Ruth Bader Ginsburg And The Importance Of A Strategic Retirement

When Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on September 18, 2020, at 87 years old, the first person I thought about was my 9-month-old daughter.

I thought about how RBG fought her entire career for women’s rights so that daughters, mothers, and sisters everywhere could lead better lives. Thank you RBG!

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but I’ve been writing about the importance of gender equality for a very long time on Financial Samurai. Here are some of my posts throughout the years:

Someone Has To Give Birth: Why Women Shouldn’t Be Penalized For Being A Mom (2009). A wakeup call for men who get snippy when women take maternity leave.

The Government Is Sexist And Nobody Seems To Care (2010). Discussed the absurdity of the marriage penalty tax and why it came to be.

The Gender Wage Gap And A Solution To Gender Inequality (2012). A no-brainer solution that should be adopted by all firms.

Over The Hill At 40: A Discussion On Age Discrimination In The Work Place (2014). Argued why people over 40 rock.

Sexual Harassment At Uber Reminds Me Why HR Is Not Your Friend (2017). Highlighted how the company did nothing after repeated complaints by one brave female employee.

The Marriage Penalty Tax Has Been Abolished, Hooray! (2018) – Reviewed the new tax laws that are essentially a victory for higher-earning, career-focused women.

How To Negotiate A Severance As A High-Performing Employee (2018). Showed how my wife was able to negotiate a severance after getting passed over for a raise and a promotion gotten by two other guys.

Each post’s existence originated from the deep frustration I have about the lack of gender equality that has made its way into our systems. If our systems were governed by a more balanced group of people, our systems would try all people more equally.

My goal is to bring about more awareness so that we can all speak up and take action to level the playing field.

My Dear Mother

Unless you don’t have a mother, sister, girlfriend, wife, daughter or female friend, it makes no sense to not want gender equality.

My inspiration for writing about gender equality comes from my mother. One day, as an 6th-grader, I visited her at the American Embassy In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and realized for the first time she was a secretary. She was organizing the magazines at the waiting room when she greeted me with a big smile and a warm hug.

Before my realization, my mom had told me she had wanted to be a scientist growing up. Instead of accepting a scholarship to Duke University, she decided to marry my father and support his foreign service career.

Years later, when my mother was in her mid-50s, she shared with me her hope to retire soon and finally pursue her true interests. Her lament motivated me to ensure that she could.

Right after she turned 60, I clearly remember her asking me whether I thought it was OK for her to retire sooner instead of waiting for several more years to get a better pension.

I told her, “Go for it mom! Retire earlier! Dad and I won’t let you down.

Although I’m happy that my mom met my dad, I also wished she could have pursued her career to the fullest while also being a parent.

RSG And The Importance Of A Strategic Retirement

Losing RSG hurts. I hope a woman who is as passionate about gender equality will replace her. I’m sure RSG was fighting hard every day to live long enough to see who would win the election on November 3, 2020.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg And The Importance Of A Strategic Retirement

With her passing, it is clear that Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans will want to add a conservative justice to the Supreme Court. If you are a Democrat, this may be one of your worst nightmares.

Some could argue that a Supreme Court Justice is more powerful than the President given there is no term-limit. One vote could change the law for millions, forever. In fact, here are 30 Supreme Court cases that were decided by just one vote.

Therefore, in retrospect, it may have been better for Ruth Bader Ginsburg to have retired at 80 when President Obama was in office. If she had, the Democrats would have been able to nominate her replacement, who would have then gone on to serve for decades.

On the flip side, perhaps Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death emboldens the Democratic base to turn out and vote because even more is now at stake.

It is my belief that a bird in the hand (retiring when your party is in power) is better than two birds in the bush (the potential for your party to win the presidency again).

Here’s a good article about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s key cases that paved the way for financial equality.

What Is A Strategic Retirement?

A strategic retirement sounds calculated because it is. Nobody should retire without a plan. In fact, if you do retire without a plan, that probably means you were laid off or fired.

Thinking ahead is free. Do not look down upon those constantly plan for the future.

Here are the three core principles of a strategic retirement:

1) Leave your work in good hands.

After a life’s work, the last thing you want is for your replacement to undo everything you’ve done. Instead, you ideally want your replacement to be someone who believes in your work and who will do an even better job.

