FIRE Milestones – Giving Formal Notice

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The delightful MrsMoneysWorth.com recently posted about things to do before leaving for early retirement and it got me to thinking about what might be the right amount of time to give my MegaCorp notice of quitting. For me, it’s a more complicated decision than just saying “two weeks notice is standard.”

As I often do, I consulted the vast library of FIRE (financial independence & retiring early) wisdom that is Early-Retirement.org. The forums there have covered the topic many times and dozens of people have weighed in with their thoughts & personal experiences.

Here’s what I learned by plotting the amount of advance notice that people felt was appropriate: there is no typical. About 40% of people think 2 weeks-30 days notice is right, another 40% are in the 60-90 day camp, and the remaining 20% stretch it out from 4 months to more than a year.  That’s a broad range.

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Perhaps more important than WHEN to give notice is WHY you are choosing to give notice when you do. There are a lot of considerations that people use, and I’ve captured some of the more common thoughts into two categories:

GIVE NOTICE EARLY: 90 Days +

  • You don’t want to be assigned to an important initiative that you won’t be able to finish (+)
  • You believe your expertise is quite unique and want the organization to have time to adjust
  • You’ve worked with your boss a long time/are close and don’t want to leave him/her in the lurch (+)
  • Your BS bucket is pretty full and don’t want them adding anything big to it
  • You’ll enjoy going to work with others knowing your “special status” (+)

GIVE NOTICE LATER: 2 Weeks to 30 Days

  • You have a “must be present to win” bonus structure or 401k/pension vesting (+)
  • You don’t want to feel like a “lame duck” or useless hanger-on
  • You don’t want the goodbye process to drag on too long
  • Your workplace has a “we don’t owe you anything” attitude (+)
  • You smell potential layoffs & lucrative severance packages might be coming
  • You don’t want to be subjected to retaliation or being “walked out” (+)
  • You’re not 1000% sure you would leave if something really compelling materialized (+)

You can tell from the “(+)” signs above where my thoughts are at this point. I have the two things in the “early” list and three in the “later” list, including a bonus that is due to be deposited 2 weeks before my planned last day. I’m a bit conflicted.

A lot of folks feel like when they gave notice sooner than needed, their company didn’t make the most use of the time offered. Their MegaCorp delayed getting anyone else to take on the responsibilities, sometimes coming back at the midnight hour and asking employees to stay on longer than planned. This is a real bummer, I’m sure. To head this off in advance, several people suggested a scenario like this: give no more than 30 days notice, then offer to work as an independent contractor for 3-6 months, charging an hourly rate at double (or triple) what they earned as an employee. This ensures they find your replacement quickly, or at least you are well compensated for your extra time.

My plan is to probably do this in two-steps in advance of my planned FIRE escape date of April 1, 2016:

Step one will come after the holidays are over and we’re back to work after New Year’s. At this point, I may have a “I’m not happy – I need to start thinking about opportunities outside of MegaCorp” with my boss, without a lot in the way of details in terms of time frame. I’ve been at the company for about three years and it’s already clear to my boss that I am under leveraged, but he has come to count on me as his right-hand man. This will give him a heads-up that I am a retention risk and he can either fight for me to stay or not.  There may be a role or two that would cause me to rethink my timing.

The second step will be closer to my planned end date (around March 1st … give or take a week), when I will give formal notice. I need to give him at least 30 days heads up since I will be out of town for an outside corporate board meeting for a couple days and also have a week off in March for a planned spring break.  We will be just starting the heavy lifting for our annual strategic planning process at that time of year, so it will be good to give notice before that work gets started (I’ve led it the last few years). There is a risk MegaCorp suddenly retaliates and it costs me my annual bonus, but I will call out that the money was going into a charitable fund and that hundreds of people have been following my plan to give it away on my blog.  Bad publicity if that got broader coverage in the paper with MegaCorp’s name attached.

Regardless, I will have my office 99% packed up by the date that I give final notice. I hope everyone will feel like I was very respectful in planning my departure, but it is hard to know exactly how MegaCorp will view the situation.

I’m operating under the notion that Mark Twain wrote about when he said “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

Image Credit: Pixabay

11 thoughts on “FIRE Milestones – Giving Formal Notice

  1. This is a helpful structured way to think about the decision! I’ve been debating how I want to handle this when I give my notice early next year.

    I’m personally not comfortable with a long notice. I have the “must be present to win” compensation structure you described (planning to depart shortly after the payout of an annual bonus) that I fear would be put in jeopardy if my timeline were clear. On top of the financial considerations, I expect that it would significantly change the day-to-day working dynamics with my team.

    At the same time, I want to leave in good standing and not have my departure hinder the company. For that reason, I think the best idea for me is to provide a moderate amount of lead time (probably around a month) but offer to stay on longer if they need more time to recruit a replacement.

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  2. I have thought about this too, and for some reason I have always assumed that I’d give several months of advanced notice. But then I started to think about why, from the company’s standpoint, my retirement notice is any different from any other notice that I’d give if *I were simply switching companies*.

    I have come to the realization that this situation really isn’t any different. I will most likely give around a month depending on the situation, because in my line of work, we often move from project to project and I want to make sure my manager doesn’t promise me to another project without knowing that I won’t be around for long.

    Interesting topic…definitely one that I’m looking forward to pursuing when the time comes. I am definitely looking forward to giving my notice. 🙂

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  3. We have had this same discussion many times over, and we’re still two years away! We got some helpful input from folks on the blog earlier this year that we shouldn’t give too much notice. We’d been planning for three to six months, but realized that our companies would then have no incentive to give us our full bonuses, so now we’re leaning more toward: collect the year-end bonus, then give short notice, like 30 days. And I love your idea of offering to tack on a few months of hourly consulting at a higher rate in addition!

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    • My boss is discussing a “new, exciting role” for me now. It’s a big opportunity, and I suspect he’ll be mad if I don’t give notice that I am planning to quit in 100 days. At the same time, I didn’t set up the “must be present to win” system that requires me to be there in January for my 401k match, February for my stock vesting, and March for my annual bonus.

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