Today, Brip Blap posted some thoughts on establishing a "go to hell fund." You know what this is, a stash of money in sufficient quantity such that in the event you wanted to leave your job (or your employer wanted you to leave), you would have the power not only to land on your feet, but take that opportunity to go off on a new direction if you wanted to. If you found yourself without that job, you could take time off, start a business, or at the very least take time to decide what to do next.
My friends and I often played this game "how much would you need to have accumulated (or win from the lottery) for you to be able to walk from your job and never look back?" You know what that's called--the "F"-you amount. This differs from the "go to hell" fund in that it is the amount you need to never have to work again, not just the amount to bridge you to your next income-producing gig. Everyone fantasizes about this to a certain extent, even if you love your job. We all have things we would love to be doing if our day wasn't so consumed by the business of earning a living.
So, I had a magic number in mind and lusted after retirement in a very real way, not just as a fantasy, for many, many years. When I reached this magic number (ok, well close enough), I decided that I needed to confirm that this is indeed, what I really wanted. I think this is an important step for anyone considering retirement. You spend so much time working for that goal, you need to step back and make sure it's what you really want, not just what you thought you wanted.
So, as a result of a New Year's resolution made on the beach in Mexico, I went back to work January 2, 2007, with a new tracking spreadsheet. Each day, at the end of the day, I would put an "x" in the column representing what kind of day it was for me at work: "plus," "minus," or "equals". (I know, such an accountant!) In six months, it was my intention to add up all the marks in each column and see where I stood. I have a tendency to ruminate over the bad days at work more than remember the good days, so I though it was important to document, to get a real picture at the end of that six months.
Well, by the end of May, the picture was clear. I had accumulated 10 positive days, 40 negative, and 30 so-so days. I was ready to take my magic number nest egg and move on to the full-time job of retirement. As fate would have it an unrelated discussion with a partner in my firm resulted in my confession of my desire to retire. The wheels were in motion! But I had no regrets. I knew it was not just a reaction to a bad day (or even 40); I really wanted to retire. It wasn't just that I had the money, this is what I really wanted.
Ultimately, I worked for eight more months while we found my replacement and worked through the transition. Despite the name of the "F-you" fund, I would never recommend burning your bridges by using it in that fashion. It just represents the power to pursue whatever dream you have for yourself. And as we all know, we should use that power for good, not evil.