“What’s your problem Stocky? You started off writing pretty consistently then in the past few months you’ve become super-erratic. Are you abusing some controlled substance? What gives?” This is a question some of you may be wondering given my admittedly abysmal record for posting regularly.
The fact of the matter is that I’ve been busy working, and that hasn’t given me the time to write as many blogs as I would like. Wait???? What???? I was supposed to be retired, so what am I doing working?
When I was seriously considering quitting my job and taking the plunge into early retirement, I read a lot of blogs on the subject (the best one being www.mrmoneymustache.com). Most offered pretty similar advice: take the first few months to decompress, but after a while you’ll get bored and what to do something meaningful.
For a lot of earlier retirees that “something meaningful” can be a second career, where they’re doing something they really enjoy but that also generates a little income. When I read that, I was really skeptical. I’m good with spreadsheets, but how could that translate to something people would pay good money for but which wouldn’t have the “pain-in-the-ass” qualities of a real job?
So I sauntered off into retirement without any expectations of earning an income. Foxy Lady and I had run the numbers a million ways and we were all set to live on her income and enter this new phase of our life. So that was that.
How it happened to me
After a week or two in retirement I got an email on LinkedIn asking if I would be interested in working for a smaller company running their sales operations department (that’s what I did at Medtronic). I replied that I wasn’t interested in fulltime work, but if they needed help I would be glad to work on a consultative basis. They said “yes”.
A few weeks later, I was catching up with a former colleague. She said they needed some sales operations expertise to help them build the compensation plan for their sales force. Again, I was able to set up a little consulting agreement. A month into retirement, I had two consulting clients who needed help doing the things I did for a living.
This is such a lucky development (but I absolutely believe that you make your own luck), and I really feel like I have the best of all worlds. The nature of the work allows me to work on my own schedule most of the time. Typically I can do the work that needs to be done when the cubs are at fox school during the mornings or in the evenings after they are curled up in their dens. That means during the days I spend the time with them doing all sorts of fun “this is why you retired early” activities like—building dams in the local creek, going to the Science Center and Children’s Museum, making forts out of the couch cushions, etc.
Every once in a while I do travel, but it’s pretty minimal. Foxy Lady and I counted 4 days over the past 6 months that I didn’t sleep in my own bed (and tuck the cubs in). Also, every once in a while there’s a deadline that requires I stay up late, or there’s a conference call that requires a sitter for the cubs. But just like the travel, that has only happened a few times.
Plus, intellectually it’s very satisfying. If you’re the type of person who is able to consider early retirement, odds are you were professionally successful. Sometimes it can be tough trading in the satisfaction of achieving a goal, leading a team, and all those other things for Danny Tiger and building chainsaws out of Legos (pretty much every one of Lil’ Fox’s Lego creations is a chainsaw he uses to cut the legs off our dining room table). Doing consulting has allowed me to stay intellectually engaged, while avoiding all the crap. I don’t have useless conference calls, development plan that are garbage, office politics, and all the other BS that makes you want to consider early retirement in the first place.
Finally, and to the point of a personal finance blog, it has been a bit of a financial boon. I took my salary when I was working, calculated what the hourly rate would be, and tripled it to make my consulting rate. And the companies were happy to pay it. For them, they get someone with expertise in an area they really need, but they don’t need so much that they want to hire a fulltime person for it. Plus they don’t have to pay benefits and all the other stuff. So it’s a pretty sweet deal for them too.
In dollar terms, I’ve pretty much replaced my income. We all know how big an impact a little extra savings can be. So this consulting income, even if it completely dried up after 2015, has really moved the needle for our nestegg.
How it can happen to you
The reason I am sharing all this is because I think a lot of people, me included before six months ago, that don’t really realize what a legitimate option this is. However, many of you probably have really valuable skills that people are willing to pay for on a consultative basis. And this is especially true if your career is one that has enabled you to build up a nestegg that allows you to retire early.
There are a million companies that need database programmers and market researchers and financial auditors and sales ops people. And to reiterate, if you were good enough in your career to amass the wealth to retire early, you’re probably good enough to be really valuable to them.
When I retired, a few of you said something like, “I’ve been thinking about doing the same thing, but I’m just too concerned to leave the comfort of a steady paycheck.” I totally get that, and it’s a sentiment that I shared for a very long time. But my story is an example of what can happen if you close your eyes, grit your teeth, and jump. The rewards can be pretty amazing. Foxy Lady and I marvel at what a great situation we’ve stumbled in to, and none of it would have ever happened had we not taken that leap. We’re so glad we did.
For those of you who have retired early, what have you found in terms of earning opportunities?