Author Topic: Feeling conflicted about my career  (Read 5403 times)

toby2

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Feeling conflicted about my career
« on: May 28, 2015, 10:40:53 AM »
I am considering a new job that I find intriguing for several reasons:
  • It’s at a well-respected university (staff position, not faculty)
  • the benefits are fantastic (25 vacation days to start, 11% retirement match to my 4%, great health, etc)
  • would cut my commute down from an hour to about 20 minutes
  • would likely be a laid back position with minimal stress

One concern is it would most likely come with about a 10k (at least) pay cut. I am currently making 75k with an impossible to predict 4k bonus (so I do not count on that). However, I get no retirement matching and am worked to the bone at a startup that is not in great shape. It affects me outside of work, leaves me drained and burned out on a daily basis. I am not confident in its future and I want out.

On it’s surface this might appear to be a pretty easy decision - shorter commute, much less stress and only a modest pay cut when factoring in retirement. However, I am struggling with a few things. One is that moving to this university job would likely put a much lower ceiling on my future earnings if I were to stay there long term. I currently work in the corporate sector, and while 75k is not amazing, there is probably potential for me to increase that more over time. At the university, I would probably be locked into cost of living raises every year and nothing more.

The real issue I am struggling with though is that I am also a dad of a 2 y.o. and we want another one soon. I am 34 y.o., and I consider myself a driven professional who has scratched and clawed to get to where I am now, and feel that “settling” for a 65k job will a low ceiling would not be “providing” enough for my family. For context, my wife makes 40k and we have about 40k in student loans (no car or CC debt). We currently save about 1.5 - 2k per month.

This isn’t so much about math/budget as it is about wondering, philosophically, what’s the right course of action. I see a lot of high salaries on this forum, and I just can’t shake the idea that “downsizing” my career would be an irresponsible thing to do with a growing family. I have this feeling that I would be "copping out" to take an easier job instead of just grinding it out for the betterment of my family.   I’d appreciate any thoughts on how you all might approach this situation.

Aushin

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2015, 10:49:14 AM »
My personal opinion is that the extra vacation time, 2/3 reduction on the commute, and the removal of corporate stress make this a REALLY easy decision. 

Plus, a lot of the salary you're losing is made up for by the more-generous match (about 4,000 dollars if I did the math right).

What kind of job are you currently doing?  I see that you're at a startup, are you a developer?

toby2

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2015, 11:09:01 AM »
What kind of job are you currently doing?  I see that you're at a startup, are you a developer?

Thanks for the reply. I'm not a developer, more of an online learning consultant.

BMEPhDinCO

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2015, 11:29:51 AM »
Take the university job - you can always leave it again if you want, but also don't forget that many times, staff kids get a discount at the University as well if they attend - that might make up for everything as well.  Plus, with an extra 6 days worth a year (your commute time) of playing with your kids AND being closer if there's a problem, it seems to make more sense on all levels.

MustacheNY

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2015, 11:33:41 AM »
I would pose the question on whether "grinding it out" is really the better move for your family?  When you come home, do you have energy to play with your kid? Do you have energy to enjoy your wife's company?  Does being burned out impact you so that your family is really not getting the best of you, since you have nothing left for them?  How does your wife feel about this opportunity for you?  Is she in favor of it?  How does she feel about your concerns about limited upside potential?  Providing for your loved ones is a lot more than just bringing home a paycheck.  Plus, it seems that you will still be operating with budget surpluses even with the lower salary.

While you mentioned that this was more of a philosophical decision into the right course of action, since this is the MMM forum, I will tell you that I really think you could benefit from a look at the expense side.  Depending on what the cost of living is like in your area, it would appear that you have significant room in your budget to make reductions that will free up more than whatever reduction you are taking in salary.  As a family, you are currently making $115,000/yr according to your numbers, but you are only saving $1.5-$2K a month.  Assuming you both have 401Ks at work, you could get that up to $3K a month, and should still have enough left over for a comfortable life, with additional cash savings.  Plus, the emotional benefits of having a smaller expense hurdle to clear every month can also be very freeing.  With the additional retirement match with the new job, and a honest assessment of your current expenses, you will probably come out ahead.  In addition, you can always take some of that extra time you will have freed up and apply it to pursuing income opportunities that are in line with your passions.

Life is about a lot more than just earning a lot of money, or saving a lot of money, or having the "status" of a driven career professional.  It is also about the journey.

