Author Topic: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?  (Read 4419 times)

A3 Life

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Hi, this I my first post and itís generally an introduction. Iíve been interested in financial independence and bucking the traditional American lifestyle for a while and recently happened upon the Mustache blog and this forum. After reading through various sections of this forum, this section seems like a more appropriate place to say hello and introduce myself than the welcome and general discussion section (where I didnít see any threads with substantive introductions).

Cutting to the point, this forum/community appeals to me because it is opposite to the culture and community that I experience in my day-to-day life. For months, Iíve been considering the lifestyle that I and my collages lead and our collective career/life trajectories. Iíve realized that despite participating in a high-achieving career that many people seem to desire, I am the most miserable I have ever been. I feel that I am watching my personal dreams and ambitions slip away and that I and my colleagues are losing our very identities in pursuit of our careers. Most of my collages have donned ďgolden handcuffsĒ (i.e. Mercedes and BMW SUVs, homes with price tags in the millions, golden platted watches, $200 bottles of wine, $5000 dinners, destinations weddings in Greece, etc.) and reciprocate the very culture that is making them (and me) miserable.

ďA3 lifeĒ stands for 3rd year associate life. I am an associate attorney in my third year at prestigious law firm in a major high-cost American city (i.e. New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Boston). I didnít go to law school to work at a prestigious frim. I went to work in a public interest career that was essentially foreclosed by the 2016 election (at least for 4 years). So I landed in my current job instead.

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Life Situation: Single, 30 years old, no dependents (but want one kid someday). 2+ years working as a corporate attorney with intense hours and high stress. I started with five other attorneys, two have since quit and the other two were fired. Currently devoting way too much of my life to work and looking to develop an exit plan.

Salary: $200k/year.

Taxes:
Federal: $30k
State: $13k
FICA: $11k

Total Taxes: $54k/year

Deductions:
401k: $19k/year (no match).
Health/Dental Insurance: $82/month.

Expenses:
Rent: $3,100/Month (Lease ends in August) (would and extra $3,100 to break the lease)
Utilities + Other Expenses Associated with Renting: $300/Month
Food: $400/Month
Phone: $20/Month
Internet: $30/Month
Car Insurance: $110/Month

Iím sure there are lots of other things I can budget. Other than rent (which is hard to escape in my community) I try live frugally.

Monthly Spending ~ $4,900

Assets:

Retirement
401k: $39,000
Rother IRAís: $4,000

Liquid Assets
$72,500 - Brokerage Account (mostly in cash because I lack the time to invest)
$5000 ~ High Interest Checking Account

Vehicles
$8,500 (I drive a used corolla/civic equivalent, not a Mercedes or BMW!!)

Liabilities: $0 ($3,100 to break a least that ends in August)
I avoided taking on the typical $200,000+ in student loans and have paid off all of my debt.

Savings Rate: ~$4000/month

Net Worth: $124,000

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Questions: Iím looking for advice on preserving my health, reclaiming my identity, rediscovering my personal ambitions, and eventually changing careers. Iím looking to develop a work/life balance and eventually an exit strategy that will enable a healthy lifestyle, capture the capital that I have invested in my current career, and thereafter enable a career and lifestyle that is focused on public interest and isnít dependent on a six figure salary.

My greatest fear is continuing in this career with the status quo American lifestyle so long that it ruins my health and precludes me from ever living the life that I want to live. Generally, I live in a country where three-quarters of the population is overweight, the median person is (or soon will be) obese, and less than 3% of people live a healthy lifestyle. More granularly, I know several more senior collages who have major health complications (i.e. heart attacks) from this lifestyle. Obviously, if I end up in hospital bed looking at an angiogram than I have failed at life and I can never go back. Despite how much I hate to admit it, this process has already begun (heart attacks donít happen overnight). Prior to beginning this career, I was living on about $14,000/year, very active (racing triathlons), and going on incredible adventures all over the world. My work life/balance has been slowly deteriorating since I started three years ago and has deteriorated very rapidly over the past 6 months.

I often fanaticize about colleagues who were fired with $30-50k severance packages. I have considered (1) looking for a new job, (2) just quitting to travel for a while, (3) slacking-off at my current job to live a healthier lifestyle and eventually provoke a lay-off. The second two options are difficult given my workaholic/overachieving personality.

