So now that I have peace in my decision that I’m going to quit my job, I want to stress that it didn’t come without planning. The first thing to do, if you’re planning this kind of action, is to assure you’re in the right spot to do it in the first place.
The following are steps/considerations that I feel helped me to reach a peaceful decision.
Be Financially Fit for the long haul.
First of all, my husband and I were probably one of the first “FIRE” people out there (Financially Independence Retire Early). We have always been frugal and always assumed early retirement would be in our future. We never took lavish vacations, did not live in a large home, we did not contract out work for others to do – we did the work ourselves. Although I say this, we didn’t get overly frugal – it’s been a great run – just not a fancy one.
We lived by the concept that as we age we lose our negotiating power in the workplace, and experienced that first hand in the downturn from 2007 – 2009. At one company we worked at, we nicknamed it “The Rule of 50”. What was happening was people were being laid off around, say 48 years old, maybe 49. You see if they reached the magical calculated number of 75 – they could retire with benefits and pension. Many people were getting to the 73, 74 mark – and then we watched as they were let go. Watching all this age discrimination, we knew we needed to be secure by the time we turned 50 and we planned accordingly. It’s funny that even our oldest son remarked one time that he never saw us spend money until he was a Junior in high school. Why did he see it then? His 529 (and those of his brothers) was full! So our focus has always been on getting to, and staying, financially fit.
Know your insurance options, check on health
So for planning. First…my biggest concern. Health insurance. My son and I have both had our health issues and I know one good health crisis without insurance could be a catastrophe. I needed to be sure we would not have surprises, or that we would avoid them if possible. First, I scheduled all health visits before announcing my intent to leave my job. Whether it was dentist, eye appointments, physicals – they were all completed well in advance of leaving my current employer. I didn’t want to go into taking a break and realize I had some ridiculous health issue that put a tamper on things.
Then, for coverage after I’m unemployed. For now, my husband has agreed to keep working since he’s found his way to a job where he can work anywhere in the US, from home. We think our insurance is cheaper on his plan, anyway. In the meantime, we did investigate if we were to get insurance on the open market, and what those options might be. We are prepared to pay for a good plan should it come to that – at least until our youngest son is through college and has a good job. We had to be prepared. We will have insurance. Good.
Cash on hand.
Bank Account. We have always been frugal, as I mentioned. However, years ago we started putting our money into liquid assets that we could live on without waiting for retirement age. This has helped us to have enough access to liquid assets, in case of emergencies, without taking on penalties for early withdrawal. I highly recommend you start this a couple years before you plan on taking a career break to assure you have money on hand as you need it.
I also waited to assure I received my final bonus check before announcing my intent to leave. This made me feel a bit awkward, but it was in my best interest to wait a couple extra weeks before announcing my departure, to be sure I had extra padding in my account.
Be sure you know the length of time you need to cover. In my case, my husband can start taking money from our 401K the year he turns 55 (yes you can do that!) so we have to plan on having enough liquid assets around to get us through until then.
Get an independent view of your finances and know what your expenses are.
Although we have every possible retirement calculator (and a home grown one to boot….) we also scheduled two different independent financial reviews with different brokers. This way, not only did I grow to trust my husband’s retirement workbook he created, but we also validated it against two outsider viewpoints. This was great to gain confidence that our plan would be successful. We do own 2 houses still, and that seems excessive on finances. Ideally I would see us get down to 1 house, and ideally one that is out of the tax-and-spend state we currently live in. But that can happen here in the near future.
Years ago, we also started tracking all expenditures in Quicken. This has been awesome. We can tell you every one of our spend trends for the last 20 years, where we spent money, where we saved, how much we spent on groceries, and how much we spent on insurance. It’s all itemized, so we can tell exactly what we need, financially, to live each year. There is no guessing at this point.
Talk to people who have retired early/taken a break for perspective.
I’ll have a full blog post on this one. I’ve talked with several friends and family members who have made a serious change like this. I asked them a lot of questions. Would you ever do it again? What would you do differently? What was it like that first day? What did they do with their time? The results were unanimous. They have come out happier, more in tune with their selves, and knowing what they want to tackle next. I like that. More to follow on this topic.
Know What you’ll do that first week or month
Now that the big rocks are figured out, I can work on some more refinement. I will need to have a solid plan for what I will do with my time when I have it. I’ve got some high level plans which I’ll share in an upcoming post. However, for me, having a good daily schedule will be important, especially come summer. It’s funny – but are you supposed to take time off to relax and let things happen? I guess that is true, but for me I feel I need to still feel I’m working toward some goal, staying fit, and using my time wisely, so I feel a daily schedule, at least at the beginning, is important.
I’m also considering trying out a few things to see if it fits into how I want to shape my future. Well this blog is one step – I’ve never done this before! Also, I’m already looking into volunteer opportunities in my local community, and started to look at opportunities to serve on a non-profit board. I also am staying active with networking, so that I keep my connections open for other things I might consider in the future if I find I want to return back to my prior career. Currently I am pursuing on my master’s degree, and during free time I might take in the outdoors every chance I can get. I have options, and I know I’m not the kind of person who will sit around waiting for something to happen.
Consider – Will Future be Brighter?
Honestly I’m not sure if I’m shooting myself in the foot, to leave my career at it’s high point. I just know it’s right for me right now, to take some time and sort it out. Get a fresh perspective. Relax. Take care of things on the home front and get ready for my next big move. Maybe be ready to not move, if I realize I’m happy exactly where I land. I can’t worry if I will impact my future right now because I honestly don’t know what that future is. If I want to invest in the planning for the future, I can’t keep doing everything I’m doing today – that’s just a hamster wheel with no real reflection – I can’t tell if I am running toward something or running away – I just know I’m always running. I just have to risk it with this change. I also have to commit that I’m not going to be viewing life from the rear-view mirror, but looking forward every step of the way.
I can’t stress this enough – leave with grace. I plan to give my employer plenty of heads up. It will come at an inconvenient time, but I don’t think there was going to be a good time anyway. I’ll alert my stakeholders of my intent, make sure the team is well situated for my exit, and then leave gracefully, cheering them on from the sidelines. If I’m looking forward to my “next big thing” then it’s only positive thoughts from here on out – not dwelling on what brought me to this point in the first place.