Where Are All The Other Kids?

Once, two of my brothers skipped elementary school to “play hooky”. They left home, but instead of going to school, they went to the park. After they were playing on the playground equipment for a while, the younger brother said, “where are all the other kids?” “Other kids?” the older one replied. “Yeah – doesn’t it take a lot of kids to play the game of hooky?” 🙂

I am now six months past my 55th birthday, and 5+ years into early retirement and I too am wondering where the other kids are to play hooky? I can’t think of many former MegaCorp colleagues that are my age that have yet joined me in early retirement. I worked with hundreds of people over the years, but among the people I was closest to – growing up in the organization – I seem to be unique in my laziness.

When we were working, many work friends had a goal to retire by the time they were 55. We all talked about it in our 20s, 30s, and 40s. I always expected that the year they turned 55, like me, many people would be quick to join the club of corporate rogues.

That expectation seemed especially likely after all of the talk of 2021 being the era of the “Great Resignation“ after CV19. According to the media, millions of Americans have allegedly quit working rather than go back to the post-pandemic grind. Surveys report that three-quarters of employees say they are looking for greener pastures – higher pay or more flexibility – including early retirement.

With the stock market up 44% (S&P 500) since before the Covid, you would think that many people have nest eggs that would make the resignation even easier. Growth in equities and home prices should make people feel pretty solid in their retirement finances. Still, some may have been rattled by last year’s -35% market drop when the pandemic news initially broke.

Or, perhaps the new found work flexibility that has come with the pandemic has made early retirement less urgent for many. They are happy with the corporate ‘new normal’. After all, if I could have skipped my commute and done meetings online in my fuzzy fleece pajama bottoms, maybe I would have kept working too!

I don’t mean to make this sound sad, like I don’t have “anyone to play with.” I’m as busy goofing off with people almost everyday – friends that are retired because they are a bit older, friends who are free from work or have flexible jobs, and friends who are around at night & on the weekend. I’m just surprised I’m not seeing the effect of the Great Resignation first hand right now among people turning 55.

Are you seeing a “Great Resignation” among your cohort of colleagues?

Image Credit: Pixabay

11 thoughts on “Where Are All The Other Kids?

  1. My company (BigPharma) has taken a pretty hard line regarding return-to-office, and so we have seen atypically high turnover as people have found roles that allow work-from-home. While I’ve heard a lot of muttering / complaints from people who elected to stay, I don’t know of anyone (other than me!) that has left and not found work elsewhere. Like you, that is very surprising to me – we are known for paying quite well, so people have certainly had the opportunity to save up enough “FU” money to enable a departure.

    On the other hand, we have had an exceptionally large number of teachers and support staff leave our local school system since early this calendar year. My wife is a teacher as well and knows that many of them have left paid work entirely. I’m told that the driver is largely the large amount of work that’s been dumped on them over the last year (concurrent teaching, lack of sufficient PPE, parents angry at them vs the elected officials writing the policies the teachers are contractually obligated to follow, etc). My wife is a teacher, and decided to cut back to half-time this year and also switch roles to teach something that is more interesting to her. Basically just working for the health insurance for now. Overall it’s a good balance, but it’s nice to know that she can leave permanently if they go back to virtual or concurrent teaching again…

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    1. I read that tech & healthcare are the two industries hardest hit by people quitting right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if teachers are right behind those other two fields. I have a friend who’s wife teaches and she switched from in-person to being a remote teacher. They have 3 kids at home, so that helps a lot.

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  2. So far, I’ve seen no evidence of a Great Resignation. Then again, we’re talking about the public school teacher colleagues I left when I retired 10 years ago at 51. No annual bonus, no stock options, no performance pay, no profit sharing, and forced participation in a retirement plan that substantially tightened up retirement rules for anyone hired after 1989. Not complaining; just saying it’s a different sort of ballgame.

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    1. Several teacher colleagues DO seem more ‘fed up’ than usual and are not afraid to voice their frustrations — to the point of openly talking about ‘moving on’ to something else. Unfortunately, unlike 401k plans and the like, the mandatory teacher retirement program I mentioned earlier has ZERO portability.

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      1. Not ‘portable’ meaning you lose it if you leave? I left my 401ks with my MegaCorp employers. There was no advantage to roll them forward or convert to an IRA. My pensions were frozen when I left.

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  3. I worked with people who were owner – management, who obviously made more than me and I retired before them. Here are some contrasts of how I beat them to retirement.