Iím hoping that the collective wisdom of friendly people point me in the right direction to avoid the typical American tragedy (cough* ďAmerican dreamĒ) and help to combat the culture, perspectives, and expectations that I am immersed in.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2019, 10:01:01 PM by A3 Life »

legalstache

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2019, 12:00:48 PM »
Welcome to the forum!

First of all, I'd suggest following the investment order outlined here: https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/investor-alley/investment-order/

Does your firm offer an HSA? If so, definitely max those contributions to lower your taxable income.

You also need to invest the money in your taxable account. Saying you lack the time to invest frankly is not a good excuse. It would take maybe 10 minutes to dump that into some combination of VTSAX, VTIAX and VBMFX or equivalent funds.

Are you tracking your expenses? Your list seems pretty bare bones and I'd guess there are more expenses you haven't listed. Also, $110 for car insurance seems high. I'd look around to see if you can get a better rate.

The other low hanging fruit is obviously your rent. Could you get a roommate or move to a cheaper apt?

Big picture though, you've definitely done a nice job avoiding debt and accumulating a lot in assets in just two years. It's kind of up to you to decide how long you want to stay in big law. Based on your post, I'd suggest you start looking for something else ASAP.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2019, 10:27:32 PM »
You might want to consider a journal. That way you can document your life and get others to engage in a conversation about philosophically. The case studies are a little more geared to optimizations of expenses and structuring of investment vehicles.

marty998

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2019, 03:30:43 AM »
It's a big if but, IF you can stick it out for a few years, your Big Law salary is obviously the fastest way to get to FI.

In the meantime, take your lunch breaks, go running during that time, or swimming at a nearby gym. Honestly, don't sweat paying for the privilege. If triathlons make you happy, it's worth dropping 1% of your salary on maintaining regular training for it.

Generally, I live in a country where three-quarters of the population is overweight, the median person is (or soon will be) obese, and less than 3% of people live a healthy lifestyle.

And yet it's amazing how many gold medallists, world champs, and sport stars you guys keep churning out.

Having said that, Australia is pretty close behind in the obesity stats. The spectrum is very wide indeed (no pun intended).
« Last Edit: April 27, 2019, 03:33:38 AM by marty998 »

Hula Hoop

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2019, 03:43:36 AM »
I agree with marty.  Concentrate on saving a large proportion of what you make so that you can eventually escape.  But don't neglect your health.  If I were you I'd house hack in some way.  Get a room mate or rent a bigger apartment and Airbnb a room or two.  You need to do something to reduce your rent.

Just curious - why was the public interest career foreclosed by the 2016 election?  I imagine that there must be a lot of low paid public interest attorney work available now - at least in immigration law but probably in other areas.  If you feel strongly about this, save like crazy now and in a few years you can move to LCOL area and pursue your dream.

Imma

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2019, 04:04:36 AM »
Quit. As soon as possible. Your work-life balance is terrible and there's no need at all to stay in this career. Take a few months to decompress before you start a new job.

You are single, 30 years old, you have no student loans and enough money in taxable accounts to live off for years, if you go back to your 14k lifestyle. You are highly motivated, you have a good resume with 3 years in a prestigious big law firm on it, I'm sure you'll find a much more meaningful position in no time, or you could even start your own practice.  A guy from my city, then 28, started his own practice a few years ago and his big selling point is that he does not charge his clients at all. When he wins, he sends his bill to the opponent. If he loses he makes no money. He's good at his job, so he's making money. He's not getting as rich as he could have, but he's becoming a well-known lawyer and someone the local government is scared of.

ixtap

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2019, 07:24:01 AM »
You have car insurance, but no other car expenses?
You don't buy clothes? Gifts? Never spend a penny to leave town?

There are all kinds of ways to cut back on rent. Roommate, different neighborhood, etc. We also live in a HCOL, and own a boat, but are saving twice as much on the same income, so something isn't adding up.

Like others, I don't see how you go from preferring a public interest career that is so specific to choosing corporate law. You applied for this job and you can apply for others. The longer you stay at this one, the less convincing it will be that you want to switch.

