I’ve been with my employer for a faithful 12+ years. And it’s been a good run. I’ve performed well. Well enough to be the highest revenue generator globally in the history of my organization (over 2,000 individuals), and by a large margin.
That success, paired with the personal finance tenets that I’ve practiced (and preached on this site), has allowed me to reach a level of financial independence where the return on my investments now regularly exceed my cost of living.
In June, my confidence in that financial independence was put to the test. I, along with every other member of my team, were shocked to be given a surprise
- if we wanted to keep our jobs, we would need to move from our cozy and affordable Midwest city to our choice of New York City or San Francisco before October, in an effort to consolidate our team with our colleagues already stationed in those cities.
- we could attempt to find another role in our company, by the same deadline.
If one of those 2 things did not happen – our at-will employment at the company would be over.
On the one side, I had the career I’ve built – which included a familiar, well-paying, and guaranteed role that I had a long history of excelling at, and a strong network of colleagues. This choice would come with a decent cost of living adjustment and all move expenses covered.
On the other, I had everything else. Basically, my life outside of work, paired with no job/career certainty.
A large majority of my team made the decision to move to New York.
I did not.
Instead, I interviewed for and accepted a completely different role at the same company, outside of my area of expertise, for less pay, and without a permanent guarantee, as it is temporary backfill for a new colleague on maternity leave. If – and only if – I love the work, I will try to transition to a similar role. Otherwise, it’s on to the next chapter, which would likely be self-employment/early retirement.
Life (paired with the tool of financial independence) met a forced job relocation. Life won.
It’s a significant personal finance moment in my life. And I share this story with you because I think it is a culmination of a few key themes that I have focused on here over the years:
1. Boost your Personal Savings Rate as High as it can Go
I’ve been able to push my personal savings rate to very high levels over the years due to keeping my cost of living in check. Lifestyle creep continuously knocks on the door, but I’ve (mostly) kept it locked out. I think the correct answer to the “how much should I save?“ question is “every damn cent that you possibly can without reducing sustainable happiness”. Luckily, stuff doesn’t buy sustainable happiness, so I don’t feel like I’ve sacrificed much, if anything.
2. Company Loyalty these Days is More Luck than Anything Else
Despite working very hard and being a top performer in the company, the security of my job was no stronger than the whim of the stamp that one person wanted to put on my organization. In the end, my performance did not matter, and even the company’s performance (which was extremely strong) did not matter. Longevity at a given company these days is more dependent on luck than any other variable. And true loyalty is dead. You have to watch out for you, no matter how blissful your situation seems at any given moment.
3. Strike (Earn) While the Iron is Hot
Research shows that the first decade of lifetime earnings is the most important. Once you get into your 40’s, your earning power can plateau, and then even decline. This is why I actively chased it to boost income early and often and then packed away as much of those earnings as I could. This is not normal, but perhaps it should be the goal for all, as good times can come to an end at any moment, to no fault of your own. Recognize and capitalize on the good times, because they don’t last forever. Sadly, all work is temporary.
4. Money is Most Valuable when Used as a Tool of Choice
Money is at its most valuable when leveraged as a tool. The tool that it bought me, in this case, was choice. The choice to choose the life I’ve built over my job. And that is a damn good tool to have in the toolbox. One that I’m thankful to have. And infinitely more valuable than if I had used it as a tool to purchase more products.
So a new and less certain journey begins. Time to buckle up!
I came to the same crossroads last fall. I, like you, chose life over job. It’s funny how these things work out. I was planning to take a few months off and just figure out what I wanted to do next (being financially diligent makes this an easy choice), then I got a call from a unicorn company.
Today I’m working in an environment that is about as employee focused as one could ask. I have been able to essentially define my role as I see fit and I work with fantastic people. Had I not put in the financial work to set myself up for success I would have been forced to move (my moving expenses would not have been covered) or take a position that I would not have enjoyed and probably didn’t pay as well.
This stuff works! Thanks for the story.
I feel for you. I am remembering your other blog post about hating your job and quitting. I am in NY. I am close to retirement at my job but hate going to work every day.
Job duties keep changing where I am and so does turnover. I did the best 12 years at this job and those years went be quick and I didn’t even notice. When you have a good boss who understands your abilities….. you’re golden. Sometimes I think it’s the people around your workplace who make or break it….and unfortunately I am currently where I wish I could go back to the earlier years.
I don’t think I used the word “hate”, but I was definitely looking for a change (I just couldn’t find a better alternative). The change found me instead.
This is great. Thanks for sharing and good luck in the future
I hope you continue this blog as you expand your career. I found it when I was 50something and broke. Your commentary and advice has been stellar and I no longer fear the choices and whims of an employer. I was not serious about living within my means and planning for the future until i was 55. Not many years to build up savings to supplement Social Security. I don’t think I would have listened to the advice when I was young, but am hoping many of your readers do because it will make a huge difference for them. A simple 6% of savings in a 401k consistently through my best working years would have eased the pressure of a somewhat secure retirement. In those years I thought it was more money than I could afford but the tax benefit offsets were not on my radar. It would not have been a great sacrifice. I figured I would just work until I died but as an employee there is no guarantee. I am sure you will do well – it is good to be able to adapt and the only way to survive the work world these days.
I appreciate the encouragement, Gail. Thanks for being a long-time supporter!
I went through a very similar situation in 2016.
I was laid off from a job as an account manager from an insurance agency I used to love. I grew to hate it due to a change in management in 2013.
My wife wanted me to find similar work with another company. I wanted go go off on my own and take a commision only position.
The first year was a bit stressful, but because we were blessed to have the financial resources and a lifestyle of almost no debt, we managed quite well and it was the best decision I ever made.
God just gave you an opportunity to see where your is. I know you will make the right choice.
Thanks, Allan. Glad your transition worked out well for you.
If your resume is that remotely that good, why would you stay? Move to a growing company where you can be happy. Can I start a go fund me to encourage you to quit your job and find a better one? Now that is a blog post to read!