I quit my job. And I don’t have another job lined up. This is almost certainly the craziest thing I’ve ever done. Not previously doing a lot of crazy things is probably why I was able to do it without any concern about how we would pay our bills. Responsible decisions from our past, allowed us to make this “irresponsible” decision now.
If you’ve just read our introductory post, you may be a bit confused. I first started on that introduction about two years ago before putting it on a shelf and basically forgetting about it. And while some things have certainly changed since then, I think the idea still holds up really well. The entire premise of this site is to achieve financial success by taking a balanced approach. Admittedly, quitting my job seems pretty drastic. We have not yet achieved the typical definition of “financial independence.” (ie, I’m going to have to work again). However, we’re close enough that we were able to make the decision that the current stress of my job wasn’t worth the financial reward we were receiving in return.
Why would I do this?
Over the past 13 years, this job had been great, good, bad and soul-sucking. (Not necessarily in that order – but pretty much in that order…). I’m going to refer again to the happiness quadrant from our introductory post. Over the past few years I’ve been slowly creeping up closer and closer to A1 in the “unhappy” quadrant. I was consistently being asked to do more work and the work was consistently becoming less rewarding. Ultimately, we decided the job was taking such a toll that continuing on would have been bad for my health, our relationship and the long-term goals that we really care about.
Enough of my sob story (feel free to roll your eyes at my first world problems). How did we know we’d be fine when I walked away?
Have we saved enough for me to quit?
When my former employer started going through annual lay-offs ~10 years ago, it dramatically changed the way we thought about our finances. I started thinking about our non-retirement accounts less in terms of the number of commas and more about the number of months we could pay our core* bills if we were both suddenly unemployed. I remember how excited we were when we got to 12 months. It was a very freeing experience. Although we hadn’t yet heard of Jim @ jlcollinsnh.com, we were starting to feel the relief you have when you start toward your stash of F-you money. We were just trying to save enough to feel protected, but we stumbled into the situation of knowing we could just walk away if the job ever got too bad.
By the time the result of this calculation turned into multiple years, we were aware of the FIRE (Financial Independence – Retire Early) movement. We were now calculating how much we needed to save to possibly never work again. I typically subscribe to the rule of 300 on this one. A rule that is both eloquent and also quite reliable. (Some people like to argue this rule with the logic that the future will be drastically different than the past. I, for one, assume history can be used as a guide – feel free to disagree).
In my opinion, no one explains this 300x (or 4% rule) better than Mr. Money Mustache so I won’t try to put my own spin on it here.
In my decision to quit, these two calculations collided. Based on our average monthly spending over the past 18 months, I was only one year away from amassing 300x our average monthly expenses. That seemed like the responsible decision.
Maybe we’re “kind of” financially independent
Unfortunately, I was unable to stick it out any longer and also maintain my sanity. But that disappointment was somewhat lessened by taking a fresh look at the “months we can pay core expenses with non-retirement accounts” calculation. It has ballooned to nearly 20 years. We are not retired, but we’re more than fine. In fact, Mrs. Middle is still working at soul-suck tower. While we worked for the same company, her job currently sucks significantly less soul. However, we could choose to define “financial independence” as being free to make the best decisions for our family without wondering how we’ll buy groceries. If so, then perhaps we’ve made it?
*I define “core” expenses as those that are absolutely necessary (rent, groceries, health insurance, utilities). These do not include those that are not essential (eating out, concerts, cable). Mrs. Middle and I would likely not enjoy spending only the minimum (more about that “into the middle” mindset in later posts).