Is 48 the new 58 ! The growing trend of Early Retirement

All the world’s a stage” is the phrase that begins a monologue from William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” . The speech compares the world to a stage and life to a play, and documents the seven stages of a man’s life  –  Baby or infant, School boy or child, Lover, Soldier, Justice or judge, Old man , Extreme old age facing imminent death – again like a child

In Hinduism, human life is believed to comprise four stages. These are called “ashramas” and every man should ideally go through each of these stages:

The First Ashrama – “Brahmacharya” or the Student Stage
The Second Ashrama – “Grihastha” or the Householder Stage
The Third Ashrama – “Vanaprastha” or the Hermit Stage
The Fourth Ashrama – “Sannyasa” or the Wandering Ascetic Stage

So where do I stand after 25 years of work – knocking at age 48 – I clearly crossed the Shakespearean Soldier Phase – but I am not ready to call myself an “Old Man” – so I guess I fall in the Justice or Judge phase as per Shakespeare , and after 20 years of marriage I am probably 80% into the Grihasta Stage.

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I took the bold step and retired last week. A lovely career of 25 years of which 23 were spent in 3 great companies – Wipro, Sun & Apple. We are a lucky generation – my career started in 1992 when PM Narasimha Rao started the economic liberalisation ( Note I give credit to PVN and not Mr Singh)   – and I rode many waves – The PC wave , Mini Computer , S/W Outsourcing , Telecom , BPO  and finally the  Smart Phone wave. When we started our career telex and fax were the mode of communication – there was no email – a lot has changed in 25 years.

A big decision and the 3 questions that my friends and well wishers are asking me

  1. Why Retire ? Cant the good times continue
  2. How did you pull the plug – How much is enough to retire ?
  3. What will you do post retirement ?

For most people it is difficult to walk away from a Great Job in one of the worlds greatest company – Good salary , Great RSU’s , Great perks , 5 Star Lifestyle – yet I did it. its been 3 months since I put in my resignation and I have not had a single days regret.

  1. Why Retire ? Cant the good times continue

Corporate Life is at the cross roads – 9 out of 10 professionals I have met over the age of 45 don’t enjoy their job. They live pay check to pay check , RSU to RSU – worried about the future.

Over the last 25 years (1300 weeks) – I would have travelled for 1000 weeks – over 2000 flights and 3000 room nights in hotels. Wake up at 4AM for the early morning flight , reach home after midnight , skip meals regularly , over eat, eat unhealthy food, don’t exercise ….. all of this takes a toll and damages the body. The body gives you signals – I read the signal and said stop –  most don’t. They continue with their stress and depression and very soon land up in a hospital bed with a serious ailment

I can be categoric in saying that in India there is NO WORK LIFE BALANCE in the IT / Consumer Electronics industry . Best in class Indian Corporation or MNC our work culture sucks. (Maybe Manufacturing – Govt jobs are an exception)

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2. How did you pull the plug – How much is enough to retire ?

There are 3 Things that make you chug along in your Corporate Job

  • The need for Financial Security
  • Your Ego – Power , Growth , Peer Pressure , Bigger Job , Fancier Designation ….
  • Greed – Bigger Cars, Bigger House, Fancy Holidays , Want the best for me & my family …

(And then there are those rare 1% who found their calling and are immersed in their jobs )

The need for Financial security is basic. It would be stupid to quit if you have not planned and provided for the long life ahead – keeping in mind the inflationary trends.

There are 4 seeds that you need to sow to manage your post retirement era – lets call them 4 Buckets

Bucket 1  : Security  – Gives you Tax Free Interest income  7 – 9 % with which you can maintain your lifestyle and run your monthly household without cutting any strings

Bucket 2 : Growth – Investments in Stocks / MF that could potentially give you 12 – 18 % Returns , let this grow cumulatively.

Bucket 3 : Debt Free House to stay in and one as a backup for Rent / Investment

Bucket 4 :  Investments in Govt Securities like LIC / PPF that you can add on to Bucket 1 at a later stage to manage inflation.

If you planned this over the last 10 years ( Our generation started at a salary of Rs 3000 in 1992 so year 20 – 25 of your career is crucial to maximise investments) – then you should be in a good place.

Coming down to Ego & Greed – this is the tough one to solve. If you have developed a spiritual side and a sense of contentment you can pull the plug – else its your destiny . Most people my age reading this blog will have enough for their needs but not for their greed. Nobody but you can help solve this – its about introspection and prioritising what you want to do in life

3. What will you do post retirement? 

This one is easy – there is so much to do – we all have a long list of things we have wanted to do. Corporate life gives you 18 – 20 days off a year – almost all of that goes in family holidays / functions etc. The concept of sabbatical or extended time off is rare in India companies – even if it exists few take the risk of encashing it as there is the fear of what will happen to my job if I come back after 6 months ?

