Both men are 30. One has been a policeman for 10 years, the other for eight. Both are now detectives.

Is is said that men in their profession frequently are burned out at 40.

But is is also said that generous retirement benefits make it all worthwhile.

But not these two men have decided that for themselves, their wives and their children, the time to get out is now. Forget the retirement pension they've heard about since their first day on the job.

Thomas Skinner has been a D.C. policeman for 10 years. During that time, he has been in his share of tight spots. But none, he says, have unnerved him as much as the move he is about to make.

"This is a lot more frightening than looking down the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun," he said. "I'm scared."

Nonetheless, Skinner and his robbery squad partner, Bob Condon, will turn in their badges on May 5. "A lot of people have come up to us and said we're crazy, that we don't know what we're doing, that we ought to reconsider," Condon said. "We're both scared but we think this is best for us."

The two men, partners for two years, have purchased a liquor store at Second and G streets NW. They have invested their life savings to go into business.

What they are doing is a rare thing for a man with a steady income - and a family. But family is one of the reasons they are getting out.

"Police work and marriage just don't go together," Condon, divorced once, said."The shift work and the pressures make it almost impossible to see your family."

Condon and Skinner will forfeit all pension rights because they are quitting the force 12 and 10 years shy of the 20-year retirement eligibility requirement.

If things go wrong in their new venture, their chances of being reinstated to active duty are practically nonexistent.

And their colleagues note that if they waited 10 years, they could go into business and have a retirement pension to fall back on.

"That's the attitude on this force," said Skinner, a soft-spoken Georgian who says he has lost 10 pounds since he made his decision two months ago. "If you're talking to a guy he'll say, 'How you doing, what's up, how long until you get out?" It's like serving a prison sentence. Everyone's just waiting to get out.

"But what happens to most of these guys when they do get out? There they are, still young, in their 40s and all they know is 'how tall was he? Was he armed? What was he wearing?" So what do they do with the rest of their lives?

Both Condon and Skinner will tick off half a dozen reasons for getting out now - and then come up with six contradictions. To a policeman one thing that makes the job worthwhile is the knowledge that excellent retirement benefits are at the end of a career.

"Yeah that's true," said Condon, a native of New York City, "but it gets to the point where you spend the last five years on this job trying to figure out what you're going to do on your next job. I don't want to be a security officer somewhere from age 40 on."

Skinner admits that he was influenced by his old partner, Dan SImmons, who got out after 10 years and went into business - private security for himself, and is successful.

But Skinner also concedes the strains of police life are a factor.

"This job eventually burns you out!" Skinner said. "Look at how many cops retire and in a year or two they just die. I don't care what a man's face shows, you can't deal with the kind of things a cop deals with every day and not be affected by it.

"You reach the point where you almost can't deal with your own personal problems because you're so wrapped up in all these other things you've heard about. I suppose some guys are insensitive to it, but not many. It screws up your insides after a while."

"It gets to be monotonous after you've been doing it for a while," Condon added. "This place gets to be like a security blanket. Guys think they can't do everything else. I've seen them turn down good opportunities because they're afraid they can only do police work.

"I know the last few weeks I've thought a lot about the aspects of the job I'll miss and there are plenty of them," Skinner said. "But I think about other things, too. Like sitting around the office and hearing guys talking about, "That guy up in 3D who got blown away five years ago.' I can live without that."

Both men are giving up salaries of about $20,000 a year. Each has a house in Maryland he is risking. "My mother thinks I'm crazy," Skinner said.

"I guess we're both apprehensive right now," Condon said. "But part of that is because our fingers are bleeding from scraping up money. I know when I look down the road 12 years fromnow, I ask, 'What's going to be there?"