    I buy used reliable boring cars that are cheap to buy and repair, and I take good care of them myself and shoot for a 300,000 mile service life. The others buy new cars and don’t take good care of them (two in management had to replace engines, one multiple times). They knew I could afford better cars and sometimes asked me why I don’t treat myself to nice ride. I saw this theme constantly through my career.

    I pushed my kids to study to learn and get good grades and they both got into top rated UC. My youngest son is commuting to UCLA. In my book school is about learning and getting a career. They can have have an experience on their own dime. Their kids could not get into UC, so they had to pay for very expensive out of state schools, that their kids picked without consideration to cost.

    When I remodel or renovate my house, I pay cash and either do the work myself or act as the GC. They farm everything out and add to their mortgage.

    Back in 2010, I was backing up the truck and buying stocks like Home Depot that was available at around 4.5% yield and was growing their dividend at 20% annually and Microsoft which also at around 4.5% yield which was growing at 13% annually. They were fearful and had their funds in gold. Warren Buffett says, “Be greedy when others are fearful. Be fearful when others are greedy.”

    Most people waste their money to get the life they deserve. Very early in my career, I observed how corporate American threw away people in their 50s and made the decision to be financially independent by my 50s.

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    1. Klaus, that is a great playbook for anyone to reach FIRE! You could write your own book. I’m not as handy under the hood or around the house, but I do try to do my own repairs when I can. Other than that, we followed a similar path… Live below your means, save more than you need to, and let the power of compounding lead you right into early retirement!

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  4. There was a book already written about it called the “Millionaire Next Door”. The book has much written about normal everyday people who are wealthier than those who are worried about giving the appearance of having more than they have. Texans call it all hat, no cattle.

    Prior to that I was investing in value companies that had bad news and would turn around. One of the best I ever invested in was when Roy Disney, the son of one of the cofounders published a letter in the WSJ that Eisner needs to be fired before he has a chance to pay himself again. But I also chased a lot of crap such as high yielding MLPs that were yield traps.

    I stumbled upon Dividend – Growth investing in 2010 when playing with some screening software. I found some high quality companies such as Home Depot and Microsoft had dividend yields that were much higher than bonds and they were growing quicker. They looked even better when you look at how the dividends behaved during the 2008 – 2010 Great Recession, because they increased.

    I changed my philosophy to worrying more about the income stream that I was buying and less about the price at the moment. You live on the dividends and the dividend increases keep you ahead of inflation.
    Over time, if a stock keeps raising the dividend the stock price will raise otherwise you are making such a high return on your investment you don’t care what other people think it is worth. Reinvesting dividends only magnifies the increase.

    Warren Buffett attributes Charles Munger with teaching him to buy high quality companies at a fair price. If you are good with spreadsheets, look up Home Depot and Microsoft in Yahoo! finance for 2010. Look at the closing price then versus now. You will be very surprised how a stock that isn’t some secret and people aren’t blowing trumpets about how fast they are growing; can compound your money so rapidly over 10 years. People have caught onto Home Depot and Microsoft and have bid the price up too high at the moment.

    My son used this example for a high school economics class project where they were supposed to work with compounding. The teacher thought he made a math error until he confirmed.

    Regarding working on cars and my house. I am very slow according to my wife (meticulous according to me) and am willing to work at something until I get it right. There are some terrific YouTube! videos out there with some really good teachers who teach you how to fix things. Here is an example. I had several leaks in my house and found a tradesman named Kirk Giordano who shows you how he repairs stucco on houses. I chipped away the problem areas in my house just like he showed and when I got to the stucco paper quickly saw some really stupid work on the corners. I repapered the way Mr. Giordano showed and no more leaks.

    I recommend educating yourself even if you are not planning to do the work yourself, because you will have a better eye for judging the quality of the work someone else is doing for you. In case you haven’t already guessed it, I enjoy learning new skills. Cranking tunes on your stereo while turning wrenches is a day well spent.

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  5. I am a big fan of the Millionaire books: https://mrfirestation.com/2016/12/14/7829/. Too bad that Thomas Stanley was killed in a car accident at such a young age. I’ve largely been a S&P500 index fund investor, except for my past MegaCorp employers’ stock – which all made your dividend list!

    I’m not handy (or ambitious enough) for big projects, but have a list of trusted ‘guys’ we have used for a long time on household projects. We recently got our house painted and some siding replaced. Both guys have worked with us for more than a decade. Our arborist ‘guy’ is coming next month to take down a big tree in our backyard.

    I have become my own Jeep ‘guy’ – modifying the Wrangler I bought earlier this summer. As you say, YouTube is a great resource and it is fun to crank tunes while turning wrenches!

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