Author Topic: Reader Case Study - Staying at a career you don't love or bailing to financial u  (Read 4995 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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I just started reading this blog and love it,  I've been following the Dave Ramsey baby steps for a few years now and just stumbled onto this blog through a wormhole in the internet and it really resonated with me from a financial standpoint and otherwise (I'm pretty sure I'm an unknowing stoic).  In a short period of time it's provided me with some great outlook on the possibilities out there for me. 

I find myself in a sort of existential crisis right now and am looking for some opinions/commiseration on the situation.  About a month ago I decided I had had it with my career in the business world.  I'm a former software developer turned Business Systems Analyst for the supply chain portion of a consumer products company in Michigan.  I recently decided that the day in, day out drudgery of office life was too much for me and after paying off my 25,000 in student loans and working long enough to become fully vested in my company's retirement savings contribution that I was quitting the rat race for an as of yet undecided future.  I planned on taking the summer to myself and thru-hiking the Appalachian trail and after that pursuing a new career in a field that suits me more (read: being a bum short term while I figure out what I want).  I was working a plan to pick up a second job to add some extra to my stache until March and then peac-ing out for the trail with my dog while renting out my home to cover the mortgage and hopefully make a little cash on the side.  Then the old Mr. Money Mustache blog hit me and the idea that it would be possible to retire early and be COMPLETELY free was too good to turn away from.

I'm currently feeling a little unsure of my previous plans of peac-ing out at 30 to an uncertain future versus the possibility of 'retiring' at 40 if I get a little more mustachian in my ways.  On the other hand, I dread waking up every day to go to work.  It's really a good company to work for but the job and the business world just isn't for me.

I was wondering if there was anyone else out there in this situation where they really don't enjoy their job, but found a way to deal with it for 10 years or so.  Maybe there are some people who have left their job and found another way to transition careers while still working towards FI and winning.  I'm also looking for opinions from any mustachians on this.  Most people I talk to think I'm crazy to walk away from this job, I'm beginning to wonder if I am.  Most of those people telling me I'm crazy are in debt up to their ears and haven't been educated on mustachianism yet so I question their opinions.

I'm sure that I will be able to sustain myself financially if I make this move, but my biggest concern is that this new idea of being able to retire at 40 will be pushed back for at the very least a few years in a best case scenario because I will most likely not be making the kind of money I'm making now.  On the other hand it seems like that would be a more enjoyable career that I could look forward to waking up for every morning and if I stay where I'm at, the transition to a new career 10 years from now looks a lot tougher.

any opinions or face punches are welcome.

Around 80,000 before taxes including annual bonuses

Current Monthly expenses:
Healthcare: around 80$ per month for everything
Electric: 20-50 depending on the season
Gas: 20- 120 depending on the season
Water: 30$
Groceries: 200&
Gas: average of 120 (I drive across the state to see family regularly, but I'm working on increasing my bike commuting to reduce the everyday driving)
Dog related expenses: (food, vet, etc): 80$
'Walking around money' (spending, entertainment, restaurants, personal care): 215$
Housing expense (Mortgage, Insurance, taxes): 700$

401K/Roth holdings: around 80,000
Personal Savings: 10,000
Home Equity: 70,000
Annual HSA contribution from employer: 2,000
Current HSA holdings 3,200$

Mortgage: 73,000 at 4.25%


  • Handlebar Stache
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This response is going to be all over the place, but here it is anyway:

I don't love my career.  It's fine, I like what I do, but I won't do it when I'm financially independent.  And I still have about 12 years to go.  I like the work okay, but I hate playing by other people's rules, having to be in the office and deal with corporate shit, and miss my kids.  I go through periods where I hate my job and want to quit and take some time off, but ultimately (so far) I choose to keep my eyes on the prize (FIRE) and keep chugging along.  And sometimes I even think that once I reach FI, I will so free that I will want to continue working for a bit, because most of the time I don't hate it.

