Today was the first day in almost 23 years that my wife does not work for a large Silicon Valley technology company. She joined them in 1991, just weeks after we were married. She has had a front-row seat as the entire technology industry has re-invented itself several times: the doldrums of the entire tech company in the early 90s, the heady days of the tech bubble, the burst of the bubble, rapid additions to product lines, movement into many more consumer-oriented devices, huge international expansion by almost every major tech company. And for my wife, an explosion in the number of co-workers. Yesterday was her final official day of employment – today the first day of retirement.
Retirement happens are interesting ages here in Silicon Valley – if people are lucky enough to be at the right company at the right time, stock compensation can produce riches beyond any reasonable dreams. Many people take those earnings and chase dreams – starting new companies of their own, moving to Hawaii, whatever their heart desires. Other people simply put their money in the bank and keep working – I’ve heard several stories of multi-millionaires who continue to work at mid-level positions in their Silicon Valley company for modest salaries. So, some people retire while still in their 30s. Others love their work so much that they are willing to do it for free in their 70s and 80s.
The value-creation machine known as Silicon Valley produces the wealth that allows people to have options in their lives. For my wife and for me, the option we have chosen to take is spending time with our older daughter before she goes off to college this fall, and with our younger daughter in the two short years before she does the same time. I hope we have chosen this path early enough to enjoy good health together in retirement – but the last six months have shown us both how tenuous good health can be and how much it must be treasured and enjoyed while it exists.
We have seen friends retire – some take to it very well while others seem to miss working so much that they re-enter the workforce. The transition was easy for me – as the venture funds would down, the demands on my time diminished gradually so I was able to fill that new-found free time with other interests on a gradual basis. For my wife, the transition will be much more abrupt – so just as she helped me deal with cancer over the past six months, now I will help her deal with retirement.
It was great having lunch with her today and wandering around Menlo Park.