Author Topic: When do you know it is time to quit your job, or : F' This money vs FI money  (Read 6600 times)

fsohn

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Fellow Financially Mustachioed Men and Women:

I have reached a weird stage in my journey to FI, and I'm hoping for some advice from the community about how to proceed.

Since starting in earnest on the path to FI about 1.5 years ago (although I only found the online FI community and realized I wasn't a crazy weirdo, or at least, not an uncommonly crazy weirdo), I have managed to pay off over $100K in student loans and build a net worth of about $120K.  About $80K of that is in non-retirement accounts, which would fund (without accounting for earnings in the interim) about 3 years of my current budget.  A bit on the high side, but Chicago is not a super-cheap place to live.

That is possible due to a combination of frugal living (duh) and a high income from the fancypants law firm (double duh).  It is the second thing that is really giving me trouble.  Quite simply (and without calling anyone out, if they happen to link me to this post!), I loath it.  I have insanely high stress levels every day.  I get debilitating migraines at least twice a week, I frequently find myself looking over the edge of simply walking away and never returning, and often feel both extremely overworked and still unable to finish what I need to do in a day.  I know it is irrational, but sometimes when the work load gets too high, I literally have to leave the office and walk around outside for ten minutes or so, just to stop from literally slugging someone, or throwing a monitor across my office, or some equally stupid thing.  Put simply, I know that I cannot do this long term, and actually set a goal to quit six months after I paid off my student loans.  That would've been about two months ago, but I'm still here.  I thought the stress would improve after that, but it hasn't -- if anything, it's gotten worse, so I need to make a final decision.

I feel that I have F' This (or as jlcollinsnh puts it, F' You) money, in that I could, this very day, walk away and have three years to figure out how not to die of starvation and lack of shelter.  However, that money increases at a 5 figure clip per month due to the aforementioned frugality and fancypants-stressinducing law firm dollars.  There's also a bonus (likely coming in February) of about $25K after taxes, if I hit my target hours, which is currently true, but unlikely to remain so if I want to have any semblance of family time during the holidays.  If I do stay for that, I will have to stay through the end of March, since we will be representing a client a trial starting at the end of January, and it would be unethical (although not illegal) to quit the day the bonus hit my checking account.  I could pick up freelancing project-based work at a clip of something like $25-$30 per hour pretty easily, and basically as much of it as I want, and do some other side gigs to help pay the bills (real estate closings, for which I've just taken a course paid for by my current firm, come to mind), so it wouldn't be as if I would go from high income to zero income -- I think I could actually hit my budget numbers fairly easily, and do so working 9 to 5, instead of 8 to 7.

So my question is this:  knowing everything I have written above (and with the ability to ask anything else you might want to know -- I'm an open book) should I just walk today?  Should I prioritize my mental health (which I literally feel being chipped away on a daily basis), or should I just put my nose to the grindstone, stick it out until the end of March 2018 and walk away with three more years of freedom, and move into freelancing (or a second career altogether) at that point?  Or should I just say fuck it, wait for the next time someone pushes me out over my line, and just walk away, since http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2016/06/08/happiness-is-the-only-logical-pursuit/?

Linea_Norway

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Prioritize your health. You could get a heart attack from your current job. Then all your savings was for nothing. I think it is not worth it.
Just quit, find some other lower paid/lower stress job and work some years longer than planned until FIRE.

birdman2003

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Your student debt is paid off which is great, and I think that would make me feel more comfortable in leaving my current stressful big law firm job and starting my own practice or joining a smaller firm where I could work 45-50 hours per week.

TartanTallulah

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Are you familiar with this gentleman's writing?

https://thepeoplestherapist.com/

It suggests that your dilemma is by no means an unusual one in your profession.

I think (from the perspective of a profession that has some features in common with law) it depends. If you are fundamentally a good lawyer but are temporarily burnt out, it might be worth using some of your funds to take a long period of time out to allow you to recover before making a decision about your future. But if you have discovered that you and fancypants law aren't a good fit, leaving with your head held high and making a career change now would be more sensible than forcing yourself to keep doing something you hate for the money.

