Many financial bloggers will talk about the “One more year” syndrome (or OMY syndrome). It’s the process in which people who have reached financial independence never retire because they think they should work “one more year”, for various reasons. Ultimately, they keep working year after year, never feeling secure enough to retire.
I thought at some point that I had my own target number in good order. I knew how much wealth I needed to cover for the needs of myself and my family.
It turns out that number has been evolving a lot over the past few months. At first I approached things in a very conservative way: “Let’s make sure I can afford all aspects of life with my stash” , I thought. “Include expensive international school for the kids. Think of my side gig as bonus income, and not something I should actually count in my income.”
That led me to a pretty big number. Still achievable, assuming I kept working for, maybe, an additional 7 years or so.
But as the year progressed, I grew even more tired of my job. Changing teams did not make things any better. I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s not my team or its projects that are the problem. Instead it’s the role I have within these teams, which is not fulfilling to me. Going back to a position I like within this company is not an option in the foreseeable future, as I haven’t brushed up the skills for that older position I used to have and enjoy.
In that kind of scenario, working for 7 more years sounds like hell. And this got me to look again at my target number in a different light. I’ve made some changes to my target. “Maybe I could include parts of my side revenue in there after all”, I first thought. It quickly escalated into “hey, let’s count all of my side revenue in here”. A slightly dangerous decision, as I have no good idea if that revenue will really be available forever.
Other decisions I’ve made include cutting costs for my kids’ education: no more international school for you, kiddos. This turned out to be a dangerous move.
I need to insert a side note here: who in their right mind would want to reach financial independence and send their kids to Ivy league schools? This almost sounds like two conflicting goals here. And yes, to some extent, they are. The thing is, my wife and I are from different countries, and we do hope our kids will grow up to be bilingual. Also, because we plan to go back to Japan ultimately, and the level of English there is what it is, getting them to learn some reasonable English is also something we want to do. Sending them to publish school in Japan would diminish their chances at learning a reasonable level of English.
There are ways around this. English is not my native language, but assuming I was retired, I’d have some spare time to teach them my language and English. There are definitely options that would be less costly than sending them to some international school in Japan.
But this whole process led to a painful discussion with my wife earlier. I thought she was onboard with the whole idea of retiring early. It turns out she was ok with it, but she didn’t realize it implied making some dramatic changes besides being careful with our grocery expenses. She also had no idea I wanted to retire “that soon”. And to add to the mess, being Japanese, she’s culturally inclined to think the stock market is nothing more than gambling.
So in her eyes, I’m taking lots of financial risks, asking her to sacrifice the future of her children, all of this because I’m tired of working. This is not an easy sell.
It’s on me. I’ve been progressively changing my goals without communicating with her. and although she’s seen me struggling more and more at work, I don’t think she realizes how painful it’s become.
With my new FI target, I could work one more year and call it. The problem is, it’s not going to work if my wife is not 100% ok with it. We need to crunch the numbers together and agree on a reasonable target.
The problem is that she never seems to find the time to look at the numbers, let alone read on the FI concepts. I’ve tried to look for some resources on the 4% rules in Japanese, but haven’t found much so far.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to thee costs of these international schools. I personally got a free education, and that led me to a generally wonderful life. I’ve lived on 3 continents, made lots of friends, and am successful financially and professionally (set aside the fact that my job became hell last year). Based on my experience, I can’t see how paying $30’000 a year for elementary school is going to help my children become happier. And that’s the message I need to convey to my wife, in a way that she will not think is me giving excuses to stop working.