Am I crazy if I quit my job?
October 18, 2010 2:47 PM   Subscribe

I hate my job, but it pays me well. Seriously, I make more than $130k, have great benefits (paid health insurance, 4 weeks vacation etc). I am very lucky to have landed this position. Without divulging too much more, lets just say that the industry I am in, it won't happen again. I will likely make 35% less anywhere else. So, I know that no one can truly answer this but me, but am I crazy for wanting to just walk away from it if I truly dislike it?

I know it's a bad economy and so many people out there would love to be in my shoes, but I feel like I am losing my life with every day that I work another 12-13 hour day. When I get home, I have two hours before bed only to wake up at 5:00am again for another long day. I have saved a significant sum of money, no debt, no family, nothing. I am ready to quit and hit the road for full-time travel overseas. I'm not materialistic, drive an old car and really think I could survive awhile without a job until I can really figure out what the hell I want to do. So am I crazy or stupid if I quit? I wouldn't be following my dreams because I don't know what to do. All I know is I want to go overseas and try to teach English. I may hate it, or love it, but I'll never know unless I try. What say you, counselors?
posted by Yunani to Work & Money (46 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
If you really have no obligations to a family, you should go. Money isn't everything.
posted by anadem at 2:49 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I quit the highest paying job I ever had (and will probably ever have) because it made me miserable.

It was the best decision I ever made.
posted by dersins at 2:50 PM on October 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

I say if you can do it, do it. But don't burn any bridges as you'll never know if you'll regret your decision until it's made. Even then, the connections you made at your current job may prove invaluable to finding future gainful employment when you need it again.
posted by inturnaround at 2:50 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Do it.
posted by wayland at 2:51 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It is hard to walk away from a great paying job, but it sounds like you have kept your options open by living well beneath your means. You have bought your freedom and it sounds like now is the time to enjoy it.
posted by murrey at 2:53 PM on October 18, 2010 [16 favorites]

Is there anyway to work part-time in this field? I find my enjoyment for work increases if I can work 4 days instead of 5 days in a row.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:55 PM on October 18, 2010

All I know is I want to go overseas and try to teach English.

Line up all the ducks involved with that, then go for it.
posted by headnsouth at 2:56 PM on October 18, 2010

I say "Why are you still here?"
posted by anti social order at 2:57 PM on October 18, 2010

Response by poster: All great answers...thanks for that, friends!
BTW, working part time is not an option. It's all or none right now.
posted by Yunani at 2:58 PM on October 18, 2010

Few lives have been wrecked going from a $135k job to a $95k job. Go for it.
posted by 0xFCAF at 2:58 PM on October 18, 2010 [10 favorites]

I say don't spend your entire waking life working unless that's what makes you happy (it isn't). Besides, your "hourly" wage is equivalent to an $80,000 per year job, assuming a 40 hour workweek. Can you find that salary with a better job attached to it?
posted by Dr. ShadowMask at 2:59 PM on October 18, 2010

Best answer: Well, what's the purpose of having any job at all? Let's simplify and say it is because either a) you need the money, b) you enjoy the work, or c) it's a step in a progression to something you want.

You have a job, but you don't enjoy it and it's not leading to anywhere you would enjoy. If you have enough saved up to go travelling/do whatever you like (and don't need it to support others), then as far as I can tell you have no reason at all to stay in this job.

It's quittin' time, friend.
posted by twirlypen at 3:04 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Welcome to downshifting!

They say time is money, but I disagree. Time is better than money, by at least an order of magnitude.
posted by flabdablet at 3:04 PM on October 18, 2010 [22 favorites]

Figure out how much it would take to cover your expenses if you were unemployed for six months. Now figure out how much your planned overseas adventure will cost (plane tickets, visas, training, money to float you until your first paycheck, whatever it takes). Add it up. Do you have that much? If so, give your two weeks notice tomorrow. If not, cut your expenses to the bone and keep working until you have that much. Then quit.

