Author Topic: Career Question: FI earlier or enjoy Government benefits?  (Read 3092 times)

BuffaloStache

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Career Question: FI earlier or enjoy Government benefits?
« on: November 05, 2016, 09:24:57 PM »
Preface: I'm a longtime MMM reader but new to the forum. Sorry in advance if a similar situation has been addressed in another thread!

Current situation
I'm a soon-to-be 30 yr old engineer living in Colorado, making just under six-figures/yr. Up until ~12 months ago, things were generally great and I felt pride in my company and valued as an employee. Unfortunately, around that time the company changed senior management and has been dangerously focused on cutting costs ever since. The company laid off ~7% of the workforce this past summer (even my direct boss got laid-off), and they have made it clear that there is likely to be another round of lay-offs next year. Not surprisingly, the environment has taken a turn for the worse with; increased workloads due to the laid-off employees, a reduction in benefits (for example, they cancelled the sick-time allotment), and "suggested" (see: required) unpaid overtime for all employees in order to keep up with all the excess work. On top of this, recently other employees have been leaving the company when they can find other/better opportunities. Ultimately the company is at a cross-roads: if management can somehow transition the company into a more lean, efficient enterprise then I really do see a future where there is a ton of advancement opportunity and the company returns to valuing their employees more. However, I'm not yet convinced they will be able to make this monumental change -vs- continue down the road of worsening work environment and work/life balance.

To add to that complexity (but also adding to the happiness!) my wife and I are expecting our first child next year. My current/projected work environment of increased overtime, stress, and reduced benefits do not seem to bode well with my desire to be an awesome dad. My wife has a pretty good job (we live off of her salary and save all of mine except for our mortgage payments) and plans to continue working after we have the child, so juggling our time well over the next ~5 years seems paramount. We have no major debts besides our mortgage (woohoo!), but our 'stache is small since we've only really discovered Personal Finance/FI concepts about 1.5 years ago.


Decision to make:
In this swirling pit of anxiety and at the encouragement of a friend, I recently applied for a government job with an agency that oversees/completes technical audits for the current company I work for. The job seems like a great match for me because it would be completing a lot of the same work I currently do (albeit a lot less of it), but with a much better work/life balance (opportunity to work from home, more time off, etc.) and with the government benefits/added stability. I received an offer this past week, with a much salary of ~$20k/yr less. I am attempting to negotiate this offer for a higher salary, but knowing how government negotiations work I'm not holding my breath...

Can you guys help me think through the options:
1. Stay in my current position (I have been told by management that I am "safe" for the impending layoff) where I make an extra ~$20k/yr, deal with the added stress/overtime-work, and use the extra $ to build my 'stache faster.
2. Take the government job offer regardless of the outcome of negotiations for the work/life balance.
3. Only take the job if the negotiations work out well. If they don't, continue to apply to other jobs and look for better offers.

Pros of taking the gov't job:
  • Work/Life/Balance is great: work from home options, increased vacation time/holidays, more flexible work schedule, no or paid overtime (was described to me that "no one ever works overtime"). This means more time with my future child.
  • Less workload while maintaining work that is interesting to me.
  • Access to a government pension + 5% match in the Thrift Savings Plan (essentially a 401k with the lowest fees you'll ever encounter)
  • Great Career Stability- Even if that agency were to shut down (highly unlikely), I would have preferred status when applying to any other government job.

Cons of taking the gov't job:
  • Work may be boring- workload may be reduced so much that I may be bored when compared to my current job.
  • Longer working career due to lower salary = lower annual savings rate.
  • Government Pension isn't worth more than my current employees 401k match unless I work within the gov't for 7 years minimum. (I struggle with this one. I fully expect to be 10+ years away from FI, but don't like the idea of pigeon-holing myself. I could easily see myself working for other federal agencies, however).
  • Worse salary growth/job advancement prospects- due to the government pay-scale and the office I would be working in, it seems unlikely that I'd ever get above ~$120k/yr. At my current job, I could easily see a path to making ~$150k+/yr in the next 5-10 years.

