Taking a Buyout to Leave a Job You Love

A 'Washington Post' editor shares his reasons for taking early retirement.

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On his last day of work at the Washington Post, Stephen Fehr, 55, lovingly described his 19 years of reporting and editing as "The Only Job I Ever Wanted." Fehr and dozens of other Post journalists accepted a voluntary early retirement offer from the newspaper. The article left me wondering what goes into deciding to retire early from a job you loved. I spoke with Fehr on his first day at his new post-Post post, senior writer for the news website Stateline.org. Excerpts:

What made you decide to accept the early retirement offer?

I wasn't really planning to, but a friend of mine who I sat next to for years at the Post works at the Pew Research Center and she called and said, "If you know anyone who's taking the buyout, there's this job opening." And I said, "Well, I'm not taking it, but the only person who really might be interested is me." I thought about it overnight and called her back. I don't think I would have taken [the buyout] if I didn't have this job lined up. What kind of retirement benefits did you get?

It was a voluntary retirement with a pension and 401(k) and [health] benefits. I would be surprised if there were any other newspaper companies offering the same terms as this. It was humane, and I felt like I was coming out ahead in many ways. What made you able to leave a job you loved?

I wouldn't have taken it if [the new job] wasn't in the same field. I'm still writing. It's just for a website. I write stories just like you would for print journalism, and I ask the same kinds of questions you would as a reporter. I still write about state government and policy. Do you have any advice for someone weighing a buyout offer?

Nobody knows exactly what you're facing. If you can find another job and it's in the same field, then it makes it a lot easier to consider something like this. You have to look at your heart and your own situation. When do you plan to retire from your new job?

Probably in 10 years. I can see working for a while. Readers, what would it take to separate you from your dream job?