If you really sit down and think about what your goals are financially in terms of financial independence, early retirement, and in terms of your present life needs (both financial and emotional), I believe you will see that you can accomplish them without sacrificing your mental and emotional health.  While a little lower salary may mean an extra few years of work until FIRE, in the grand scheme of things you may find it better to have enjoyed the journey than find yourself in your mid 40's suffering from stress related illnesses and wondering how your kid turned into a teenager already, not to mention the impact of work-related stress on a marriage.

Numbers Man

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2015, 11:44:16 AM »
My personal opinion is that the extra vacation time, 2/3 reduction on the commute, and the removal of corporate stress make this a REALLY easy decision. 

Plus, a lot of the salary you're losing is made up for by the more-generous match (about 4,000 dollars if I did the math right).

What kind of job are you currently doing?  I see that you're at a startup, are you a developer?

I have to agree with this. That match is not taxable and is an awesome perk. I would take this job in a New York minute. You're too caught up with the gross salary trap. You are getting so many benefits that you are not valuing them objectively. I wonder if there's free education for yourself and family members as well.

ysette9

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2015, 01:49:27 PM »
It is a bit of a marketing ploy, but the HR org in my company touts the "total value" of our employment package to try to get people to focus on more than just the salary number. Healthcare coverage, pension, 401(k) match, paid time off, tuition assistance, training programs, etc. All of that does matter. As a new college grad I really only cared about my starting salary, but now that I am old and boring with a baby at home, things like work/life balance, commute, and benefits mean a LOT to me now.

As someone who can't wait to go home to her baby every day, I say take the job and enjoy your family!

Jack

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2015, 03:07:22 PM »
I would happily trade salary for 401(K) match any time. Think about it: your employee contributions are limited to $18.5K (or whatever it is this year), but the employer match isn't. That means the bigger the match, the bigger the maximum total contribution to your 401(K) can be! That translates directly into less tax and thus faster FI.

mozar

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2015, 03:55:50 PM »
Do you know for sure you would have to take a paycut? Could they meet you in the middle. Are there other jobs you could apply to that are closer but pay the same as you make now?

beltim

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #9 on: May 28, 2015, 03:56:37 PM »
This isn’t so much about math/budget as it is about wondering, philosophically, what’s the right course of action. I see a lot of high salaries on this forum, and I just can’t shake the idea that “downsizing” my career would be an irresponsible thing to do with a growing family. I have this feeling that I would be "copping out" to take an easier job instead of just grinding it out for the betterment of my family.   I’d appreciate any thoughts on how you all might approach this situation.

Your question isn't really about your current job vs the university  job.  Your question is really about the university job vs a hypothetical future non-university job.  So, my questions to you are:
Why did you find this university job rather than a non-university job if you're worried about making more money in the future?
Is there anything preventing you from taking the hypothetical future non-university job in the future if you take this job opportunity?
It sounds to me like the only reason you wouldn't take the current job is if it would lock you out of potential even-better job opportunities in the future.

Migrator Soul

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #10 on: May 28, 2015, 04:12:53 PM »
I feel your pain about being conflicted with your career choice. I love my job, wouldn't trade it for the world. But it pays incredibly low.

If you can still make the figures work, and contribute to your retirement... The question for me would boil down to this: Is this job going to make you a happier, more content person? If so, for me, that is a no brainer. You spend so much time at work, a paycut is sometimes worth the personal satisfaction. I may be a minority opinion on that, but that is my outlook.

However, that matching rate.. is amazing..

sol

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2015, 04:47:23 PM »
Would you stay at your current job if they increased your pay?  How much more money would you need to make to convince yourself to stay in your current job?

I'd apply for the university job, then if you get it take that number to your boss and ask him to convince you to stay put.

In any case, don't say anything at work until you have a written offer you're happy with.

forummm

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2015, 05:02:41 PM »
Some universities let you max both a 403b and a 457b. So you could dramatically cut your taxes. It's in effect a huge raise. If you can save that much.

NaturallyHappier

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2015, 07:18:34 PM »
Would you stay at your current job if they increased your pay?  How much more money would you need to make to convince yourself to stay in your current job?

I'd apply for the university job, then if you get it take that number to your boss and ask him to convince you to stay put.

In any case, don't say anything at work until you have a written offer you're happy with.
+1

NorCal

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #14 on: May 29, 2015, 10:41:26 AM »
Here's a way to think about it.

If you weren't going to take the university job, is there a corporate type job you see that is attainable, and would fix your issues with your current situation?

I sense a lot of your anxiety is about going into a no-growth academic job.  I get it.

Think through your other alternatives.  What if you started a full-blown corporate job search?  Does that idea make you incredibly happy or depressed?  That's your answer.

