When my bosses asked if they could call me, I knew something was up.
At first, I panicked a bit. Did someone find out I’m the Mad Fientist?
After talking on Skype for a few seconds, I realized that was unlikely but something was definitely wrong.
You know how when someone has bad news to tell you, you can usually tell by the sound of their voice before they even get to the point? This was like that.
Eventually, they told me that the HR and Legal departments had reviewed all remote-working arrangements and decided that they could not accept the compliance risks associated with me working from the UK.
Therefore, I had two options: 1) I could move back to the States and keep working or 2) I would need to resign by August of this year.
I actually shot myself in the foot here. Following my own advice of “when you don’t need your job, use that power to make a lot of demands”, I had been trying to convince my HR department to let me go to 1099 contractor from a W2 employee so that I could juice my retirement account contributions even more.
The reason I told them I wanted to go to a 1099 is because I was working from the UK and being a contractor would make my tax life easier.
Well, it turns HR had thought I was working from Florida this entire time (because my work-related mail gets sent to my parent’s house there) so when I told them I was in the UK, it raised a lot of red flags and eventually resulted in their ultimatum.
This was actually a complete shock and I didn’t react like I would have predicted.
Unsurprisingly, the first reaction was a feeling of ridiculous excitement.
After all these years of planning and working toward this exact goal, it was finally going to happen!
To be honest, I couldn’t picture this day coming because, as I mentioned in the Power of Quitting post, my work situation is too good to walk away from. I have complete freedom to do what I want (when I want), I don’t have to commute, I don’t get forced to sit through a lot of pointless meetings, I enjoy the programming that I do, and I get paid a lot to do it!
It has turned out to be a great situation so unless my wife and I decided to travel full time or something, I couldn’t ever see giving it up.
So when the decision was made for me, I was excited that I didn’t have to pull the plug on my own and risk regretting my decision later.
Surprisingly, this initial feeling of excitement was followed by intense feelings of worry and uncertainty.
Was I ready to walk away from a career I spent over a decade building? Would I have to watch my spending again and worry about every purchase like I used to? Will I have enough to keep me busy when I don’t have a full-time job?
Despite writing and thinking about financial independence so much over the last five years, these thoughts hit me like a freight train. I actually couldn’t fall asleep that first night because so many things were going through my head.
Luckily, when I woke up the next morning the excitement returned and my worries faded away.
I realized that all the panicking of the night before was ridiculous. I planned to walk away from work back in 2014 when I moved to Scotland so I will have had an extra two years of earnings I didn’t expect to have and my supplemental income has also increased dramatically over that same time.
After consulting my trusty FI spreadsheet one more time, I knew financially everything would be okay.
When I started thinking about the non-financial aspects of leaving my career, I also realized everything was going to be alright.
The work I do here at the Mad Fientist is some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done so having more free time will allow me to expand my Mad Fientist efforts even further. I’ve already been increasing my posting frequency lately but removing my job from the equation will allow me to ramp up my output even more and will give me the time to tackle some bigger projects I’ve been planning.
Ever since I completed my free Ivy League degree, I’ve felt the need to take on another large, difficult project so I’m excited to get started on something new soon (hopefully it will involve going to space but if not, I have some other cool ideas).
As far as the timing is concerned, it couldn’t be better. Jill and I already booked flights for an around-the-world trip that will start in September (more on this very exciting trip soon) so now I won’t have to worry about asking for another unpaid sabbatical.
August is also a great time to leave because I will have already front-loaded my retirement accounts for the year and I’ll get another entire year’s worth of vacation in July so I’ll likely get paid for an extra month that I won’t be working.
Don’t Call it Retirement
I’m happy that after over four years of writing about financial independence and early retirement, I’ll finally be leaving my job but I still wouldn’t call it an “early retirement”.
I have no plans to slow down.
I can’t even say I’m retiring from software development because I’ve been writing a lot of code for the Mad Fientist recently (which you’ll hear more about next month!) and plan to write even more code in the coming months.
I wouldn’t even go as far as saying I’ll never work for someone else again because if a company I admire offers me the opportunity to use my skills to make a bigger contribution than I would be able to make on my own, why wouldn’t I take advantage of that?
The important thing is I don’t have to do any of that. I can’t describe the feeling that comes from knowing that but part of me still can’t believe it.
As I mentioned, this ultimatum really took me by surprise so I can’t even imagine what this would have felt like if we were living paycheck-to-paycheck.
I’m incredibly thankful that I’m in a financial position where I don’t have to frantically update my resumé and interview for positions that would likely be much less flexible and enjoyable than the one I currently have. It’s also great we don’t have to move back to the States just because my employer wants me to!
The benefits of pursuing financial independence are many but being able to handle stressful, unexpected events with ease is one of the most valuable.
The other thing this experience made me realize is that I’m glad I’ve already started working toward some of my post-FI goals. Rather than have a bunch of free time in August that I won’t know what to do with, I’ll instead be excited to have more time to work on things I’ve already been working on, which will hopefully make the transition smoother.
It’s a very exciting time for me personally but hopefully you will experience some benefits as well. I’ve been meaning to research topics like withdrawal strategies and other post-FI issues but now I’ll finally have the motivation to do that.
I’ll also have more time and mental energy to take this site to next level. I’m proud of what I’ve created so far but there’s so much more I want to do so I’m glad I’ll be able to make faster progress on some of the ideas I have (if there’s anything you’d like me to do or write about, send me an email or let me know in the comments below).
Even though it feels like finally crossing the finish line on this journey to FI, I realize this is only the first stage of a much bigger voyage.
A self-directed life of freedom and unlimited possibilities begins for me on August 1st and I have to say, I’m very excited to get started.