Why Your Two Cents Matter….Literally!

Mrs. Root of Good decided to pick up the keyboard and pen a few thoughts on work and the decision to finally pull the plug and join me in early retirement.  Here’s what she has to say:

What will it take for me to leave the corporate world and pass the day with Mr. RoG on the back deck laying on the hammock sipping margaritas?  Overall, my job is pretty easy and the pay is good. I have very good benefits, flexible hours and my managers pretty much let me do what I want as long as the job gets done.  And I’m due to take my three month sabbatical any time now.  So what will it take for me to leave my job?  I do want to spend more time with our kids and travel more.  I get jealous when I come home exhausted and Mr. RoG has spent hours outdoor reading.   It’s a tough decision.   If I work for just another year, my salary is enough to pay for our yearly travel expenses for many years!  But there are times when I wonder if it is worth the headaches to stay at work.  There are times when I feel what I’m doing is just silly and a waste of my time!

In the corporate world, we value our customers (they are the reason why we exist) and our number one job is to keep the clients happy!  And when the customer brings us millions of dollars in business we bend over backward to keep our client happy.  Recently, I almost quit over two pennies.  My contact at the BigBucks Investment Group (not their real name, but for confidentiality’s sake, lets call my client “BIG”) may have quit over the two pennies!  I will never know but my guess is my contact felt the same way as I do.

 

So what’s up with the two cents?

Each month, I reconcile account balances for our clients.  Many months, we are off by a penny due to rounding.  I have to manually correct and reissue a new statement to the client.  I spend an extra fifteen minutes to fix the balance. I’m not sure what my client does over this penny.  All I know is between the client and I, we spend much more than a penny to fix the one penny issue!  But OMG, we haven’t had a difference in two pennies until five months ago.  The two penny difference cropped up in May but we didn’t discover the difference until June when we reconciled the May balance.

In June I fixed the two penny difference and resent the statement. My contact at BIG confirmed all is good and left the firm a few days later.  All was good with me and my accounts and at the end of June, I went on my five week vacation.  Upon my return from vacation I was greeted with slew of emails going back and forth between client BIG and my coworkers over the two penny difference.  My coworker was kind enough to leave me alone and let me catch up on my emails.  After reading all the emails regarding the two cents difference, I was boiling inside and said to my co-worker…WTF!  Great thing about working at an investment bank, we can use the profane language out loud like our NY coworkers and it’s completely acceptable!

Apparently, my BIG contact left the firm but his coworker did not realize we resolved the two penny difference and must still have the old statement.  By the time my coworker resent the statement in July, it was too late and my client said they could not accept the revised statement.  To make the client happy, my adjustment on the two cents was reversed and adjusted with the July numbers.  To make a long story short and without going through all my emails (I can’t keep all the facts straight of when the two cents adjustments were made and reversed), the client was still not happy.

We ended up having a conference call for the second time to resolve the two cent difference.  A third call was made to finalize the numbers.  After many additional emails, a final email was sent to confirm the balances and a final statement was reissued at the beginning of October.  So far so good.  Between myself, my coworker and my manager, we spent many hours resolving this two penny difference!  We all feel this is crazy and a waste of everyone’s time.

Damn, if I could, I would send them a check and give them my two cents!  But no, we must make the client happy and do as they say to keep them happy.  After all, they give us millions of dollars in business each year.  For me, I shake my head and wonder if this is why my contact at BIG left the firm.  So many times I just want to tell my manager, “you take care of this so I can move on and focus on my other clients and do something else that is productive!”  These two cents really stressed me out and make me wonder if what I’m doing is meaningful enough to stay in the corporate world.

 

Mr. RoG’s thoughts:

If you think this story sounds bad, just think how challenging it was for me to be a dutiful husband and listen to the entire saga!  Luckily I was able to lay in my hammock while being supportive.  