I had several months off work with burnout a few years ago. When I went off, I thought, "There's no way I'll ever be able to do this job in any form again." Since then, I've coped with far more stress than the ones I blamed for breaking me. It's a race to get to FIRE before it chews through me again, but I'm good at it and nothing else will pay me as well or use my skills as effectively so I'm holding on.

trollwithamustache

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Re: freelancing. If you know what your annual budget/costs are, you know how many hours a year you need to bill. With a little MMMmojo you probably don't need very many hours...  it can be surprisingly easy to cover your costs and still build 'stache without full time employment.

yeah, its a slower road to full FI/RE, but if you enjoy it a lot more RE becomes a lot less important.

Laura33

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One of our partners died at his desk of a heart attack.  He was 38 and left a wife and young kids.  Oh: and he *liked* his job.

IMO, whether you quit at FU or FI depends on how much you hate your job.  If it's ok but not what you want to do with your life, you quit at FI.  If you loathe it, you quit at FU. 

And if it is affecting your health (mental or physical), you quit the moment you can get the hell out of Dodge without living on the street.

You are at stage 3.  Quit.  Now.  Today.  Not worth it.

2Birds1Stone

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If sticking it out 7-8 months means 3 additional years of FI funds.......I would be tempted to suck it up, and just do no more than the minimum to not get canned before that day.

fsohn

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Thanks for the input, folks.

Basically, I think I am "good" at doing law in the setting of the fancypants law firm -- I just don't like it at all.  I do find myself, occasionally, temporarily engrossed in an interesting assignment, but literally-literally every time I step back for a moment and think to myself, "Do I enjoy doing this?  Do I like what I do?" the answer is a resounding "Hell no."

With that said, I do realize, in my calmer moments, that there is value to be extracted from this job, even if I am in that final legs of it.  But I feel I need someone to help me manage the transition -- to make sure I'm making the right choice at the right time, and to tell me to leave earlier than I think I should, if that's what needs to be done, or to give me a facepunch and tell me to stay if I'm not seeing over the hill that everyone eventually gets over.  I have been familiar with the work of the People's Therapist for a while (he occasionally guest-blogs on Above the Law), so maybe he's a place to start.

lhamo

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Sometimes just knowing you can pull the plug any minute is enough to reduce the stress significantly. I had a job situation turn very ugly a few years ago. Literally had a showdown with a Psychoboss over a rigged performance review. I wasn't quite ready to leave at that point, as there were important projects I wanted to wrap up. I kept going about another 8 months while I lined up a transitional gig. I started a spreadsheet where I tracked every cent I was earning each day. Threw in PTO days every 2~3 weeks to decompress.

It took quite a toll on me but overall I'm glad I didn't leave thing undone. And the extra money was good to have during the transition phase and beyond.

Linea_Norway

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You could also consider working as a lawyer at a company that does something else. For example my company has a lawyer that manages our contracts.

oldladystache

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Your question assumes there are only two choices. That's rarely true. I don't have any idea what the other choices are, but you could figure them out.

If you have too many responsibilities, tell the powers that be to find someone else to take over some of them. If they know they will lose you if they don't agree they will probably figure out a way to get it done.




Laura33

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Your question assumes there are only two choices. That's rarely true. I don't have any idea what the other choices are, but you could figure them out.

If you have too many responsibilities, tell the powers that be to find someone else to take over some of them. If they know they will lose you if they don't agree they will probably figure out a way to get it done.

Eh, probably not.  Big law firms count on 95%+ of their associates leaving, since they can't make that many partners anyway.  So I would not make the demand expecting them to find a solution.

OTOH, ITA with the sentiment:  if you are at the point where you are ready to walk anyway, what's the harm in asking for what you want?  Heck, maybe you'll get lucky and they'll let you go and give you severance (a/k/a "get paid to quit")!  ;-)

mm1970

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Thanks for the input, folks.

Basically, I think I am "good" at doing law in the setting of the fancypants law firm -- I just don't like it at all.  I do find myself, occasionally, temporarily engrossed in an interesting assignment, but literally-literally every time I step back for a moment and think to myself, "Do I enjoy doing this?  Do I like what I do?" the answer is a resounding "Hell no."

With that said, I do realize, in my calmer moments, that there is value to be extracted from this job, even if I am in that final legs of it.  But I feel I need someone to help me manage the transition -- to make sure I'm making the right choice at the right time, and to tell me to leave earlier than I think I should, if that's what needs to be done, or to give me a facepunch and tell me to stay if I'm not seeing over the hill that everyone eventually gets over.  I have been familiar with the work of the People's Therapist for a while (he occasionally guest-blogs on Above the Law), so maybe he's a place to start.

