The One More Year Syndrome

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One of the interesting things I’ve learned as a blogger is how many people suffer from The One More Year Syndrome.

Ironically, I suffer from it myself.

I suffer from The One More Year Syndrome, as do many others. Why do we work when we're FI?? Click To Tweet

The question plagues me:  “Why do so many folks decide to continue working, even after they’ve achieved Financial Independence?

Today, I’ll tell you about my logic for working “One More Year”, but I’ll go a step further.  I’ve reached out to fellow bloggers on the Rockstar Finance Forum and the FinCon Facebook group and will be sharing thoughts from some of the best personal finance minds on the issue.  Most of them have also suffered from the Syndrome, and have worthwhile thoughts as we consider this topic.

My Concerns:  The One More Year Syndrome

While I’ve technically achieved Financial Independence in the past few months (woot woot!), I’ve decided to work One More Year.  My main reasons (“The Root Causes Of My OMY Syndrome”) are summarized below:

  • Health Care Cost Inflation:  Given that my wife and I will need to buy private health care insurance for ~10 years, I’m very concerned about the escalating costs of health care, and the exit of many insurance companies from the market.  It’s too soon to know where all of this will end up, and the assumption I’ve used in our retirement cash flow model ($20,000/year) may be insufficient to cover the actual costs we incur.  The same concern holds true for inflation in general, as we’ve become a bit “conditioned” to a low inflation environment which may not continue throughout our retirement.
  • Market Returns:  The stock market is currently “highly valued”, with the current CAPE Ratio at 29.5,  well above it’s mean of 16.5.  Historically, periods of high CAPE ratios are followed by periods of lower than average market returns. While we’re planning a Withdrawal Rate of 3.5%, I’d rather work One More Year and reduce the anxiety of a potentially extended period of below average market returns.
Shiller PE Ratio (source: http://www.multpl.com/shiller-pe/)
  •  “You’ll Never Make The $ You’re Making Now”:  I have an Uncle who retired in his mid-50’s.  A few years ago, we were chatting at a family wedding, and I mentioned I was considering an early retirement.  His one piece of advice to me was to make sure I was ready, financially and otherwise, before I pulled the plug.  “You’ll never make the money you’re making now”, he said, “so make sure you’re 100% comfortable with your financial situation before you retire”.  Words of wisdom, from one who has gone before.  I decided to listen, and it’s triggered my own affliction with the One More Year Syndrome.
  • “OMY Was The Best Decision I Ever Made”:  I’ve got a friend, Kirk, who has guest posted on this site (see A Road Less Traveled and Retirement: The First 90 Days).  He also suffered from OMY Syndrome in his final working year, and he and I had several discussions about it at the time.  Now that he’s retired, he looks back at the decision to work One More Year as one of the best decisions he’s ever made.  While it seems like a long time when you’re in the middle of it, it passes like the wind, and you enjoy the benefits for the rest of your life.  He has no regrets, and his optimism about OMY has influenced the decision I’m facing today.  BTW, Kirk is now hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and I wish him a successful journey to Canada!

The One More Year Syndrome – What Others Have To Say

I am not unique in my affliction.  In preparation for this post, I reached out to others who are knowledgeable about personal finance and retirement planning issues.  I was surprised by the number of folks who have written about the OMY topic, or who are suffering from it themselves.  Below is a summary of what some of the experts (most of whom are also my friends) have to say on The One More Year Syndrome, along with some links if you’d like to dig more deeply on the subject.

Fascinating stuff, this.

Vicki @ Make Smarter Decisions

Vicki’s post Finding The Cure For One More Year Syndrome outlines her approach to the OMY Syndrome.  She decided to “retire”, but planned to continue with online teaching for 3 years to boost the service credit she needed to optimize her retirement pension.   A few months into her “retirement”, she was offered an “interim” administrative position.  You guessed it, two months turned into a year.  She’s been struggling with the OMY Syndrome ever since and wrote this article to declare her intention to break the affliction and proceed with retirement.  She’s retiring on June 30th (congrats, Vicki, a major accomplishment at Age 50!!), though she’ll continue to do some part-time online teaching to earn those credits toward her pension.