But I know what you mean about the job and business world just not being right for you.  I feel like I am aiding in corporate greed.  It's tough.  I sometimes need an attitude adjustment.  I pretend I like the work more than I do, and it helps, and sometimes becomes the truth.  I got pulled into a project that is outside of my scope of responsibilities.  I was excited that VPs thought I was good enough to do it, but it was a hassle and I might have rather not done it.  Upon a job well done and the positive feedback, I told them "thanks for the opportunity, I'm pleased to have been involved!"  And it was maybe half true.  Fake it till you make it (to FI, that is.)

Also, sometimes I consider a lower paying job in a different industry, but honestly my current company is really meeting my work desires right now.  I work in corporate finance, but if I wanted a job that aligned more with my values and was willing to delay FI for it, I could do non-profit finance, or small biz consulting, etc. 

So your spending is sub $20K per year with your mortgage?  Even if taxes take out 25% of your gross, and your net is only $60K, you are looking at set-for-life financial independence in 10 years or so if you remain the same amount of mustachian and had 0 savings right now.   I say pump it up by saving all of your future salary increases and further reducing spending.  $200 for groceries for one person (you are one person, right?) can probably be improved upon.  (We spend about $400/month for our family of 4).  "Walking around money" is another easy target. 

Use your time away from work to live the life you will live 24/7 in 10 years.  Do you work excessively long hours?  If so, try to scale back.  Shift your mindset into the fact that your work is not your life and your journey to FI can be enjoyed.  You don't need to suffer for the next 10 years.  You've got 168 hours in a week, if you sleep 56 hours, work 40, commute (worst case scenario, I hope) 10, you've still got 62 hours to enjoy life.  So enjoy it!


  • Walrus Stache
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Yeah I have to agree.. Your not there yet.

I have been in this position for a number of years.. it comes and goes.

Don't be afraid to look for out of the box opportunities.. Thats how I came to the USA in the first place.. Same company.. different continent..:)

I worked for said company for 28 years.. took early retirement 18months ago and jumped into another comapany.. cooler work but the management leaves a lot to be desired.

All the time I have sucked it up but made changes along the way to make it reasonably OK.

My fear for you is if you quit now you'll always be looking back on the $80k and kicking yourself because your now living in $18k.



  • Pencil Stache
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I'm a project manager, but was a Business Analyst, not too long ago - similar work, just more pay :)
I don't really like my job, but I don't hate it either (okay, at times I do).  Although, I think I want to do something different, I can't really find anything that I am sooo passionate about that I'm willing to give up the good paycheck.  So, I find ways to make it suck less.  The biggest thing is making really good use of my non-work time and setting boundaries so that nothing interferes with that time.  Since I'm only a few years from FI, my attitude about work is not quite slacker, but certainly not the over-achiever I was - somewhere in between.  Since you're not really concerned with climbing the corporate ladder, you don't need to be available after-hours or put in "face-time".  You'll find when you have interests/goals outside of work, it makes what happens (good or bad) at work have less impact on you.

Also, you don't have to make any decisions now.  You really don't have a lot of cash saved up, 10 grand is not much, to just take off - not when you have a mortgage.  What happens when your renter defaults or trashes the place - that will eat into your savings really quick!  Have some fun in making plans for your escape, and in the meantime save like crazy!  Also, think about renting your place out now so you get the experience of dealing with renters and go room with someone that's really close to your work.  This also makes pulling the trigger easier when you're ready, because you already have a solid renter in place (or not, in which case you would want to reconsider your timing/plans).  I also assume that a renter would cover all your 'home costs', including maintenance; if not, you need to factor this into how much you need to have saved.

Google around, you'll find a lot of people took a "gap year" to travel and such - could be an amazing experience.  Check out One Year Lived by Adam Shepard.

Whatever your decision is, just know that it will be hard to get back into corp work again once you 'wander around'; if you're confident of your skills and know that you can make money "doing something", then it may be a risk you're willing to take.


  • Bristles
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I say quit.