Not a lawyer, but I'm going to ask...

When was  your last vacation?  When was the last time you took any time off?

I'm an engineer, and much of my career has been in fast paced manufacturing or startups, often with 24/7 coverage, pagers, phone calls, etc.

When I was younger (20s) and in a slightly less horrible job, schedule wise, I noticed that I was getting super stressed out and tense - and realized that I hadn't taken a day off, aside from holidays, for 6 months.

Now that I'm older, and have been in much more high-stress jobs, it's 3 months.  I honestly need to unplug and take a full week off every 3 months (for the record, I don't get to do that, but I can certainly FEEL it.  To be honest, the last half of June and first half of July was BRUTAL.)

So for me, that's what makes stress, and work, bearable - regular time off.  Your body (and brain) both need it.  And it can be vacation, holidays.  It can be leaving work earlier.  It can be that 15 minute walk outside.  I do all of the above.

fsohn

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Your question assumes there are only two choices. That's rarely true. I don't have any idea what the other choices are, but you could figure them out.

If you have too many responsibilities, tell the powers that be to find someone else to take over some of them. If they know they will lose you if they don't agree they will probably figure out a way to get it done.

Eh, probably not.  Big law firms count on 95%+ of their associates leaving, since they can't make that many partners anyway.  So I would not make the demand expecting them to find a solution.

OTOH, ITA with the sentiment:  if you are at the point where you are ready to walk anyway, what's the harm in asking for what you want?  Heck, maybe you'll get lucky and they'll let you go and give you severance (a/k/a "get paid to quit")!  ;-)

Unfortunately, Laura33 is right -- despite being well-liked and good at my job, I have basically no leverage.  The group I'm in has enough people in it to not take too much of a hit if I leave.  However, they would very likely ask me to stay on a month or two to transition my various tasks over to new folks.  It would suck pretty hard for them if i literally just quit on the spot (or with just two weeks notice), so I probably have some leverage to extract some extra compensation like whatever portion of my bonus would be "earned" at that point.  I do plan on asking to go half-time, but I'm almost 100% certain that they will just say no outright to that.

Thanks for the input, folks.

Basically, I think I am "good" at doing law in the setting of the fancypants law firm -- I just don't like it at all.  I do find myself, occasionally, temporarily engrossed in an interesting assignment, but literally-literally every time I step back for a moment and think to myself, "Do I enjoy doing this?  Do I like what I do?" the answer is a resounding "Hell no."

With that said, I do realize, in my calmer moments, that there is value to be extracted from this job, even if I am in that final legs of it.  But I feel I need someone to help me manage the transition -- to make sure I'm making the right choice at the right time, and to tell me to leave earlier than I think I should, if that's what needs to be done, or to give me a facepunch and tell me to stay if I'm not seeing over the hill that everyone eventually gets over.  I have been familiar with the work of the People's Therapist for a while (he occasionally guest-blogs on Above the Law), so maybe he's a place to start.

Not a lawyer, but I'm going to ask...

When was  your last vacation?  When was the last time you took any time off?

I'm an engineer, and much of my career has been in fast paced manufacturing or startups, often with 24/7 coverage, pagers, phone calls, etc.

When I was younger (20s) and in a slightly less horrible job, schedule wise, I noticed that I was getting super stressed out and tense - and realized that I hadn't taken a day off, aside from holidays, for 6 months.

Now that I'm older, and have been in much more high-stress jobs, it's 3 months.  I honestly need to unplug and take a full week off every 3 months (for the record, I don't get to do that, but I can certainly FEEL it.  To be honest, the last half of June and first half of July was BRUTAL.)

So for me, that's what makes stress, and work, bearable - regular time off.  Your body (and brain) both need it.  And it can be vacation, holidays.  It can be leaving work earlier.  It can be that 15 minute walk outside.  I do all of the above.

In nearly six years of fancypants BigLaw work, I have taken not even four weeks of true, off-the-grid vacation.  I've worked multiple Thanksgivings and Christmases, July 4ths, etc.  There is basically no downtime if you want any chance of making bonus -- and it is essentially the case that if you don't make bonus, you are considered underperforming.  Given how far I am along the line in terms of seniority (and therefore how expensive I now am for the firm), if I am underperforming, I am likely to get the "You need to find another place to work" speech.  If I simply took the time off I needed to stay compos mentis, I would almost certainly have gotten that speech years ago.

