It took me eight years after I first realized that my life in law was not working for me until I was fully retired. It went like this:
2012: Best financial year ever. Worked incredibly hard in the last quarter. My hours in November and December were insane. I was so proud of myself. Got a huge slice of the compensation pie.
January 2013: Went to the doctor worried that I was not well enough to go on a trip to Australia for a meeting of our international association. Diagnosed with a thyroid issue. The doctor said it had nothing to do with the stress of my career. I did not believe him.
2013: February to December: Continued to work as hard as ever. I am a slow learner.
2014: Knew something had to give. Took all of June, July and August and worked remotely from Cape Cod. Loved it. Came back in September having proven that I could work remotely. Continued to commute a long way to the office every day because I was stupid.
2015: Took all of June, July and August and worked remotely from a cottage a few hours outside of Toronto. Loved it. Came back smarter than the year before and started working from home several days a week. Decided that I wanted out and started negotiating to withdraw as a partner.
2016: Completed negotiations and withdrew as a partner effective as of the end of 2016.
2017 to October 2019: Worked remotely as “Senior Counsel.” Way better. Cut back on the billable hours and started going to the gym every day.
July 2019: Moved to the country. Started walking an hour every day through the woods. Kept working remotely. Bought a canoe.
October 2019: Firm got tired of me working part-time remotely and earning too much money (in their opinion). Gave me six months’ notice to terminate my contract and complied with all of their contractual obligations.
April 2020: Retired. Kept walking in the woods. Started writing, mentoring, teaching. Income 1/20th of what I used to earn as a partner in a law firm. Mental and physical health ten times better. Less than zero regrets.
May 2020: Surrendered my license to practice law to be sure that I was never tempted to practice law again. A bit concerned that it is possible to apply for readmission.
Throughout this entire time I consulted with financial advisors to be sure that I could afford to retire and spoke constantly with my patient wife about my retirement plans. Eventually that started annoying her, but she tried (unsuccessfully) not to show it. She worried that I would miss being a lawyer. Boy was she wrong about that.
January 2022: The stock market plummeted. I had a nightmare that I had to go back to work again. (I don’t.) I thought about all of the things that I could do if I had to work again. Being a lawyer never came up as a possibility.
The moral of my story: planning for your retirement is not easy. It takes time. Start early.
* According to my wife, I have not actually completed this journey yet.