Ty @ Get Rich Quickish

Ty wrote the post There Are Worse Things In Life Than Working last September, a philosophical and touching post about a time on the back porch with his Dad, who continues to work in spite of being past “normal” retirement age. And, about his Father-In-Law, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just 6 weeks after he retired.  Seeing the fate of his Father-In-Law, Ty was pressing his Dad on why he was suffering from OMY Syndrome, and why he didn’t just retire.  “There are worse things in life than working”, said his Dad.  Ty continues to explain the psychological barriers to retirement, and why for some folks (like his Dad) the OMY Syndrome isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Find something to Retire To before you retire, even if it means working One More Year.

Doc @ Physician On Fire

My friend, “Doc” over at Physician On Fire speaks positively about the OMY Syndrome in The Power Of One More Year.  He points out the tremendous financial benefit to high wage earners of working OMY (e.g., ~$5 – 10k boost in annual retirement income!!).  Rather than view OMY as a syndrome, he encourages folks to consider it a blessing.  Embrace the gift!  BTW, congrats, Doc, on your upcoming “part time Doctor” strategy, sounds like a winner to me.

Sam @ Financial Samurai

Sam’s an awesome writer, with a hugely successful blog.  He wrote Overcoming The OMY Syndrome To Do Something New about his experience “gutting it out for one more year to bank another six-figure bonus.”  He realized he was sacrificing “Time” (which he craved) for “Money” (which he didn’t need), and pulled the rip chord in 2012.  He shares his thoughts on how he cured his OMY Syndrome.  It’s a great piece, as is typical from a writer of Sam’s caliber.  (BTW, he also has some good thoughts on negotiating a severance package, a topic on which he’s written a 100-page book.  Great stuff, this!)

Paul – A Reader On The Retirement Manifesto

This comment touched me, and Paul was gracious enough to let me share it with you as part of today’s post.  It speaks to the reality of one struggling with OMY Syndrome.  What I really appreciate about this comment is that it comes from the heart of a reader.  I cherish the comments you all leave on my site and felt this reader deserved recognition for his particularly poignant comment.  You can see his original comment on the post How To Know When You’re Financially Independent:



There are others who have written about the topic, and even some podcasts on the topic.  I’ve had to whittle this down due to size, but I’d encourage you to listen to an excellent podcast on the topic from my friend Benjamin Brandt’s Retirement Starts Today: 5 Reasons to work OMY.  There’s also a good post on New Retirement titled Worried About Retirement?  Change Your Perspective.    The prestigious White Coat Investor also weighs in an excellent Guest Post from Doc @ Physician On Fire titled Beyond Enough.

My Final Thoughts

I’ve done a lot of thinking and reading on OMY Syndrome as research for this post.  Of all the things I’ve read, I’d decided to “internalize” the philosophy espoused by Doc @Physician On Fire. I view OMY as a privilege.  An honor to experience.  A bonus in life.  We’re blessed to have the opportunity to retire at “younger than normal” ages, even if we proceed with One More Year of working.

In my case, OMY means Retirement at Age 55 instead of Age 54.  Pinch me!  Really?  What a blessing in life to have the “problem” of decided to retire at Age 54 or Age 55.  Are you kidding me??!!  99.9% of the world would trade places in a minute.  If you’re suffering from OMY,  read Lesson #5 from this article, and look at the Forest, not the Trees.

Be intentional in your thinking, and take the time to be thankful.  Look at your “glass half full”, not “half empty”.

Your life, and your retirement, will be better for it.

That’s what I’ve decided to do.

What about you?


P.S. – Cold Water Swim Update:  Happening Now!

At precisely the time this post gets published (yes, I pre-scheduled it), I will be entering the waters of Lake Michigan for my Lake Michigan Cold Water Swimming Challenge with The Dolphin (aka The Dolphin Revenge #3). The Dolphin and I have “playfully competed” in Zurich and in London.  Today, as you read these words, I hope to be swimming in Lake Michigan’s balmy 60F/15C water, just off Ohio Street Beach in downtown Chicago.  I’m sure I’ll have a future post on the subject but thought you’d enjoy the flyer I made for the “Competition”.  Great stuff, this.   