Anyway, I do plan on trying to find an ex-lawyer therapist to talk through all of this from the non-financial side.  There are too many different little things that non-lawyers don't understand on the psychological side that a run-of-the-mill therapist won't get.  Luckily, I have a good amount saved in the cash portion of my HSA, so that shouldn't hurt my FI path too much.

IllusionNW

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Maybe find a better firm?  I work in big/mid law, bill 1800 hours a year, leave the office every day at 5 pm, etc.  If you really like the practice (and it sounds like you do), maybe that's an easy intermediate step without having to totally get out of the race?

Hargrove

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I work a job that is an hours-sponge. I also want to walk away. In my situation, I too have reached the manifest-pain level of wanting to quit. When it comes to walking, I was afraid to (later) regret leaving a major milestone off the table, just because I wanted to avoid "a year of stress." However, this is not a good approach. You have to ask yourself if it's true that your goals can only be achieved by hurting yourself. Then realize it's your job to always answer no, of course not, for both yourself and for the sake of your family. What will your children learn from following a self-destructive example? It's easy to say "just quit," but how do you navigate "just quitting?"

The third strategy here was the most useful for me, and I used all three to see if I could stick things out and/or to help determine if I should just go already.

1) Can you set a quit date?
Free yourself from staring at unending mornings of waking up at this job by setting a date you're not going to anymore. After all, if you're asking the internet if you can quit, you should obviously quit, right? You're not a commitment-phobe working a ticket counter for three weeks; you're a successful, skilled professional. But the question is when to quit, isn't it? Write down the milestones you will have accomplished by this date and enjoy the fact that you have such a good savings with which to move on. Discuss the plan with your SO. Setting a quit date forces you to consider what you really want/need to accomplish before you quit. If you can't set a date, your problem may be that your goals are not clear enough, and you have to solve that first, because quitting will go much better if you have a plan to focus on for reaching your next milestone. You may even find that leaving the job today wouldn't significantly impact your goals.

2) Can you relax?
Believe me that I find this advice annoying, having received it myself, but if you're a valuable employee, you have a lot of room to reject the stress in your life. They can't extract hours you won't give them. If you stop shaving in the bathroom and sleeping on the office couch, they're not going to fire you for it tomorrow. Start rejecting some of the sacrifices you make for the job. You may find a balance. You may realize the job is actually 110% intolerable. You may find your work ethic won't let you ever ignore the phone. This can be a good test of how badly the job is affecting you - if you cannot find any way to relax at all, it's a good sign that you have to quit very soon.

3) Can you optimize?
If you're in a funk at work, you get used to a routine and you forget it doesn't have to be that way. It's not an either success-and-pain or freedom-and-ruin world when you're a high-powered lawyer with no student loans. You could work lucratively for anyone or any cause you enjoy and you probably already have the network to start very quickly. Take a break to do something recreational that makes you feel alive. Sure, you know you have options, but do you FEEL you have options? If this washes over you like a wave, it's time to realize how much of a funk you have been in over this job and ask if you are the self you want to be. If the answer is no, think how much more you could accomplish when you could answer "yes." If you would pay the money you're saving to feel that way at work, and can imagine any work that would let you (and it would support your family), you should do that immediately.

The softer version of #3 is "if a somewhat uninteresting, well-enough-paying job with a strict 9-5 schedule and no work to take home makes you grin ear-to-ear, you should probably leave soon."

If you can do none of these, it's definitely time to schedule that transition right away.

zinnie

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If you're that miserable, leave. Life's too short.

But at the same time, what about option #3--look for something else now and leave when you find a better option?

Good luck.

Villanelle

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It's so hard to say since "misery" is not really quantifiable so we can't really know exactly what you are experiencing, but I'd likely plan to stay through March, and then leave.  And just having that firm commitment to yourself that you *will* do it might make the remaining 7 months far more manageable.  I think that would have the best cost benefit analysis for me.  Since that time includes the bonus, you are getting the most out of it, but it's not so much additional time that you won't (hopefully) get the psychological boost of a very clear light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not so very long that sucking it up a bit more would be exceptionally awful

Hargrove

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If you're that miserable, leave. Life's too short.