Basically, you're keeping this job for the security that the money gives you. Once you have that security, there's no reason to keep the job. Your annual salary is about what I made in the last three years, and I have a wonderful life that I love. You are not crazy. Set yourself up with the security that will make you comfortable, and then go live the life you deserve.
posted by decathecting at 3:08 PM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'd be over the moon if I had your job and I don't even know what it is you do. That being said, I would love the job as long as I needed it to in order to save up money and do what it is I really wanted to do, which is the situation you are in now. So I say go for it and quit your job--what is adventure worth? You don't want to look back on your life and have "what if" still nagging you forever. Find out how long you can follow your dreams without having to worry financially, and if you don't find your new path satisfying you, you can always come back to a similar job, right back where you started (but without wondering "what if"). And as someone else pointed out, going from a $135k job to a $95k will hardly wreck your life.
posted by mrdmsy at 3:09 PM on October 18, 2010

I was in your position once...kind of; the job didn't pay *that* well, but it was a comfortable, secure living. And I hated it. Add my voice to the "quit" chorus, with the caveat that you should have some sort of concrete plan/exit strategy for afterward; I didn't, and it made for an extremely stressful couple of years, financially. I don't regret quitting - at all - but I do regret the disorganized way I went about it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:12 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I am in exactly the same position as the poster, except for the detail about no family/debt/obligations. If I didn't have that, holy crap would I have left already. Twice.

Leave and enjoy the one life you have to live.

also seconding BobbyVan, $80K and 40hours/week is absolutely possible.
posted by mcstayinskool at 3:13 PM on October 18, 2010

If you have the cash to survive for a year on a shoestring budget and you're not going to burn any bridges, then go for it. Tomorrow. Tonight. Right now. No one on their deathbed ever said "I wish I'd stuck it out at the job that I hated."

You have a rare opportunity. Don't waste it.
posted by fatbird at 3:19 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks again to all of you...all great advice..didn't read one comment that I really disagreed with. I think you all have just confirmed what I needed to really accept - that it's ok to walk away from a situation I was (originally) blessed with. Like someone mentioned above, by saving, I was buying my freedom.
posted by Yunani at 3:21 PM on October 18, 2010

I did this twice. Both times I did it without regret, and assumed I'd end up making less. The first time, I was making more within the first year, and the second time I ended up making more right out of the box. In both cases, if it had paid less as I expected for the long term, I'd still have been happy.
posted by davejay at 3:22 PM on October 18, 2010

Also: give a moment's thought to consider why you think you don't earn and deserve this job every day you do it. You may have lucked into landing it (I used to think that, too) but you keep it because of what you do and how you do it.
posted by davejay at 3:23 PM on October 18, 2010

I would look at your situation in terms of compound interest. If your young, and you can save 40k a year for a few more years, what is your bottom line going to look like in 30 years? Yes, I understand that returns are currently horrible and may remain so for some time, but every chunk of change you can save now will make a HUGE impact on your future. The difference between 50k and 100k over the course of 30 years is massive.

There are plenty of jobs that earn 100K that only require 40 hours a week. They aren't easy to find but they are out there, especially if you look beyond the U.S. to places like Zurich, Hong Kong, Cayman Islands, etc.

So here is what I would do. Start making your travel plans, and plan to leave in a years time. Save as much money as you can until then. Travel the world. Realize that expats make silly amounts of money when you visit them in Abu Dhabi, Bermuda, Singapore, and Geneva. Move to one of these countries. Make even more money. Rinse. Repeat.
posted by jasondigitized at 3:33 PM on October 18, 2010 [6 favorites]

Deciding that making 35% less is worth it to have a life that you enjoy versus one that makes you miserable sounds like a good choice.

But be careful about quitting thinking "I'll just bum around the world for a while and someday I'll figure out what I really want to do".

That savings cushion can let you bum around long enough that it becomes hard to re-enter into a decent career, and by the time you really feel the need to start making serious money again, that's not so easy to do.

In short, I'd recommend: Have a plan. And not an open-ended one either.

If you can take four weeks vacation, maybe take some time out to think things through, perhaps take some seminars designed to help you figure out what you want do with your life, or talk with people in fields that attract you.

Jumping blind without knowing where you're going can be good sometimes, but paradoxically that often works better when there's an urgency for you to find your path, with bills to pay and family to feed. Having a cushion makes it easy to drift for too long, and that's what I'm sensing would happen here.

Not to say don't take six months off to travel the world... just know that it's six months ahead of time, and have some idea of what's next after that.
posted by philipy at 3:38 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I work in the public sector and all of the people I know who make $80+/k also work a lot more than 40 hours a week.

