Author Topic: Turning Down the FIRE  (Read 4867 times)

yakamashii

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Turning Down the FIRE
« on: January 28, 2016, 01:09:50 AM »
MMM reader < one year, forum poster just over a month. Really enjoying the banter around here. First new post.

I'm considering a career move that will delay FIRE, but could result in a happier journey. I'd like to run it by you wise Mustachians. Some background:

Married, both in early 30s, no kids or plans for kids
US citizens living abroad
Me: Self-employed, project-based work, solid client base and reputation, take-home around $75K
Wife: Grows most all our food on family land (very little cost to us), sells the rest. Loves it; would be doing it if we were ER.
NW: $100K, nearly all cash
Living situation: Rented apartment in countryside.

Over the past three years, I've had the opportunity to do sales, project management and recruiting with what is now my main client. It's a small company, but growing very quickly and doing great work the way it should be done. Feels very good to be associated with this company.

They've made multiple offers for FT work, but can only afford around $60K + stock options at this stage of the game. If I dropped PM work with them and focused solely on the actual work with them and my other clients, I could probably take home closer to $90K, and in fewer hours to boot. Plus, with many clients, the work is varied and stays interesting.

Self-examination on walks with the wife has brought to our attention that I really enjoy meeting people in the industry and connecting them to work with my main client. I enjoy giving feedback as part of PM work. My main client's services are very easy to sell to potential clients because our beliefs align very well and I know we produce a great product.

I like the actual work, but the main reason is because it pays better. Already, I look back at solving a tricky PM problem or finding the ideal person for a project and feel proud. I'll remember some of the best moments forever. As for the actual work, I often can't tell you what I worked on last month. It's in one ear and out the other.

If I commit to FT work with the main client, I'll have a mix of sales, PM, recruiting and the actual work. It will pay significantly less than I could earn doing the main work alone. And if I really want to commit and do the job right, I should move to the very HCOL city (top 10 in the world) where nearly all the work originates. The wife is willing, but it messes up her ER-like situation. We would be tested as entrepreneurs to find solutions for her (rooftop gardening?), which could be a good thing.

So the costs seem high and ER would definitely be delayed, but I could be happier and do more "meaningful" work along the way. And the stock options and eventual ownership of the company could turn into a great windfall in a very disorganized industry where the biggest player only has a <5% share.

As for FI, I noted to the colleague who introduced me to MMM last year that freelancers in this industry like him and me basically behave like we're FI already. We have our pick of work, set our own hours and make a good deal more than we need to survive, especially in the countryside. Long walk on a Thursday afternoon? Sleep late on a cold Monday in January? Three-week vacations? We're there. When I reflect on that, I become wary of FIRE becoming one of those things that owns you, like a recent thread here.

TL/DR:
Pros of staying put: Higher income, earlier FIRE, don't have to shake anything up
Cons: Basically FOMO

Pros of moving to the city: Chance to help build something great, make memorable connections, develop entrepreneurial muscle
Cons: Higher COL, lower income, possibly upsetting what is already a great situation

What would you do?

GrowingTheGreen

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Re: Turning Down the FIRE
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2016, 05:19:30 AM »
People pursue FI because they believe it will bring them happiness and satisfaction. If taking this new position does the same, then why not go for it? Many financially successful people became who they are because they took a risk.  If this is something that you love, there are very good chances that you'll be just as successful as you are today.

Based off of the description of your current routine, I don't see any major barriers to going back to the "old ways" if your new position doesn't work out. Either way, if you're dedicated to FI, you'll find a way to make it work. As you've found from reading MMM, it's a lifestyle--not about how much you make.

I personally find it hard to take a giant leap like this in life and would commend you or others who are able to. It takes a lot of guts.

yakamashii

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Re: Turning Down the FIRE
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2016, 08:01:10 PM »
Thanks for the encouragement, GrowingTheGreen. I hadn't considered fully how easy it would be to return to where we are now if that turns out to be the best arrangement for us. In real life you really can go back to Door #2.

GrowingTheGreen

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Re: Turning Down the FIRE
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2016, 09:07:02 PM »
Keep us (me?) posted. Really curious to see how this works out for you if you decide to pursue it.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Turning Down the FIRE
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2016, 09:18:16 PM »
So you're happy where you are now, but you think you'd be marginally more happy but less financially well-off by moving to FT?  Personally, I'd stay put, although GrowingTheGreen is right--you might be able to try out FT, then switch back if it's not working out.

Now, if you were *miserable* in your current job, then I'd encourage you to jump.  Enjoying your work has positive effects everywhere else in your life.

yakamashii

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Re: Turning Down the FIRE
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2016, 10:26:12 PM »
That's the "problem" in a nutshell. The situation is complicated by the fact that this move would deliver a financial hit when we're all excited about FIRE, and that we're basically happy where we are.

We've bounced around a lot, before marriage and since. The 2+ years we've spent in this location is the longest either of us has lived in any one place since college. Overall, things are as close to perfect here as we've ever seen them. Truthfully, I'm afraid of screwing it all up to reach for a higher-hanging fruit.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Turning Down the FIRE
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2016, 07:23:52 AM »
Well, it's up to you, but as a wise guy once told me "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

NoStacheOhio

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Re: Turning Down the FIRE
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2016, 08:27:39 AM »
I think this is where the concept of "enough" applies, both financially and psychologically. If your current arrangement makes you happy and provides the lifestyle you and your spouse want, I wouldn't change a thing.

Retire-Canada

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Re: Turning Down the FIRE
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2016, 08:30:17 AM »
Since they are your main client now you are helping them be successful and you should feel very satisfied about that. I would look for ways to continue your relationship with them from where you are.

