Reflections on Leaving My Job… Six Months Later

Posted by Madison on March 16, 2009

Six months ago, I left my corporate job. My goals to spend more time with my kids, teach others about personal finance, and pursue a life with more freedom are more fulfilling than I even imagined.

Over the last six months, I’ve had time to reflect on my decision to follow my heart. Stepping off the climb up the corporate ladder was no doubt the best decision that I ever made. My only regret? I should have done it sooner!

Six Month Update

  1. Stock Market. Obviously, the stock market decline had an impact on our portfolio. It hasn’t affected my decision much, but that’s because I had some plans in place in case this happened. For example, my planned withdrawals were moved to CD ladders before the market decline. In addition, I was planning to withdraw significantly less than I could safely. Of course, the timing of the market wasn’t the greatest, but I still have a long term perspective.
  2. Retirement Withdrawals. The FIRECalc models show that a significant decline in your portfolio in the first year of withdrawals can have a detrimental long term affect on outlasting your portfolio, so I actually chose to hold off making early Roth IRA withdrawals for awhile. I had a lot of cash on hand to cover a worst case scenario; I’m glad I did! Once the market is more stable, I’ll resume my withdrawals.
  3. Retirement Contributions. In fact, because of the market decline, I’ve actually decided to contribute more to our retirement accounts, via our Solo 401k, instead of making my planned withdrawals. I couldn’t resist being able to add to our portfolio while stocks were on sale!
  4. Asset Allocation. I still maintain a total market asset allocation with low-cost index funds, with an overall 0.148% expense ratio. However, I will need to rebalance soon, as the cash and bond portions have grown while the stock portions have obviously declined.
  5. Cash Flow. Ironically, even though I held off on making my planned withdrawals, our monthly cash flow is actually more than it was when I was working! It’s a combination of significantly less in child care costs, less in taxes, and more in business income than I predicted when I was planning for my new lifestyle cash flow.
  6. Severance. Many of you may remember that I mentioned my company went through a major realignment just after I left. I did find out that I missed out on an optional severance package by just three months. At first I was disappointed that I potentially walked away from a healthy sum of money; however, if I had it to do over again, I think I would still make the same decision. Getting to spend that time with my kids was worth every penny.
  7. Changes in Spending. I accurately predicted that our gas costs would go down without a commute. In addition, I save a lot of money because I don’t eat out for lunch, like I used to. However, we still like to eat out for dinner, and we actually probably do more so, because it’s fun now. Overall, the biggest categories of savings are gas, clothes, child care, and taxes.
  8. Making New Friends. One of the scary parts about leaving my job was that I would miss many of my friends that I saw on a daily basis at the office. I made an effort to get to know more people in my community, especially stay-at-home-moms, to build a new network of support. In addition, I still keep in touch with some of my old co-workers.
  9. Time with my Kids. One of my main reasons for leaving was to spend more time with my kids. The last six months have been amazing, and I know I made the right decision. I can’t imagine having spent that time at work and missing some of the most magical moments I’ve had with my children.
  10. Less Stress. No more Sunday night blues. No more working late to finish a project. No more stressing about work. I’m sure I’m healthier now, because my life is much less stressful.
  11. Life Mix. I always tried to maintain a healthy life mix pie chart. However, now I don’t need to draw a pie chart to determine if I spend my time on the right things…. does that tell you something?
  12. Education is Never Wasted. I worked hard to get a marketable well paying degree and took some heat for wasting it by leaving the corporate world. Although, I still think that a solid education is worth the investment, no matter where life takes you. None of my education was wasted and I will encourage my children to take advantage of every educational opportunity available to them.
  13. My New Goals Are Undefined. I have yet to restructure my old dollar plan and determine what my next step is. However, the freedom to not actually care, has been very rewarding.
  14. Net Worth. You may have noticed that I stopped doing monthly net worth updates. The best part about not working a corporate job, is that I haven’t felt the need to be completely obsessed with knowing how much money we have every day and how many more days I need to work. While I need to update it soon, just so I know our complete financial picture, it’s been very rewarding to finally be able to step back and enjoy life! I’ll probably update it on a yearly basis going forward.
  15. Less Materialistic. I’m sure it has to do with my new lifestyle, but I seem to be less materialistic. My designer purse sits in the closet, my fancy car is long gone, and we’ve even considered downsizing the house. While I never considered myself one to keep up with any of the Joneses, just by not working in the corporate world, I seem to do what I enjoy 100% of the time.
  16. Less Connected. As I mentioned in What Worries You Most About the Economy?, I am somewhat less connected with the outside world on a daily basis. I spend much less time on the computer reading the news and scouring financial publications. However, doing research to answer some of your questions does keep me somewhat in tune with the current economic environment.
  17. I Have to Say No. Some amazing things happened with the writing opportunities. I was given various chances to expand, write more, and take on some new projects. I’ve even had the want and desire to spend more time on My Dollar Plan. However, all of those opportunities would involve spending more time than I currently do, and they would all take away some of my time from doing other things. So I’ve had to turn down a lot of great opportunities.
  18. My Husband’s Plans. My husband stayed at work because he wanted to, and because he carries our health insurance, which is really important considering the upcoming birth of our next child. However, due to some changes at his work, we have been talking about his plans for the near and long term. He hasn’t made any decisions yet, but I’ll keep you posted on what he decides to do.
  19. I Still Suck at Cooking. One of the things I wanted to work on was my ability to cook. While I’ve been working at it, I just don’t have the passion for it that I do for personal finance.
  20. Pursuing New Interests. With my new found free time, I have some time to dive into some projects that I’ve always wanted to do. I finally have time to pursue my new plans to get started in real estate investing and play with the investments at Lending Club.
  21. Keeping Old Hobbies Going. Even though Rate Chasing with High Yield Savings Accounts isn’t as lucrative as it used to be, I’m still running a substantial credit card arbitrage. However, many of the deals I take advantage of now, come in the mail from previous accounts. The game has changed, but it is definitely still going strong.
  22. Risks. Our biggest risks haven’t changed. They continue to revolve around kids (how many we’ll have and how much we’ll spend on them), the length of time in the market, changes in our wants and desires, and health care.