It is not worth going to a job you dread for 10 years.  3 years?  Sure, you could suck that up.  10 is not worth it.

Dreading going to your job is a clear sign you have to get out.  That's not the same as not really liking it.

I had a similar existential crises about 7 years ago, though circumstances were a little different.  Long story short: I had come to dread my job, mainly due to complete and total soul-sucking boredom.

After probably two years of indecision, I did quit.  I have never looked back.  I took about two years off and lived off savings while I figured out what to do, then finally decided to start my own business.  I'm basically doing the same service I did in my job, but it is so much more rewarding, there is no comparison.   

Has it slowed down my track to FI?  Yes. Has it always been easy? No. Was it worth it?  Yes. Really, truly, yes.

You have to have some adventure in life.  Take some risks but mitigate them.  One thing we did before I quit was sell our house and buy two duplexes.  Then rents cover both mortgages (all PITI) plus we cash flow about $650/month.  This has been incredibly helpful.  Maybe you don't need to do that, but try to think creatively about what would help give you a backup.

Back then I used to read a web site (it was a blog before there were blogs) of essays called Unconventional Ideas by John O. Andersen.  It's no longer live, but I just found one of the essays I remember being instrumental:

Frankies Girl

  • Magnum Stache
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I used to really like my job, but the last 2 years, it's been tipping over to not so much now, and some things I am hating. I'm sticking it out for a few more years, but I'm not sure I could stand it if I had to do 10+ more years (I've already put in 10+ years with this same employer, and it's just gotten progressively worse)

If you're indifferent to your job and have the ability to take some decent vacation times (without racking up major expenses) then I'd say hang in there if you can to max out your ability to retire early, and try to figure out what you really want to do.

If you really hate what you're doing, I'd say build up your F-U money ASAP and get out when you can, then take a little time off to figure out what you want to do.

Gray Matter

  • Magnum Stache
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I am in a somewhat similar position, except I've got a dozen years on you and many more financial responsibilities (bigger mortgage, three kids).  I am very unhappy at work right now, having been pulled into a project for the past year-and-a-half that is not interesting to me, does not play to my strengths, and is just all-around frustrating.  I have hit the wall and seriously consider quitting once a week, just walking away.

I am probably 10 years away from being truly FI, but the thought of another 10 years is so soul-crushing, there's no way I can even contemplate it.  But nor does it make sense to give in to my urges to just quit tomorrow, so I'm trying to make it work as long as I can without compromising too much happiness today.  I'm actively looking for ways to make it work, including telling my boss I'm unhappy doing this kind of work and providing specific ideas as to what I'm better suited for and discussing part-time options.  Even working 75% I will make significantly more than if I were to quit and work for a non-profit (which is what I really want to do).

I'm going to do everything within my power to  make this job work for me, but if none of those things work, then I believe I will have earned the right to leave.  When it gets to the point where I am fairly confident that I'd rather work longer in a different job than shorter in this job, I know it's time.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Yeah, that is my difficulty right now, I'm having a tough time deciding if I can find a way to be okay with what I have to do every day for work for long enough for FI to kick in.  The hard part for me is that I'm not gauranteed to even be around in 10 years, so it seems like a waste to spend time doing something you don't like.

Either way I definitely am planning on picking up a second part time job to add as much to my stache' as I can before I really have to decided whether or not I'm going. 


