Are you wondering if that anxiety deep down is the one more year syndrome?
Let us find out.
The day you waited for years has arrived.
You have planned your journey to early retirement well. You have ticked all the boxes.
The t’s have been crossed and the i’s have been dotted.
You have achieved financial independence as per your calculation and are all set to retire early.
But something feels amiss.
You just cannot get yourself to pull the trigger on your current job and say goodbye.
You are doubting if you are ready to do this.
What if I just continued for one more year in my current job to be sure I am not making a mistake?
You have just been hit by the One More Year Syndrome.
What is One More Year Syndrome
One More Year Syndrome is the urge to continue in your job for another year even though you have achieved financial independence.
At its root lies fear.
It is the fear of not having enough money to retire early. It is the fear of anticipated regret about pulling the trigger too soon.
Add to that, the fear of the being unable to make a smooth transition to a life filled with meaningful work.
One More Year Syndrome makes you believe that another year in your current role will help you overcome all these fears.
When you have lived the corporate life for a decade or two it starts to define you. You know how things work and how to navigate the maze of daily life.
Even if you do not enjoy it that much, it still gives a structure to your daily life.
Early retirement is about giving up this set and familiar routine for a completely unique way of life.
At its core, one more year syndrome is a paradox.
The Paradox of the One More Year Syndrome
One More Year Syndrome is a mental paradox. It is a paradox that you will experience in other areas of your life as well.
It is not only limited to your feelings about the transition to early retirement.
Let us take another example.
You are the proud owner of a nice bottle of wine.
The longer you keep the bottle unopened, the better the wine will taste when you finally drink it.
So instead of drinking the wine right now you let it sit for another year.
As the next year rolls in, the options facing you are still the same.
Drink the wine now or wait till it tastes even better the following year?
Therefore, you delay your consumption of this wine as much as possible.
The years go by, and the wine keeps getting better and better while remaining unopened.
Then one day you are diagnosed with a new health condition.
This new health condition means that even a single drop of wine will be fatal for you.
You now realise that you will never be able to enjoy that bottle of wine. Even though that wine is now the best tasting that it has ever been.
The one more year syndrome has proven to be your undoing.
In philosophical literature this has also been studied as the paradox of the philanthropist.
So how do you handle such a paradox and get over the one more year syndrome?
Coping with the One More Year Syndrome
To make a smooth transition to your post-retirement life, it is important to handle this concern effectively.
Otherwise, you risk an extended period of indecision leaving you paralysed when it comes to making the next move.
Here are some tips to cope with the one more year syndrome:
Acknowledge The Paradox
Start with acknowledging the feeling.
It is normal to get the one more year syndrome. Everyone who gets to this stage will get this feeling in some form.
Some find it easier to deal with, while some others less so.
There is no denying the fact that having a bigger retirement corpus is always going to be financially sturdier than a smaller one.
Also, your colleagues who continue in their paid employment will end up with a higher net worth compared to you.
You may never be able to catch up with them if you decide to retire early.
Just recognising that you will have to face this condition is the first step to coping with it.
It will allow you to prepare for it much before you have achieved financial independence.
Recognise the Opportunity Cost
As outlined in the rationale for early retirement, continuing in your job beyond a stage has an opportunity cost.
At that stage, any benefit from additional wealth accumulation will be outweighed by the time left in your life to enjoy it.
An additional year of earning and saving will boost your retirement corpus.
On the flip side it also means giving up another year of your life while you are still in good health.
It is easy to keep looking at your retirement corpus in isolation.
However, once you start paying attention to the trade-offs you are making the cost of the one more year syndrome starts to become visible.
Know That Good Enough is Good Enough
Good financial planning is the bedrock of getting to financial independence.
It allows you to figure out how much money is enough to retire early.
Once you have calculated what that number looks for you, it serves as your guiding light.
For you, that is the point at which you can get off the treadmill of exchanging your time for money.
Of course, you can continue to stay on the treadmill and keep building up your bank balance. But that is not the life you are after.
You are looking for a life beyond earning money and mindless acquisition of stuff.
And for living that life, once you have reached your enough that is good enough.
There is no point in continuing to accumulate money that you will never even use.
Any additional sum of money that you accumulate will not be able to offer the perfect financial security that you are seeking.
That is because what you are seeking is emotional security not financial security.
Emotional security comes from knowing you already have enough.
Future emotional security thus lies in the ability to live the life you want, beyond accumulation of more wealth.
Focus On the Why of Early Retirement
The very fact you are experiencing this one more year syndrome is because you have an ongoing conflict between your head and your heart.
Your head is prodding you to accumulate a bigger margin of safety for your retirement corpus.
It is prodding you to stay in the comfort of a secure, well-paying job.
Why walk away when things are going well in your corporate career?
On the other hand, your heart is no longer in your current job.
Hopefully at this stage you already have a clear idea on why you want early retirement. It is something that is pulling you towards itself.
Disliking your job may have helped you start your journey to financial independence. But that is rarely the thing that keeps you going for years and decades.
What keeps you going is the time to pursue more of the things you love once you retire.
One more year working at current job means one less year of your life will be spent doing the personally meaningful work that you want to do.
There is a reason you were attracted to the idea of early retirement in the first place. Bring your focus back to that reason.
Once you re-focus your attention on why you want to retire early, the chances of falling for the one more year syndrome become less likely.
Go With Your Gut
What if you have done all the above steps outlined above but the feeling still lingers on?
The one more year syndrome just refuses to go away from your mind.
There is something deep inside telling you that this is not really the right time to call it quits. You should give it another year.
If that is the case, then just listen to your gut.
Sometimes your instincts are the best sign telling you the right time to do something.
If it does not feel like the right time to pull the trigger, then it is ok to wait.
You do not have anything to prove to anyone and it is not a race that you are part of.
It is all about you and doing things the way they make sense to you.
You will be living your new life for the next many decades.
What difference will it really make if it takes you one additional year to get there?
Early retirement is a privilege that most people can only dream about.
The fact that you are this close to your dream makes you part of a small minority of people.
There is little point getting bogged down on the exact time to pull the trigger if it does not seem right.
If another year of emotional preparation or a bigger margin of safety in your retirement corpus is what you crave for then surely go for it.
There could also be other practical reasons to delay things by a year.
For instance, your kids may need to finish the school year, or your stock options may be due for a big pay-out next year.
It could also be simply something specific to your personal situation.
All of those are perfectly reasonable concerns on why it makes sense to continue in your current role for another year or two.
It is ok to respect the one more year syndrome.
The One More Year Syndrome is a perfectly normal emotion to experience as you start the transition towards early retirement.
As with any major life transition, it is normal to experience fear of leaving the known and embracing the unknown.
The one more year syndrome in a mental response to keep us safe and avoid harm that comes with uncertainty.
It is important to acknowledge this emotion and dive to the root of the issue.
Is it purely the fear of the unknown or some good practical reasons keeping you from pulling the trigger?
Going through the checklist of things you need to accomplish before pulling the trigger can help to overcome feeling of anxiety.
Dushyant Choudhary is the founder of dushyantnomics, an early retirement blog for professionals. Dushyant retired early from his 9-5 corporate life after a successful international career. He brings his knowledge and experience to his current role where he’s dedicated to helping professionals achieve a fulfilling retirement.