What’s Next?

It’s been a fantastic six months, and I’m really grateful that I decided to take the leap. I’m looking forward to the nice weather to finally get to enjoy my time outside.

In addition, with the new baby on the way, I’m excited that I don’t have to worry about a limited amount of time to spend with my newborn before having to head back to work.

I can’t say enough about following your dreams and finding happiness in your life. For me, it was aggressive savings from an early age, I opened my first IRA at age 16, that enabled me to take advantage of this opportunity.

If you are planning to do something similar, don’t let what others say sidetrack you from your goals. Just keep on saving!





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Comments to Reflections on Leaving My Job… Six Months Later

  1. Like you, I have a dream of leaving the corporate world someday. But, I am not nearly as advanced in that plan as you have been. I’ve only gotten a handle on my finances and have adopted a longer-termed perspective during the previous couple of years. So, I have a long way to go.

    But, I will be on my way soon when I move down to Gulfport in July to be with my husband at our next Navy duty station. I am fortunate to be able to keep the position with my consulting firm and will be working remotely. Hopefully, this will give me the time and flexibility to continue to develop my plan of leaving the corporate world to pursue other things and will give me more freedom to enjoy my children, once we start having them.

    I have so enjoyed following your website and look forward to future updates on your finances and future plans, however infrequent they may be.

    Su Prieta

  2. Congrats, it’s great to read up on someone else’s journey.

    Dana

  3. Thanks for the post, Madison.

    Craig

  4. Wow… that’s great. Good for you. Sounds like you guys are doing just fine.

    Keep us updated.

    Trevor @ Fn

  5. I can’t wait to reread this post once I get home from work and won’t be interrupted. Thanks for all of the wisdom and advice you offer!

    kate

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love to hear stories of successful women choosing to stay home because they can. Not because they have to, or because they didn’t really like their job anyway.