  • Stubble
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I can definitely relate to your misery. I think we might be similar age. I have also realized that I am not really cut out for the corporate world and have been actively contemplating what I should do. Now, in my case, I am 2-3 years away from FI, which does make a difference. Having said that, I plan to stick it out only 1.5 more years and then I plan to take a year off to go traveling after which I would work for another 2 years or so to be FI. I have actively been planning my exit at this point (i.e. 1.5 years in advance) so that all my financials are in order, so that I have a concrete plan and so that I don't chicken out in the end. I think sticking it out for 10 years in a job you don't like is just pure misery, don't do it. Forget thinking about 10 years to begin with, it's too long a time frame to think about. Make shorter term plans, like 1-3 year plans. You want to quit and do something else, ok. Now, you don't have enough savings to walk out right now. But in 12-15 months, you probably would have enough (I would go for at least 2 years living expenses to be safe). So set a quit date maybe for early 2015 and in the meantime focus on 2 things: 1. Saving money like crazy. 2. Making a real game plan, i.e. what you want to do while you take a year off and most importantly what you want to do after that and how you will get there.
That way you will make actionable steps, talk to people, investigate new career options, research who you will send your resume too after you quit etc. It's very soul crushing to just sit at work all day and contemplate the what ifs and theoretical plans in 10 years time! But it's much more satisfying if you actually make real plans and have something to work towards that's only 12-15 months away.

Iron Mike Sharpe

  • Bristles
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I'm a Business Analyst too.  Hate the job, but tolerate it.  Can't stand the corporate bureacracy and all of the TPS reports that need to be filled out.  I laugh at some of the nonsense that the suits think is a good use of everyone's time, sometimes openly.  I've learned to accpet it for the most part.  I have a financial plan now.  I need the money to reach FI.   That is my goal.  I understand it will be hard to find a job that doesn't have all of the nonsense involved in providing metrics to the bosses so some unnecessary person in upper mgmt can justify their salary. 

Any other job I would take would have the same nonsense involved.  I currently get 5 weeks vacation a year, plus 9 holidays and 3 personal days.   I figure any other job I would take would have me start out at 2 weeks vacation, 3 if I'm lucky.  I would need a serious bump in pay to consider giving up that extra time off.  And any bump in salary would be taxed at 38.65%.  So, a $10K increase in salary would only give me an extra $6000 or so take home pay.  Probably not worth losing 2-3 weeks of vacation.

I have no desire to play the game and get into management and deal with those headaches.  I'm at a comfortable place right now.  I don't need to check email when I'm at home.  I never get calls.  The few times a year when we have software releases, I might have to look at a few things over the weekend, but I know about that ahead of time. 

Basically, I come in, do my job, then leave.  I make sure I have a full life outside of work.  And I try and never think about my job when I'm not there.  That's how I stay sane.


  • Stubble
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About 5 years ago I was working in corporate.  I was miserable.  My mom said to me: your life is passing you by.  I took a week off to reflect and think through my options. I read Escape From Corporate America by Pamela Skilling (recommended). I decided that my 6 figure salary wasn't worth it and I didnt care how little I made as long I was doing something I loved.  A week later I saw a job advert for the organization I now work at.  I have never been happier-- my work life is completely aligned with my personal values and I am getting fairly paid to work at an organization that saves lives and makes a difference in the world. I am not doing the front line work-- I do the same job as I did in corporate but now for a nonprofit. I am much much happier than my friends who are making signicantly more than I am.  But I am still probably saving more than they are due to my frugal ways.

It took some time for me to get to the point where I was ready to walk away.  You realize that you have all these societal expectations and even your own unspoken ones. It takes time and thought to strip that away.

So I am in the camp of: look for other possibilities that would still pay well but in an industry or company that you find more intellectually or emotionally satisfying.   


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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I had three jobs in my career and found that the satisfaction with each depended largely on who I was working for in the company.  Great boss, great job.   Unfortunately I seem to get a new boss just about every 14 months no matter where I worked (Aircraft company,  Medical company,  Semiconductor). So I had some great and terrible bosses.   I was layed off from the first two jobs, and found the next job each time getting paid 20% more than the previous.  Had I been smarter, I would have searched for and found the higher paying job before I got layed off.   I recommend you start searching for the highest paying job you are qualified for while you are still employed.  Use your current job to get trained in what ever it is you want to do next.  If you need to work, why not make the most money you can.  I transitioned to management in order to maximize my earnings.   I was no great manager, but it sure helped me retire earlier.  Practice operating out of your comfort zone, you may find it rewarding.