I’ve got a confession to make… I didn’t really FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early). I didn’t quit my job because I thought I was Financially Independent. Nor because I wanted to retire. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to quit. It was Mrs YFG who talked me into it.
Why I quit my job
I actually enjoy the work I do. As you can probably tell from lots of my posts – I really enjoy finance. But I had stopped enjoying my job in the corporate finance world. I was really struggling to sleep during the week. For as long as I can remember I have suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety. The 9 to 5 (or really the 9 until I had got all my work done) was taking a physical and emotional toll on me.
I wasn’t in corporate finance for the long game. I didn’t want to become a partner or work until I was 50. But I did want to work hard, do interesting work, learn lots of cool stuff and get paid a fair whack at the end of it. I had hoped to work until I was in my 30s maybe 40s and then call it a day – perhaps winding down as I got closer to retiring early.
But over time I started to dislike the ‘job’.
Reason 1: Admin
I really disliked the admin and bureaucracy. Paperwork and compliance was becoming about a third to half of my daily ‘work’. It’s boring and, if I’m being frank, I didn’t like charging my clients so much for ticking boxes. Over time, the regulatory burden was becoming more time-consuming. It’s only going to get worse. I looked at my bosses who spent even more (the majority) of their time jumping through hoops. I was fine with sacrificing some of my happiness to work I enjoyed. But not for filling in forms.
Reason 2: The clients
I had also started to dislike a lot of the clients I worked for. I worked in a niche part of the finance world where you are more pre-disposed to working with some shady characters. Over the years I’ve worked for some of the most unpopular people and companies in the world. But I didn’t mind that so much, because I was performing a valuable service. I was helping people, and society (yeah I know that sounds like a load of tosh, but I still believe it true).
Things turned when I had a string of cases where, even the ‘good guys’, were just acting difficult and – being frank – not very nice. These were people and companies I was helping, but they couldn’t help themselves from being ‘bad dudes’.
I’m a reasonably smart guy, and I had lots of experience and skills. I wanted to help people who needed it. Rather than adding zeros to a company’s balance sheet or a billionaire’s net worth.
Reason 3: Health
As I mentioned up top, I suffer from depression. I was very fortunate in my last job that I had great bosses who really supported me. But there’s only so much they can do. I just wasn’t myself, and I was deeply unhappy at work. The culture and environment of The City/Wall Street just wasn’t conducive to me. I had avoided banking out of university precisely because it was a terrible fit for my personality. The work I did – deeply methodically, requiring lots of patience, thinking and planning – was very suited to me.
But the companies I worked for wouldn’t just let me do the job I was good at. There was the politics, the annual appraisals, the ‘networking’. All a load of rubbish that I was forced to endure. And it ground me down. I had spoken to my boss earlier in the year around my career and asked him for his most important career advice. He said: “Number 1 you must look after your health. Everything else is secondary. If you are unwell, your career and your life will suffer.” His advice (inadvertently) led me to leaving – but I am so grateful for it!
Making the jump
The thing is, I was still going to slog it out. One day Mrs YFG saw that I was particularly glum and asked me what was up. I told her that I was thinking how many years I should keep doing the job before I quit. She responded by calling me an idiot. “If you are unhappy, and want to leave your job, then leave. Working more years isn’t going to make it better.” She was (as always) right. So I quit.
There was no plan – other than what I was doing wasn’t what I wanted to do. I was candid with my bosses and colleagues. There was no new job lined up; I wasn’t leaving to a competitor. Most of my colleagues knew that I saved and invested a lot (I didn’t go as far as to say ‘technically’ I was FI). I was just going to take time to think about things.
I got two types of reaction.
The first was very supportive. Particularly from wiser old heads. I spoke to about half a dozen partners and they understood why I was doing what I was doing. Some wished they could do the same – if only they had the financial capabilities to do so (…) Others commended me for making a decision most people are unable to do, because they get trapped by the firm. Partners in other departments (and firms) offered me jobs. I joke to my old bosses that by quitting I ended up getting more jobs.
The second reaction was a mix of confusion, and perhaps jealousy. They get very confused at the idea that I can kind of do what I want. They were confused why I was giving up the chance of earning more money and why at such a young age I was quitting work. A common statement was: “Ohh you’re very brave…” or “I would never do something like that”. Almost as if they would never do something that made them happy?
Mrs YFG’s reaction
Most importantly, Mrs YFG was very happy. Not only because she’s the main breadwinner (she always has been anyway)! But she loves seeing how confused people get when she explains that her husband quit to be a “home-maker”. We unfortunately still live in a time where the woman (even if she earns many times what her husband does, or more importantly, enjoys her job far more!) is still thought to be the person who should be “at home”.