    I love being home, too. But I get tired of other working moms thinking that I must lead a charmed life to be able to do it. I cannot get them to understand that its all about the choices, its not about the money.

    staci

  7. congratulations on making the best choice for you. Ultimately the best choice for you is the one you made for your family. 22 years ago I left a well-paying career to look after my daughters who had health problems. It was a major stress as I was the main bread winner. Over the years my husband’s income has increased and we’ve done well by our family in providing them their necessities and some frills. I did manage to work part-time on occasion to help out. Now at 59 our finances are not in good shape (this economy is partially to blame). I work as much as I can but I still don’t regret leaving my career in the financial community. My daughters are grown up now and although their health problems will follow them all their lives, their father & I have given them a good basis to manage their lives and their health. I believe this wouldn’t have been possible if we were both committed to our careers.
    May your family continue with good health & happiness.

    Carolyn

  8. I need to make a list like this. It’s been two years now since I quit, but somedays I need black and white printed reminders of the pros and cons of why I left. Overall I am really glad I did leave. Being able to find balance between motherhood and entreprenuership is so much smoother than when I worked for someone else full time.

    I do miss all the free wine though (I was sr. designer at a large wine company – they were generous with the wine benefits)!

    Kendra

  9. There are free courses at OpenCourseWare at MIT. There are also online groups that do self-study. You might consider these to keep your mind busy.

    Lost Cause

  10. It is great to hear of someone succeeding at what I can only dream of at the moment. I too have the dream of more family time, less work/stress. I hope to achieve it before my children are at the age where they prefer to be out with friends.

    I am a single mother of two young children and have recently had to work two full time jobs to try to keep up with paying the bills and the massive debt built from childcare costs.

    I was caught in the “childcare trap” I could not quit my job as I had no other income source to support my children. I could not get childcare subsidy due to the fact that what little rrsp savings I did have left (which I needed to use for living expenses) disqualified me from being eligible. Therefore I had to use my line of credit to pay $1900/monthly childcare costs which was more than I earned at the time. I had no other childcare alternatives where I felt they were safe from harm while I was at work.

    They have fortunately changed that policy so one’s eligibility is based on income vs reasonable expenses. They no longer disqualify or penalize a hard working person for having the sense to save an emergency fund. Unfortunately that change in policy came too late for me ~ I was almost 40K in debt by the time it came into effect.

    I had saved my emergency fund so that I would never have to use social assistance – it is my strong belief that I have to provide for my family and show my children how to work hard to earn a living and try not live off of other people’s hard work.

    The children are now too old for daycare but I am still paying the debt from it. How did I end up in such a mess?

    …six years ago the authorities had escorted my husband away from our family due to his being violent and harmful to myself, our toddler and our infant – that is when my life changed for the safer but my finances started to dive.

    When he was part of the household he did not contribute much financially and was mostly unemployed – never held a job for more than a month or two (he always found an excuse to quit his job). I was always the main bread winner.

    He never saved a penny (always spent on himself) and I saved all I could for us. The children and I were in pretty good shape financially until the lawyer fees, daycare and the fact that my ex legally could and did take half of everything I saved for retirement/education etc. – AND he has never paid one penny in child support! My 16 years of working hard had earned our home, our car and our retirement savings (none of which he contributed a penny towards) and now it seems I’ve wasted 16 yrs working and saving just so he could have half of everything without having to work for it.

    Before the separation I thought all I had to do to be financially sound was to work hard and save. Struggling all on my own through the past six years has almost worn me out completely (I see the people from work more than my own children) but recently I have started to educate myself more financially. I was not able to do this earlier while I was fearing for my life as my ex continually threatened me and threatened to steal the children and inflict harm/death upon them. I still have the fear and threats to deal with but know I have to keep moving forward in order to keep my family safe and have options for moving if we have to.

    I am still on my own with the children and will probably stay that way forever as my ex was my first and only experience with a partner and I never want to go through that horror again!

    I know now that I have to learn how to work smart as well as working hard. I want to find a way to still earn enough to live on while working part-time at a job and working a home-based business so that I may see more of my children before it’s too late. My children need and deserve to see more of their mom.

    It is very hard to move forward while constantly fearing for our lives but – I can’t give up on my dream!

    Still Dreaming

  11. I too have a similar goal but my savings does not allow me to do so currently.

    Jerry

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