Warning, non-software post follows.
2014 was an interesting year for me. The year began with the trailing two weeks of a four week visit to Australia. Then, I spent July and August in France, then took another week off when I returned to take care of my dad. Finally, I took the last two weeks of the year off to be with family. With other short vacation days thrown in, I took nearly 13 weeks off in 2014 (if my math is right, that’s a quarter of a year). Most of that time off came from an award I received several years ago that allows me a one-time eight-week vacation (a sabbatical of sorts), and I also used just about all of the five weeks of regular vacation time that Microsoft gives me.
I mentioned the above (in much shorter form) on twitter this week. In the discussion, I mentioned that I’ve been at MS for nearly 19+ years, and it’s a once in a career sort of thing, and Geir Gulbrandsen asked if I’d do an encore after an another 19 years. I answered that I’d likely be in some stage of retirement by then, and that led to a discussion on what retirement is…and it made me want to dump my thoughts into a form longer than 140 characters.
So here goes.
A lot of twitter folks said things like, “If you do what you love, do it forever” or, “I’ll never stop working if I enjoy the job”. I agree with these folks. Even in “retirement”, my dad worked for years just to keep from getting bored. I get bored easily too, and I really like my field of work, so why would I even think about retirement (in any form)?
Because I like things other than working too. I like to travel (actually, I don’t like the travelling part – I like being in other countries). Spending two months in a foreign country (or a month each in two different countries) isn’t something someone can do often when working a full time job. Or, I may write another book someday – but I know from past experience that I didn’t like the schedule I had to keep to work full time while writing. I may take a class. I may want to work in a winery. Who knows. All I know is that at some point in my life (and probably within 10 years or so), I’ll want to work much less than I’m working now. Somewhere in the twitter stream, I said (tweeted) this:
For me, “retirement” isn’t a stoppage of work. It’s a choice to work when I want, on what I want, and as frequently as I want.
— Alan Page (@alanpage) December 31, 2014
I’ve known that I wanted “retirement” options from the time I entered the workforce (as a middle school music teacher when I was 22 years old!). I’ve saved aggressively – maxing out my pre-tax 401k for the last 19 years, and contributing as much as I can afford to post-tax 401k over the past several years. I feed my IRA every year and save whatever else I can. The only debt I’ve had for the last two decades is a mortgage. And, although we went a little crazy with vacations over the last year, we travel cheaply, and save as much as we can while still enjoying life. To be fair, I’ve been successful working for a large company, so my income level enables me to save more than a lot of people, but the point is that I’ve tried to save what I can, so at some point, I have a choice to work – or not, as I choose.
Any sort of retirement for me is still quite a few years off. My kids are in school for another eight years, and will probably go to college after that (I started 529 plans for both of them when they were born, and I expect I’ll have enough saved to cover a large portion of costs for all but the most elite schools). The point is that I think a lot about what I need to do to get myself to a point where I can cover most or all of my expenses without needing to work.
But I’ll still work when I want to.