« Last Edit: April 27, 2019, 07:49:59 AM by ixtap »

Malkynn

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2019, 07:46:30 AM »
Your life is a product of your decisions.
If the decisions you have made aren't producing your best life, make better decisions.

Speaking as someone who has walked away from A LOT of money for the sake of choosing not to live a shitty life, I can tell you that there's virtually no amount you could pay me to voluntarily live a toxic life.

You don't need to be FI to start choosing a good life, and no one else will ever choose it for you.

blingwrx

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2019, 12:13:45 AM »
I agree with others there's a lot to fat you can trim on your expenses. I live in NYC and spend about half of what you do for a family of 4, though I do live about 45 minutes from the city so I pay half as much in rent. I'd definitely look for something cheaper slightly outside the city maybe 45 mins away or however far of a commute you can stand. Breaking the lease might not be worth it with a few months left on it. Though you might be able to find someone to take sublet it out as there's many people who do summer internships and need housing during that time. Getting a roommate is also a good idea as others have mentioned since you're almost always working anyway it might not be so bad and if you don't want to take a longer commute you'd have to compromise.

A car might not be necessary at all depending on where you live. Most of these big HCOL cities have decent public transportation, such as NYC. Some cities like LA you may need to keep the car but not sure which city you're in exactly.

Don't let cash sit, just buy some Vanguard index funds that follow the total market so you can put your money to work.

Stick with the high pay job and save as much as you can, but also look around for new job opportunities as there might be something better out there but you won't know until you look. Then if they do lay you off enjoy the severance package and maybe take some time off to relax/travel and move on to something better.

Hula Hoop

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2019, 02:24:00 AM »
I second what bling said.  I used to live in NYC and found ways to pay a lot less rent than you do.  I didn't live that far outside the city (I had a half hour commute to Midtown) but I lived in a non-fashionable mixed income neighborhood, had roommates and an aging non-glamorous apartment.  I noticed that people who didn't come from the city often lived in really expensive apartments and neighborhoods.  My theory was that they didn't know the city very well so they looked for apartments in the same neighborhoods where tourists go.  They didn't seem to know how vast the city is and how many different areas there are to live in.  So if you're in a big city like NYC I'd advise looking around a bit in non fashionable parts of the city.

reeshau

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2019, 04:30:07 AM »
To come at the question a different way:

$200k salary - $54k taxes - $20k pre-tax deductions = $126k net = $10,500 per month

$10,500 net income - $4,900 listed expenses - $4,000 listed savings = $1,600 per month in unbudgeted spending.

Quit if you need to--you obviously feel the need, and are capable of living much more frugally.

Or stay the minimum time to build your lifetime stash, so you could do what you want, for free if you had to.

See:  "The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement"

mistymoney

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2019, 07:37:48 AM »
Your concerns about your health are the major questions to answer first in my opinion.

3 options I see:

Quit now and get a lower stress job
continue with the big salary 1-3 to lay a good foundation then switch
or stick with the job as short as possible until you are FI - maybe 7ish years?

As long as you don't buy into the lifestyle, you could get to FI very quickly.

But is your health a more primary concern? and how long are you able/willing to stick with this painful existence?

acepedro45

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2019, 03:36:30 PM »
Quote
Iím looking to develop a work/life balance and eventually an exit strategy that will enable a healthy lifestyle, capture the capital that I have invested in my current career, and thereafter enable a career and lifestyle that is focused on public interest and isnít dependent on a six figure salary.


Give this a read for inspiration, too:

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/i-beat-the-federal-government/

A3 Life

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2019, 10:52:21 PM »
Thank you! Thank you all for such great comments, for taking the time to offer your perspectives. All of these comments echo my own feelings in one respect or another and itís refreshing to get this confirmation from outside of my bubble.

On Work

I should clarify that my career perspective has changed in the past several monthsÖ probably due to burn-out.

I am very happy that I chose this career for the first 2 years, Iíve gotten great experience and some semblance of financial security. Even if Iím not FI, Iím a lot closer than when I started. When I started and for the first couple years, I was excited, energetic, and dare I say passionate about work that I was doing. Although my colleagues are workaholics who lead lives that scare me to death, they are all amazing people who I respect. 