Live Life, and Make It Great!

Fritz @ TheRetirementManifesto

 

 

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40 comments

  1. Have a great swim! No better way to shake off any lingering effects from last night’s happy hour than a swim in a cold, great lake.

    I don’t blame you one bit for going for one more year. As long as you don’t hate your job, the additional income insures you from a lot of potential unforeseen costs in early retirement.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

  2. We didn’t have one more year syndrome. We just made a plan and stuck to it — BUT, we already knew we had enough (enough money and enough of the working world). I think for those with high salaries it’s a harder decision. One more year can give you an even nicer cushion.

    As for health benefits, I don’t take my health for granted but I do think if you’re healthy, and ready to retire, you’ll find a way to get affordable coverage. At the moment we’re relying on Obamacare subsidies but when that all changes, we’ll do what’s necessary — whether it’s joining a health sharing ministry or going out of the country for dental procedures, we’ll make it work. For us, we couldn’t let fears surrounding health insurance deny us the privilege of early retirement. Yes, indeed, it is a privilege and we’re very blessed.

  3. Hoping the cold water swim went well and you schooled the Dolphin.

    Excellent article and round up of OMY posts, Fritz. I think the only thing that would keep my husband or I working one more year would be healthcare costs. We are doing all we can to stay healthy and be financially prepared now so, hopefully, we won’t have to.

  4. I love what your buddy Kirk had to say, how OMY passed like the wind and something he benefits from for the rest of his life. Very important not to pull the plug too soon, that cushion can come in handy. Retirement is the most important financial decision of your life, and can be one to result in regret by either retiring too soon or not soon enough. I like the last sentence of what Paul had to say, it is time to retire otherwise what was the point of saving the last 35 years…that rings loud to me as well.

    I will make sure I have adequate cushion for my (hopefully) long retirement to avoid regret, while still retiring young with plenty of good years to enjoy. OMY (and dare I say two or more years under the right circumstances like early retirement) are worth it.

    Best of luck on the swim, Fritz!!!

  5. As was stated, there is nothing wrong with being cautious with this decision. In my opinion, I would rather put in an extra year in when I am healthy and still in the swing of working vs having to go back to work after being retired for a decade or longer. I am over one decade away from reaching FIRE. I am just trying to create plan A, B, and C to ensure we have enough to cover anything that might happen.

  6. Struggling with OMY is a mixed bag. Definitely a blessing if you’re struggling with this while considering an early retirement, but it’s also a gamble as well. OMY has worked out well for my pops, but was a MAJOR regret of my father in law (and his wife). Whatever one decides, make sure to weigh all sides of the equation.

    Hope the swim went well! And thanks for the s/o in this fantastic post!

  7. Thanks for posting, Fritz, I love these types of articles. My foundation for an early retirement has been laid and now its just waiting on our compounding friend to do its dirty work. That being said, I am constantly thinking about health care costs, kids’ (that I don’t currently have) tuition, and the potential rise in taxes. I don’t know that any of our models can accurately predict these variables, but working OMY isn’t a decision for additional cushion, especially if you enjoy the work and the people you work with.

  8. Fritz, I too suffer from OMY syndrome but made easier by intellectually challenging projects at work. I agree it’s better to suffer from OMY rather than suffering from “gee I wish I had a bit more money to stop penny pinching”.

  9. Many years ago I had a consulting job in a steel mill, fascinating place to work but not pleasant and I only had to spend 14 months there. I spent a lot of tome talking to many of the union steel workers and they almost to a man looked forward with a gleam in their eye to their retirements. But they all told stories of the guys they knew who had worked their 30 years retired and now they saw them in Kroger pushing the shopping cart for their wife and questioning why she bought a particular can of peas. I learned then you have to have something to retire to, not just a 12 month plan, but something that extends for 10 to 20 years and takes into account the inevitable physical decline we all will go thru. I won’t bucky enough to retire in my 50s, but we are already working on the plan for what we will do when we get there, golf lessons together start this week!