I’m not going to lie, it annoys the crap out of us. I doubt anyone would ask me these kind of questions if Mrs YFG, the female, had quit work. In any case, regardless of societal norms surely we should both be in it together?
You might be asking, quite rightly, why didn’t I wait until we reached FI together?
1. We want to do what we want to do
I enjoy being a lazy layabout. I get to do more things of what I enjoy doing, and less things I don’t enjoy doing.
Mrs YFG wants to not have to worry about certain things. She doesn’t have to worry about getting milk or putting the washing on or paying the bills. I do all that and it makes her life a hell of a lot easier. Being at home gives her the freedom to prioritise her work without having house jobs to contend with. If a task needs doing, I sort it.
We emotionally support each other.
2. It gives me the time to do things I want to do
I haven’t worked it all out yet. But I’ve done a number of things. I studied some professional qualifications that I’ve always wanted to do. Including the qualifications to become an IFA and/or Financial Planner if I wanted to. It’s also meant I could start reading and writing for enjoyment. Including this blog. Where I hope I can help other people with my experience and knowledge. It also gives me time to track our joint FI journey. And I can so in a more positive way: not crossing days off the calendar.
3. Mrs YFG earns more than me
And always has done. She also enjoys her job (most of the time). If one of us is going to stay at home it makes sense for it to be me. We quite frankly, have no time for this nonsense attitude that it should be the woman who gives up her career for caring for her family or home.
4. It reduces our expenses
I haven’t read “Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin. Somehow I managed to stumble on lots of her conclusions. I was ‘making a dying’. I had already worked out that my Real Hourly Wage was much lower than my ‘take home pay’.
By not working I don’t have to buy a travel season ticket. There are no lunches, no work clothes or dry cleaning (thank the lord). No expensive nights in the City ‘networking’. Less delivery fees for postage or late delivery and fewer takeaways. We buy less stuff because we are stressed. Fewer meals paid for in central London because that’s the only chance we have to see our friends. Fewer holidays booked at inconvenient expensive times because that’s the only combined holiday we can get off work.
By my calculations, my expenses halved after quitting my job. (I would recommend listening to her appearance on the Choose FI podcast which was excellent.)
5. It improves our marriage
When we both worked I would come home about 7pm (and sometimes later). Mrs YFG would usually finish work later still. I’d eat some sort of processed food because I was too tired to cook and didn’t want to just for myself. Mrs YFG would drag me out of bed in the morning. And we’d spend a few exhausted hours in the evening together.
Mrs YFG is happier because she can dedicate herself to her job and not feel guilty that she’s not doing things at home. We can talk to each other during the day as I’ve got time to respond. She knows I’m safe at home and more relaxed. I can support Mrs YFG and can be there for her when wants to release her madness and ranting when she gets home from work. My work stress is lifted and I’m able to make our home more comfortable, tidy and clean. I can get a lie in. We’re both not just exhausted ships passing in the night.
So what have I done since quitting the job?
Firstly, I learned to ride a bike. I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was about 10 and had almost completely forgotten how to do it. That way Mr Money Mustache won’t face-punch me if I ever get the pleasure of meeting him.
As mentioned above, I also studied some professional qualifications. I thought for a time about becoming an IFA. But I’ve cooled on that idea for now due, mostly, to the regulatory hassle (I want less paperwork in my life!) In part, that lead me to starting this blog, after encouragement from Mrs YFG (see my post: “Why we write“).
Not too long after leaving, my old boss approached me to do some contracting work. The work was something a bit different. And I’ve really enjoyed doing it. I got to work to my own schedule, at home. Together, the end product we produced was really good. And I got paid a nice amount of money to cover my share of the bills. From time to time, there have been enquiries into other contracting roles – mostly full-time. But, for now, I enjoy the time-off too much to want to commit to working full-time.
I was inspired to write this post after reading “The Fireman’s” guest post on The Escape Artist (Can you become a millionaire on a fireman’s salary?). I found his candour as well as his sanguine reflections on a life of ups and downs very touching and inspiring. So I’m immensely thankful to him for sharing his story. I feel that often the ‘numbers’ in a FI journey overshadow the story and the person behind them. That’s certainly how I felt when I previously shared (now deleted) my ‘numbers’ and ‘story’.
I hope you found my “confession” interesting! And hopefully an example that not all “FIREs” are clear-cut! I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. Particularly if you’ve quit your job: Why did you leave? Were you “FIREing”? What things have you learned since? For those who haven’t finished work yet: What’s holding you back? Do you have any particular worries or concerns?
All the best,
Young FI Guy