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One more year syndrome - good or bad idea?


An early retirement decision isn't always easy

One more year syndrome (OMYS): continuing to work another year (or more) beyond our chosen retirement date. It can be a financially driven action, wanting to earn and save a bit more money just to be safe, but there can be other causes too, for example, doubts of what we will do in early retirement.


OMYS is often viewed as a weakness, an indication that we didn't have the fortitude to push ahead in line with our retirement plan. I believe that's unfair, retiring is a big deal and where there are doubts and uncertainty, an inclination to delay is quite natural.


What about my own experience? It was a little different because early retirement wasn't something I'd planned for years in advance - I wasn't watching for my finances to reach a magic number or for a planned retirement date to arrive. But that doesn't mean that I escaped OMYS completely. Depending how you view it, I had anywhere between 4 months and several years of it.


I made my early retirement decision in January 2016, within 24 hours of recognising it as a serious option. Within two months, I'd given notice to my employer, with my last working day on 30 June 2016. So far so good, right up to the point where my employer asked if I'd stay another year.


My instinct was to say no, and that's what I told them. The reasons for wanting to move on hadn't magically disappeared, so there was no reason to change my decision. Then the Group CEO called, the head honcho, and persuaded me to stay. It wasn't for a year, instead I'd take a two month break and then return part time for four months. Why wasn't I stronger/what made me change my mind?


  • Money - I had those typical early retirement worries about how much I'd spend and did I have enough money. Earning some extra to add to the savings pot didn't seem a bad idea.

  • Flattery - being asked to stay felt good. Everyone likes to feel wanted.


In hindsight, I consider it was a mistake:

  • Having made my early retirement decision I'd mentally checked out from my job, and my heart was no longer in it. That made every work day a chore.

  • I came to resent my days at work. Each one was a day not spent on the new life that I'd chosen.

  • I didn't need the extra money - I should have trusted my original calculations.


On the plus side, maybe the part time role (initially 3 days a week and then dropping to 2 days a week) helped with the transition from full time work into early retirement.


The verdict on my one more year (or four months) - it wasn't worth it, I should have trusted my early retirement decision and made the leap into full on early retirement.


But there's another side to my story too. We live off ±65% of our income which means our retirement pot is bigger than it needs to be. Or put another way, I could have retired some years before I did/I worked more years than I needed. By that measure, I had an abundance of one more year syndrome, I just didn't realise it. But I don't view those years in a negative way:


  • At that time, I mostly enjoyed my work and didn't have a drive to retire. In which case, there's no problem with those extra years at work.

  • The extra years, which were at at my peak earnings, mean that I don't have money worries. We can't afford a Ferrari (don't want one anyway), but we can afford to do most things that we'd sensibly want to do.


So, is one more year syndrome a bad thing? It depends. If it unnecessarily stops us from making the leap to the life we want, I'm voting that's a bad thing. But if it's done for the right reasons, because we enjoy our job, or it's a calculated strategy to pay for an enhanced retirement lifestyle, these can be valid decisions. And even if it's simply because taking the leap into early retirement feels too scary, then that can also be OK, we're all different - just remember that you might not think that was the best decision in hindsight.

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I think some of the alternatives, such as the mini retirement that Mrs RB40 has planned for 2022 are a really interesting idea. That's why the financial independence part of FIRE is so important, it's what gives us the opportunity to try such things.

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Mrs. RB40 is doing the OMY thing. She still enjoys her work so there is no point retiring. At this point, she'd rather change job than retire. We'll do a trial run and take a mini retirement in 2022. Then she can decide what to do next.

I agree with you about OMY. It could be good or bad, depending on the situation.

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Hundred percent agree, we're all different. I think it's good for the FIRE community to recognise that rushing into early retirement isn't right for everyone, and it sounds like you've found a good solution for you for the present time. Another good point you raise is the "what will I do when if I retire?" question. That can a be a difficult thing to get to grips with, especially for those whose work has been a particularly big part of their life.

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philippayne58
philippayne58
Nov 30, 2020

I have done the OMY thing. I changed career basically.

The one more year is now at 18 months and will probably go a longer.

I don't regret it at all.

I didn't really know what I was going to do in retirement. I had a few things in mind but most of them involved travel which, in the 2020 Covid world, would not have been possible anyway.

So I am not doing the OMY for the money (although it is nice to get some extra padding), but for the new challenge in a different field and because I did not really know what I was going to do if I retired.


Everyone is different.

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Given the length of your bucket list, that's just as well! On a slightly different bent while not quite hindsight, one thing I'm now trying to do is learn from my previous actions. I feel that I've often not made the most of my situations in terms of doing things - I'd say no to doing something or going somewhere when, in hindsight, I now wonder why I didn't say yes. For example, I've been to Jordan maybe a dozen times but never went to Petra - how daft is that? Maybe that should be on your bucket list🤣

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