Author Topic: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?  (Read 6197 times)

JackieTreehorn

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Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« on: January 19, 2015, 01:08:17 PM »
Hello,

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this.  Basically my wife and I are both planning to quit our jobs in within the next 6 months or so and try to figure out what we really want to do with our lives.  My situation:

31 y/o male, married to 33 year old lovely wife, no kids.  Live in Manhattan, NYC.  We are both 50/50 about having kids. 

Income:
About $230,000/year total for my wife and I.  Wife makes about $130k, I make around $100k.

Expenses:
Around 60 - 70 K, with the majority of that due to very high rent in NYC, we pay $2700/month to live in a one bedroom, decent hood.  However, we are hoping to get eligibility for a co-op unit my wife's grandmother currently resides in that would lower our rent by about 50%. The rest is groceries, internet, cell phone, subway fares, going out and miscellaneous other stuff.  We don't own a car.  Health insurance is a bit of an unknown, as it's currently mostly paid for by my company for the two of us.

Assets:
Around $500K, about half in retirement accounts (Roth IRA, 401ks, Trad IRA etc) and half in post tax brokerage account and savings account.  Basically all investments are in Vanguard ETFs/Index funds. (Before everyone berates us for not having more in assets, understand that we were not making this kind of money forever, taxes in NYC are very high, we had a lot of expenses for our wedding in 2013, were living separately for the first 3 years we dated so paying two rents etc...)

Liabilities:
None (we are debt free)

Anyway, we've basically both decided we want to quit within the next few months.  Neither of us are happy at work.  While I don't "hate" my job because I like the people a lot and there are nice perks, I hate the actual "work" aspect of it.  I'm an actuary, and for all the nice articles about how it's the greatest job on Earth, after having done it for 8 years I respectfully disagree.  My wife's job is at a start-up consulting firm where she basically runs the company and works incredibly long hours.  Both of us are just burned out at this point.

Has anyone ever just walked away like we are planning to do, before being financially independent?  If so what was your experience?  Neither of us are totally sure where life might take us career/job wise after we quit.  I guess we have what JLcollins would call FU money but not enough to actually retire.  We are both "workers" and have always worked in some capacity, so I don't doubt that even if we take several months off to travel, pursue hobbies etc., we would eventually find some kind of employment, it is just likely to be much less than we are currently making.  I personally would rather work part time than full time.

For me, there are many things I want to pursue that unfortunately aren't likely to generate income. I play guitar in a band and would like to devote more time to taking music seriously and improving as a musician.  I'd like to do more volunteer work.  I'd like to get into much better shape.  I've found that it's been difficult to pursue these things in anything more than a superficial way while working full-time and just am generally not super happy that I can't find the time for these things that are important to me.

Just looking for any feedback from anyone that has done something similar.  We've basically made up our minds at this point, but I guess just looking for some reassurance we're not making the worst decision ever :-)

Thanks.

ysette9

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2015, 01:16:14 PM »
If you quit your jobs would you stay where you live now or consider moving somewhere else cheaper, at least for some time while you figure things out?

PowerMustache

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2015, 01:21:12 PM »
Sounds like a great decision to me. I can definitely relate to your desire to work part time to have more time for hobbies that enrich your life but don't generate income.

As long as you'll still have the ability to return to similar income levels after taking a year or so off, it sounds like a REALLY great decision to take the time off. You have the FU money and are burned out. Taking a break will give you needed perspective on life. I'd try to be as frugal as possible during your time off to minimize the hit to your 'stache. I definitely wouldn't want to pay $2700 in rent on that time off (or any time).

Longer term, it sounds like the hobbies you desire to pursue would be most enjoyably pursued in a state of FI. When you take the time off, you can scheme up a roadmap to FI. Perhaps your optimal path will make you both less miserable along the way, such as finding jobs that pay a bit less in exchange for better work/life balance. Or you could get similaly demanding jobs again but be extremely frugal. With your incomes you could probably FIRE in just a few years. Since you live in NYC, you have the opportunity for geographic arbitrage which would allow you to FIRE much earlier if you are willing to live somewhere besides NYC.

