you could put a lot of money into a tax deferred status. If you can spend down your taxable investments while maxing pre-tax money you put away, you might have some very low taxable income years until retirement, and also shifting taxable investments to tax deferred assets. It seems like there might be some good opportunities there.

J295
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by J295 » Thu Jan 01, 2015 3:42 pm

by 123 » Thu Jan 01, 2015 2:12 pm
For most folks in your situation a primary issue is acquiring and keeping medical coverage. "Part time" usually equates to no medical benefits. Costs of health insurance can easy exceed the cost of housing (even though your home is paid off). If you buy health insurance privately those costs continue to escalate as you age.
Good point. Fyi, we are insured with BC/BS using the ACA Exchange. If the OP can minimize income he and his wife may qualify for tax credits to reduce the premium costs (and perhaps certain medical costs). See this Kaiser subsidy calculator for information. http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/

Also, the post by Pizzasteve510 about reducing taxable income is insightful, including a possible solo 401K (which also comes in handy in reducing MAGI for purposes of qualifying for a premium subsidy).

Finally, a shout out to Jazztonight, who with 15 years in the rear view mirror affirmed what my past two years have involved.

Regards.

leonard
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by leonard » Fri Jan 02, 2015 9:40 pm

JGM1965 wrote:
leonard wrote:OP - so is the core issue the time commitment to the current job?

Or, is it truly being burnt out on the duties of the position/profession?

Being willing to still do some of the work part time - seems to indicate it's more the time commitment than the "topic" of the job. Is that true?
You're very perceptive. I am still energized by many of the technical aspects of my job but really don't want he HR responsibilities over the 50+ employees I supervise anymore. So if I can afford to make about half the money In half the time I spend on the part of the job I don't like anymore (maybe never did) that would be ideal.
I've put this suggestion in other posts of a similar nature. I think people who have been career oriented and type-A doers imagine the worst possible outcomes from "not getting it all done" despite probably 1/4 to 1/3 of everything we are asked to do is not needed and there will be little if any repercussion for not doing it. In some consulting jobs, I'd put that ratio to 50%.

So, what if you continued for full time for a bit longer, and did the following:

1. Work your 40 and get out.
2. Buffer your schedule for office work, email, etc. Time to actually get the work done - instead of being in meetings all day.
3. Say "No" to more requests. Or, take the somewhat riskier Guerrilla tactic of not doing it and seeing what happens. Go ahead and say no to that 3rd training on procurement or no to that HR Recruitment tool training. I think you quickly find out what people are asking for that busy work vs real business need. I know I have personally had people say they really, really need something by a certain deadline, then I found out that they either didn't use it or only used it a month later. It's clear they didn't look at it at the deadline, based on the questions they asked.

But, don't burn any bridges with this tactic!

The idea is to restructure - on your own - your position to a manageable size that you could live with for a few years. Put in the 40 hours, but manage the responsibilities and the backlog down to a reasonable level.

The upside - you might actually find out what the "real" requirements are for your job and turn it in to the job you want and can manage. The potential downside - you end up retiring or going part time - which you are considering doing now anyway.
Leonard | | Market Timing: Do you seriously think you can predict the future? What else do the voices tell you? | | If employees weren't taking jobs with bad 401k's, bad 401k's wouldn't exist.

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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by angelescrest » Sat Jan 03, 2015 8:34 am

chaz wrote:Do what makes you happiest.
This sounds so trite. But when I quit a job and career that I was miserable in, it was the best advice given to me by a friend. It's scary because you don't know for sure if it will make you happy--you just have that intuition and the extreme distaste for your current situation.

Take the plunge.

JGM1965
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by JGM1965 » Tue Jan 06, 2015 10:08 am

leonard wrote:
JGM1965 wrote:
leonard wrote:OP - so is the core issue the time commitment to the current job?

Or, is it truly being burnt out on the duties of the position/profession?

Being willing to still do some of the work part time - seems to indicate it's more the time commitment than the "topic" of the job. Is that true?
You're very perceptive. I am still energized by many of the technical aspects of my job but really don't want he HR responsibilities over the 50+ employees I supervise anymore. So if I can afford to make about half the money In half the time I spend on the part of the job I don't like anymore (maybe never did) that would be ideal.
I've put this suggestion in other posts of a similar nature. I think people who have been career oriented and type-A doers imagine the worst possible outcomes from "not getting it all done" despite probably 1/4 to 1/3 of everything we are asked to do is not needed and there will be little if any repercussion for not doing it. In some consulting jobs, I'd put that ratio to 50%.

