4 min read
I recently received the following email from a reader:
I came across your blog a few months ago and have been really enjoying your content lately. Both your personal financial journey and your discipline in your own life are inspiring! Keep up the amazing work.
I’m reaching out because I’d like to get your thoughts on my own situation.
I’m 29, I work in software engineering and earn $130k per year. I have a wife who is an art teacher. We’d like to have kids in the next 1-2 years and we plan on becoming a one-income family at that point so she can stay home with them. We have no debt, a net worth of about $300k, and live in an apartment. We spend about $60k per year. Life is good for the most part…except I hate my day job.
I enjoy coding but the management above me is awful, the hours are long, and I come home most evenings exhausted. In addition, I am not a manager myself but I have several coworkers below me whose work I supervise and review. I never wanted to go down the management route in my career but I seemed to have accidentally stumbled into an informal one.
Here’s my question for you: Do you think I should stick it out for a couple more years just to pad our net worth? How do you think about the general concept of earning good money at the expense of hating your day job? Any thoughts you have would be appreciated. – Guy“
Here are a few thoughts I have regarding Guy’s situation.
First and foremost, if your day job has a serious negative effect on your mental health, it’s almost never worth it to “stick it out” just for the income. This doesn’t mean you need to quit your job altogether, though. Here are some potential short-term moves you could make to improve your situation:
Negotiate a less stressful work-from-home situation. One coworker I personally know was able to negotiate a situation where he could work from home two days per week and come in the office the other three days. This has had a clear positive impact on his mental health. If you work in software and you don’t have to interact with customers or clients on a regular basis, this could be feasible.
Take more time off. A mental “reset” can often cure headaches from work. If you’re a valuable employee (which it sounds like you are if you’re informally managing several coworkers), there’s a good chance that upper management would let you take more time off if you can make them see that it would help your performance.
Pivot to a new position within the same company. Before taking the leap to a new company, consider the possibility of moving to a different team or department within your current company. It’s possible that you may fit well in a similar role with different managers and coworkers.
If none of the above are feasible, consider a potential medium-term move:
Apply to a new company. If you currently work in software engineering and earn $130k per year, you clearly have a skill set in demand. You could likely transition to a new company quickly.
While this could be a longer process than simply switching roles in your current job, this could give you some negotiating leverage. With an offer from a different company, you could either accept the new job or use it as leverage to improve your situation at your current job through asking for more time off, a better schedule, etc.
Move to a new location. I assume you live in a fairly high cost-of-living area if you earn $130k per year and spend $60k per year between just you and your wife. One long-term option is to move to a lower cost-of-living area. This way you could accept a lower paying, less stressful job and not be crushed financially since your living expenses would likely be lower.
Start your own business. Another long-term option would be to start your own business. Software engineering is a great field for consulting, which you could leverage to earn high consulting rates and also cut back on your hours. Or you could consider starting a business where you teach people how to write code. Your options are fairly wide open with your skill set if you’re willing to pursue the entrepreneurial route as opposed to being an employee for a company.
Some Thoughts on High-Income High-Stress Jobs
High-income jobs tend to be high-stress jobs. The more successful you are within your profession, the more a company rewards you with increased income and responsibilities. And while the extra income is great, the extra responsibility can be more than you bargained for.
A couple days ago I had the chance to catch up with Accidental FIRE at FinCon. As someone with more professional experience than myself, he shared with me that it’s not uncommon for a company to push high-performers into manager-type roles without actually giving them a formal title of manager.
This means the people who excel the most at their day job are pushed into positions where they oversee the work of others. Inherently this means they have less time to do the type of work that got them noticed in the first place.
In essence, it’s common to enjoy your job at first and begin to dislike it more and more as time goes on simply because things change. New management comes in. Coworkers come and go. Responsibilities increase. This in itself is a good reason to pursue some level of financial independence. The more money you have in the bank, the more you have the ability to walk away from a situation you don’t enjoy.
Parting Thoughts for Guy
Guy is in a much better financial situation than most people. Him and his wife have a few hundred thousand in the bank, no debt, and a bright future for earning income.
Guy, if you’re reading this, I advise you to take a long-term view of things. Be aware that you don’t have to achieve complete financial independence (25x your expenses) by a certain age to have the financial means to live a life of freedom. You have several decades ahead of you and plenty of time to earn more money.
One potential route you could take is to earn income in a less stressful way and slowly pad your net worth more and more over time. This way, you can enjoy more time with your wife and future kids without sacrificing your mental health and sanity all in an effort to hit some net worth number as fast as possible.
Best of luck on both your personal and financial journey 🙂
Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.
Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.
His favorite investment platform is M1 Finance, a site that allows him to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free, has no trading or maintenance fees, and even allows him to set up automated target-allocated investments.
His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.
His favorite micro-investing app is Acorns, a free financial app that takes just 5 minutes to set up and allows you to invest your spare change in a diversified portfolio.
His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.
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