It sounds like you live someplace you really like and your wife is happy there. I would not discount that when evaluating what the move to the GCOL area will be like. Having work you really enjoy is important, but having a happy home life is even more important.

Not being located at the mothership may mean you can't do everything for the main client you might be able to do if you moved. That's okay. Use technology as creatively as possible and you can travel there for periods of time.

« Last Edit: January 30, 2016, 07:39:06 AM by Retire-Canada »

FIPurpose

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Re: Turning Down the FIRE
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2016, 09:18:25 AM »
I'm in a somewhat similar situation. I applied to a new position in my company recently. I like my current job just fine. It's boring but I like the people I work with. The job I'm applying for is more of the work I want to do, but the management doesn't seem as favorable as my current spot. I'm still not sure what decision to make. I think I'll be asking the new management some tough questions before making my decision.

I would be hesitant to push into a FT job, if you have project-based work that is providing enough. I have FT work currently, but would love to be a bit more free in what work I choose. What would you say are approximate earnings per hour? If you're moving to a HCOL city, how does that affect the pay? I'm going to guess that once you figure your 'per hour' and add additional expenses, your current spot is probably much better deal.

yakamashii

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Re: Turning Down the FIRE
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2016, 05:08:37 AM »
I appreciate the replies, all.

FIPurpose, the project-based work pays about 2x per hour what the administrative work pays, and the FT pay wouldn't be much better. This is what has kept me from making this move so far - I enjoy working with this company, but the money isn't there, and I'd be beholden to them for "enough" hours/work/sweat to justify a FT position/salary. As for the project-based work, nobody knows exactly how many hours the work takes and thus do not know what I make per hour. The ability to decide how much I sweat over each project is invaluable.

I suppose I'm answering my own question here. I definitely enjoy elements of the work this company would have me do if I were FT with them, but the sacrifices - lower pay, higher COL, more hours spent on the clock, spending hours on someone else's clock to begin with - are steep. And like Retire-Canada said, I can still work with them they way I have so far. We just have to deal with the imperfection/inefficiency of me being 500 miles away from the action most of the time.

The one thing that may gnaw at me a little is thinking about what I'm actually doing with my time. The fact that I do the project-based work and forget about it most of the time seems to pale in comparison to the satisfaction of connecting people to work or our services. Luckily I can still experience that in small doses where I am now, but part of me may continue to wonder what would happen if I doubled down on that part of the job . . .

FIPurpose, it sounds like you have the right idea putting your employer through some tough questioning. What kinds of things would tip the scale either way for you?
« Last Edit: January 30, 2016, 05:10:16 AM by yakamashii »

Dee18

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Re: Turning Down the FIRE
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2016, 06:47:26 AM »
I learned the hard way that the grass is not always greener.  But in your situation, your decision seems so close that I'd base the choice on what is truly better for the wife.  Rooftop gardening?  Sounds either limited to pots or the beginning of a leaky ceiling.

FIPurpose

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Re: Turning Down the FIRE
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2016, 10:53:20 AM »
The big thing that worries me is that there was an incident a while back where a manager was fired from the company. I'm hoping that when I ask him the reason passes the smell test.

yakamashii

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Re: Turning Down the FIRE
« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2016, 07:16:13 PM »
I hope they level with you, FIPurpose. In situations like that it matters a lot to me how people tell the story, and depending on what happened, sometimes it matters more than what happened. The ability to professionally, constructively and gracefully criticize, admit fault and/or reflect (in whatever proportion necessary for each) is impressive and rare.

After a lot of thought and more conversation with the wife, I think the grass only looks greener right now. She's gone ahead and ordered some fruit trees to plant, which doesn't mean we'll be here forever, but at least long enough to enjoy the fruit. Thanks again, everyone, for your input.

lhamo

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Re: Turning Down the FIRE
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2016, 09:30:24 PM »
Is there any possibility of a short-term project with them that would let you work intensively on-site at their headquarters for 4-8 weeks?  That way you could give life in the city a test run of sorts before committing to something longer term.

Personally, your current gig sounds pretty ideal. I would probably choose to continue doing the higher paid, more rewarding stuf for this company, and also seek other clients who are similarly high-quality and good to work with/for.  I think you might actually be selling yourself short/restricting your developmental opportunities by tying yourself exclusively to one cart.  I also think it would be very hard for your partner to find the same level of happiness in the city as she currently has, if working in nature is her big thing.

Dicey

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Re: Turning Down the FIRE
« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2016, 10:21:10 PM »
Staying put sounds pretty awesome to me. Most people FIRE and then build a new life they enjoy.  Sounds like you're doing it slightly in reverse, which is pretty sweet if you can swing it. Think of the people who grind out ten years and then hang it up. You can get to the same place without the grind.

yakamashii

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Re: Turning Down the FIRE
« Reply #16 on: February 01, 2016, 07:25:06 PM »
lhamo, fortunately I've lived and worked in this city before, and worked very intensively with this particular client last summer on an enormous project. I have a good idea of what I'd be in for. The fact that the money and COL are way off from our current situation should make this an easy decision; I was struggling with the intangibles, the most important of which is my wife's happiness as you and several others here have mentioned. Interestingly, the push to even have this conversation came from her ;)

I needed this reassurance that having things as good as we have them (not perfect, but probably 85-90% of perfect) is rare, worth sustaining, and simply enough. I think in my early 20s I would have jumped at this job opportunity precisely because the numbers didn't make sense and there were some intangibles present. Such was my desire to beat a different path.