But seriously, this seems totally asinine and serves as a great example of why so many get frustrated and upset with the corporate world.  I wish I could tell Mrs. RoG (and others) that early retirement is completely free of stressful annoyances like the “two cent issue”.  Unfortunately, we still have to deal with routine irritations from things like health insurance explanation of benefit letters that make no sense, crazy bills from the cable (internet) company, and navigating complex phone menus to fix things that other people messed up.  

Mrs. RoG (perhaps due to my ambivalence) is also experiencing a touch of the “one more year syndrome”.  It’s a phenomenon where soon-to-be early retirees tell themselves year after year that “just one more year, and I’ll have even MORE money!”.  An extra year of Mrs. RoG’s labor (which after her vacation time, paid holidays, and her sabbatical would be more like seven months of actual work) would yield enough money to fund an extra two or three years of our early retirement budget or greatly expand our travel budget for many more years.  However that’s one more year where she is gone most of each week day and not enjoying the early retiree lifestyle.  

 

 

Please input your two cents.

 

 

(cover photo courtesy of flickr user Heartlover1717)

45 comments

  • Woof. That sounds like a mess. And basically sums up everything I find odious about corporate culture. Thankfully I’m somewhat insulated from that in my smaller company… but some of that same “let’s get anxious over stuff that really doesn’t matter” attitude still bleeds through.

    I’ve taken the long term position of “Hey, you want to pay me to do this inconsequential thing? Go for it.”

    It helps me to stay sane when my boss asks me to do something that should be done by an intern 🙂

    • That’s how I usually dealt with it. “Uh, this task is pointless, inconsequential, and won’t benefit anyone but it will consume significant resources. But I’ll do it with a smile on my face.”

    • I have trouble even saying that. I have a M.E degree but you want me to spend my time doing secretarial work?

      I think I am suffering from the 1 year thing. I want to take a year off to focus a bigger part of my time on child raising and even though we can easily survive and even save in my husband salary I keep pushing stuff out.

      I have 2 deadlines Jan or July. At worst I hope by July I can give it a rest for 1 year.

  • What a crazy story. I’m so glad to be out of the normal corporate world. Self-employment is so much better.

  • That type of issue drives me nuts, especially when there is one person on the other end who REALLY cares about the 2 cents. From time to time I end up working for a client who will get some minor pet project in mind that on a scale of 1 to 10 in priority is a 0 at best, but in order to keep the client happy, we divert some resources to address it. I’ll then act like his issue was really a priority 10. It’s so much easier than arguing over it. Faking enthusiasm for a trivial matter when there is so much REAL work that needs to be done is super frustrating, especially when I want to burst out laughing at the audacity of it all.

    I can see how easy it is to get stuck in the one more year cycle, Especially when the money is good and with the sabbatical deal Mrs ROG has. That one more year rationale can easily drag on for 10. I think an opposing viewpoint would be to look at how challenging it would be for her, or for you to get a similar job if needed in 5 years or 10 years if there was a prolonged market down turn and you wanted to keep from withdrawing in a down market. With how well you manage expenses and the size of your nest egg, a low stress part time or temp job that pays even 10K a year would make a big difference.

    • I think it would be very hard for Mrs. RoG to jump back in and get what she’s earning now after 5 years being out. I think it would be a little challenging for me. That’s mostly because Mrs. RoG advanced more beyond the entry level salaries in her field (roughly double), whereas I ended up making about 40% more than entry level salary. So I could jump in at an entry level salary and do grunt work for $45-50k/yr whereas Mrs. RoG might have a hard time finding work at that same level unless one of her old coworkers or contacts happens to have something for her.

      But you are right, we could make do with even a part time job that pays 10k a year, and that would cover about 1/3 of our expenses. For 2014, I’m clearing about that much from some small freelancing writing and from this blog, so I could always focus more efforts on those two projects and increase our income that way. Which makes me think of this post on why I don’t think we are likely to run out of money in early retirement.