  10. I think I cured my OMY syndrome but I just found out the person that is supposed to replace me at the end of the month is out interviewing for new jobs! CRAZY…. People want me to stay and it would be a huge boost to financial freedom, rather than just independence. But I can’t do it unless major things change, and that isn’t going to happen. I don’t think…. But for now – 24 days to go 🙂 I can’t wait!!

  11. I loved work most of my career, only in the last two years of a 38 year career did it stop being fun. I was 58 and had been working mostly for fun. The first of those last two years I warned my CEO and other corporate bosses that I was past financially secure and I was pretty iffy going forward about staying cause it just wan’t that fun anymore. That last year I could see my bonus and stock cash out looked to be spectacular and I just couldn’t walk away from that much money. I always lived frugally and absolutely didn’t need that extra money, but still, when you can see you are going to make about two to three times as much in one year as you’ve typically made it is hard to leave! So I stuck it out, and it was a bad year full of stress. However, it did really really really really make leaving easy and I haven’t missed that place a single day since I left.

  12. Fritz, are your teeth chattering?
    Thanks so much for this article that resonates so strongly with my husband and me. All valid reasons provided. We are reluctant to give up the income from our highest earning years.
    We want The Great Retirement (as you described so well last week) but we also want to leave a legacy to our children and grandchildren. Very few FI people seem to be interested in legacies — most seem to hope their $$ will last through their lifetimes. No judgments from us or for us, as we all walk our own paths. We definitely need OMY or TMY! Thanks, Fritz, and to all the folks who commented today. You are all helping us Think.

    1. Thanks for bringing up the Legacy issue, Cyn. It is a major consideration toward OMY. While you may be “FI” today, working OMY certainly increases the chances of leaving a legacy for their heirs. If a legacy is important, it’s certainly a strong argument for OMY.

  13. Working in healthcare affords a unique perspective on the OMY syndrome, at least for me. I look at CTs, MRIs and X-rays all day, and it really strikes home when I see a patient near my age with a poor prognosis. It helps me to not take my own health for granted.

    If it comes down to a 99% vs 100% certainty of a comfortable retirement, and that 100% would mean OMY, you can be sure I’m pulling the plug and heading to the beach. 🙂

    Thanks Fritz, and go get a coffee after that swim!
    Dr. C

  14. Definitely agree with you on the healthcare issue. I’m still enjoying my job at age 54 and have a pretty flexible schedule. My husband has had enough and wants to retire at age 53 this year or early next year. I’ll keep my job for now, mainly so I can take advantage of the great (almost free) healthcare for both of us. My schedule is flexible enough that we’ll be able to do a fair amount to of traveling once he retires even if I stay full time. We’re already financially independent but I don’t want to lose that almost free healthcare. We’ve budgeted $24,000 per year for healthcare in our retirement savings, but with the cap increasing to 5x for >50 year olds, I don’t know if that will be enough. If it weren’t for the healthcare issue, I’d probably retire when my husband does and just work a bit here and there. The healthcare is becoming a golden handcuff.

  15. This issue points out the rigidity of our current workplace. It’s all or nothing. Full-time or retire. With more flexibility, I would be willing to work many more years, a benefit to both my employer and me, but the powers that be cannot get out of the full-time mindset. Job sharing would benefit near retirees as well as younger folk with child or elder care issues. For a little extra paperwork, the employer receives the creativity and ideas of two vs. one! How great would it be to glide into retirement with a few years of part time work to test the waters, then maybe decide to go back full time or just retire with more confidence.
    There is a job-share position at my office. The two individuals inevitably migrate to their strengths working together to be better than any one person doing the job. With today’s IT, it is easier than ever to communicate with the two of them and for them to keep track of each other’s activities. A win-win for all involved.
    Great work Fritz on yet another thought provoking subject.

    1. My employer did just that for me; let me phase into retirement. I worked part time my last 2 years, even though I had been assured by 2 financial advisors that we no longer needed my income. The 401 k contributions resulted in a pot of money that we will spend our first 3-4 years of retirement! I retired at age 57 and my wife at 52. After more than a year, I have deducted that we will have ample savings/investments to last more than our lifetime. Will plan on giving to our children while alive and leave our legacy to our grandchildren/charity causes. Good luck to all who retire early. Have a plan to fill your time. Building homes for people we don’t know is how we will spend some of our time. Check out Habitat for Humanity, a great cause!!

