Author Topic: Please help me choose: fork in the road.  (Read 3192 times)

PBandJelli

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Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« on: April 25, 2018, 07:19:01 PM »
Hi there:

I'm looking for advice.  This will be scattered.  Apologies in advance.

I started a new job about 3 months ago.  The job is 60+ hour weeks and high stress.  I'm not sure it's a great fit, though I know I'm performing well. Between leaving my old job and arriving for the first day of this new one, I unexpectedly lost a really close relative.  I'm still reeling from that loss and, full disclosure, my interest in leaving may be caused by the reality that I'm dealing with overwhelming grief while trying to just make a mark in my new gig.

My husband and I save well, but we're not as frugal as some folks here.  Still, we're in good shape.  My husband and I could FIRE in about five years but I'm really tired now and just want out even if only for a while.  That said, I am worried about quitting and having a hard time finding a new job.  You always hear the "it is easier to find a new job when you have a job" cliche.   Notwithstanding the worry about the impact of a gap in my resume on finding a new job...

I am just ready for something else.  Over the past few years, I've slowly been pursuing a PhD.  I'm about a semester away from the exams that would put me to the point of writing my dissertation.  I learned last night that the University would be willing to pay for my coursework AND give me a stipend of 1500$ a month to pursue school almost full time (I'd be a graduate assistant, working about 18-20 hours a week). 

I am an economist so I keep thinking of the opportunity cost of the retirement savings these years.  I am only 38, about to be 39.  I earn 150k.  My husband and I together save about 100k per year.  (He earns about what I earn and we live in a high cost of living area.)

Quitting before January is out of the question.  I want to leave now, but I committed to a year and I'll make it through January.  I could either tell myself to hang on and do another 5 years, or quit in January and pursue the PhD, then maybe go back to work three to four years later for 3-5 years.  (The PhD won't increase my earnings potential, but I hope it makes me marketable.)  If we go down to one salary, we will still be able to save a bit.  And we can live comfortably on my husband's salary.

What would you do in my situation?  (And if you feel like typing it up, why?)

ysette9

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Re: Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2018, 07:43:04 PM »
Can you take bereavement or just a couple weeks of vacation to process your loss and focus on sorting out what is in your head before deciding anything? That is what I would try first, personally.

2Cent

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Re: Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2018, 02:41:08 AM »
If you plan to work for just 5 more years, why all the worry about opportunity costs. In fact FIRE in 5 years means you could probably try for your dream job and reach FI in 10 years. Or even you could just enjoy finishing your PhD and get paid while you do it. I don't think it's healthy for anyone to work 60+ hours so why kill yourself now so you can be idle in 5 years. Much better to enjoy a slightly longer road to FIRE. Burn out and other stress related problems will cost you much more than a few opportunities or money. Especially if you're married to someone who earns enough to pay the bills it is completely unnecessary to even worry.

I would talk to my boss and explain the situation. It's not like you have anything to lose of since anyway you want out. I don't think your boss is well served by a stressed out employee, so he/she will probably try to work out a way for you to cope up. Maybe reduced hours. Maybe cut that one activity which causes most stress. Maybe just take a few weeks off to calm down as ysette9 suggested.


PBandJelli

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Re: Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2018, 05:31:42 AM »
Quitting before January is out of the question. 

What other deadlines are affecting your desire to choose now, if you feel leaving in January is the nearest option?

If none, wait until you are more clear yourself.  If you are truly stuck and unable to sense which best suits, get some structured help (career counsellor, therapist, etc.).


Thanks everyone.  The above point had not occurred to me before now.  The truth is I am being pressed to accept the money at the University by June, so I have a couple more months to go.  (I would start the fellowship in January, but they want that commitment sooner.) 

On the comment from the Econ PhD:  I've made it through most of my coursework, so I'm pot committed at this point.  Also, it's a personal quest.  Right now I am doing 60 at work and 10 in academic.  I'd like to flip to 20 fellowship and 30 academic.  I'll be much more chill.  I do know the PhD is solitary - especially after I get through quals.  But I'm ready to just be intellectually curious for a while.

