Brandon, who doesn’t use his last name online for privacy reasons, reached financial independence by living frugally in rural Vermont, where he managed to save and invest about 70% of his after-tax income.
After retiring early, he and his wife Jill decided to travel around the world for three months. Jill had no plans of retiring like her husband — the duo have different money habits and keep their finances separate to ensure marital harmony — but she planned to lean on her savings and expected she’d have to quit her optometry job and find something new once she returned home.
She really enjoyed her work, though, so before leaving, she decided to ask for unpaid leave instead — and her boss was open to the idea.
“Well, in the past, I think what I would have done is sort of go in groveling and saying, ‘This is what I’m asking for. Please, can you make this happen? Is there anything I can do to persuade you?’ and all these kind of things.
“And Brandon had said to me, ‘No, you just need to go in and don’t ask. Just tell them that we’re going on a trip, and this is what’s happening.’ So, that’s not really in my personality to be like that. So I was really nervous about having the conversation with my boss.
“But I was able to approach her in a sort of non-confrontational way, but say to her, ‘We’re planning to do this trip.’ And the options are either I can come back afterwards and take the unpaid leave or I can just hand them my notice.
“And I gave them a lot of notice as well. I think I spoke to her three months before it was going to happen. I said, ‘The other option is if that’s not ok with you, then I’ll just hand in my notice.’
“And actually, she was really great about it and said, ‘Well, we’d like you to come back. You can have the unpaid leave. We’ll figure it all out so that you can come back again at the end of it.'”
Jill said her boss’ response taught her two lessons about negotiations. First, prepare for any outcome, especially the worst case scenario. And second: “If you’re good at your job and you’re valuable, then people will do more than you expect to keep you there.”
“That was a nice surprise and a good lesson for me, that once you have that power that you don’t need that job, you’re not terrified to lose a job, then it does give you a lot of power and you can just ask for what you want and see what happens,” she said.
True to the agreement, Jill started work again at her old job after she returned to Scotland, where the couple now calls home.
“I really enjoy my job,” Jill said. “I feel like I’m always learning new things. So, as long as it continues to be challenging and fulfilling, I definitely want to keep doing it.”
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