Author Topic: 35 and burnt out - ease back, stay the course, or double down to race to FI?  (Read 3341 times)

partialexponent

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Life Situation:
35yo, spouse is 42, MFJ with 1 child (3yo), HCOL. Considering possibly adding 1 more child in the next year or two.

We have separate finances and each contribute a set amount to a joint checking account for expenses. We're not necessarily opposed to combining, but have done it this way since we first moved in together and even after getting married it just seemed easier to keep status quo.

Spouse is a teacher, enjoys the job, has little desire to retire super early, and has a pretty laissez-faire attitude towards finances in general. Always maxed Roth IRA and contributed to 403b but otherwise doesn't budget, track expenses, or even keep an eye on balances.

I on the other hand am a personal finance junkie and have always had FIRE as a very clear and specific goal. My job at MegaCorp is relatively easy and offers great benefits and flexibility including partial WAH, but lately has felt frustratingly dead-end and increasingly soul-sucking. I feel tired, unmotivated, and irritable most of the time. I dream of FIRE, but the numbers aren't quite there, especially just looking at my personal numbers. I also realize that being "retired" with a working spouse and a young child (or two) may not be the picture of leisure, freedom, and opportunity that I'm imagining for "early retirement." Plus, I have a nagging worry that my general unhappiness right now isn't entirely job-related, and what if quitting the job just removes the only structure and semblance of motivation I have and makes things worse.

Gross Salary/Wages:
170k total (85k each)
In past years I've received an annual bonus in the 10-15k range on top of this base, but due to some organizational shifts I expect this to be drastically reduced/eliminated for the future.

Pre-tax deductions:
19k 401k (me)
23k 403b (spouse) - 19k plus 5% mandatory contribution

Taxes:
33k in 2018 (federal, state, FICA)

Current expenses:
Joint:
2300 rent
150 gas / electric / water
40 internet
400 groceries (includes semi-regular meal kit deliveries)
400 restaurants
975 daycare (10 months of the year)
50 clothes / toys / enrichment for kid
120 gasoline
105 car insurance
50 tolls / parking / car registration
15 renter's insurance
50 car maintenance (budgeted)
75 entertainment (budgeted)
50 household (budgeted)
75 medical (budgeted)
500 travel (budgeted)
50 misc (budgeted)

Me:
125 lunch
80 support for Mom
35 cell phone (Google FI)
50 charity
80 misc / "fun money" (budgeted)
80 gifts (budgeted)
100 travel (budgeted)

Spouse:
100 cell phone (grandfathered AT&T unlimited plan, refuses to give up - I've tried!)
???? Spouse estimates at 6-7k/year total but basically just a wild guess

Assets:
Me: 515k
380k retirement accounts (2/3 401k, 1/3 Roth IRA)
25k i bonds
10k HSA
100k savings/CDs

Spouse: 675k
600k retirement accounts (2/3 403b, 1/3 Roth IRA)
35k bonds
35k savings/CDs
5k stock

Joint:
10k checking
25k 529
2015 Mazda 3 (bought new in cash, plan to keep as long as it runs)
2000 Honda Accord (plan to keep as long as it runs)

Total: ~1.2M

No Debts

Estimated FIRE number (joint): 1.8M

Questions:
1. I'm trying to get a clearer sense of our real expenses, but haven't found anything that can handle our separate finances the way I like. Specifically, I'd like to keep an eye on transactions for some accounts but not include them for net worth calculations. Personal Capital comes closest but lumps everything together. YNAB freaks out when single category spending goes over "budget", and is expensive. Mint was cluttered and clunky the last time I tried them years ago. Is there anything better than Personal Capital that I haven't tried yet?

2. Alternatively, should we just give up on the separate finances and combine? Our system has worked well in that we don't have (much) tension about what the other person "wastes" their personal money on. But we may need to reconsider anyway if I stop working and am taking on more household duties while spouse still works. Plus, spouse has saved less money than I expected over the years, and we don't really know where that money went, which makes me uncomfortable when thinking about a plan for reduced income.