What am I missing? Do I need a face punch for even considering such a large drop in salary? Also, to any parents out there, are my concerns about not having enough time with my young child valid, or just something that everyone gripes about?
« Last Edit: December 08, 2016, 05:21:47 PM by BuffaloStache »

Metric Mouse

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Re: Career Question: FI earlier or enjoy Government benefits?
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2016, 02:20:09 AM »
I would say take the lower stress, more free time job.  No sense in stressing out and being away from your family for an extra $20k a year; especially if one has to do that for 10 years.  (unless you like being away from your family; nothing wrong with that)

Neither way is going to be the end of the world, but it seems like your financials are on solid footing, so that lowers the utility of the additional money, which to me makes the argument for an easier, more comfortable, more predictable job.

Ebrat

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Re: Career Question: FI earlier or enjoy Government benefits?
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2016, 11:42:02 AM »
Why do you want to FIRE? Will the new job give you some of those things (more time, less stress, etc.) now? If so, it seems like the reduced salary is a trade-off worth making. I don't have kids, but I can't imagine that you'd regret having more time with your child in the first years of their life.

pbkmaine

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Re: Career Question: FI earlier or enjoy Government benefits?
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2016, 12:04:57 PM »
If you want more time with your family, the government job makes sense.

Cassie

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Re: Career Question: FI earlier or enjoy Government benefits?
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2016, 01:17:56 PM »
I worked in government versus private for all the reasons you mentioned. After 15 years they mail me a nice check every month for doing nothing.

waltworks

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Re: Career Question: FI earlier or enjoy Government benefits?
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2016, 01:20:17 PM »
You can always make more money, and you guys are saving a fortune as it is, from what it sounds like.

Your life, and your time with your new child (congrats!) you can never get more of.

The fact that you now dislike your job makes this a no-brainer. Ditch the stress!

-W


JJsfr

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Re: Career Question: FI earlier or enjoy Government benefits?
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2016, 03:08:20 PM »
If it's a federal job, you can attempt to negotiate higher starting steps (not grade) and annual leave calculations (I.e., starting at 6 hours annual leave per pay period instead of 4).

It doesn't always work but given your current salary at minimum you could certainly attempt the step increases. If you have any questions about the process let me know.

ruraljuror

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Re: Career Question: FI earlier or enjoy Government benefits?
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2016, 08:41:43 PM »
I can't imagine you'll regret having a lower stress job with more time for your first child.

Metric Mouse

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Re: Career Question: FI earlier or enjoy Government benefits?
« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2016, 11:40:47 PM »
I worked in government versus private for all the reasons you mentioned. After 15 years they mail me a nice check every month for doing nothing.

Is this significantly different than when you worked for them? :D

Axecleaver

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Re: Career Question: FI earlier or enjoy Government benefits?
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2016, 01:52:17 PM »
Comparing the value of the benefits at your new job, it's likely your total compensation package will be better. If it still falls short, make sure to look at the total comp per hour. Your hourly rate with benefits will probably be better at the government job.

fuzzy math

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Re: Career Question: FI earlier or enjoy Government benefits?
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2016, 03:46:57 PM »
I can't imagine you'll regret having a lower stress job with more time for your first child.
+1

Cassie

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Re: Career Question: FI earlier or enjoy Government benefits?
« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2016, 03:53:15 PM »
MM: I worked for a state not the feds. Because of my age and years of service I got a third of my pay after 15 years. If I had been younger when leaving I could have let my pension just sit until I was old enough to collect it.  But it seems like most plans are requiring you to work or let it sit until an older age to actually collect obviously for financial reasons.

BuffaloStache

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Re: Career Question: FI earlier or enjoy Government benefits?
« Reply #12 on: November 09, 2016, 09:29:39 PM »
Comparing the value of the benefits at your new job, it's likely your total compensation package will be better. If it still falls short, make sure to look at the total comp per hour. Your hourly rate with benefits will probably be better at the government job.

Thanks for this input- it really helped me to realize that even with the extra overtime of my current job (I've been averaging 45 hours per week, so not that much OT), I was still making a higher hourly rate there. Unfortunately the negotiations fell very short (they didn't budge on anything, but that's a whole other story), so I doubt I'll accept any final offer I'm given.

I'm still in the running for several other (higher Grade on the GS-scale) jobs, so wish me luck!