It's never quite that simple - we're saving for FIRE because life can be very long.

Life is actually the longest recorded experience. :p

Finances_With_Purpose

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Re: freelancing. If you know what your annual budget/costs are, you know how many hours a year you need to bill. With a little MMMmojo you probably don't need very many hours...  it can be surprisingly easy to cover your costs and still build 'stache without full time employment.

yeah, its a slower road to full FI/RE, but if you enjoy it a lot more RE becomes a lot less important.

This. 

Also, I'm guessing this is your first after-law-school job.  It's hard to see and imagine other opportunities.  But the moment you leave that job, other doors may well open up.  Other ideas.  As others pointed out, there are lots of other options.

I work in something where I can freelance, and it takes remarkably fewer hours to sustain myself now that I'm out of the grind and don't have the overhead.  But I never would have seen this path; I just stumbled into it. 

Your health is invaluable.  You only get one heart.  One set of arteries.  One brain.  That kind of job can do a number on your physical health.  Everyone knows a lawyer who has fallen over dead at the office, or in court, etc.  If you're like most lawyers, you're hitting the sauce a little too - the numbers on that are unreal.  (There was a great NYT piece recently about a former partner who was doping up to keep up the pace...until it killed him.) 

Anyway, take the leap!!!  It's much less scary once you've done it.  Life goes on. 

Finances_With_Purpose

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I'll add this, too, which really gave ME perspective on leaving my stressful job:

I missed my father's last few years, almost entirely, due to work.  I missed my grandmother's last Thanksgiving.  And then her last Christmas.  We never know how long we have.

I can't get those experiences back.  I can't spend those extra hours with dad when his health was still good, learning what I could from him.  (I even wanted to tape/interview him.) 

A few thousand bucks, or a few tens of thousands, even, are trivial by comparison.  I'd trade them today, in fact. 

A wise man once told me: I don't regret the things I did...I regret the things I didn't do.  (That is from a man who has LIVED some life, doing big things, for better and worse.)  That has been true for me too.

Never forget the cost of NOT acting.  There's a cost to inaction.  You're still drudging away, while others are gaining more experience, learning to manage their own practice, maintaining their cardiac health, making invaluable new networks, and so on. 

My final tip: see this TED talk by Tim Ferriss, and run your decision through his exercise (defining your fears): https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_ferriss_why_you_should_define_your_fears_instead_of_your_goals

-Mr. FWP

catccc

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Just find a less demanding job.  $120K, what you have banked, is FU money, not FI money.  Unless you can live on $4,800 per year, in which case you are FI.

fsohn

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Maybe find a better firm?  I work in big/mid law, bill 1800 hours a year, leave the office every day at 5 pm, etc.  If you really like the practice (and it sounds like you do), maybe that's an easy intermediate step without having to totally get out of the race?

I have been looking for a place like that for over a year, but it doesn't seem to exist here.  Every recruiter I contact and every job posting I see is for a peer firm -- there doesn't seem to be anyone offering a situation where I could make, say $80K a year and work truly 9 to 5, with no take home work and no weekends.  However, if you have any suggestions for firms that do, feel free to PM me :).

Laura33

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Let me also add:  do you have a mentor/advocate among the partnership?  Someone whom you can talk to/trust?  What I am thinking:  firms who follow the standard "up or out" model tend to be very good/active at placing lawyers who leave with clients, because it is a way to build relationships/ties that help keep the client with the firm.  So if there is someone in particular you can trust, it might be worthwhile to have a chat that says, look, I am burning out, and I have decided this is not for me long-term, and I was wondering if you have any suggestions/thoughts/leads on what I could do next.  You don't need job postings, you need a network.

Of course, you would have to be nice and dissemble a bit about how highly you think of the firm and its people -- the firm isn't going to blow its good contacts on someone who suggests that they are soul-sucking leeches.  ;-)

BFGirl

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Maybe find a better firm?  I work in big/mid law, bill 1800 hours a year, leave the office every day at 5 pm, etc.  If you really like the practice (and it sounds like you do), maybe that's an easy intermediate step without having to totally get out of the race?

I have been looking for a place like that for over a year, but it doesn't seem to exist here.  Every recruiter I contact and every job posting I see is for a peer firm -- there doesn't seem to be anyone offering a situation where I could make, say $80K a year and work truly 9 to 5, with no take home work and no weekends.  However, if you have any suggestions for firms that do, feel free to PM me :).