I truly appreciate everyone taking the time to offer views.

Brother Esau

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Re: Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2018, 06:48:54 AM »
I can't say what I would do in your situation but I can share what we did in our situation.

Over the past 8 months, the DW and I each changed jobs for quality of life reasons. Less stress, no deadlines, less hours, more time off, etc, etc. It did result in about 15% less pay. We felt we were able to do this since we are already FI. It will slightly delay RE but we genuinely each enjoy what we do.

We are both much happier now.

Good luck!

FrugalFan

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Re: Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2018, 07:21:48 AM »
You should be able to accept the fellowship in June and decline it later if you change your mind. That would take one stressful decision off your plate now.

Noodle

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Re: Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2018, 07:35:14 AM »
I'm sorry for your loss.

Since you have until June to decide on the money, I would take that time. You just heard about this yesterday, right? Even a couple weeks might give you clarity. There is a real time factor to grief and a good reason why people recommend that recent widows, for instance, take a year before deciding about making major changes. If anyone presses you for an earlier commitment, there's nothing wrong with being honest that just having suffered a loss, you want to take a little time to be in the best possible place to decide. If they don't understand that, they aren't great people to be around anyway.

The other thing to consider as you take this extra time is that sometimes we set ourselves up for an either/or decision (PhD or 60+ hours per week) without considering other alternatives. For instance, maybe there are other less demanding jobs that you would like. Maybe the money would still be available in a year. It might be worth it to take some time to discuss with your spouse if this is truly an A/B decision or if there are options C,D,E etc.

FIRE 20/20

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Re: Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2018, 08:21:14 AM »
It sounds as though you are undervaluing your mental health and personal wellbeing in exchange for money.  Is this tradeoff really aligned with your values?  Your husband's values?

I think the suggestion to seek out counseling is a good one, and I suspect that even though you're new if you tell your boss that you had a death in the family and that you need some time off (even just getting down to 40 hours a week!) to seek grief counseling they would happily give you that flexibility.  If not, then they're assholes and you should leave as soon as possible anyway.

Finally, you are 5 years away from FIRE, have two high-paying jobs, and are close to a PhD... you hold all the cards.  You're the one with the power in every discussion with your employer.  They may not know your situation, but that's mostly irrelevant.  As I re-read your post it sounds like you know what you want, but you're not aware of the power you hold or you are afraid to use it.  Stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself what you really value in life, or talk to a counselor, or have a serious conversation with your husband to understand what you want your next year, 5 years, 20 years, etc. to look like.  From what you've written it seems obvious to me that you need to mourn your loss, then you need to focus on personal growth and development (PhD), and that you're in a position to go after those and other things you want out of life.  You just need to give yourself permission to get what you want out of life rather than chase money.  I suspect if you take that approach you'll be happier, healthier, and even more valuable to an employer than you are now so the money will actually continue to roll in even if you deprioritize it now.  But even if it doesn't the happier and healthier you will not mind the modest reduction in money. 


affordablehousing

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Re: Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2018, 11:34:00 AM »
I think the money is very much a red herring. The school paying you $1500 is a pittance. Whatever your coursework costs, I'm sure it's a lot less than the $12,500 you get a month now. The real question may be if you need a hiatus from work sooner than later. I would definitely try to work out some bereavement time with your employer. If they are worth working for, they should understand, if they don't in my book they showed their cards and you can leave whenever you like feeling like it was a functional relationship, no more no less.

Most likely, time to process the grieving is really what you need, as well as perhaps some guided therapy to reassess your priorities. I'm sorry for your loss, and especially that it would come already at a time of transition. While the timing of the fellowship seems alluring, when you already have a role in industry where you make good money, who cares about a small stipend? Don't let it derail the real path toward understanding your loss.