3. For another wrinkle, I've pretty much lucked into an up-and-coming, in-demand skill that can be leveraged for a significant salary boost (85k -> ~150k) AND potentially more satisfaction in my work, but would require switching jobs. This would also include a longer commute (extra 30-40 mins roundtrip via public transit), less flexibility/WAH, and less vacation time. It feels backwards to switch gears now to working more for more income, when my entire goal with FIRE is to work less for less income. At the same time, it seems pretty crazy to leave so much money on the table, when such a huge opportunity has basically dropped into my lap and the extra $$ could really juice the path to FIRE.

4. I have a lot of cash sitting around, but our retirement vehicles are maxed already and I've been hesitant about throwing it all into taxable brokerage accounts, especially feeling that we are on the brink of recession. I'd been mentally earmarking most of this for a down payment on a home purchase, but after a lot of quality time spent analyzing costs of renting vs buying, the numbers just don't work out for buying, even for a 10 year period. House prices and especially property taxes are just too high in this area. Any other options I should consider?

5. Any other comments/facepunches very appreciated! I do know the restaurant spending is staggeringly high. My general tiredness/malaise from work has led to a lot of takeout and restaurant meals. Not trying to excuse the behavior, just saying that I am aware of it and actively trying to reduce, but have had trouble with finding the energy/motivation to keep it up.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2019, 03:48:54 PM by partialexponent »

ysette9

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You sound unhappy and trapped. Fortunately you have the resources to not be trapped, though I understand from my own experience how tough it is to do the mental switch and actually make a change.

What if you took a sabbatical for 6-12 months to get some mental space and the recovery you need?

Personally I like combined finances better because it is easier to manage and it puts you on one team. In your case having a healthy ďfun moneyĒ amount budgeted for your spouse each month may be a way to get the benefits of joint financing while bridging the gap in your differences in spending.

mspym

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I have never managed to recover from burnout through a change of jobs, mostly because you bring the old workplace with you into the new. I have successfully taken a sabbatical and then changed careers. YMMV but given we are working to accumulate freedom tokens and you have enough freedom tokens to take a break, why not try it out? See if it is what you want, see what structure you want to build in a new life.

blingwrx

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I'd definitely ease into the conversations about money, it's always a touchy subject and can cause huge arguments. Hopefully you can come to some compromises on the spouse spending too much on certain things. The spouse definitely needs to track their expenses better for you to be able to figure out if you can FIRE.

I think you should combine the expenses. 1.2 mil + a working spouse should allow you to FIRE now and be a SAHP. You watching 2 kids is already more than a full time job and you'd save a bunch on day care and commuting costs.

Switching jobs to something that pays a lot more and has a longer commute might be even more stressful for you. The higher the pay most of the time means longer hours and more stress.

Most people do tell me I'd be bored if I retired today, that might be true for some without kids or older kids who don't want to hang out with their parents anymore, but for someone with young kids I think your days will already be full spending time with them. You'll probably be so busy especially if you have 2.

Me and my wife waited until we had our 2nd kid before she stopped working. It made more sense that way since, I figured we'd save the cost of paying for 2 kids day cares + commuting expenses, so the loss of one income wasn't as big of a hit.


ysette9

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Ill throw out there that if you really are stressed and burned out, leaving one job to jump into another, even harder job is maybe not the answer. And by another, harder job, I mean full-time parenting. Some people are amazing at it. I am more drained after a weekend of single parenting than a week at work. So just be prepared to consider continuing to pay for some childcare so you actually get a chance to rejuvenate. If your savings are close to enough and you have a spouse who wants to keep working, I see no problem with making that work.

reeshau

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I also realize that being "retired" with a working spouse and a young child (or two) may not be the picture of leisure, freedom, and opportunity that I'm imagining for "early retirement." Plus, I have a nagging worry that my general unhappiness right now isn't entirely job-related, and what if quitting the job just removes the only structure and semblance of motivation I have and makes things worse.


None of the numbers are going to matter at all until you figure this out.  If it's too much, I think the idea of a sabbatical is a good one--don't put pressure on yourself to make a lifetime decision while you aren't fully clear-headed.  It isn't really the case anyway, so don't imagine it to be so.  Also, while you have said your DW sn't interested in retiring early, is she supportive of your idea?  This will be a major life change for your whole family: as big as marriage or having a child.  The dynamics will change, and you both should have good communication about it, or you will have a huge risk it will turn out badly.