My current job/life are the product of my own decisions, I take full accountability for these decisions and would make them again (up until recently).

On Rent

I used live with a roommate, but they were one of my colleagues who quit/got fired. I got my current apartment on the advice of a different colleague, who subsequently quit/got fired. I regret that itís stupid expensive, but it has certainty has made life much easier.

I have considered finding a different living situation to save money, but high moving costs have deterred me. Give that I only have 4 months left on my lease and it would cost me hours of time and $3,100 to move, I intend to look for a cheaper option when my lease is upÖ if I make it that far.

On Health

One of my colleagues recently faced a serious health crisis that will impact the rest of their life and is at least partially attributable to the stress of our careers. I do not face and imminent health crisis, but driving them back and forth to the hospital has definitely put things in perspective. My concern is based on projecting my future health from the trend lines of similar situated colleagues and the relationship between my current fitness and my fitness when I started. I could quit right now and race triathlons again in 6 months, but I donít think that this will be the case in a year and I know it wonít in two.

Decision

These comments have help to crystalize my decision and put everything in perspective.

I will continue with my current employment through the summer and for up to one year. During this time, I will treat my employment as a temporary job rather than a long-term career and focus of finding balance and maintaining health.

This decision may provoke my firm to lay me off. If they do, then I will take the severance and leave with a smile. If they donít, then I will re-evaluate every two to three months for the next year.

In the interim, I intend to track my expenses carefully and save $5000+ each month. I will put $4000 towards my savings and everything else towards taking time off after this job (plus $2000 for the past 2 months). Once, this job is over, I will go travel, live, and recover until this additional savings runs out. 


Shortest scenario: +$12,000 in long term savings and $6,000 for a career break. Total long-term savings will be ~ $135,000.
 
Longest scenario: +$48,000 in long term savings and $14,000 for a career break.  Total long-term savings will be ~ $181,000.

Feel Free to Critique, this plan can probably be even better.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2019, 10:57:37 PM by A3 Life »

londonbanker

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #14 on: April 29, 2019, 11:51:48 PM »
Welcome to the forum.
Against some other advise on this thread I would advise you against quoting right away. I think you are behaving in a way to is already mustachian and are preparing to jump out of the capitalist rat race ; your hard earned income is being used to create a better medium term work life and not to spend it on frivolous ďstuffĒ like your co workers do.
Although in a different industry (finance) - I had a similar journey. I made the decision to suck it up for a little bit longer to be more marketable in an other industry to enable me to make a jump. I continued to work in a ďslightly toxicĒ environment until I was 32 and secure a $350k relatively low stress job in a great business and intellectually challenging industry.
7 years on, my seniority, sense of achievement and personal development has continued to grow in the same company and I am now on $500k+ a year, and I live what I do - while working no more than 40hours a week.
My lifestyle remains mustachian and I save over 70% of my income without really feeling like I am depriving myself (still have a few luxuries in my life like travel, sportscar).
Another interesting data point for you - our chief counsel (Chief Legal Officer?) used to be in a top notch London law firm - quit following a burn out 2 years before making it to partner at the age of 35 and is now living an equally fulfilling life - very low stress and earning close to $1m after 6-7years of joining ďindustryĒ.

I guess all I am saying is that before you reject everything in your life, have a think as to whether an extra couple of years (while shielding yourself mentally from toxic behaviors) will help you get set up on a different and more fulfilling path outside your current trajectory. You only leave you top notch law firm once, how do you want to make the best of your golden ticket ??

DoNorth

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2019, 03:03:13 AM »
I've worked with a lot of US government lawyers.  They make decent money around $100K+ in metropolitan areas, but only work 40 hours/week or you could find a good job overseas at one of the military bases if you really want a change of pace.  At any rate, if money is not your primary driver, but you still like what you do and want better hours/quality of life, you should check it out.

https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/529994000

This job in Germany for example pays $90,000 base, but on top also includes relocation, a tax free housing allowance of probably around $35,000+, + tax free cost of living adjustment and a lot of other fringe benefits you get like access to commissary (US grocery store) tax free shopping on base, morale and welfare programs, 401k and pension, free gym and so forth.  If you were to add it all up, total compensation is probably around $150K, but taxable is only the $90K so you're paying much less in taxes, FICA etc.

ysette9

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #16 on: April 30, 2019, 12:04:13 PM »
Thank you! Thank you all for such great comments, for taking the time to offer your perspectives. All of these comments echo my own feelings in one respect or another and itís refreshing to get this confirmation from outside of my bubble.