AMandM

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Re: Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2018, 05:43:10 PM »
What would you do in my situation?  (And if you feel like typing it up, why?)

Personally,  I would not decide right away since you have another month to decide. I would take that month to grieve and to reflect.

At the end of the month, if I still felt as you seem to feel now, I would accept the fellowship and plan to finish the PhD fulltime starting in January.

Why? Because spending five years of 60+ hour high-pressure workweeks, not to meet basic needs or even wants but just to sock the money away, is totally not worth it to me. I value my peace of life more. I would definitely rather work more years in peace than five years in hell, especially at your young age.

PBandJelli

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Re: Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2018, 05:51:29 PM »
I am just in awe of all of the heart felt, thoughtful responses.  Thank you everyone!  I just want you to know I am reading and considering carefully each and every one of your posts.  I'll come back here to update soon, just taking it all in.

What a fantastic community!

Igelfreundin

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Re: Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2018, 08:37:35 PM »
My PhD is in physics, so disregard of my experience doesn't apply. I would look into whether you can put off the decision about the fellowship. In my field, you could accept now but then defer once the start date approached. Even a couple of months will help- I'm a widow and grief can knock you for such a loop that nothing makes sense and even just working, eating, and sleeping seem like more than you can manage. If there's any way to buy yourself some time before you decide, I don't think it would hurt. My sympathies are with you.

Sent from my Nexus 6 using Tapatalk


FIRE 20/20

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Re: Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2018, 02:17:35 PM »
I am just in awe of all of the heart felt, thoughtful responses.  Thank you everyone!  I just want you to know I am reading and considering carefully each and every one of your posts.  I'll come back here to update soon, just taking it all in.

What a fantastic community!
@PBandJelli - it's been about a month since your last update.  Have you made any decisions?

PBandJelli

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Re: Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2018, 08:53:57 PM »
HI!  I/we have decided to go for it!  I'm going to go full time toward my PhD in January.  I am married and my husband can keep healthcare for the two of us through work.  We'll have to pare expenses down, but once I ran the numbers I felt much better that we can still retire relatively soon if we contribute nothing more to our nest egg (provided we don't touch it).  So - there it is.  Together we determined this is worth it now because, among other things: if I pass up the free tuition fellowship, it will likely never be offered again.

THanks all for your guidance! 

2Cent

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Re: Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2018, 01:53:37 AM »
HI!  I/we have decided to go for it!  I'm going to go full time toward my PhD in January.  I am married and my husband can keep healthcare for the two of us through work.  We'll have to pare expenses down, but once I ran the numbers I felt much better that we can still retire relatively soon if we contribute nothing more to our nest egg (provided we don't touch it).  So - there it is.  Together we determined this is worth it now because, among other things: if I pass up the free tuition fellowship, it will likely never be offered again.

THanks all for your guidance!
Congratulations! I think it will benefit you in more ways than just finance. But please don't go and work 60+ and stress out for your PhD. Force yourself to change your working style to an enjoyable and sustainable pace. You'll be amazed that the world keeps turning and your work keeps getting done just the same without those 20+ extra hours.

AMandM

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Re: Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« Reply #15 on: June 07, 2018, 01:59:55 PM »
Congrats! Not on making the choice I would have made, but on making the decision using your priorities!

marty998

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Re: Please help me choose: fork in the road.
« Reply #16 on: June 27, 2018, 01:41:55 AM »
HI!  I/we have decided to go for it!  I'm going to go full time toward my PhD in January.  I am married and my husband can keep healthcare for the two of us through work.  We'll have to pare expenses down, but once I ran the numbers I felt much better that we can still retire relatively soon if we contribute nothing more to our nest egg (provided we don't touch it).  So - there it is.  Together we determined this is worth it now because, among other things: if I pass up the free tuition fellowship, it will likely never be offered again.

THanks all for your guidance!

This is good to hear. And don't worry about the gap on your resume. A PhD is a pretty decent space filler on the page.