Not the worst decision ever. Good luck!

JackieTreehorn

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2015, 01:32:27 PM »
Ysette - Our lease is up July 1, so we'll be here until then.  We hope to have some more information then about the eligibility and potential timetable for grandma's apartment.  If we can move there within a year or so we'll probably stay put.  My wife loves NYC so I don't see us moving out of the city, but if we think we won't have a chance at getting the cheaper apartment within a year or so then we might try to move to a cheaper place in the interim to save some money.

PowerMustache - thanks for the response.  I have implemented MMM's principles gradually over the past 18 months or so...cutting cable (and constantly arguing with time warner about our internet bill :-) ), taking lunch to work everyday, started biking to work a decent amount a few months ago, cooking more, cfl bulbs etc.  That said, NYC is just a tough place to be frugal with the high cost of living and constant barrage of fun and exciting ways to separate you from your money, but I think we are doing ok.  I would be more open to living elsewhere than my wife.  I don't see us living anywhere outside of the tri-state area due to us having all of our friends and family here.  Even if we were to move outside of the city, the reduction in housing expense would probably be more than compensated for in the increase in time cost due to commuting, need for a car etc. 

Future Lazy

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2015, 02:23:54 PM »
Ysette - Our lease is up July 1, so we'll be here until then.  We hope to have some more information then about the eligibility and potential timetable for grandma's apartment.  If we can move there within a year or so we'll probably stay put.  My wife loves NYC so I don't see us moving out of the city, but if we think we won't have a chance at getting the cheaper apartment within a year or so then we might try to move to a cheaper place in the interim to save some money.

PowerMustache - thanks for the response.  I have implemented MMM's principles gradually over the past 18 months or so...cutting cable (and constantly arguing with time warner about our internet bill :-) ), taking lunch to work everyday, started biking to work a decent amount a few months ago, cooking more, cfl bulbs etc.  That said, NYC is just a tough place to be frugal with the high cost of living and constant barrage of fun and exciting ways to separate you from your money, but I think we are doing ok.  I would be more open to living elsewhere than my wife.  I don't see us living anywhere outside of the tri-state area due to us having all of our friends and family here.  Even if we were to move outside of the city, the reduction in housing expense would probably be more than compensated for in the increase in time cost due to commuting, need for a car etc.

With 500k and no plans for kids, is it possible to  cut your spending down to ~$1500/mo while staying in the tristate area (after quitting/moving)? I know that moving to a different part of the USA would make that pretty achievable. Being able to spend around ~$1500/mo would make your current net worth sustainable and you could be FIRE'd officially.

Being so close though, I would do the grind to put in another 6 months or a year to get the extra $80-160k (or whatever) towards net worth, just for the extra stability in the long run, and that would enable you to more safely stay in a HCOL area.

The best thing to do, though, is to write out a detailed budget of your spending, realistically, and take a close look at what will be reduced or eliminated by quitting and moving - only that can give you a real idea of how achievable it is.

frugaldrummer

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2015, 03:09:05 PM »
A) Kudos to you, that's AWESOME that you've saved up $500k!!!!

B) Ask yourselves what your LONG TERM goals are.  If it's to be FIRE, then I'd say work a little longer and build up that stash.  (I'm guessing you can put away about $100k/year, right?).  If you want to work but just don't want to be as stressed, then you can both look for jobs that pay around $40-50K each, continue your current lifestyle, and just let that savings money grow until you're ready for retirement. 

If it was me, I'd be tempted to keep working until I had enough saved to cover basic living expenses, then branch out into whatever low-paying stuff I might want to do.  But you certainly have enough FU money to change careers and/or jobs without being worried.