  • It really is amazing how much time and effort goes in to things that really don’t matter in the long run. I know I have to take a step back and calm down sometimes. I had a major issue on Friday that I’ve never faced before and exploded on HR that told me that I had to hire an employee from another department that wasn’t qualified for my job opening…but the company was required to keep them on. I lost my voice all weekend I was so upset. There is a way out that I’ll try to work on today, but its amazing how frustrating work gets at times. Just let me do my job and I’ll make you a fortune….or micromanage me and go back to the poor results we used to have before I joined the company.

  • My deepest sympathies for Mrs RoG. I’ve totally been there, not over two pennies, but over similar issues that REALLY don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. (And they become all the more frustrating when you see huge piles of waste elsewhere and there are arguments about the tiniest thing.) *sigh* So I totally get it.
    But I also understand the one more year syndrome, especially when it’s really like n more months syndrome. We’re won’t be at the “one more year” point for a couple more years at least and I think what makes our plan feel good is that we’ll both be done at the same time. I don’t think I could mentally handle going to work and dealing with the BS when Mr PoP is home reading and doing whatever he wants.
    Best of luck with the decision on whether to throw in the towel – I know it won’t be an easy one.

    • Thanks. Time flies when you’re having fun right? I remember two or three years ago, I said one more year and I’m done. Well, my 9 yr anniversary is this week and I’m thinking maybe another year? We’re about to roll out another system starting 2015 and I feel like I need to be there to help with the transition. I hate to leave my co workers to deal with it on their own! But I also tell myself, there’s always going to be something to keep me there.

  • This story sounds absolutely made up, but after working in the corporate world I can see how this can happen and probably happens daily to thousands of people around the world. Sucks but my approach would also be “if it makes you happy you can pay me to deal with this BS and I won’t complain”… until one day I’m FI at which point I will be free to just walk out the next time someone asks me to address their “2 cent issue”.

    • It does sound made up but unfortunately, it’s the sad truth. I spent several hours trying to fix this one issue! We had meetings attended by myself, my co worker, my front office manager (earning NY salary!) and the client trying to resolve the two cents difference. Of course, after each call, my colleagues and I wasted time bitching about how this was a waste of everyone’s time!

    • Very Office Space. What a perfect FIRE movie. I rewatched it not long after retiring early. It’s so absurdly similar to some aspects of the corporate world. In fact, my first day on the job in my post-college career, I was assigned the role of completing all the TFP reports for the office. I don’t think my boss realized why I was laughing when he gave me that assignment.

  • If companies would actually step back and assess how much such ridiculous behavior actually costs them in time, $, and lost productivity, such ridiculousness might stop. But I doubt that American managers are bright enough to take such a step, so it will continue on, eventually forcing good people like Mrs ROG out the door. Sad.

    Basically this is the kind of behavior that caused me to check out this year. Occasionally I think about going back, but since we are in good shape resource-wise, I usually catch myself before taking the plunge. Plus this morning with just a few keystrokes and a few minutes research I was able to “make” $2600 in the options market. Usually when I do that it wakes me up to why there really isn’t a need to put up with the asinine people that populate most working environments in this country. Or the plane travel that was likely killing me.

    Best of luck to Mrs ROG in her decision. Granted, you guys are both a lot younger than my wife and I and need think longer and harder about it, but we are absolutely enjoying the freedom of not working for a corporation (my case) or a government entity (Deb’s). Hopefully you will both make the right decision.

    • This ridiculous behavior comes from fear of being audited and being grilled on why there is a penny or two difference. It’s funny on what auditors will grill you on! In my experience, some of the other ridiculous business decisions come from middle management needing to show they accomplished something…on paper the decisions look good but in reality, it was a waste of time and money. I lost a few good colleagues already over this!

  • Vawt @ Early Retirement Ahead

    I used to work for a commercial loan servicing company and can understand the need for client accounts to be reconciled to the penny. When it involves being a trustee of the funds, there is not much flexibility. I still think it is a bit crazy, but I got used to it.