Have you looked at government positions?  The pay is less but the hours are generally better.  I went to work for one of the courts I use to practice in.  It has its own set of challenges, but I got to see my kids grow up.  My main reason for wanting to quit now is that I am bored and tired of social issues I can't fix.  The main reason I stay is the pay, flexible hours and pension.

fsohn

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Maybe find a better firm?  I work in big/mid law, bill 1800 hours a year, leave the office every day at 5 pm, etc.  If you really like the practice (and it sounds like you do), maybe that's an easy intermediate step without having to totally get out of the race?

I have been looking for a place like that for over a year, but it doesn't seem to exist here.  Every recruiter I contact and every job posting I see is for a peer firm -- there doesn't seem to be anyone offering a situation where I could make, say $80K a year and work truly 9 to 5, with no take home work and no weekends.  However, if you have any suggestions for firms that do, feel free to PM me :).

Have you looked at government positions?  The pay is less but the hours are generally better.  I went to work for one of the courts I use to practice in.  It has its own set of challenges, but I got to see my kids grow up.  My main reason for wanting to quit now is that I am bored and tired of social issues I can't fix.  The main reason I stay is the pay, flexible hours and pension.

I check the court websites and several state and Federal agency websites on a regular basis.  I apply to basically every position that I'm even half-way qualified for, but so far I haven't gotten any interviews :/.  I suppose it only takes one yes, though.

EDIT:: Not two hours after posting, a friend sent me a link to a secondment program at the local prosecutor's office (://www.cookcountystatesattorney.org/careers/secondment-program).  My boss and I actually discussed something like this before, but the firm didn't allow me to do it because it would have been at a NYC prosecutor.  I think they *might* actually support me doing it now that there is a program in Chicago.  Not like the life of a junior prosecutor is any better, but at least it would let me get a look at law from the other side and see if it really is law, and not just the world of the fancypants law firm, that is getting to me.  https
« Last Edit: August 09, 2017, 10:01:48 AM by fsohn »

mm1970

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Quote
In nearly six years of fancypants BigLaw work, I have taken not even four weeks of true, off-the-grid vacation.  I've worked multiple Thanksgivings and Christmases, July 4ths, etc.  There is basically no downtime if you want any chance of making bonus -- and it is essentially the case that if you don't make bonus, you are considered underperforming.  Given how far I am along the line in terms of seniority (and therefore how expensive I now am for the firm), if I am underperforming, I am likely to get the "You need to find another place to work" speech.  If I simply took the time off I needed to stay compos mentis, I would almost certainly have gotten that speech years ago.

Anyway, I do plan on trying to find an ex-lawyer therapist to talk through all of this from the non-financial side.  There are too many different little things that non-lawyers don't understand on the psychological side that a run-of-the-mill therapist won't get.  Luckily, I have a good amount saved in the cash portion of my HSA, so that shouldn't hurt my FI path too much.

Well, there's your answer.  I've been in that situation - extra long hours, being forced onto a 13-hour night shift for weeks on end (oh, and 7 days a week too, whee!)  At the end of all that I told my boss that I'm taking a week off.  See ya, not taking vacation either.

But because they really couldn't live without me, nothing happened.

You said you are "likely to get the find another job speech".  If you are thinking about just quitting, then I guess I'd be fine with testing those waters.  Worst case, you get the speech.  How long will that take?  I dunno.  Two months?  Six months?

Best case...nothing happens.

Case

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Fellow Financially Mustachioed Men and Women:

I have reached a weird stage in my journey to FI, and I'm hoping for some advice from the community about how to proceed.

Since starting in earnest on the path to FI about 1.5 years ago (although I only found the online FI community and realized I wasn't a crazy weirdo, or at least, not an uncommonly crazy weirdo), I have managed to pay off over $100K in student loans and build a net worth of about $120K.  About $80K of that is in non-retirement accounts, which would fund (without accounting for earnings in the interim) about 3 years of my current budget.  A bit on the high side, but Chicago is not a super-cheap place to live.