BCBiker

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2015, 03:11:04 PM »
You should listen to this: http://radicalpersonalfinance.com/radical-immediate-retirement-escape-the-soul-crushing-horror-of-your-job-right-now-what-could-happen-if-you-just-chucked-it-all-and-quit-rpf0107/

The guy has a guest post on ERE I believe as well.  It is totally possible to just quit and move on and be more happy afterward!

JoJo

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2015, 03:59:47 PM »
I decided at age 30 that I really wanted to travel the world so I started putting a plan in place and I sold my house & car and bought a back pack and traveled the world for the next 20 months.
I came back and found a job paying a little more than the job I gave up! 
Taking a break of some sort is totally fine.  When applying, you will definitely need to answer questions of why you left your old job, what you did during your break, so be prepared to be accountable for your break.

DecD

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2015, 04:20:41 PM »
I think you definitely have options.

Quit when your lease is up, and do some slow travel for several months or a year while you decide what's important to you and wait for Grandma's coop to come up.  This lowers your expenses while you're not earning.  Then when you're ready to come back, with luck you'll have a better idea what careers you want to pursue yet you haven't been living at NYC COL in the meantime.  Plus, you'll have a world of experience behind you, and a world of perspective on what you want out of life.

Or- if they'll let you- drop to half time at your current position.  You'll practically cover your living expenses with one half time job.  It would be nice to let that 500K grow rather than see it drop while you're not working.  With one half-time salary, it makes a huge difference.  And with a half-time job, you'd have time to pursue the band & the fitness goals.

Or- get seasonal positions in Antarctica or something.  Some friends of mine did this for 6 months a few years ago and it was an experience of a lifetime.

We're in about the same situation that you are (though we're not in NYC, and we have two kids.)  We're opting (at the moment, at least) to keep going with our current jobs and make the best of them for the next 3-5 years, at which point we'll have stashed enough to be truly FI and we'll open our options up a ton.  However, in my back pocket is the knowledge that I can almost cover our living expenses by working half time...in other words, we have options even now.  And if I weren't committed to staying put for at least awhile, I might consider ditching the "real" job to travel for a year.

However, I don't think I'd quit without a plan for what you'll do in the interim.  I'd imagine that sitting around at home isn't going to open your eyes to what you want from life.  What does your wife want to do? "Not going to work" might not be a solid enough goal to really lead to a happy sabbatical.

overlord34

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2015, 05:21:05 PM »
Mccarrol1 - I perked up when I read your OP because you and your wife are almost in the exact same situation that my wife and I were in about 18 months ago.  At that time I was 34 and she was 29.  We also live in NYC (Brooklyn) and we were making about 150k combined with about 650k saved up in assets.  For years we had talked about going on an adventure like backpacking around the world or sailing the caribbean but debated whether it was a good idea to quit our jobs before we were truly FI.  There was a lot of analysis paralysis and worry over should we go for it now vs. will we able to find jobs when we come back.  We probably discussed it for 4 years.

Finally in mid 2013 we decided to go on a sailing adventure.  We were burned out from our jobs too and wanted to do this before we had kids (also 50/50 about that) and not live with the regret of never doing it at all.  We bought a boat, left our jobs, and left NYC in Oct 2013.  It was a huge thrill to be able to do this and tell all my co workers (they were all blown away).  Sadly the actual sailing adventure ultimately didn't work out for two reasons: one, we didn't have enough experience and didn't properly prepare for the trip; and two, because we were so concerned about not being able to find jobs afterward, we were constantly stressed about spending any money which made it hard to relax and enjoy the trip.  For those reasons it was a very difficult experience.

A year later in Sep 2014 we made it back to NYC and I began a job search that lasted 3 1/2 months.  I was really worried whether I'd be able to find anything or how my decision to quit would be perceived.  As much as I hated the process of looking for a job (doing resumes, spending all this uncompensated time looking), most of the interviewers I met with were actually really interested in my decision to leave my prior job.  Rather than a negative, people appreciated my courage and even expressed that they wish they could have done something similar.  I was able to land a great job about a month ago (I'm a lawyer) that pays a bit more than what I made before I left.  And a major reason I got that job was because the interviewers really were intrigued by my decision to go do this adventure.

