SIX YEARS AGO, I MADE a big life decision: I opted to scale back my work week with an eye to easing into early retirement.
I stayed in the same role, but reduced my hours and responsibilities, took a proportional pay cut, and bid farewell to potential future promotions. Essentially, my human capital shifted from a growth investment to an immediate-fixed annuity for the remainder of my part-time employment.
The change turned out to be far more fulfilling than I’d anticipated. With a four-day weekend every week of the year, I found ample time to unwind from work and indulge in my passions. Even with fewer hours, I consistently met the reduced job expectations and felt valued for my contributions.
The ongoing paycheck, though smaller, spared me from dipping into my nest egg, enabling it to grow and add to my financial cushion. Most important, I remained connected with my teammates and enjoyed the social interaction.
Still, my new setup had one major drawback. While I managed to take occasional short vacations, my family circumstances demanded longer spells away from work. My aging mother lives alone in India and is reluctant to travel abroad. To spend more time with her, I needed to visit her often and stay for prolonged periods.
To be clear, my mother doesn’t require me to live with her and look after her. Throughout her life, she’s been self-sufficient, and my brother and his family live just a few miles away, offering their support as needed. Instead, it’s my desire to spend time with her and do things together, while she’s in good health.
My aspirations required the flexibility to take longer, unplanned leaves a few times a year. Sadly, this isn’t feasible in my current role as an engineering manager overseeing a growing software product. I had to choose between my job and my travels—I couldn’t do both. After exploring multiple alternatives, I made a big career decision in August: to retire completely.
To my surprise, the decision to part ways with a company that brought me to this country, and which fostered my professional journey for 24 years, wasn’t easy. Slowing down is one thing, but actively deciding to close the final chapter of my career is quite another.
In many ways, it brought back the feelings I faced years ago, when I left the emotional security and comfort of living with my parents to forge my path abroad. I anticipated many positives from my new overseas adventure and knew I’d thrive, but I also knew I’d dearly miss being part of my parents’ household.
My manager was initially surprised when I broached the subject, but he quickly empathized with my circumstances. As a first-generation immigrant himself, he understood the emotional struggle of balancing life in the U.S. with ties back home. He was fully supportive, and we worked out a transition plan.
Because I wasn’t planning an immediate trip back to India, we opted to use the months that followed to minimize the potential disruptions to the team and its ongoing projects. The plan entailed hiring two junior fulltime engineering managers as my successors.
I’d then gradually hand over my responsibilities to both and support them until they were fully acclimated to their new roles. We aimed to complete the transition by year-end, with an additional month in the new year as a buffer, giving me ample time to wrap up work and plan my upcoming extended stay in India.
With the transition plan set, the ball started rolling. I had conversations with each of my teammates to disclose my decision. I preferred that my colleagues hear the news from me rather than through the grapevine or in a team-wide email. The plan was then announced to the broader group. Now, it was official.
Despite being a small fry in a large corporate pond—one that employs more than 100,000 engineers—I felt like a celebrity as numerous congratulatory messages from present and former colleagues poured in. To celebrate my retirement, my manager secretly gathered personal messages from my coworkers and presented them on a slide at the next all-hands meeting. It was a heartfelt gesture, one I found incredibly touching.
I framed the slide and placed it on my desk. It highlighted how much I’d miss the camaraderie once I retired. I was also surprised by certain recurring themes in the reactions of coworkers and acquaintances.
First, many viewed part-time work or early retirement as an extreme decision, as if career advancement should be the sole objective for anyone capable of continuing to work. Personal independence is clearly underrated by them.
Second, there was a perception that retiring required amassing a high net worth. My response—that “you can do it, too”—wasn’t convincing to those I spoke to.
Third, there was a misunderstanding regarding my need for extended timeoff. Colleagues and acquaintances thought I was doing it because of family obligation, rather than because it was my personal choice.
As I write about the last chapter of my career, the transition is going well. The new managers are gradually assuming the responsibilities I once handled. Although I occasionally struggle to cede control, I’ve also never felt this relaxed and composed at work. I’ll miss my team dearly, but I’m grateful to end my career on a high note.
Sanjib Saha is a software engineer by profession, but he’s now transitioning to early retirement. Self-taught in investments, he passed the Series 65 licensing exam as a non-industry candidate. Sanjib is passionate about raising financial literacy and enjoys helping others with their finances. Check out his earlier articles.