Talltodd

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #15 on: May 29, 2015, 03:29:37 PM »
Take the job. The lower stress and anxiety are worth it!

Norrie

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #16 on: May 29, 2015, 06:29:07 PM »
In your shoes, I'd take the university job.

I work for a state university, and the benefits are phenomenal. The days off around Christmas? Ridiculous. The health insurance is the freaking Cadillac of all insurance (which is meaningful to us, you may not need it). But the biggest thing for me is the relaxed atmosphere. There's no political BS in the School/College that I'm in, my co-workers are rad, interesting people, I can dress in casual clothes unless there's some Very Important meeting, and when I need to bail to take care of family matters, there's no grief that comes my way. That alone is priceless.

That said, I'm paid much, much below my skill set/education level. If I left (or even moved into a more intense role within the medical school, but that comes with a LOT of politics and stress), I could more than double my salary. That part does eat at me at times, but for our family, all of the positives really outweigh leaving. I am working on a side hustle, but that's more out of personal interest at this point.

Basically, I can't say enough about university life. All of my co-workers and friends who work in other areas of the university love it and don't ever plan to leave, despite the lower income potential.


toby2

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #17 on: May 29, 2015, 07:20:54 PM »
Wow, such thoughtful responses - thank you! You guys/gals are all fantastic. I feel much better about this potential option after hearing a lot of your thoughts.

Think through your other alternatives.  What if you started a full-blown corporate job search?  Does that idea make you incredibly happy or depressed?  That's your answer.

Incredibly depressed. I work in what should be a low pressure field. Not saving lives or doing anything important, yet everything is high pressure and full of corporate BS. Not sure I have it in me anymore.

If you can still make the figures work, and contribute to your retirement... The question for me would boil down to this: Is this job going to make you a happier, more content person? If so, for me, that is a no brainer. You spend so much time at work, a paycut is sometimes worth the personal satisfaction. I may be a minority opinion on that, but that is my outlook.

This is the big thing. Yes, I do think I'd be much, much happier. However, if I am being honest, I am afraid of how this would be perceived by my friends and family. I am typically seen as a career minded person. But I know innately that work should not comprise my entire identity.

I would pose the question on whether "grinding it out" is really the better move for your family?  When you come home, do you have energy to play with your kid? Do you have energy to enjoy your wife's company?  Does being burned out impact you so that your family is really not getting the best of you, since you have nothing left for them? 

I cannot begin to describe how much these questions really resonated with me. The sad reality is that I fail on all of these questions right now. I am not a fun person when I come home from a hard day of work, with an hour commute each way.

myrax

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #18 on: May 30, 2015, 02:37:34 PM »
My sister chose a lower paid university staff job after years of a higher stress/ higher pay career in the field that she had wanted to work in since she was a child. I think everyone in the family was surprised, but she LOVES it and now we all admire her for making such a great decision. Choosing stability, great benefits, and more free time sounds like a pretty solid decision for supporting a growing family.

aspiringnomad

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Re: Feeling conflicted about my career
« Reply #19 on: May 30, 2015, 03:18:16 PM »
Wow, such thoughtful responses - thank you! You guys/gals are all fantastic. I feel much better about this potential option after hearing a lot of your thoughts.

Think through your other alternatives.  What if you started a full-blown corporate job search?  Does that idea make you incredibly happy or depressed?  That's your answer.

Incredibly depressed. I work in what should be a low pressure field. Not saving lives or doing anything important, yet everything is high pressure and full of corporate BS. Not sure I have it in me anymore.

If you can still make the figures work, and contribute to your retirement... The question for me would boil down to this: Is this job going to make you a happier, more content person? If so, for me, that is a no brainer. You spend so much time at work, a paycut is sometimes worth the personal satisfaction. I may be a minority opinion on that, but that is my outlook.

This is the big thing. Yes, I do think I'd be much, much happier. However, if I am being honest, I am afraid of how this would be perceived by my friends and family. I am typically seen as a career minded person. But I know innately that work should not comprise my entire identity.

I would pose the question on whether "grinding it out" is really the better move for your family?  When you come home, do you have energy to play with your kid? Do you have energy to enjoy your wife's company?  Does being burned out impact you so that your family is really not getting the best of you, since you have nothing left for them? 

I cannot begin to describe how much these questions really resonated with me. The sad reality is that I fail on all of these questions right now. I am not a fun person when I come home from a hard day of work, with an hour commute each way.

I understand your apprehension, but based on your responses this is a no-brainier. Take the uni job and don't look back.