Looking back now a year later I'm glad we left NYC and did this trip even if it didn't turn out as planned.  I learned a lot about myself and am able to say I lived without regrets and wondering "what if?"  I also had a chance to recover from the burnout.  And it's really gratifying whenever I talk to anyone about what we did because they're always so intrigued and inspired by us taking that kind of risk.  In retrospect I learned two things that might be useful for you: 1) set yourself a budget so you feel free to spend that money and not need to stress about finances; 2) if you're experienced in a particular profession, as you seem to be, coming back to a job if you need to may be doable if you can show people something interesting you did during your time off.

 I've also learned ironically to be less stressed about money than I was before we went on this trip.  Before quitting I was all about needing to save, save, save to get to FI.  Now I feel more easygoing about my finances, taking the attitude that in the grand scheme of things I'm already well on my way there and am committed to reach that goal even if I'm not 100% perfect about avoiding wasteful expenses. 

You seem to be in a solid financial position.  With the money you'll save until your lease is up, that's even better.  If you're thinking about kids, and especially if you're burned out about your work situation, the time is right to take some time off and gain some perspective on your life or do some adventuring.  Maybe if I'd have quit sooner and hadn't debated things for four years, I'd have been less stressed about the experience once I actually made the decision to do it.   If you have any more questions about our specific situation feel free to ask.  There's a great quote I like by Thomas Jefferson that goes, "How much worry never occurred evils cost us."  I spent the last year and a half worrying about whether things would work out after our time off was over but I should have realized that we'd find a way, and we did.

Side note - my wife and I have talked about if we have kids moving up to the Hudson River Valley.  Way cheaper housing than NYC, beautiful nature, and only 1-2 hours to NYC.  Also not the suburban environment that neither of us like (i.e. long island/westchester/new jersey).



JackieTreehorn

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2015, 10:13:04 AM »
Thanks everyone for your thoughts.

Overlord - Good to hear someone else has done something similar and had it work out well.  That was exactly what I was hoping to hear.  Just curious, if the sailing trip didn't work out, what did you end up doing from oct 2013 - Sep 2014?  Or are you saying you did the sailing trip but didn't enjoy it? Did your finances take a hit during that time off?  I'm guessing it was probably fine as I think that was a good period for the market.  I'm sure it was time well spent no matter what.  I too have the same issue of constantly worrying about saving as much money as possible.  Also, I agree the Hudson Valley is a beautiful area.  It's probably the only part of the tri-state area I'd consider living in outside of the city itself.

DecD - Yep working part-time for my current employer is definitely something I've considered.  I feel like my contributions at work are valued considerably, so when the time comes for me to inform them of my decision, it may work out that they offer that I could take some time off and return on a part time basis some time in the future, but I'm not 100% sure that's what I want.  It would set my mind at ease in terms of our financial situation, but my hold me back from being happier in the long-term as I could see myself getting too comfortable and never really finding a job or career that better suits me.  I'll cross that bridge when I come to it in a few months, though I guess.

Some part of me just wants to work at like a liquor store or a book store or something for like a year, just to have some spending money, and have a job with zero stress.  Kinda weird I guess.

JoJo - Yeah I figured someone would mention the resume issues that might ensue from just quitting and having a gap like that, but I think it could also be used advantageously, like overlord alluded to. 

I like the slow travel idea, although maybe not for a full year.  I think I might just miss friends and family after awhile. 

One nuts and bolts question for New Yorkers out there:  Anyone been able to find cheap, high-deductible health coverage?  Last I checked (I think this was on the exchange), it looked like it was going to be minimum $650/month or so for my wife and I.  A far cry from MMM's $300/month or whatever it was.  I guess it varies a lot state to state.



oldmannickels

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2015, 10:35:49 AM »
If you're looking for a job like that you should definitely work at a gym.

frugaldrummer

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2015, 12:09:40 PM »
MMMs current insurance is a grandfathered-in plan that will expire in the next year - I suspect his costs will go up significantly when that happens (due in part to the better coverage offered by Obamacare plans, without limits on care in case of catastrophe, coverage of preventive measures etc.).