You have hinted that you would be taking on more housework:  is that your assumption, or her stated expectation?  It's just an example, but particularly with separate finances, you need to talk through that.  Does she assume that all your "Me" categories come from your savings?  What happens to your contributions to joint expenses?  Given the amount of information your have on her side, I suspect that your separate finances have worked in large part because your income is roughly equal.  Usually, couples with separate finances actually talk quite a lot about money, at least in gross terms, because they have to balance out their contributions to expenses.  If that's anything but 50/50, you have to get into the gory details.

To your specific questions:

1)  It's old school, but Quicken handles that situation, no sweat.  I keep track of some other family members' investment accounts in our Quicken, and it's a checkbox to exclude that from various calculations.  Budgeting (which is a bit obtuse, admittedly) can be controlled account-by-account, and reporting expenses is separate from budget attainment.

4)  Going back to communication, is ownership a joint goal?  You have a lot of cash sitting around; if you aren't using it for a specific goal within five years, put it in a low-cost index mutual fund, (minus an adequate emergency fund) and forget about it until you have a goal in mind.  Think about it this way:  when was the first time you had a thought about what to do with this money?  Where would you be if you had started investing then?  There is always danger around the corner with equity investing.  Those dangers generally won't matter in 10 years.

For courage, try these graphs:

https://ritholtz.com/2017/03/reasons-to-sell/

https://ritholtz.com/2016/12/smart-sounding-reasons-sell-stocks/

partialexponent

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Thanks everyone for all of the responses! Lots of great food for thought.

A sabbatical sounds tempting, but I'm not sure if my employer offers this. If not, I worry that using some of my saved "freedom tokens" now will lose me too much ground in my long-term goal of FIRE. For instance, I expect my current 150k opportunity may not be around in another year - there will be greater competition from others developing this skillset, and my own skills would already be 6-12 months stale. If taking a 1 year break now means I'll have to work many more years down the line, that seems unappealing, especially compared to toughing it out for 2-3 years and then being home free. To be clear, my current work situation is not something godawful horrendous - it's pretty cushy in many ways, if not satisfying or empowering. In the grand scheme of things, it's a pretty self-indulgent, first world work problem to have.

I also worry about whether I'm ready to dive into full-time SAHP right now. I love my child immensely but he demands so much energy and attention right now. And while we can maybe afford it, I know I would have a hard time justifying paying for childcare if I'm not working. Even now with two incomes, the idea of paying for a babysitter to watch him for anything other than an outright emergency feels ludicrously spendypants to me.

@mspym What do you mean about bringing the old workplace into the new? My work environment feels pretty weird right now, so the idea of starting fresh in a new environment is quite appealing.

@reeshau Lots of hard (in a good way!) questions! Spouse is vocally supporting of my plans for FIRE, but we have only very briefly and generally talked about how that might work financially. The extra household duties is mostly my assumption, largely for practical reasons as I will presumably have far more time and flexibility, so it makes sense for me to be the one to run errands, grocery shop, meal plan, etc. But also I would feel pretty guilty for instance sitting around playing video games all day while spouse works, then expect to split things 50/50.

Along the same lines, in my mind I might pay a reduced portion of joint expenses to reflect no income and the higher portion of household duties, but would absolutely pay for my personal expenses. Thinking about getting some sort of allowance from spouse's income for my personal spending just feels wrong to me. But, it could be this type of "my money"/"your money" thinking is not compatible with our long-term goals, so that's definitely something to examine. I think you're absolutely right that having similar incomes has made separate finances easier.

Thanks for the rec on Quicken! I've heard it mentioned a lot but never really looked into it. I'll check it out!
« Last Edit: August 12, 2019, 09:28:12 PM by partialexponent »

chairman5

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I think you might find a lot of relief if you could find a positive way for you and your wife to communicate about money.  Have you shared with her how important it is to you to have a goal of FIRE?  That you don't want to work until you are 65?

Perhaps she would meet you halfway?  While she would never become a financial junky (nor should she) like you, perhaps maybe she would agree to siting down once every three months or so together and review budget and investment and goals?  I think just having her understand where you guys stand may give you comfort and freedom.