On Work

I should clarify that my career perspective has changed in the past several monthsÖ probably due to burn-out.

I am very happy that I chose this career for the first 2 years, Iíve gotten great experience and some semblance of financial security. Even if Iím not FI, Iím a lot closer than when I started. When I started and for the first couple years, I was excited, energetic, and dare I say passionate about work that I was doing. Although my colleagues are workaholics who lead lives that scare me to death, they are all amazing people who I respect. 

My current job/life are the product of my own decisions, I take full accountability for these decisions and would make them again (up until recently).

On Rent

I used live with a roommate, but they were one of my colleagues who quit/got fired. I got my current apartment on the advice of a different colleague, who subsequently quit/got fired. I regret that itís stupid expensive, but it has certainty has made life much easier.

I have considered finding a different living situation to save money, but high moving costs have deterred me. Give that I only have 4 months left on my lease and it would cost me hours of time and $3,100 to move, I intend to look for a cheaper option when my lease is upÖ if I make it that far.

On Health

One of my colleagues recently faced a serious health crisis that will impact the rest of their life and is at least partially attributable to the stress of our careers. I do not face and imminent health crisis, but driving them back and forth to the hospital has definitely put things in perspective. My concern is based on projecting my future health from the trend lines of similar situated colleagues and the relationship between my current fitness and my fitness when I started. I could quit right now and race triathlons again in 6 months, but I donít think that this will be the case in a year and I know it wonít in two.

Decision

These comments have help to crystalize my decision and put everything in perspective.

I will continue with my current employment through the summer and for up to one year. During this time, I will treat my employment as a temporary job rather than a long-term career and focus of finding balance and maintaining health.

This decision may provoke my firm to lay me off. If they do, then I will take the severance and leave with a smile. If they donít, then I will re-evaluate every two to three months for the next year.

In the interim, I intend to track my expenses carefully and save $5000+ each month. I will put $4000 towards my savings and everything else towards taking time off after this job (plus $2000 for the past 2 months). Once, this job is over, I will go travel, live, and recover until this additional savings runs out. 

Shortest scenario: +$12,000 in long term savings and $6,000 for a career break. Total long-term savings will be ~ $135,000.
 
Longest scenario: +$48,000 in long term savings and $14,000 for a career break.  Total long-term savings will be ~ $181,000.

Feel Free to Critique, this plan can probably be even better.
I really like this plan. My advice was going to be to see if you can reduce your effort at work and mentally create some distance. Meaning, just try to give fewer fucks at work and see how the quality of your life improves. Maybe you do it gradually by carving out the time you need immediately to add exercise back into your life. I find that EVERYTHING is easier to handle with regular exercise. It is good for physical health and mental health and is a great tool to use against stress.

Then start carving out more personal space. Fewer hours. Try lowering your internal standards on work a bit and see how that goes. Iím not advising you completely slack off right away, especially if your short term savings goals are important, but do cut back.

frugalanon

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #17 on: April 30, 2019, 02:29:33 PM »
A3 Life, I was an equity partner in BigLaw.  I left my firm for an in-house position, worked my way up the ranks and am now a general counsel for a Fortune 500 company.  While I empathize with the intense stress you are feeling, I would suggest that you maximize the investment you have already made in getting this far.  Rather than waiting to be fired, consider looking for more balanced work options, like an in-house position, a government job, or a position with a foundation.  You might also consider testing the waters with public interest positions as you may be a more attractive candidate now that you have some experience.  For a frugal person, the salaries from these types of jobs can help launch FIRE, and they will be much easier to secure if you already have a job than if you were fired.  As someone who regularly hires in-house lawyers, I can tell you that there is a strong bias in favor of folks who haven't been terminated.  I understand how the crushing stress makes you feel that you don't have time to do anything but work.  That said, if you have already decided to leave, consider whether you can carve out time to look at alternatives.  Wishing you the best of luck. 

legalstache

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #18 on: April 30, 2019, 03:40:39 PM »
I'll echo what others have said about trying to leverage your current job into something more sustainable as opposed to quitting outright. I was an associate at a regional law firm and was getting burned out but was able to make a move to a smaller firm with better work life balance. I thought about quitting outright plenty of times but figured job hunting/interviewing while still employed was my best shot at getting a more tolerable job. I would think carefully about what you want to do next because you're in a great position to make a move now.

