Last Monday we had a small gathering at the office to mark the end of the summer holiday, which traditionally is a very quite period because almost everyone enjoys a long family vacation abroad. Everyone but me, that is. Apparently someone has to man the fort.
After drifting from one group of co-workers to another I overheard a conversation about retirement, which naturally peaked my interest. Most of my colleagues are well past 50, many even pushing 60, so it’s not uncommon to hear it come up in a conversation. This time, however, mostly younger co-workers were discussing the topic.
When I joined their group they all started laughing: “Ha, you’ll have to work even longer than most of us! No way on earth you’ll be able to retire before 70, No More Waffles’ real name!” To which I jokingly responded: “You guys better take care of me then or I won’t last until 70.”
It’s true, I’m much younger than everyone else in the office and chances are the official retirement age increases over the years. Obviously, no one at work knows anything about my journey to financial independence and attempt at early retirement. With an ever-ageing population, I’m not relying on the current pension and benefits that are promised to me. Clearly, they do.
Interestingly, one of the group’s seniors started talking about an article in the newspaper by some German professor who takes unpaid leave for an entire year after having worked for a year. He then travels the world and enjoys some side projects before returning to work. My colleague added that such an arrangement would be ideal to work until 70-years-old.
Before I was able to respond one fellow worker jumped in: “How is that even remotely possible?” Almost everyone else nodded in agreement, to which the senior co-worker responded: “Well, if you only spend half your income this month, you can take next month off. That way you can basically take an entire month off for every month you work.”
That’s when it got even more awkward.
Everyone shrugged saving 50% of their salary off as being an impossible task. The focus of the conversation turned back to me with a simple: “Now you know what to do, buddy! Good luck!” – mandatory pat on the back included. Why do so many people enjoy laughing at other folk’s retirement date?
Even though I wanted to throw their misguided laughter back in their face and tell them that I managed to save 76% of my paycheck last month so bad, I didn’t. I took the high road, as cliché as that may sound. I discovered laughing sheepishly is a great strategy in these kind of situations.
Afterwards I made for a hasty retreat. Even though I was the one to man the fort this summer, I’ll probably be the first of that group of co-workers to leave the fort behind entirely.
I guess that’s the really awkward part.