There have been two major financial crossroads in my life until this point. Although it took a while to get to each one, by the time the dust settled, I knew I had made the right choice. In both instances, the decisions surround leaving my job, whether by my pure choice without external pressure or a “mutual agreement.”
Ten years ago, I knew my days at the non-profit organization were coming to an end. I was already in a tough financial situation and I had recently moved to be closer to the organization’s headquarters, which seemed like a bad move since the organization’s CEO was constantly talking about relocating, to save money and time. Three months later, I left the organization. Around the same time, my girlfriend and I parted ways. I spent my time looking for teaching jobs, and because of some kind of communication breakdown, my landlord found a new tenant for my apartment while I was still living there. If that weren’t enough, my ignored speeding tickets caught up with me and I found myself without a car.
Those few months following my departure from that organization were the lowest points of my life, but thanks to some support from family, I found a way to move forward. It began with the loss of the job, and although leaving that job led to short-term stress, from a financial perspective it motivated me to assume control of my life. Rather than let things happen to me without much engagement in the decision-making process, I became the CFO (and really, the CEO, too) of my own life.
The job I found just a few months after leaving the non-profit organization, in my new situation without a car and unable to take most teaching jobs, was for the company I ended up sticking with until December last year. At that point, I was fully in control of my financial direction. My day job had become a relatively insignificant contributor to my overall financial well-being. While I did enjoy inexpensive health benefits, access to a discounted stock purchase plan, and the camaraderie of spending most of my day with co-workers, this day job was only a barrier to pursuing my fuller potential with my own business, primarily Consumerism Commentary.
By this time last year, my business had consistently overtaken my day job income for three to four years. Some people would have used that benchmark to decide to quit their day job, but I took a more conservative approach. I was familiar with the risks, and wanted some security before I would say goodbye to corporate life. About a year ago, I put the wheels in motion to leave my day job, and I finally pulled the trigger after Thanksgiving.
Again, leaving my job has proven, at least so far, to be a fantastic decision for me. I’ve been able to dedicate more time to operating Consumerism Commentary. Although much of that gained time is not dedicated to writing, and my editorial approach hasn’t changed much in the last year, I can now use my time in such a way I’m not constrained. Trying to balance a day job, my own business, a relationship, and my own health needs like sleep resulted in low effectiveness in every area. By gaining nine hours back in each day, I do not need to spread my attention out as much.
This has resulted in improvement at least from the perspective of the business; the last nine months have been quite positive.
The unemployment rate is still high in this post-recessionary economy, and many people would not take a risky move like quitting a good job right now. Furthermore, many people have financial responsibilities like family, and these responsibilities make quitting a job without a solid back-up plan irresponsible. Put if you plant the seeds by saving enough money to feel secure in the decision over and above an emergency fund, you can reduce some of the risk. Then again, the riskiest moves can have the best payoffs, like my departure from the non-profit organization ten years ago.
Think about your immediate plans if you want to leave your job:
- How will I afford my expenses? Quitting a job by choice is not an emergency, so you shouldn’t rely on an emergency fund. You can create a safety net in addition to your emergency fund, and some people call this extra savings an F.U. fund (as in “fuck you” fund — what you would might to your boss when you leave if you aren’t interested in leaving a good impression).
- Who else will this affect at the job? Quitting your job out of the blue, again, could make things difficult for your organization. In most cases, be the better person and ensure there is a transition or succession plan in place. Offer to be available for questions after your last day in the office.
- Who else will this affect outside of the job? If you are financially interdependent with other adults, this is the kind of decision you should discuss ahead of time. There’s a risk that your plan won’t be fruitful, at least not immediately, and if that loss of income affects your family, they have a right to plan with you. If your job loss means you’ll need to rely on extended family, discuss expectations and limitations so there are no surprises.
- What’s my next move? For the most part, if leaving a job by choice, you should have a plan in place. In fact, you should always have a plan in place for the situation that would arise if you are forced out of a job, laid off, or fired. With a plan, you’ll always be a few moves ahead, like a good chess player.
The above helps, but sometimes people can achieve the best results by just quitting. Some people would be more motivated to succeed on their own when the stakes are higher. This can create a sense of urgency. While not positive for everyone, certain personality types respond well to this type of pressure and use it an advantage.
Conformity, and in this case, conformity with the typical middle class career-based existence, is comfortable. I always knew I didn’t fit well in that mold, and if I wanted to find a way of living that was more satisfying, it would be outside of the corporate box. I may return to the corporate mold in the future, but only if it can be under my terms. I highly recommend leaving an unsatisfying day job in exchange for finding your own way. This could be to follow a passion or it could be to provide the motivation to take control of your situation. Even if it results in some short-term hardship, quitting a job can be financially and emotionally satisfying over the long term.
Published or updated September 27, 2011.