This advice doesn't apply as much if you're planning to do something entirely different, but I think the next step is to figure that out before quitting.

IOPsycho

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #19 on: April 30, 2019, 05:43:32 PM »
My advice would be to find a way to enjoy your job for the amount of time you have left. Its corny but true that happiness isn't waiting for the rain stop but learning to dance in the rain. There are very easy things you can do to improve your mood/life quality. Just writing down 3 things you enjoy about your job each day before going to work can really improve your perspective. Also, delve deeper into the parts of your job that you do enjoy, as you said before if that upsets them you'll just take the severance package. Delving into what you enjoy the most can help you figure out your next steps, whether it be employment or volunteering or activities.

While I agree a career break can be beneficial if you've been working long hours/high stress, make sure you're trying new things and exploring new avenues (I know you said you were planning to travel, but in your daily life). Part of breaking the cycle is taking a job outside of your career path/comfort zone when you do decide to return to work. There are a lot of good tools out there to help you find what might be suit your talents and needs in the workplace.

Overall just enjoy your life! Sometimes that can take hard work, but it is worth it. It will support your health, both mental & physical ,immensely.

*this is all just opinion, certainly not an authority myself

A3 Life

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #20 on: May 01, 2019, 10:48:41 AM »
Thank you again for the comments. Transferring in-house is common from my firm and I have certainty considered moving to an in-house (as well as government or public interest) position. However, I have several concerns:

Burn-Out

How do I address burn-out? Iím concerned that if I start a new job immediately after my current job that I will continue to feel burnt-out. I am concerned that burn-out will ultimately lead me to be unsuccessful at this new job. I feel that hopping from big law to a job for the doesnít work out looks worse than quitting/being laid-off from big law.

I have typically brought energy, enthusiasm, and drive to my endeavors. How do I recapture this energy without taking a few months off? I have considered a clerkship because judges (especially federal judges) typically hire clerks months to years beforehand. With a clerkship (or any other position) with a delayed start date, I could take time off to recapture my identity, passion, enthusiasm before jumping into another job.

Iím at a point in my life where I have very limited commitments (no house, no kids, no marriage, no debt, no health issues, etc.). If I were to take a few months (say 3-4 months) to recover, than I feel now is better than later. If I could take a couple months off while having a future job lined up, all the better.


Quitting Without a Job

Iíve heard that quitting big law without a job is equivalent to being terminated. Big law lay-offs, after all, are fairly benign. Unless someone really screws up, a lay-off from big law is technically a voluntary resignation/buy-out at the firms request. Consequently, there is an assumption that anyone who voluntarily quits big-law without another job was laid-off (i.e. asked to leave).

I have also heard that lay-offs are relayed through employer networks very quickly. Thus, anyone who is laid off or at risk of being laid off will have difficulty finding another job. Iím curious how this works from the employer side. How do employers know, often months in advance of an actual termination date, that an associate/partner was laid-off or was going to be laid off.

The consequence of this system is that, rather than quit, an employee might as while wait to be laid-off because the result is equivalent.


Continuing to Chase Corporate America

I fail to see how, continuing to climb the corporate ladder while saving a substantial proportion of oneís salary produces a different outcome form pursuing corporate ambitions while buying into a luxurious lifestyle.

I do not disagree that some people appear to maintain good work/life balance while climbing the corporate ladder. These people, whether big law partners or corporate executives, become shiny objects that law students and associates aspire to. Iím not sure if they are super-human or just lucky enough to get one of the few jobs that allow this sort of lifestyle (probably a mixture of both). Either way, I worry that this pursuit comes at a high risk. For every partner or corporate executive who achieves a high salary and good work/life balance, there are numerous people who fail (i.e. invest enormous amounts of time into pursuing a high stress job at the expense of their health and personal ambitions). 