You also don’t want to retire without a proper successor because this will leave your company in the lurch. It often takes months to find a suitable replacement and then months more to train your replacement.

I was OK with retiring in 2012 because I had hired my replacement two years prior. He was a nice, hungry guy, who I knew could easily take over the business because I trained him. He didn’t go to a fancy school and was stuck in a dead-end role before he joined. As a result, he was very appreciative of the opportunity.

When you retire, you want to feel peace of mind that everything will go on fine without you. You also want to feel the joy of giving your successor an opportunity to succeed.

2) Leave on your terms.

One of the most gratifying things about negotiating a severance or leaving when you want to is that it is you who made the decision to leave, not your boss. We all have a certain level of pride we want to maintain. Leaving on your terms gives you the ultimate sense of pride.

The flip side is being asked to leave. If so, your ego will be crushed, at least for a little while until you find something new. Finally, the other scenario is having to retire due to an uncontrollable health issue.

It is incredibly satisfying to retire on your terms. Retiring on you terms is like walking through a door and into an expansive field of absolute freedom. After so many years of laboring, we forget what it’s like to be a child again.

“To make my own mistakes is all that I wanted.” – Mance Rayder, is an exercise on what it means to be a free man or woman.

3) Think about the repercussions.

Leaving your work in good hands (#1) is mostly thinking about yourself. You want to feel good knowing that your work will continue to make an impact. You also feel good that the company that granted you a pension or a severance package will not suffer because of your departure.

The next step is to think beyond yourself and ask what type of repercussions there will be if you don’t retire. Perhaps deep down you know that your performance is not as it once was, but your company keeps you on out of respect. Maybe it’s time to retire and give a new talented person the opportunity.

Some questions to consider for your strategic retirement:

  • What if I die young and retire too late? Will I regret not retiring and doing everything I wanted?
  • What if I die old and retire too soon? Will I have something meaningful to retire to?
  • Who benefits and who suffers if I don’t retire?
  • How will my life change after a strategic retirement?

I knew I had to retire because my heart was no longer in it. It wasn’t fair to my firm, my junior colleague, the rest of my teammates, and myself to keep working if I couldn’t give 100%. Therefore, I made way out.

I’m not sure how well my business did without me for the first year. However, I do know my junior colleague got a promotion a year later. My old colleagues probably enjoyed having a hungrier guy around. Finally, I was able to do 100% what I wanted with my life. Everybody wins.

A Strategic Retirement Requires Planning

None of us knows what the future holds. We may die young. Our investments may take a 32% hit in one month as they did in March 2020. Life is so unpredictable that we must do our best to appreciate every minute of the present.

A strategic retirement requires extensive planning well before you actually retire. I only planned to retire about five months before I did, which robbed me of some financial upside. If I had planned for two years in advance, I probably would have walked away with a couple hundred thousand dollars more and probably a nice going away bash.

The last thing you want to do is wake up one day and tell yourself, I’m going to quit my job today! Instead, circle a retirement date at least a year or two into the future and do the following:

Things To do Before Your Strategic Retirement

  • Make sure you achieve everything you want in your career. This includes asking for a promotion and a raise, asking to relocate to a different office, and asking for a new role.
  • Identify a successor. If you can’t identify a co-worker, then it’s time to search outside your firm. If you don’t have the authority to hire the person before you leave, provide a list of candidates to your boss when you negotiate a severance.
  • Build good relationships with your HR manager, immediate bosses, and colleagues so that when the time comes to ask for a severance package, they can’t help but want to help you.
  • Read perspectives from people who did retire and what they’d do differently. I promise you that your actual retirement life will look different than what you had imagined. You will feel different and do things differently. The easiest way to overcome, “If I knew then what I know now,” is to simply learn from people who’ve already been there.

We will all retire one day, whether we want to or not. Let’s plan to retire on our own terms. If you do, I promise you will feel much more fulfilled as a result.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quotes

My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.

I said on the equality side of it, that it is essential to a woman’s equality with man that she be the decision-maker, that her choice be controlling.

Women will only have true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.

Thank you Ruth Bader Ginsburg for all your service! May your successor be just as great.

Readers, what are your thoughts about a strategic retirement? Why don’t more people strategically retire? What is one or two more points that should make up a strategic retirement?


Originally posted at

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