Sunday, 15 March 2015

Retire Early : Why?

I occasionally get asked by my readers, Why I want to Retire Early? What is the hurry?  Why the rush?  Why would anyone want to retire early at all?  In my mind it is rather clear and actually obvious why I want to quit the rat race as soon as possible.  It makes perfect sense to me, why I would want to stop working on a regular basis, and spend my time as I deem fit.  However, I have never written a blog entry clearly articulating my reasons for wanting to quit the corporate rat race once and for all.  Recently a reader chimed in with the following: Why should some one retire early if you like the job earn enough, spend wisely and work without any pressure for 35-40 years? I was about to start typing up a furious reply to what I thought was a rather silly question, when I came upon this recent announcement from the Google CFO Patrick Pichette.  On March 11, 2015, Patrick decided to quit his high flying, lucrative CFO job at Google, arguably the best company in the world to work for, and retire for good.  I read through his retirement memo, and realized that he had written from his heart while explaining his difficult decision.  Read on to understand more about why Patrick took this drastic step.

Here I have reproduced Patrick's public retirement memo, explaining the thought process that led to his rather surprising decision.  The open letter is reproduced below from this link:

After nearly 7 years as CFO, I will be retiring from Google to spend more time with my family.  Yeah, I know you've heard that line before.  We give a lot to our jobs.  I certainly did.  And while I am not looking for sympathy, I want to share my thought process because so many people struggle to strike the right balance between work and personal life.

This story starts last fall. A very early morning last September, after a whole night of climbing, looking at the sunrise on top of Africa - Mt Kilimanjaro. Tamar (my wife) and I were not only enjoying the summit, but on such a clear day, we could see in the distance, the vast plain of the Serengeti at our feet, and with it the calling of all the potential adventures Africa has to offer. (see exhibit #1 - Tamar and I on Kili).

And Tamar out of the blue said "Hey, why don't we just keep on going". Let's explore Africa, and then turn east to make our way to India, it's just next door, and we're here already. Then, we keep going; the Himalayas, Everest, go to Bali, the Great Barrier Reef... Antarctica, let's go see Antarctica!?" Little did she know, she was tempting fate.

I remember telling Tamar a typical prudent CFO type response- I would love to keep going, but we have to go back. It's not time yet, There is still so much to do at Google, with my career, so many people counting on me/us - Boards, Non Profits, etc

But then she asked the killer question: So when is it going to be time? Our time? My time? The questions just hung there in the cold morning African air. 

A few weeks later, I was happy back at work, but could not shake away THE question: When is it time for us to just keep going? And so began a reflection on my/our life. Through numerous hours of cycling last fall (my introvert happy place) I concluded on a few simple and self-evident truths:

First, The kids are gone.  Two are in college, one graduated and in a start-up in Africa. Beautiful young adults we are very proud of. Tamar honestly deserves most of the credit here. She has done a marvelous job. Simply marvelous. But the reality is that for Tamar and I, there will be no more Cheerios encrusted minivan, night watch because of ear infections, ice hockey rinks at 6:00am. Nobody is waiting for us/needing us. 

Second, I am completing this summer 25-30 years of nearly non-stop work (depending on how you wish to cut the data). And being member of FWIO, the noble Fraternity of Worldwide Insecure Over-achievers, it has been a whirlwind of truly amazing experiences. But as I count it now, it has also been a frenetic pace for about 1500 weeks now. Always on - even when I was not supposed to be. Especially when I was not supposed to be. And am guilty as charged - I love my job (still do), my colleagues, my friends, the opportunities to lead and change the world.

Third, this summer, Tamar and I will be celebrating our 25th anniversary. When our kids are asked by their friends about the success of the longevity of our marriage, they simply joke that Tamar and I have spent so little time together that "it's really too early to tell" if our marriage will in fact succeed. 
If they could only know how many great memories we already have together. How many will you say? How long do you have? But one thing is for sure, I want more. And she deserves more. Lots more.

Allow me to spare you the rest of the truths. But the short answer is simply that I could not find a good argument to tell Tamar we should wait any longer for us to grab our backpacks and hit the road - celebrate our last 25 years together by turning the page and enjoy a perfectly fine mid life crisis full of bliss and beauty, and leave the door open to serendipity for our next leadership opportunities, once our long list of travels and adventures is exhausted.

Working at Google is a privilege, nothing less. I have worked with the best of the best, and know that I am leaving Google in great hands. I have made so many friends at Google it's not funny. Larry, Sergey, Eric, thank you for friendship. I am forever grateful for letting me be me, for your trust, your warmth, your support, and for so much laughter through good and not so good times.

To be clear, I am still here. I wish to transition over the coming months but only after we have found a new Google CFO and help him/her through an orderly transition, which will take some time. 

In the end, life is wonderful, but nonetheless a series of trade offs, especially between business/professional endeavours and family/community. And thankfully, I feel I’m at a point in my life where I no longer have to have to make such tough choices anymore. And for that I am truly grateful. Carpe Diem.

Well if you made it so far through the letter, you will clearly see that Patrick means every word of what he has written.  Though he clearly loves his job and the responsibility that comes with it, the grind of being "Always On" is something that he is no longer willing to put either himself or his wife through.  

I will rest my case here for this post.  While Patrick had his "aa-ha" moment at the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro admiring the beautiful sunrise, I had mine much earlier in a more mundane setting, in front of my computer screen in the small cube in my office 8 years ago.  The circumstances are clearly different, but the conclusion is the same.  Retire Early! and (in the words of Patrick and Horace before him) Carpe Diem! 

1 comment:

  1. I want to attain financial independence as early as possible, through means of generating passive income which can support me for remaining 50 years. Nobody hates to work, but the time has changed we slog for hours at the cost of our health and life has become so stressful and monotonous. That's the reason why I feel financial independence has become a necessity and should be top priority.
    We need to live life to the fullest and not just confine ourselves to the four walls of office cabin.