Hello $wanigans! How is life? It hasn’t been too bad here. As you know from my recent job update post, I’m making a job change! And not just any job change, but a change in overall direction of my career.
For the last ten plus years, I have been on the fast and furious route of growing my career and earning pay wages. And it has paid off, in more ways than one. Yes, I did earn significant pay increases throughout my career so far with a compound annual growth rate of over 20% per year. Not too shabby, but it also “paid off” in a very demanding job that required routine nights and weekends away from the family.
The Fast and Furious Road
Curious of what I mean exactly? Just check out my chasing paper post over the 2016 holidays. Things pop up or the customer comes calling and I have to drop everything. This happens regularly (monthly or more sometimes…) and results in 90+ hour weeks. No surprise that it grows old fast.
Hence my recent post on the paradox of a high income. It doesn’t necessarily lead to early retirement…it may very well drive you to early retirement. Or if not early retirement, perhaps something worse like a life crisis. When too much time and energy are devoted to one pursuit, no doubt other pursuits suffer. Said differently, too much focus on career can lead to a sacrifice elsewhere such as the home front.
Add in the birth of our second son back in April 2017 and family life is continuing to become more and more important. Being a father has always been a calling of mine, and I want to be the best Dad I can be. I don’t want to let my kids down or have it become a major life regret of not spending as much quality time as I can with them.
With that said, it is time for a job change. I’m stepping off the career ladder and taking my foot off the proverbial career pedal. While I’ll still be working full-time, it will be a lot less demanding and stressful work hours.
Taking Down Some Chairs
In major life moments like a significant job change (and career trajectory change) I tend to resort to seeking as much advice as possible. Particularly I engross myself in various books on the subject to help provide perspective and guide my thought process. This is no different than Lucy and my last major life moment when we first had kids. No surprise I read a dozen or so books and still enjoy good parenting books today.
One book on career change in particular that I thought was worth mentioning was “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist. She came to a similar fork in the road with her career and she mentioned how she needed to “take down some chairs”. This was in reference to her church which was experiencing significant membership growth and so resorted to continuing to add more and more chairs to accommodate.
In reality, some things don’t necessarily require growth to be good and successful. Like her church and her career life, she found that keeping things small and stable can help avoid growing pains and allow life balance.
In her case, as in mine, it is time to “take down some chairs”.
Paraphrasing her book, loving work is a gift, but it also makes it easy to neglect other areas of life and finding what truly matters. At first she just pretended she didn’t have a choice. Success just happened and she was along for the ride. Others in a similar position would have done the same. But in reality, she did have a choice and she chose to put up more chairs.
She noticed herself working in a way that meant she didn’t have the energy for marriage or family; and her kids only saw “tired mommy”…it was time to take down some chairs.
I can very much relate to her message here. I may have gotten the math wrong on my career as well. I too felt I could fit into my life more than I really could. I not only happily took on more responsibilities, I actively sought them.
It is time to take down some chairs. I have the authority, I have the control, I have the responsibility, and now I have the opportunity. It is time to take down some chairs.
I think it is worth noting where our stories differ. The difference in Ms. Niequist’s decision to take down some chairs and mine is that she appears to have been primarily guided by the Church and her religion whereas for me it was guided by money.
And that is the weird irony in my story. Money drove me to the career I chose and my pursuit of more responsibility & higher incomes, but it is also money that is guiding me on my way out…that money being my net worth and near financial independence. My FI money and retirement accounts is what allows me to leave behind my days of “chasing paper”.
Fortunately, my career provided me with the money I needed to say goodbye to it…and just in the nick of time. For that reason, it is hard to have too much regret in the career path I chose.
Career Path Regrets
You may be wondering if I regret the career path I took. I don’t necessarily. Yes, sustainability is key and it wasn’t sustainable for me…but it still got me to this point and allowed me to make the decision to step off the ladder now.
I may not be the best to ask for career advice from, not that you are asking, but what I’ll be sure to tell my kiddos is to pursue what makes you happy, not the money.
A tough and demanding career has resulted in a fairly high income. While I’ll be making a somewhat of a lateral move in my job change, my income will remain relatively unchanged and simply plateau more or less from here on out (I probably won’t continue averaging 20% annual pay raises). And that’s really all I need at this point in my career, being this close to early retirement, as plateauing won’t necessarily delay those plans much at all.
That’s truly the benefit of a lifestyle built on the pursuit of financial independence. The flexibility it provides is tremendous.
The Trade Off
As I said, I’m now willing to take my foot off the proverbial career pedal. While the short-term trade-off in salary is relatively meaningless, I will be giving up significant earnings potential going forward. That would mean a lot more to me if I still had a 30 year career ahead of me. But since it is only about 6-7 more years it is a lot less concerning.
Boiling it all down, continuing to earn pay wage increases of about 20% per year would ultimately allow Lucy and I to retire roughly only six months sooner than otherwise. That’s also assuming that my current career path is sustainable…for me it isn’t. I’ve reached the point of burnout. Sure I could last another year or two, but who knows beyond that.
While staying on the same career path may result in retirement six months sooner, it would also result in the continued loss of random nights and weekends away from family, less and less of a boundary between work and life (considering I’d practically be on call 24 / 7 as my career continues to advance), and significantly more stress and anxiety…for the next 6-7 years.
In a sense, it makes this choice a non-choice. When I put it that way, the decision seems simple. But it wasn’t an easy decision at all for Lucy and me. There really was a lot that went into it. A major life decision is never that easy, just go back and read the prior job update post for detailed considerations.
Ultimately, six more months is nothing for Lucy and me considering we will still be hanging it up in our late 30s. Can’t complain about that and it is better to start slowing down now before it comes too late and there is real damage to our family life.
Who knows, maybe it will result in us working even more than the estimated six additional months, but by choice. We very well may end up choosing to work one more year (“OMY”) to further pad our retirement lifestyle or to afford a dream home.
Assuming work becomes much more tolerable in the new gig, it could be much easier to hang onto for another year or two assuming it doesn’t impede family life much.
Afterall each additional year is nothing to sneeze at as it would allow us to make bank as we add more and more to our net worth. Each additional year of saving and investing would allow us to add ~$14,000 to our retirement lifestyle annual discretionary spending. Not surprising why “OMY syndrome” is so real among the early retirement community (or the retirement community in general).
Thanks for taking a look!
The Green Swan