That is possible due to a combination of frugal living (duh) and a high income from the fancypants law firm (double duh).  It is the second thing that is really giving me trouble.  Quite simply (and without calling anyone out, if they happen to link me to this post!), I loath it.  I have insanely high stress levels every day.  I get debilitating migraines at least twice a week, I frequently find myself looking over the edge of simply walking away and never returning, and often feel both extremely overworked and still unable to finish what I need to do in a day.  I know it is irrational, but sometimes when the work load gets too high, I literally have to leave the office and walk around outside for ten minutes or so, just to stop from literally slugging someone, or throwing a monitor across my office, or some equally stupid thing.  Put simply, I know that I cannot do this long term, and actually set a goal to quit six months after I paid off my student loans.  That would've been about two months ago, but I'm still here.  I thought the stress would improve after that, but it hasn't -- if anything, it's gotten worse, so I need to make a final decision.

I feel that I have F' This (or as jlcollinsnh puts it, F' You) money, in that I could, this very day, walk away and have three years to figure out how not to die of starvation and lack of shelter.  However, that money increases at a 5 figure clip per month due to the aforementioned frugality and fancypants-stressinducing law firm dollars.  There's also a bonus (likely coming in February) of about $25K after taxes, if I hit my target hours, which is currently true, but unlikely to remain so if I want to have any semblance of family time during the holidays.  If I do stay for that, I will have to stay through the end of March, since we will be representing a client a trial starting at the end of January, and it would be unethical (although not illegal) to quit the day the bonus hit my checking account.  I could pick up freelancing project-based work at a clip of something like $25-$30 per hour pretty easily, and basically as much of it as I want, and do some other side gigs to help pay the bills (real estate closings, for which I've just taken a course paid for by my current firm, come to mind), so it wouldn't be as if I would go from high income to zero income -- I think I could actually hit my budget numbers fairly easily, and do so working 9 to 5, instead of 8 to 7.

So my question is this:  knowing everything I have written above (and with the ability to ask anything else you might want to know -- I'm an open book) should I just walk today?  Should I prioritize my mental health (which I literally feel being chipped away on a daily basis), or should I just put my nose to the grindstone, stick it out until the end of March 2018 and walk away with three more years of freedom, and move into freelancing (or a second career altogether) at that point?  Or should I just say fuck it, wait for the next time someone pushes me out over my line, and just walk away, since http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2016/06/08/happiness-is-the-only-logical-pursuit/?

Only you (and maybe friends/family/psychiatrist) can judge how much damage the job is doing to you psychologically.  Do not ask an Internet forum to make this call for you.  It becomes a loaded question; you have loaded the background information to give the answer you seem to desire (which is to quit the job immediately).  You make it sound like this is causing frequent severe irreparable damage, in which case you should quit immediately.  However, if it's pretty hard but not long-term scarring, then I would stick it out while you job search.  But can you really sufficiently communicate the full story on an internet forum?  It's just too complex. 

Just make sure to consider all options before making a big decision.

Goldielocks

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I have definitely been in your position a few times in my career.

My problem was that I was the single income earner for a young family of four.  No quitting allowed.  Could only try to transfer to an equally high paying job at another company and my smaller city did not have a lot of opportunity in my field, and the remote job postings were not biting on resumes that involved relocation.  This went on for years.

After having marginal success with various things, that would help for 6 months or a year, I recommend this:

Go and ask for a 6 month or 1 year sabbatical (unpaid, of course, you pay the medical).  Basically quit today with the option of returning without losing vesting in pension fund.  Then go relax for 2 months (at home is fine), then go volunteer a bit part time and meet some new people.  Try a soup kitchen, try volunteer with legal aid, go dig up some weeds or clean up a beach with others.   Go exercise more.  Just give yourself time to breathe without being in "tourist vacation" mode.

Near the end of that, you will know if you really like the mental challenge and pay of your job, and feel a strong urge to return, or if you do indeed desperately need to change from high-powered firm to something else.

Right now, you couldn't make a good decision even if your life depended on it.   You need to clear that stress away to refocus and gain clarity.

Dee18

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Use the career services office from your law school to keep up with job listings for government, non profit, small business, and small law firm positions that won't go through a recruiter. Apply to them all. Consider banks.  If your law school is not in the city where you want to practice, get a letter of introduction to a law school career services office in that city.  They don't advertise it, but most law school career offices have reciprocal agreements.  You are more attractive when employed, than after having walked out.  Don't wait until then. 

Dave1442397

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If you haven't read this blog, take a look - http://www.grizzlymomanddad.com/