I have been here though and you need to be careful.  First, make your meeting positive and not always " we are spending too much on this and that..."  Also, With a new family many people think of it as a time to not be frugal and enjoy they kid-raising years.  Not spoil them necessarily, but she may value say working an extra two years after the kids are gone instead of foregoing yearly family vacations or travel soccer and flute lessons for the kidos now.  Pick your battles.  Not worth straining marriage.  You need to respect her values also.  But your goals and needs are important too.

robartsd

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Along the same lines, in my mind I might pay a reduced portion of joint expenses to reflect no income and the higher portion of household duties, but would absolutely pay for my personal expenses. Thinking about getting some sort of allowance from spouse's income for my personal spending just feels wrong to me. But, it could be this type of "my money"/"your money" thinking is not compatible with our long-term goals, so that's definitely something to examine. I think you're absolutely right that having similar incomes has made separate finances easier.
"My money"/"your money" thinking certainly should be eliminated if you become a homemaker/SAHP.

Eurotexan

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I had to check I hadnít written this post! I am in exactly the same boat about the burn out at the job. I have about three years left to FIRE and I question myself on a daily basis whether I can stick it out or whether I should take a one year sabbatical (my job doesnít offer them so I would have to quit and re-enter the workforce which I doubt I could do at this high salary).

Youíre not alone. My strategy right now is to hang on for as long as I can. I think Iíll know when Iím done, and then Iíll walk away. Maybe next month, maybe Iíll last those three years. In the meantime I am saving every penny I can and focusing on the stash. That would be the advice I would give you. You have a healthy stash but your expenses are quite high. Instead of eating out make dinner at home knowing that those actions alone mean the sooner you can walk away from your job. Sometimes itís the little things.

I canít speak for you but Iím lacking in the confidence to walk away. I realize that and Iím working on it. We will both be fine, sometimes it takes a little while to realize that.

mspym

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I thought I had answered your question but clearly haven't: generally by the time you get to burn out, you have been in a disfunctional workplace long enough that it leaves its mark on you and your sense of normal. This may mean that even when you leave, the various idiosyncrasies and coping mechanisms you have developed to cope in the old workplace are still in your toolkit and you can risk bringing unhealthy work dynamics into a healthy workplace.

seemsright

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I am going to chime in. I FIRED the day we had our DD. Was there a few hard years...yep. Now it is easy from a money point of view.

Once you run some numbers you will learn that you may not be making all that much and your FIRE number is not that high. You need to figure out how much daycare, commuting, clothing, coffee out, lunches out, all of the I am tired I am going to to spend money on this thing so I can save my time thing is costing you. I am talking all of the things, the you buying prechopped veggies because you do not have time to cut them up.

The next thing is you and your partner need to get on the same page and really figure out where the money is and how it is working for you. We use Quicken to track all of our accounts.

With me home it has been a luxury that we planned for. Hubby can concentrate on work I can take care of the sick kid, or the kid that does not have school that day without trying to juggle schedules because my kid is never in school even during the school year it seems.

Another thing I was able to do was work with my kid while she was a preschooler and got her far enough ahead to fight the school district once she started and got her grade skipped. Let me tell you there would have been no way I could have done that if I was not FIRED.

I am the personal finance nerd and hubby is on the same page.That is what is vital.

There are costs to being home that not many people think about, you go through more water and toilet paper, you will still need to have clothing and you will still need to take the kid to places but I have found those costs are off set by the time in the kitchen making affordable food and taking care of the objects I have.

I want you to know that it is possible to FIRE with a kid and it is enjoyable. I just got back from a 5 day kyacking trip and I did not have to ask the boss for time off, I did not have to juggle anything expect throw some food in a cooler and go.

Linea_Norway

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I think that you should perhaps wait getting child nr 2 while you are burnt out. First you need to cure yourself, which might be quite a long project.

If you think a sabbatical is tempting, but are affraid to loose your skillset and don't want to add years to your FIRE date, then you could perhaps look into working parttime, like 3 days a week. This gives you a lot more time to relax, which you need at this moment. If you manage to do this in the new job, you might not even notice it financially.