I recognize that I could attempt this pursuit and that it comes with enormous rewards. However, I also recognize that there are enormous downside risks. I'm not sure as to the likelihood of success and failure. But for every person who obtains a low stress corporate job, I think it's important to consider the people who lost themselves (i.e. their passions, ambitions, health, relationships, etc.) it this pursuit. 
« Last Edit: May 01, 2019, 10:52:46 AM by A3 Life »

legalstache

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #21 on: May 01, 2019, 11:20:48 AM »
As far as burn-out, I think a lot of employers would understand if you need to take some time off before starting a new job. I was able to take time off before starting at my new firm and it was definitely helpful. Anecdotally, I know of others who have transitioned from biglaw to govt work and have taken significant time off in between. My own thinking is that employers should want you to come into the new job fresh and ready, so they have an incentive to allow you to recharge between jobs.

Reading between the lines of your last post, you also seem to be thinking about coasting to the point that you're laid off. I would imagine it might be kind of hard to coast to your satisfaction in biglaw, especially if you're a type A person. I'd probably spend the rest of this year (if needed) job hunting. If you don't get something in that time and reach a point where you're totally burned out, I think it would be fair to quit or angle for a termination.

On your last point, continuing to chase corporate America, I think the difference is people who are saving a substantial portion of their income don't get caught up as much in acquiring material possessions and having those possessions come to own them. As a result, they end up needing to work fewer years. As far as maintaining interests, hobbies, etc. outside of work, this is a lot easier when you don't work 60+ hours a week. Biglaw is a notoriously toxic work environment. I think your perspective may improve a lot once you're out.

…owynd

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #22 on: May 01, 2019, 12:21:42 PM »
Hi A3 Life,

I just wanted to comment on the burn out aspect.  There was a time in my life when I was working as an engineer full time (40 hours) and taking three classes per semester for a Masters in Mechanical Engineering at the same time.  When I finished with this insane schedule I felt totally burnt out and unenthusiastic about my job and life in general.  However, I was able to recover in 3-4 months while still working the 40 hour job.  Like you, I had very few extra responsibilities (no partner, no kids, etc.) during this time. 

What I'm saying is that it was possible for me to recover from burn out while still working at an average pay, medium stress job.  YMMV, but don't think that recovering from burn out has to be an all or nothing decision.

mucstache

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #23 on: May 24, 2019, 11:19:32 PM »
Hi there,

I've been in a similar situation just 2 years ago:

End of my 20s, had spent 5 years at a top management consulting firm (McKinsey, BCG, Bain). Great pay, luxurious lifestyle (travel like a CEO at twentysomething), but crazy hours - typically 8:30am to 2am on most days plus 3-4 hotel nights per week as well as flying ever week.

Towards the end I really could not take it anymore. Every task took much longer than before, and I was depressed and felt life was bleak.

I started job hunting on the side and the day I received a suitable offer quit.

Looking back I wonder why it took me so long to leave and why I did not insist more on a healthy lifestyle while there. I probably should have played harder once I knew the Lifestyle would no longer work for me.

I took 1 month to recover between jobs, but should maybe have taken two.

Today feel like a new person - younger, more energetic, with a positive outlook on life. Can't believe I had this career suck the life out of me that much. Stand up for yourself!

Trifele

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #24 on: May 27, 2019, 08:28:17 AM »
How are you doing @A3 Life

Regarding burn out, Eowynd makes a great point that you can recover health/mental well being while working a normal job.  It doesn't have to take several months' vacation.

I worked BigLaw until it sucked too much, then jumped to an in-house position.  Oh my god, what a difference.  I negotiated two weeks off between jobs, and what with the much lower stress of the new job, that was plenty.  @frugalanon makes a great point above that it'll be much easier to score that nice in-house job if you haven't been terminated.  +1 that you start looking around now. 

bacchi

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #25 on: May 27, 2019, 09:50:02 AM »
What others have suggested:

Find a new job, tell them that you need to wrap some things up at work, and take 6 weeks off.

pumpkinlantern

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #26 on: May 28, 2019, 08:20:30 AM »
I'm in my early 30s in medicine and my partner is in BigLaw.  I totally sympathize with how you're feeling and I understand the psychology of burnout.  I want to warn you that you are likely speaking from the foggy glasses of burnout, which can alter your decision making capacity.  The take home point of my post is to advise you not to make bad decisions from a position of weakness because your burnout is preventing you from thinking clearly.