To fix 25 years of misuse to the body requires a lot of effort – I am going to invest 3 hrs a day on Yoga / Meditation / Increase self awareness / Gym. Perfect your asanas , go deeper in whatever you do . That is Priority no – 1

Fix my lifestyle – eat healthy – eat timely – plan your meals – cook some of them – have a fruit diet once a week – fast once a month. Read up on how to be healthy – Thats Priority no – 2

Do all that you wanted to do – Go for a 10 day meditation camp , visit a Ashram , spend time reading a book by a riverside in a quaint mountain, Trek the mountains , go to Mansarovar  , find a place where you can play TT , visit the offbeat locations near home , travel by a Bus , watch a movie on a week day at PVR (you can’t watch one on the weekend), nap in the afternoon …… There is no dearth of what one can do

Spend time at home –  be with the kids – understand what is their in their school books  (till now thats been 100% wife responsibility) – spend time with family ….

Find your passion – we did what was mandated by society – studied engineering , joined a good corporate job, bought houses , saved money, went to the standard holiday places … life was good but it was predictable … in the journey we forgot what was our passion

Read , meet new people , connect , flow like a river , talk less , observe more , be more self aware

Try and give back something to society – be thankful for all that we have been showered with

Most importantly sit back and enjoy the simple things in life – when was the last time you tasted your cup of tea and felt the flavour  Vs gulping it down, took a relaxed shower and felt the water on your skin , sat in the balcony as the world hurried by and heard the bird chirping and singing … its all there around us  – we never have the time to sit back and enjoy.

Like Newton said

I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

There is so much to do – how many of us know what Dy/Dx and Integral Calculus means – we mugged and passed ? Learn a language / learn an Instrument / Go back and understand better what you rushed by – there is no pressure , no exam , nothing to prove to anyone – you learn for yourself and that will be an interesting journey. The internet is an ocean of knowledge – a fast high speed Internet is all you need. Every day pick one topic on which you want to dig a little deeper.

I haven’t planned it out – my dream is to flow like a river . the River is amazing – its just keeps flowing , stops and crosses a boulder , changes direction if the blockage is large , flows fast , flows slow, it has energy , it is constantly moving. It lives in the present. All that the great masters taught is visible in Nature – in the river , in the seas , in the mountain – there is so much energy in nature.

So what will I Miss ? 

A lot – to start with the security and the comfort of the monthly pay check and the 6 monthly RSU. The Lifestyle at the Hyatt / Sheraton / Taj – the upgrades and the free nights. Free Wi Fi,  Free Breakfast ….

The Platinum status with the airlines – no Q, getting your luggage first off the block

The Chauffeured car waiting to pick you with your name tag

The great office infrastructure – high speed networks , printers , iPhone being upgraded every year, large display , dual screens….

The rushed Veggie shopping from Parle East Market – on the way back to the airport at Mumbai, the authentic street food Vada Pav & Pav Bhaji.

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And most importantly the few good folks with whom I have enjoyed working over the years – you meet thousands but there are those handful of what I call ” A few good people” who touched you and made a deep impact.

And what will I gain ? 

  • Time – the watch will no longer be my boss,
  • A stress free life – No corporate politics , no late night presentations
  • Maybe Discover my hidden Passion

and I hope the River finds its course and keeps moving gurgling with joy and happiness

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12 comments on “Is 48 the new 58 ! The growing trend of Early Retirement

  • Pragati , Direct link to comment

    Wowww! I was able to resonate with most of the things you mentioned and already see myself on this path! One needs to take that bold step to get out of the comfort zone to understand and experience life spiritually to start living,I did!( though its perceived differently when a woman takes a sabbatical/retires early vs a man)
    While its easier said than done but if one can plan their 4 buckets like you said, its doable!
    Great going VAK! Inspiring indeed! Enjoy and best wishes for the times ahead!

  • Nagesh , Direct link to comment

    VAK ! First of all Congratulations .Its a bold step and as i read through your post i can sense that you will keep making it right every step of the way !
    I term this as the ‘ Gandhian’ moment ! If you recall MK Gandhi had a similar moment while in South Africa when he decided to return to India ! Initially he wandered around India , identified himself with the common man , humbled and tamed his ego, established Sabarmati ashram , begun his self-awareness journey and beautifully intertwined and scripted his personal aspiration of moksha with the freedom struggle ….!

    Every one gets this Gandhian moment sometime in their lives , stronger pick it up and do something about it to transform. The rest are left to their destinies .

    It matters that one does his ‘ Experiments with Truth’ in his lfe and live his story .

    Good luck & best wishes .

  • Venkateswaran Raman , Direct link to comment

    Excellent Article. Nicely summarised about IT life of an individual.

  • Prasad , Direct link to comment

    Very well written VAK. Simple and practical. I could relate to every word you wrote. It was a reinforcement of my thoughts and a reassurance of the path I plan to take soon.Hopefully in next 4-5 years when I would have hit the new normal for retirement.

  • pushpa , Direct link to comment

    So well expressed Anand. Truly ‘What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare!’ A timely step!. Revitalise and rejuvenate as you rejoice life!!

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