While you are burnt out, I also think you shouldn't get the entire burden of the household on your plate on those days you take off. Just your normal fair share as long as your are getting cured.

And for your luxury spending, just realize that every little amount you save, contributes to you being able to stop working earlier. Eating out often is a very expensive habit. Just make sure you have some easy meals available in the freezer at all times for those days you don't have the energy to cook. That will still be cheaper than eating out.

FIRE 20/20

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The good news is that with 1.2M already saved at 35/42 and a spouse who is planning to continue working for a while, you absolutely have it made!  I think you should take a moment to pat yourself on the back because you and your spouse have done a fantastic job so far.  Great job!
In order to get to that excellent position, your prior self has put a whole lot of gifts on the conveyor belt for your current and future selves to pick up and unwrap (https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2014/11/11/are-you-giving-the-shaft-to-your-future-self/).   One of the gifts you've given yourself is a set of skills that are in high demand, and someone is willing to pay handsomely for them.  However, given your financial situation money might not be the payment you want.  Is it possible that either your current or potential future employer might be willing to offer a part-time arrangement, extra vacation time, remote work, or something else to make the work more appealing to you?  If someone is willing to increase your salary from $85k to $150k, would they be willing to pay you $120k for a 4-day 32 hour a week role?  Or would they pay $140k but add 4 extra weeks of vacation per year?  You said that it would mean less work from home and vacation time, but if your skills are in demand I can't believe they would choose to not be willing to negotiate.  Or, if they really can only take someone at full-time, can you pressure your current company to offer something more - more growth opportunities, more time off, or something?  You have put yourself in a position where you hold all the cards.  You can now call the shots.  You just need to know what you want and then start the negotiations with either company. 

To be clear, my current work situation is not something godawful horrendous - it's pretty cushy in many ways, if not satisfying or empowering. In the grand scheme of things, it's a pretty self-indulgent, first world work problem to have.

This part of your post jumped out at me.  If none of what I wrote above is useful, I would offer this.  This is basically where I ended up the last 1.5 years of my career.  I was in a great position at work, but I saw the light at the end of the FIRE tunnel and was completely bored and uninterested at work.  I don't advocate for staying in a terrible position at work - life is too precious for that.  But if it's really just general ennui, you can probably tough it out for a few more years.  I would just try to figure out a way to get more time off and spend more time on the things that are important to you during that time.  I liked this LivingAFI post (https://livingafi.com/2015/03/09/building-a-vision-of-life-without-work/).  "How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free" is also great, and you can get started on either one well before you FIRE. 

The best part about FIRE is being able to live the life you want but it also forces you to figure out the life you want - and that's a lot harder than it sounds. 

a-scho

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1. according to my math you spend 79656/year/jointly. 170,000(joint income)-33000(taxes)-42000(retirement accounts)-79656(yearly spend)=15344 left over not accounted for. Well, wherever it went, if you have 1.2mil and want to get to 1.8mil, you will get there in about four years if you add 42,000 to the stash per year. If you can find where the 15,000 went and add that too, then it will be less years to FIRE.
2. Is the 7200 in travel expenses including air/hotel rewards using credit cards? If not, then you could add thousands more to your stash per year.
3. Everydollar.com is like YNAB but Everydollar has a free option. I watched a couple youtube videos comparing the two apps. I personally think YNAB is still the better option.
4. Even though you are happily married, you could each have separate YNAB(or Everydollar) accounts as if you are not married. And then fill out the boxes according to what each person makes, spends, etc. Like, hypothetically, if you were not married but lived with another person, like roommates, but you both wanted to have a better grasp of your spending and make a budget, would you put it all together in one account? NO! Of course your loving husband would let you see his transactions for the month because you are married and his financial decisions affect you as well.
5. If you have the second child now, there are roughly ten years of child care costs with a couple of those years overlapping(and maybe getting a "second child" discount at the day care). But, if you wait a couple of years to have the second, then you still pay ten years of child care, no overlapping, no discount. Unless you are FIRE by then and have no child care costs to the second, but you mentioned that you spending your early FIRE years at home with a young child not really being appealing. So, to sum up, I think it would be financially and mentally more rewarding to have the child now, while you are still working, putting them in child care, so when you do FIRE, they will then be going into Kindergarten.
6. How much of these assets were accrued during the marriage? which leads to.....
7. In the event of a divorce(hypothetical, or course) would you be comfortable living off .9mil(half of 1.8)? This is assuming all assets were accrued during the marriage. If they were not, what you would get could be significantly less. I would pick a FIRE number that works for you IF a divorce happens. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
8. how does your husband feel about you FIREing as soon as possible?
9. If he's cool with it, you could FIRE now, save on child care(suck it up), churn credit cards for almost free travel, save money by cooking more and still get to 1.8 in four/five years on your husbands 23,000 added to the stash(and your child care/food/15,000 missing money savings add to stash as well) every year.