For comparison, at 58, in California, I pay about $480 a month for a Bronze level plan with HSA option for one person.  (This is with Kaiser, so there may be other, cheaper, less good alternatives.  I'm considering paying more for a cadillac plan, as I find I haven't funded the HSA (costs of the HSA versus the tax savings for me don't seem to really pencil out - those plans have tons of fees!)  and I find that I am neglecting going to the doctor when I really probably should because I foolishly don't want to pony up the deductible amount.   So I'm thinking I'll get the more expensive plan for a year, go take care of everything I think needs addressing, then maybe switch back to the higher deductible plan if everything is good.

JackieTreehorn

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2015, 04:48:14 PM »
Quote
For comparison, at 58, in California, I pay about $480 a month for a Bronze level plan with HSA option for one person.  (This is with Kaiser, so there may be other, cheaper, less good alternatives.  I'm considering paying more for a cadillac plan, as I find I haven't funded the HSA (costs of the HSA versus the tax savings for me don't seem to really pencil out - those plans have tons of fees!)  and I find that I am neglecting going to the doctor when I really probably should because I foolishly don't want to pony up the deductible amount.   So I'm thinking I'll get the more expensive plan for a year, go take care of everything I think needs addressing, then maybe switch back to the higher deductible plan if everything is good.

Yeah I guess it's just not realistic to think I'll be able to get coverage for a few hundred bucks anymore.  Thanks for the info.  My company just started offering an HDHP 1/1/15, so I'm going to max out the HSA before leaving this year.  I thought I could pay premiums with that money but turns out you can only pay COBRA premiums, and our health plan is too costly for me to consider that.  Even though it's an HDHP its deductibles are still on the low side.  So anyway, gotta figure that out at some point.  On the plus side, our income might be low enough this year to qualify for some of the ACA subsides. 

overlord34

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2015, 08:38:39 PM »
Thanks everyone for your thoughts.

Overlord - Good to hear someone else has done something similar and had it work out well.  That was exactly what I was hoping to hear.  Just curious, if the sailing trip didn't work out, what did you end up doing from oct 2013 - Sep 2014?  Or are you saying you did the sailing trip but didn't enjoy it? Did your finances take a hit during that time off?  I'm guessing it was probably fine as I think that was a good period for the market.  I'm sure it was time well spent no matter what.  I too have the same issue of constantly worrying about saving as much money as possible.  Also, I agree the Hudson Valley is a beautiful area.  It's probably the only part of the tri-state area I'd consider living in outside of the city itself.


Thanks for saying that, I'm glad it was helpful to hear my experience.  We did the trip from Oct 2013 - April 2014 (but sadly yes, didn't enjoy it as much as we'd hoped).  In May though we did something fun that happened because of our trip - we had met some people in November who were also cruising by sail, had made it to the Bahamas, and needed help to bring their boat back to North Carolina.  So we flew out there and spent a week in the Bahamas on their boat and then a week bringing it back to the States.  It was an unforgettable experience.  We spent the summer in San Diego because we always wanted to try living in California and with no jobs why not :).  Plus I have a good friend out there so it was fun spending time with him.  So there were a lot of good things that came out of taking time off that we'll always remember.

Our finances took a small hit because I had moved some money to very conservative investments thinking I couldn't afford to suffer a market drop without a job.  The good news is that now that I'm back working I should be able to recover the drop through savings pretty quickly.  My biggest mistake was not having a more balanced portfolio that was bringing in more regular monthly income - we probably wouldn't have been as stressed about the finances and could have enjoyed things more.  At least our income was low enough to qualify for free health insurance :).