    2. I wanted to retire earlier than my husband who thought we should work until age 66…but his company got a new president who didn’t want to replace any employees…my husband ended up doing the work of 3, working longer and longer hours…yay! At age 61, he was saying OMY..I was able to show him how we could easily retire..so we did at age 61, 2 years ago…of course the major issue is healthcare..I took my cobra for 18 mos and am now on Obama care..he’s on VA …we each had lists of things we intended to do…not doing any of them..we are so busy travelling, enjoying our grandkids, kayaking, etc we don’t know how we had the time to work or even why we would considered one more year.

  16. This is a thoughtful post on an important topic. It includes great links of articles I hadn’t read too. Thanks so much and good luck on your journey. As for me…. maybe just five more years…..Is that a thing? 🙂

  17. One more year… why not?! As long as your one more year doesn’t turn into 5 more years. It’s hard to break the cycle of what you’ve always done to do something so different but that is what makes life worth living!! I am 5 years (probably 3 for FI) but my unique position is keeping my job (and healthcare!!) while not having to work. At this point, 5 years can’t come fast enough!! Sticking with just the FI part I plan to cut back severely after 3 more years. Life’s too short to spend it in the air!!

  18. Hi Fritz, Thanks for your kind words and quoting me in your post (my 15 minutes of world fame??). As I mentioned, I suffer from many of the OMY symptoms that you describe and can add one more to the list. I actually enjoy many aspects of my work which, in addition to drawing a comfortable salary, provides me with an opportunity for socialization, adds structure and some of my work actually helps people.

    While we do have a bucket list of places to travel to and a couple of hobbies to resurrect, I’m concerned that it may not be enough to fill the time. I also worry about the lack of structure and that I’ll be responsible for providing that structure during down times.

    Of course, the drawbacks of working, the heightened stress, endless deadlines, never truly being away from the job (curse the inventor of email!) outweigh any advantages of continuing to work. The answer for me is that I plan to continue working in a consultant capacity where I can choose when and where I want to work. The FI part of FIRE is instrumental since I really don’t know how many side projects that meet my picky criteria will come my way.

    Keep up the fine work and I hope you enjoyed your swim! Paul

    1. Paul, thanks for your contribution to this weeks’ post. Consulting is certainly a very good solution to OMY, and I’ve had several friends go that path. There are some guest posts in my archives on the topic, if you’d like to hear some thoughts from those who have “gone before”!

  19. I get a kick out of your articles. You become a “believer” in MoneyMustache then immediately get a bigger place to live with more property to house your new ” greater” 5 th wheel. Then, you decide to work an additional year to make more money so you can ” protect ” yourself from future financial perils. Well, my wife and I just returned from the ” Forgotten Coast” of Florida. Spent several days with highly educated and productive folks who were not ” Mustachians” and live very, very nicely. It was stunning to me( at age 75) how little one needs to be happy. If you have a loving spouse, a roof over your head, a reliable car, food in your pantry, some clean T-shirts and shorts, church clothes in your closet– you don’t need much more then that. They didn’t work one more year- they ” chucked” it all. They were doctors, nurses, teachers, small business owners who all left to do a ” greater” life. NOT a religious life, but a life to do what THEY wanted to do– whether to fish, to travel, to help with their community, or their kids, or or or whatever. That is freedom. That is true LIFE! Not a hedonistic life of a ” greater house, boat, car, checking account etc.” Keep up your articles though. Love to read them

  20. Great post! My plan isn’t to necessarily retire early, but rather to retire from full-time employment. Therefore, I feel I am going in the opposite direction! I thought I would work for another couple years at my current job but this past year changed that. I’m a very self-motivated person but some happenings at my company in the last year have helped speed up my decision to leave a bit earlier. However, my husband is on the fence about whether he wants to stay in the working world full-time. If he decides to that simplifies things on my end, but over the last year he has come around a little more to my “crazy” idea of FIRE. Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him joining me in leaving the full-time working world (especially because he could make decent money doing some of his hobby side projects that he really enjoys but doesn’t usually have a lot of time for).