    Let her have the one more year, then gently remind her at the conclusion that it is time to call it quits!

    • I’m used to matching to the penny but this time it was trying to figure out exactly the balance the client see as correct which amazingly took months to figure out!

      I’m still debating whether to give it another year! Not only do I have the vacations and sabbatical to look forward to, but I also have the bonus and raise to look forward to as well!

  • Holy Fudge. Seems like a scene out of Office Space and the damn TPS reports. Too bad some much money and time was to resolve a ridiculous issue like that

  • I would do one more year. I really would. With that amount of vacation time it will go quickly and the benefits of that extra money will be worth it. And the anticipation of finally making the decision could make the last year a fun one. I’m excited for you, Mrs RoG!

    • Thanks but even with all the vacations and sabbatical, I’m afraid this coming year maybe a stressful one since we are rolling out a new system and processes which will require lots to testing on top of regular work!

  • We do a lot of bogus things that really have no impact on the way of life. For the sake of keeping busy!

  • My vote would be for you to quit..take 3-6 months off. If you decide you want to work for some “vacation money” or for some other special purchase, get a part time or temporary job.

    I am considering working Feb through October (somewhere) and then quitting for Nov, Dec and Jan. Spend the holidays with as much flexibility as I can.

    Our situation is very similar to yours. We have slightly less in investments and slightly more in net worth due to a $360k paid off house and a few other items. My wife has the “good job” now. I pulled back so she can focus more on work. She actually probably works less now because she isn’t pulled away for kid things. I handle that stuff when possible.

    “One more year” syndrome is real. But I also understand if you want to walk away. Maybe just knowing you can walk away today is enough to get you to shed those “2 cent” moments.

    Good luck!

    • With our two girls still in elementary school and the youngest is only 2 yrs old, I don’t even know if we can take that many vacations and so we wouldn’t need all that extra vacation money. So I really don’t need to work that extra year.

      As for your wife working less since you pulled back, I feel like it’s the opposite for me. Ever since Mr. RoG left work, I feel like I’ve been working more. When Mr. RoG was working, I left work early to pick our kids from school and then finish working from home. I usually stop working when it’s dinner time. Now, I don’t have to pick the kids up from school, I usually stay in the office until I come to a stopping point and so the time varies as to when I leave work.

      • I think less work maybe isn’t the right term for my wife. More focused. Less interruptions. Larger blocks at work.

        Less early mornings or evening or late night work because she left early to pickup the kids.

        I don’t want her to work more. I’d like her to arrive at 8:30, take a half hour lunch and leave work at 5:00. I also wouldn’t mind if she wanted to down job as well. She could easily take the “home” role and I could venture out for some income. I feel like if we keep continuing to save something. Keep the investments moving forward along with compounding and time and we’ll be in good shape when the 1st grader graduates.

        Is not going backwards going forwards?

        • I think I have taken up enough work around the house and kid-related errands to free Mrs. RoG up for more focused work-work like you say. At least it seems that way from my point of view.

  • I need stories like these every once in a while to remind me of how glad I am to be retired.

    I’d probably go for one more year…a real 12 months and not a continual one-more-year. Obviously I’m not sure how long you have to work to get a sabbatical at your company or what other requirements there are. But if it’s not a carved in stone benefit the company might look less favorably at the next person who wants a sabbatical if they find that people use the sabbatical as there swan song. The time off might give you enough energy and perspective to happily come back for 9 more months and earn a ton more money.

    • Sabbatical is a formal process at our firm and my bosses already promised me I can take at least 2 months this coming year. What I’m already worried about is there are going to be several issues waiting for me when I return from my sabbatical!

  • I tend to be similar to Mrs. RoG in that I will get fired up mad when a tiny detail is blown entirely out of proportion. It is so infuriating! That is probably the #1 thing that I will not miss when I retire from traditional work. A three month sabbatical and five weeks vacation sounds pretty darn nice though. That would make it a little harder for me to quit and would make it much easier to say “just one more year”. Best of luck!