So, what if you continued for full time for a bit longer, and did the following:

1. Work your 40 and get out.
2. Buffer your schedule for office work, email, etc. Time to actually get the work done - instead of being in meetings all day.
3. Say "No" to more requests. Or, take the somewhat riskier Guerrilla tactic of not doing it and seeing what happens. Go ahead and say no to that 3rd training on procurement or no to that HR Recruitment tool training. I think you quickly find out what people are asking for that busy work vs real business need. I know I have personally had people say they really, really need something by a certain deadline, then I found out that they either didn't use it or only used it a month later. It's clear they didn't look at it at the deadline, based on the questions they asked.

But, don't burn any bridges with this tactic!

The idea is to restructure - on your own - your position to a manageable size that you could live with for a few years. Put in the 40 hours, but manage the responsibilities and the backlog down to a reasonable level.

The upside - you might actually find out what the "real" requirements are for your job and turn it in to the job you want and can manage. The potential downside - you end up retiring or going part time - which you are considering doing now anyway.
Thanks Leonard, this is good advice. For me however, the issue isn't workload as I easily process the technical aspects of my job. It's just that after over 2 decades of managing a large unionized blue collar workforce I'm sick and tired of all the HR aspects of my job and eager to try something that uses my skills in a different way. While I'm still here though I intend to put your suggestions to work !

leonard
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by leonard » Wed Jan 07, 2015 4:31 pm

JGM1965 wrote:
leonard wrote:
JGM1965 wrote:
leonard wrote:OP - so is the core issue the time commitment to the current job?

Or, is it truly being burnt out on the duties of the position/profession?

Being willing to still do some of the work part time - seems to indicate it's more the time commitment than the "topic" of the job. Is that true?
You're very perceptive. I am still energized by many of the technical aspects of my job but really don't want he HR responsibilities over the 50+ employees I supervise anymore. So if I can afford to make about half the money In half the time I spend on the part of the job I don't like anymore (maybe never did) that would be ideal.
I've put this suggestion in other posts of a similar nature. I think people who have been career oriented and type-A doers imagine the worst possible outcomes from "not getting it all done" despite probably 1/4 to 1/3 of everything we are asked to do is not needed and there will be little if any repercussion for not doing it. In some consulting jobs, I'd put that ratio to 50%.

So, what if you continued for full time for a bit longer, and did the following:

1. Work your 40 and get out.
2. Buffer your schedule for office work, email, etc. Time to actually get the work done - instead of being in meetings all day.
3. Say "No" to more requests. Or, take the somewhat riskier Guerrilla tactic of not doing it and seeing what happens. Go ahead and say no to that 3rd training on procurement or no to that HR Recruitment tool training. I think you quickly find out what people are asking for that busy work vs real business need. I know I have personally had people say they really, really need something by a certain deadline, then I found out that they either didn't use it or only used it a month later. It's clear they didn't look at it at the deadline, based on the questions they asked.

But, don't burn any bridges with this tactic!

The idea is to restructure - on your own - your position to a manageable size that you could live with for a few years. Put in the 40 hours, but manage the responsibilities and the backlog down to a reasonable level.

The upside - you might actually find out what the "real" requirements are for your job and turn it in to the job you want and can manage. The potential downside - you end up retiring or going part time - which you are considering doing now anyway.
Thanks Leonard, this is good advice. For me however, the issue isn't workload as I easily process the technical aspects of my job. It's just that after over 2 decades of managing a large unionized blue collar workforce I'm sick and tired of all the HR aspects of my job and eager to try something that uses my skills in a different way. While I'm still here though I intend to put your suggestions to work !
Well, can you apply some of the suggestions to HR? I understand there is complexity and rules for a union shop. But, my guess - as with most businesses - is that HR says "you must do X", but in reality the rules they are hitting you with are just their interpretation and not a real business, legal or even HR requirement. My experience working in HR (having actually worked in HR, as well as finance) is that HR folks do a lot of well intentioned "stuff" that really isn't rule or business based. It's just fluff that can be ignored in many cases and not have any real business impact.

The other suggestion in dealing with HR - most of the HR people I have worked with and for are conflict avoiders - almost to the extreme. You can definitely use this tendency to your advantage. If you push back on a HR extra requests - few will directly call you on it.

