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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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