MrThatsDifferent

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Iíve got a couple of thoughts from reading your intro: I think youíre a bit tough on your spouse for her savings, which is ironic considering your the finance junkie but sheís got more NW than you. Iím not trying to face punch, just want you aware of how this comes across and hope that it doesnít lead to or continues any underlying resentment, thatís the last thing you need.

As for your burnt out feeling. I get that. As others have pointed out, youíre not that far from FIRE and youíre set up pretty cushy. Could you focus on 5 more years, let the kids get into Kindergarten and then pull the plug? At least then youíll have the days to yourself to do whatever you want.

As you mentioned, it seems there are other things happening, Iíd invest in some counseling to talk things out with someone. It doesnít mean youíre weak or screwed up, but you need to uncover whatís going on. Your eating isnít good if your spending that much on take out and restaurants and Iím guessing youíre not doing a lot of exercise or self-care. That isnít helping your mood either.

My thinking about these things, find happiness in your easy boring work, let that be the low stressor that just hums along. Refocus your energy towards looking after yourself as healthily as possible, having special and quality time with your wife with lots of sex and physical affection, and getting as close as you can to your kid(s). Donít make work your life or focus, make it you and your family. Try that for 6 months and then see how youíre feeling.

LonerMatt

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Having worked in a field for 2 additional years while totally burned out you will carry that around with you for awhile, it's unhealthy, majorly unhealthy, and it isn't fixed by quitting (step 1 of a multi step process).

Personally, I wouldn't recommend sticking around while burned out to anyone, most things are worth delaying or changing to avoid being mentally miserable, physically drained and unhappy. IMO and IME.

FR2000EE

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Re: 35 and burnt out - ease back, stay the course, or double down to race to FI?
« Reply #17 on: September 11, 2019, 05:58:05 PM »

A sabbatical sounds tempting, but I'm not sure if my employer offers this. If not, I worry that using some of my saved "freedom tokens" now will lose me too much ground in my long-term goal of FIRE. For instance, I expect my current 150k opportunity may not be around in another year - there will be greater competition from others developing this skillset, and my own skills would already be 6-12 months stale. If taking a 1 year break now means I'll have to work many more years down the line, that seems unappealing, especially compared to toughing it out for 2-3 years and then being home free. To be clear, my current work situation is not something godawful horrendous - it's pretty cushy in many ways, if not satisfying or empowering. In the grand scheme of things, it's a pretty self-indulgent, first world work problem to have.


I have been thru a few burn outs along my career. They are tough for sure and I relate to the obsession to walk away. And yet there is something in you that says that might not be too smart right now. A few more years work at the same company would be the path of least resistance.

If you want to retire earlier, I suggest capitalizing on the ability to earn more money and try some other jobs opportunities, even if you just get an higher offer, you then have plenty of bargaining power with your current company, then you have two great choices.

I think if you take a sabbatical, you will regret it in a few years, when you could have been completely fired, and then have to re-enter the work world slightly rusty with more competition. To me, that doesn't sound empowering.

StacheDash

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Re: 35 and burnt out - ease back, stay the course, or double down to race to FI?
« Reply #18 on: September 13, 2019, 12:41:55 PM »

I have a nagging worry that my general unhappiness right now isn't entirely job-related, and what if quitting the job just removes the only structure and semblance of motivation I have and makes things worse.


I think you should reflect on this some more. It feels like there is something untapped here. It would be frustrating to FIRE, join finances, have a second child, and still have the same unhappiness.