But you're right that it was still time well spent.  It was great not to have to be anywhere in the morning every day.  Didn't miss going to work for one second.  And I got some perspective on my life and future that I didn't have beforehand.  Same here with the Hudson Valley (can't see any other part of the tri-state area that appeals to me). 


This_Is_My_Username

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« Reply #15 on: January 20, 2015, 09:50:26 PM »
Consider asking your employer(s) for a 1-year or 2-year unpaid "career break".  That will give you the safety net of a guaranteed return to a high paying job.     If you decide not to go back, you can 'quit' a few months before you are due back. 


alternatively, get laid off, or get a severance, or redundancy payout.  This could be worth $50k+ to each of you.  That is probably worth a lot more than the emotional safety of a 2-year unpaid career break.

http://www.financialsamurai.com/when-a-severance-package-is-not-a-severance-package/
http://www.financialsamurai.com/dont-get-fired-or-quit-get-laid-off-instead/


overlord34

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #16 on: January 20, 2015, 10:22:08 PM »
Just want to echo the great points made by This is my Username that I should have mentioned too.  My first choice before quitting was a 1 year unpaid leave.  I had a government job and requested it but unfortunately city rules didn't permit it.  Also because it was a government job, getting laid off or a severance package wasn't an option for me.  So I had no choice but to put up or shut up.  But if you can request an unpaid leave to give you some security (which would have been a huge help to me if I could have done it), or alternatively opt to be laid off or get a severance package, that's definitely preferable to outright quitting.

limeandpepper

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #17 on: January 20, 2015, 11:08:12 PM »
Yes, I quit my job last year to travel. It is a scary thing to do, but if you have already made plans that you are excited about, then it gets much easier once it's all happening. Now I just came back and I don't have a new job yet, I would like one, but I'm not too worried for the moment. It sounds like you and your wife have the skills so that you can probably quite easily find another job when you want it, but otherwise I second asking for an unpaid extended leave of absence from your workplace, as it's possible that maybe you just need 6 - 12 months off work to refresh yourself? I would probably have tried that avenue if I wasn't also moving interstate to be with my partner.

I learned a lot about myself and am able to say I lived without regrets and wondering "what if?"  I also had a chance to recover from the burnout.

I've also learned ironically to be less stressed about money than I was before we went on this trip.  Before quitting I was all about needing to save, save, save to get to FI.  Now I feel more easygoing about my finances, taking the attitude that in the grand scheme of things I'm already well on my way there and am committed to reach that goal even if I'm not 100% perfect about avoiding wasteful expenses. 

If you're thinking about kids, and especially if you're burned out about your work situation, the time is right to take some time off and gain some perspective on your life or do some adventuring.

Just quoting a small portion that particularly resonated with me, but I loved reading the whole post, thank you for sharing your story. I am currently looking for a job, so here's hoping I get some interviews with people who are intrigued enough by my adventures to give me an extra edge, as has been your experience.

I also agree with your advice for the OP to set a budget, especially if they are prone to worrying about finances otherwise. I am the type who hates dipping into my savings, but because for my trip I already earmarked how much I was going to spend over those several months, I had a great time. Even before I embarked upon my travels, that money was already gone as far as I was concerned, I had an idea of how much my net worth would be upon my return, and I was at peace with it. While I was overseas I only checked my savings/investments every now and then to make sure there were no fraudulent activities and to do some transfers. That was it and everything else was about having fun. :)

happy

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Re: Case Study: Quitting Job before FI?
« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2015, 05:25:25 AM »
I say go for it.
I've taken a year off work twice - once to travel, once to do a more or less unpaid fellowship overseas. I've worked part-time for over 20 years. Will delay FI, depends whether you want do go hard and fast or meander and enjoy the journey a bit more.
You might be interested in the notion of downshifting:

see: https://gooddaytolive.wordpress.com
http://downshiftersjournal.com/2014/04/29/how-do-you-define-downshifting/
www.tai.org.au/documents/dp_fulltext/DP62.pdf