First off, you've done well for yourself.  You've clearly been successful in your work and you've probably gained valuable skills and a great network so far.  You're debt free and do not have any significant obligations that are difficult to get rid of (eg. large mortgage, etc.).  You have a reasonable lifestyle that with a few minor modifications could easily become even more efficient.  You are free without any dependents.

I understand that you want to get off the corporate ladder and that the lifestyle is unhealthy and making you miserable.  But you should do that in a thoughtful way that maximizes your return.  If you simply quit without a plan or if you try to get yourself laid off, you will throw away the years of grinding/hard work that you've already put into here.  If you are able to keep going for a little bit longer, then I would continue working while actively searching for an exit plan that is desirable for you.  You likely will be able to leverage your skills/network to find something decent.  If you feel like you absolutely cannot last any longer because the environment is truly toxic (ie. you can't even imagine staying for a few months to a year or there is workplace abuse), then I would suggest you find a temporary stepping stone job - something that is more work/life balance friendly (maybe government work or in house work, etc.) even if it is not a job you ultimately want to stay in for the long term.  Then you can recover from burnout in your new position and actively look for a more permanent job from a position of strength.  You will be able to think more clearly once you are out of a toxic environment.

It would be a shame to ruin the reputation you spent years building by leaving badly.  I think desiring to step off the partnership-track grind is common and would not necessarily be held against you when applying for other jobs if you were seen as talented and hard-working while you were there.  Your old contacts may help you find a good position.  No one will help someone who left on a bad note and it will be a huge red-flag for future employers.

montgomery212

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #27 on: May 29, 2019, 12:15:45 PM »
Agree with @pumpkinlantern.

I'm ex-biglaw myself; was an NYC biglaw associate for 8 years. Different scenario for me as I wanted to stay but had to leave because I didn't make partner. You're ONLY a 3rd year associate. At most firms, the partner track is 6-10 years (and since you say you're in a big city my guess is yours is 8-10 years). Are you confident you don't want to stick around to make money for another year or 3? I know it seems terrible now but if FI is a goal, keep in mind that no other job in law pays like biglaw.

And if you really want to leave, why not stay until you find a job? In our industry that can easily take over a year. You're also a great candidate for a clerkship esp in a smaller town/city where the docket won't be packed like it would in SDNY so you work very normal ours; best thing is you secure a clerkship 1-1.5 years before you actually start. So you could stay in biglaw for another 9-15 mos, then take 3 mos off, and then start clerking. BUT if you clerk, I'd encourage you to suck it up and come back to biglaw for the clerkship bonus; IDK what it is at right now but as off a few years ago it was 50k -- and you only have to stay at the job for one year.

I'd take on the "one more year" mentality and grind it out for a bit longer. No one is saying you have to stay for 5 more years, but there is a massive difference between staying 4 months and 2 years just in terms of savings/investments. And btw -- there are jobs post biglaw that pay. They won't pay the same, but I'm sitting in a gov't job (that I'm itching to get out of as I miss law firm life but that's a different story) that's 9-5 and pays 180k with an 8% 401k match. Not a bad way to figure out next steps. Don't just quit and give up all that money at such a young age -- you'll feel good temporarily and then at age 38 or 45, you will think -- hmm had I slogged it out for 2 more years, I'd be further on my mortgage/retirement/whatever.

Simpli-Fi

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Re: 30 yr-old, Advice on recapturing my life from corporate America?
« Reply #28 on: June 06, 2019, 10:08:14 AM »
If you don't need the paycheck, work the way you want to work.  If they don't like it, they'll let you know.  I work in a high stress, long hour, corporate machine environment...except I don't play.  I used too, did it matter?  Not really, because the more work I got done the more was waiting.  I work better hours and take care of myself first.  I'm happier and easier to work with...so others are happier to work with me, even if they aren't taking care of themselves, they know what to expect from me.


Will I be first to get promoted?  Nope, do I care?  Nope...don't need the increase.  I enjoy my time.