Hypothetically - what would really happen if your deprioritized 50% of what HR asks of you? Is the imagined downside real?
Leonard | | Market Timing: Do you seriously think you can predict the future? What else do the voices tell you? | | If employees weren't taking jobs with bad 401k's, bad 401k's wouldn't exist.

JGM1965
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by JGM1965 » Wed Jan 07, 2015 10:53 pm

Hi Leonard, the problem isn't an HR department causing work, just that my job function includes HR related duties I don't care for much. Again, not a workload issue.

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tainted-meat
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by tainted-meat » Wed Jan 07, 2015 10:56 pm

Those pension numbers gave me bug eyes. :shock: No way could I leave that since you mentioned the workload isn't bad. The private sector is dog eat dog. :twisted:

The choice is yours but I'm telling you the grass isn't greener.

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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by leonard » Wed Jan 07, 2015 10:59 pm

JGM1965 wrote:Hi Leonard, the problem isn't an HR department causing work, just that my job function includes HR related duties I don't care for much. Again, not a workload issue.
My HR suggestions were less about workload and more about eliminating the stuff you don't like, to make the job more tolerable.
Leonard | | Market Timing: Do you seriously think you can predict the future? What else do the voices tell you? | | If employees weren't taking jobs with bad 401k's, bad 401k's wouldn't exist.

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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by JLJL » Wed Jan 07, 2015 11:09 pm

Good luck with your decision. Easy for me to say go for it, but I'm not yet in your position so I can't really know. But I'd go for it.

Check out mrmoneymustache com for some early retirement inspiration if you haven't already.

JGM1965
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by JGM1965 » Thu Jan 08, 2015 10:07 am

leonard wrote:
JGM1965 wrote:Hi Leonard, the problem isn't an HR department causing work, just that my job function includes HR related duties I don't care for much. Again, not a workload issue.
My HR suggestions were less about workload and more about eliminating the stuff you don't like, to make the job more tolerable.
Sorry if I misinterpreted. You have good points Leonard. Thanks so much.

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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by leonard » Thu Jan 08, 2015 2:38 pm

I'll add one more thing regarding consulting. I personally made the move from working in corporate finance and HR to doing vendor/consulting work.

If you decide to make the move to consulting - thoroughly and completely understand the economics and business model of whatever firm you work for. There are many, many consulting companies that essentially rip off their employees by taking an obscene cut of the bill rate. If you go this direction, make sure the company you work for is 100% transparent about how projects are costed, customers are billed, and how your compensation follows from that. If they refuse to share that information, walk away!

Some consulting companies will say that no one shares that level of detail with employees. It's simply not true. I personally work for an ethical consulting company that is literally 100% transparent about billing and compensation.

I think this is the single most important factor to consider when thinking about consulting. It's very easy to get locked in to a long term consulting project at unfavorable compensation rates.
Leonard | | Market Timing: Do you seriously think you can predict the future? What else do the voices tell you? | | If employees weren't taking jobs with bad 401k's, bad 401k's wouldn't exist.

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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by Fallible » Thu Jan 08, 2015 2:54 pm

boroc7 wrote:
chaz wrote:Do what makes you happiest.
This sounds so trite. But when I quit a job and career that I was miserable in, it was the best advice given to me by a friend. It's scary because you don't know for sure if it will make you happy--you just have that intuition and the extreme distaste for your current situation.

Take the plunge.
+1 for each of you. The OP and his wife are on board with these new challenges, the financial impact has been well thought out - go for it.

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” ~Aristotle
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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by JGM1965 » Thu Jan 08, 2015 4:20 pm

Update. I spoke to our Chairman and Counsel today, they are supportive of a "realignment" of positions at our agency where I will be making most of my salary and retaining benefits working offsite on technical tasks only. They understood very much where I was in life and want to retain me. This will make consulting a very optional pursuit plus I will continue to accrue pension years until I finally hang it up. I think this is very much in line with what leonard has been suggesting. Best of both worlds!

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Re: "Soft Retirement" possible?

Post by leonard » Thu Jan 08, 2015 4:27 pm

Congratulations on getting what you wanted. Very nice solution!
Leonard | | Market Timing: Do you seriously think you can predict the future? What else do the voices tell you? | | If employees weren't taking jobs with bad 401k's, bad 401k's wouldn't exist.

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