    We’re both in our mid-30s and while we make good money, I have no doubts that we could return to full-time work if needed to. However, we have low expenses (especially since I got rid of my car about 3 years ago), have started investing in rental properties, and we plan to get rid of our mortgage in the next year (by moving to a lower cost area). So while we haven’t reached FI yet, we are willing to take some calculated risks by leaving our full-time jobs ahead of the original schedule.

  21. Best of luck with the swim, Fritz! 🙂 I totally understand OMY. I am guessing it will happen to us too. And the main reason we would have to do it is health care costs. I can figure FI by my current spending, but it’s only somewhat accurate since we will have to flip the entire cost of health insurance at that point (with a pre-existing condition).

  22. We are still 6 to 7 years from retiring, but I see us (mostly me) falling into OMY syndrome. Like a boy scout, I want to be prepared. The unknown health insurance costs aren’t helping. In fact, after reading through your post, I’m thinking that we should increase our expected health insurance costs.

    Hope your swim went well. I HATE cold water!

  23. We ran the numbers and decided we had 6 more years left, found out we were expecting baby #5 a week after that talk and left 6 months later! 😉 Instead of one more year, we left 5 years sooner! Best decision ever! I’m so glad we had that little push. Life totally opened up after we weren’t so busy with the 9-5 grind. But we had 30k a year jobs (easy to replace) and wouldn’t be devastated if we went back to some fun job off and on one the kids are older.

    1. You’re a true inspiration, Ms. Montana! I’m enjoying reading your stories, and applaud you for realizing when “Enough” was enough! You’ve definately proven that there’s more to life than money, and we can all learn from your experience! Thanks for stopping by.

  24. This reminds me of my BFFs husband. He had OMY Syndrome for about five years. He would give his notice and retract it, give it and retract it, even though he had more than enough cash to live comfy in retirement. Finally this year, at age 62, (just last month in fact) he really did it. It’s been about six weeks and he is LOVING retired life as far as I can tell. I think in his case it was fear of not having enough, even though they live modestly and have an easy 7 figures in investments plus a nice paid off house. I wonder if Rick will suffer from OMY Syndrome? He always says he can’t wait to pull the plug on working at a regular “job” but I’m not sure he’d be so eager if the time were now. 🙂

    1. Yours is the second comment related to the “Five More Years” Syndrome! In our situation, we’ve drawn a “hard line” at ONE more year. I suspect it’s easy to get trapped into OMY for multiple years if you don’t draw a hard line. We’ll see how it works out for us, I’ll keep you posted! Thanks for stopping by, I enjoy your blog!

  25. Ya’ll have been awesome in the comments on this post! Sorry I didn’t get a chance to be active in responding, but I was a bit busy swimming in Lake Michigan!! I appreciate each and every comment, and thank you for taking the time to contribute to the discussion!

  26. Didn’t make it down for the swim, but I did go to my brothers on Sunday and did a quick dip in Lake Michigan(without a wet suit this time). Holy Hell I don’t know how you do it, that cold shock is unbelievable. I guess I need to do it more than twice a year

    1. Yay! You ‘Da Man!! I hate to burst your bubble, but Lake MI was actually pretty “warm” last week! (Try London in November, about 12 degrees colder water, and 30 degree colder air!).

      Good for you for jumping in! We’re starting a trend!!

  27. This year we hit the the number we based all our future plans on. My “mother-of-all-spreadsheets” enables us to change rates of gain, rates of inflation, unexpected costs, etc., and we are satisfied our future is as secure as possible. Only a major disaster keeps our net worth from rising at this point. My wife plans to continue working past my retirement for her own personal needs, but her income is a bonus and not necessity. So I set my retirement date at the end of 2018. Why then? Because we lived through 1987 and 2008, and waiting an additional year gives us time for our minds to get used to our new reality. Plus, saving a few tens of thousands more can’t hurt.

    1. I can relate toe the decision to work One More Year, Rick! I suspect many of us who lived through ’87 and ’08 share similar concerns. I’m drawing a “hard line” at the OMY mark, I suspect it can linger year after year if we don’t make a firm decision that (only) One More Year is truly sufficient. Thanks for stopping by!

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