    • I think I mastered the art of saying “I don’t care” with my face while saying “Oh, that is important and urgent!” with my voice. Just my coping strategy.

  • That sort of thing drives me nuts. It seems that common sense is really very uncommon and even though we’re apparently all adults, it often feels like you’re dealing with a 2-year old. And sometimes 2-year olds have more common sense and are more rational thinkers!

  • Dear Mrs. RoG, pull the plug! I did in May after 21 years in a large corporation. I am a (early retired) type A, very meticulous, worker like you. I was utterly astounded by the release of stress once I left the company. And even more amazed at how bad for our bodies that daily hours of sitting at a desk apparently is, because my body had to adjust! The impact of the daily corporate dysfunction on our bodies’ stress hormones is quite scary. It is not worth one more year.

  • What a story! In my case, I don’t work in a big company, 2 cents are something we don’t care about. If you change a couple of lamps to LED lamps the savings are far bigger than that, ans we changed it just a few weeks ago, as we could have it for free. All that matters is the big scene and keep clients happy and productive.
    And keep our head cool…
    Cheers!

  • Wow, what a ridiculous waste of time! If that sort of things took up more than 50% of your time every day, then I’d say get out of there, but if there’s enough interesting stuff or good company during the other times to offset that, then I don’t see the harm in sticking at it a little longer. Sounds like you’ve got some great flexibility and perks with what you do, so I’d stick around a little longer and keep build your pot of gold. You just have to know when enough is enough though!

    • I think that 2 cent issue is the most ridiculous thing she has dealt with, and the rest of her daily efforts are focused on other issues that aren’t totally BS. Thank goodness.

  • Thank you all for your “2 cents” ;). But seriously, I’m digesting all your comments and reevaluating my options. The 2 cents issue is the silliest I’ve come across so far. But I get so worked up when I have to spend such great efforts resolving issues like this when there are much greater issues I also have to resolve. Overall, I do enjoy my job and like the people I work with…which makes it harder for me to leave. And that’s why I’m still working. My job and managers are flexible with me so that I can spend more time with my family. Currently, with all my vacation time left remaining, I’m working 4 days or less a week. If I continue to work next year, I should be able to continue to work around 4 days a week and then take off 2-3 month sabbatical. All this and getting paid full time and getting cheap health insurance for my family. This is why it’s so hard for me to cut the cord.

    • Wow, you certainly have a way with words. However you hit on an interesting topic that we should explore more – the “one more year” concept. Mr. Breeze and I are starting to reach that point and while it is difficult to give up the salary and the guarantee that comes with it, it is even harder to weight the opportunity cost of early retirement. If only there were an easy way to calculate this. Thanks for the great post and words from the Mrs. 🙂

  • Wow! What a bunch of bs. Still if, as you say, she is only working 7 out of 12 months, a little math shows me she is only at work 20% of the waking hours out of a year. Were it me, I would work the flex time a bit more and lobby for work at home on the back deck days. I think commutes add vastly to stress. By not driving she would cut her 1 in 10000 chance of dying in a car wreck rate greatly as well.

    • She can work from home whenever, but the remote access system can be slow at times. And she only has dual monitors at home, but claims to need the triple monitors at work. 😉 I think she just enjoys the long commute and the pale white glow and hum of fluorescent lighting. And the muted earth tones of the carpet, walls and all furniture.

    • I find working from home inefficient and inefficiency REALLY stress me out. Downfall with working from home. 1) Access from home is slower and sometimes to the point that I can’t work. 2) It’s hard to concentrate when our 2 yr old is constantly bothering me. 3) Snacking too much at home and 4)Mr. RoG is constantly trying to chat with me while I’m working! 🙂

  • Gross. This is the kind of thing that makes me motivated to retire early. Kudos to Mrs. ROG for sticking it out after such a ridiculous issue. I find myself day dreaming of quitting my job over far less…. unfortunately I am not financially secure enough to do so!

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