If I didn't have a friend that worked there, it's unlikely I ever would have landed an interview with The Firm. My south-of-3.0 GPA from a not-too-impressive university was not even enough to get my foot slammed in the door without having someone on the inside lobbying for my future.
Once inside That Venerable Big-8 Accounting Firm, I was careful to keep my shoes polished, my suits blue, and my left-leaning political views mostly to myself.
While the men sported white shirts only, the women were also permitted the brazen pink shirt, paired with whatever statement you chose to make through your bow tie. Polka dots? Paisley? Stripes? Go wild. But do not wear slacks.
Fast forward 25 years and I recently found myself wearing whatever I wanted at a reunion of The Firm. I thought I would encounter at least a couple fellow retirees among the crowd. I figured we'd be over in the corner talking about how great retired life is. But not one person I talked to that evening has crossed over to the dark side.
Attending the reunion brought back memories of just how ill-suited I was for that work environment. This event had assembled the largest group of overachievers I have been with in decades. Everyone has been very successful. Most still retained the ability to simultaneously drink large quantities of alcohol while speaking coherently about the intricacies of the tax code.
During my tenure, I was hardly the poster-girl of achievement. When I was out working on audits, I used to go missing for chunks of time while I hid in the bathroom just to get a little time alone.
On Saturdays during busy season, I used to arrive at the office long after the free donuts were gone, and often, after only a couple hours at my desk, I would throw in the towel and sneak out to enjoy a few hours of sunlight in the weeks before April 15th.
Many referred to me as the "vacation queen," since I knew how to work the overtime system to take a few extra weeks of vacation each year.
It's no wonder that I brought up the rear on billable hours, a fact that was common knowledge since on a few occasions, our chargeability was posted on a list at the end of our row of desks. My stats were highlighted in yellow.
Which brings me to the conclusion I arrived to at the end of my evening of reuniting. Early retirement may really be more suitable for the underachiever.
For all those that thrive on achieving, love the fast pace of their careers, don't mind the grueling hours, retirement might not be all it's cracked up to be. The overachiever may not be entirely happy giving up all that achieving.
Much retirement-planning advice is built around the spend less, save more mantra, often emphasizing that if you are addicted to accumulating stuff, you may not be happy living within the confines of a fixed income. But very little attention is given to the fact that if you are addicted to accumulating achievements, the freedom to pursue unlimited fun in retirement may not be a huge selling point.
While those of us that value fun over achievement may not have been the best at climbing up the corporate ladder, we may just be more well-suited for jumping off from the lower rungs to the land of full-time fun.