The usual reaction to someone disliking their job, or their job negatively affecting their life, is “move”. I get this suggestion often, and I know a few readers have also suggested it.
I work long hours. My brain is melted once I get home. My job is high-stress. I get tired of my job like anyone would do.
When I complain, I’m told I should quit. And I think about it….and then I stay where I am. I’ve considered moving firm, qualifying in something else or just leaving altogether and seeing what happens. But I’ve never actually jumped. Even if we had reached our FI target today, I don’t know if I would quit.
I’ve never really thought deeply about why that is until now.
Nothing like a bit of forced relaxation
A recent unexpected hospital stay forced me into bed rest. I could not get myself out of or into a chair on my own, nor in and out of bed, for about three days. For another few days, I still wasn’t functional. I couldn’t do what I usually do (tidy, clean, organise, play with pets, leave the house). I was on actual bed rest for a week.
This drove me mad.
I am the first to admit that I am virtually incapable of truly relaxing and resting. I don’t really know what that is for me. The idea of relaxation for me is getting tasks done at home. If I’m on the sofa with my feet up I’m still busy ticking off tasks. Right now as I write this at midday my feet are up, but I’m halfway through a book, with my half-finished cross-stitch on my lap and having put washing in the machine, painted a cabinet upstairs, reorganised our stationary drawer, and done some shredding. For me, this is a relaxing morning.
To get back to the point, Mr YFG forced me to relax for a week. And I realised that I don’t yet know what I would do with myself if I was home with him. If we were FI, and I quit my job, at this rate I would be climbing the walls. Even though my job is stressful and takes a toll on my mental and physical health, I stay. The time off made me think and explore why.
Mr YFG and I have various spreadsheets but my favourite is my FI Countdown. This plots current net worth plus expected salary, expenses and investment returns to give me a number: how many years until I hit FI (we are aiming for “Fat FI” with a relatively high expenses level). The spreadsheet tells me an estimate based on historic investment growth in our portfolio and an estimate which is much more conservative (worst case).
Based on historical figures and on my current (full-time) salary I have about 3 years to go to hit FI in my own right and to reach our joint target. On a very conservative estimate, I have five years to go.
If I moved job and took a pay cut, or went part-time, this would push the boat further out. Yes, I might be happier, but I may also end up doing the same work and hours for less pay. I’ve seen my colleagues suffer this and it’s something that holds me back. I’m not sure I am willing to swap for a longer working life right now.
A devil’s advocate might ask why I would deliberately commit myself to 2-3 years of unhappiness for the sake of money, and put my life on hold? It’s a sensible question, and all I can say is that I’m not unhappy enough yet.
Starting anew would be difficult for me
Mentally and physically. Leaving a job and starting a new one, to me, sounds infinitely more stressful than staying somewhere where things are difficult. Better the devil you know, and all.
Moving involves starting from ground zero when at the moment I’m cruising and kinda know what I’m doing. I want to impress and to make people happy and starting in a brand new environment would be terrifying at the moment. Rather than worrying about my technical ability to do the job (which isn’t in question) my fears are centred around not fitting in with the team or not liking my surroundings.
You never know I might change my tune but that’s how I feel for now.
Comfort and familiarity
My life is somewhat like going to boarding school. [insert boarding school shower time joke]. You go in every morning (you may have slept there overnight) and you go to your dorm (office). You eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with your colleagues one of whom you room with and the rest you see more often than your actual spouse (maybe a good thing?). If you go home that night, you go home after dinner to use your real house as a bed. It takes a lot to up and switch dorms, roomies and such. I’m comfortable.
Fun fact: some big law firms have perks for their employees like in-house doctors and physios, beds, gyms, restaurants and taxi services. They often provide these facilities because it’s cheaper to in-source them than for employees to come in late or leave early to use them elsewhere (and lose billable hours). It enables employees to work long hours but have all conveniences to hand. It also forms part of their pay package to compete against other similar outfits.
If I left my job for a quieter life, this means a smaller firm possibly without these perks. Before you whip out your tiny violin, the perks are a part of my pay. Without them I would be spending my own money. If you work 12 hours a day the perks help you keep up a semi-normal life. Therefore a move necessarily involves assessing what I’m giving up.
Leave because you want to move somewhere else, not because you are escaping your current role
When you’re in the middle it’s very easy to see every other role as a saviour. [insert grass is greener metaphor]. Unfortunately, once you leave and get there, you’ll probably run into the same problems.
Just like a rebound relationship, you’re looking for something in the new role which may end up disappointing when you get there. It’s important that the motivation for your new role is the quality and characteristics of that role itself and not seeing it as an escape.
Often the problem is not the job but the hours, a particular colleague or even something as simple as your open plan office (shudder). Is there anything you can change? Have you asked for help?
When I left my last firm, I didn’t take the first job I was offered. I took a few months off between jobs to interview and find the role I really wanted. Not everyone is able to do this. I just know my life would be very different had I jumped when the going was tough. I think if I did leave I would have to do the same again and take some time off: step out of the woods so I can assess the trees.
My aim is not retirement
Some people on the FI path see FI as a golden number, once they have reached it they can quit and never work again. Some people dislike working so much they are willing to cut their expenses to ridiculous levels (Mr YFG?!) to avoid the “rat race”. I’m not one of them. I am happy to work: I just want to do it in a more balanced way. I want work to be part of my life and just one of a few things I choose to spend my time doing. However, I don’t want it to be all-consuming, mentally and physically, as it is now.
I think a happy medium would be part-time: doing the job for fewer hours a week. I’d have to be careful this doesn’t end up full-time hours in fewer days (which is a risk with part-time!) and that I keep my boundaries in place. But I think it could work. If that isn’t an option, I think I would work until we hit FI and then take some time off and consider moving into a part-time role somewhere else. Eventually, I would like to try to make money doing something I enjoy (crafts, personal organising etc.). I’m not a natural entrepreneur, but I’m good with people and not afraid to get out and about, so I hope I could think of something.
My mind might change, no doubt about that. I’m always grateful for advice and views from people who have been there, done that, or are in similar situations right now.
FYI: nine days post-op I was replacing sealant in the bathroom (a task I wanted to do for ages). Can’t keep me down.