As for the OP, you happily live well below your means. Losing 35% of your paycheck won't be a hardship - and isn't your mental well-being worth that anyway?
posted by elsietheeel at 3:38 PM on October 18, 2010

I once sold mortgages and advised on pensions. Made a big frikkin pile of cash. I'm now a spy and having much more fun with less money.*

*may or may not be true.
posted by Biru at 3:39 PM on October 18, 2010

Best answer: I have done a number of stupid things in my 20+ year career and one of them included walking away from a good-paying job in a mediocre economy. However my regret there was that I didn't spend the years before that point becoming debt-free and saving cash, not the leaving of the job.

And really, that worked out okay anyway.

Personally I have always chosen the satisfaction over the money and I'm glad for it. I can see, looking back, that sometimes I used that reasoning to validate certain choices which were bad ones - I let myself think in this good v bad black&white dichotomy when that's so rarely really the case in life. But I have never regretted choosing satisfaction over cash. Ever.

That said, do be sure to consider the long-term consequences of your actions like jasondigitized says. I'm okay with the fact that I might be earning 20-50k a year less than I would be if I'd made other choices. Make sure you are as well and that you're not rationalizing because you're unhappy in this job. It might be that your personality is such that you'd be happier in life if you spend this time looking for a similar job or suffer for X more years in order to move to another level.

That's not me and it's likely not the strategy that the free-wheeling AskMeFi crowd is going to promote. But some people would look back with regret on this decision to go off and earn peanuts while traveling. Make sure you're not that person before you make an irrevocable choice.
posted by phearlez at 3:42 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

In addition to saving for your travels, set aside several months living expenses to live on after you return, so you can take your time looking for or waiting for the right job. Don't burn through all of your savings during your travels and then have to rush to find a job.
posted by conrad53 at 3:54 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with pretty much all the other comments, except that you talked about just quitting with no plan. If I were you, I would use this time to wind down at your job (try to avoid big new projects, don't worry too much about advancement or impressing people now that you know you'll be leaving soon) while you plan out what to do next. The long days will be more tolerable while you're thinking about your next move, and you'll get to keep your salary and benefits for a while longer. Your plan can certainly include some bumming-around time, but this way you can take a little time to figure out what you want before walking away from the money.
posted by chickenmagazine at 4:00 PM on October 18, 2010

Having spent several years teaching ESL overseas and *then* moved on to a job exactly like yours, I say go for it. There's so, so much I miss about that lifestyle-- just having a few extra hours in the day to go study martial arts or study language, or just go do...whatever. I don't have that anymore and while I love my new salary, every time I talk with one of my buddies who's still in the game, I just wish I were him.
posted by holterbarbour at 4:05 PM on October 18, 2010

Absolutely. Go. Live. On your death bed you won't regret this even if you have to work a crappy paying job for the rest of your life after you run out of money... you will not regret this choice.
posted by FlamingBore at 4:05 PM on October 18, 2010

Quit quit quit! Quit tomorrow!

I quit all my good-paying jobs, in exchange to be able to do what I wanted. I wouldn't take back any of my quittings.

So, sure, I just reheated part of a pot of macaroni and cheese that I made five days ago. But you know what it tasted like? MY OWN DELICIOUS FREEDOM.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 4:13 PM on October 18, 2010 [16 favorites]

This question made me think of my mom. She worked for ten plus years for a company that paid her extremely well (like you, she was earning an incredibly high salary for her profession) but the job, her boss, the stress made her miserable. Actually, at a certain point it--the stress--made her physically sick. That was the tipping point and soon after she left for a different, smaller company that pays her much less. (She also switched from working full-time to part-time, but she would be earning much less either way.) Honestly, since she made that switch, she has been much happier and healthier than she'd been in years. She loves her co-workers and she enjoys her work again. And, in her free time, she's gotten much more serious about her art, which she had put on the back burner for too long.

So, obviously my advice is: go with your heart and gut. It even sounds like your head agrees with the rest of you on this one.
posted by tacoma1 at 4:14 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Your question could well have come from me ten years ago.

Do it. You're not in debt so you can afford to explore. You'll learn something about yourself. And even though it seems unlikely... you may come up with a way to make MORE money than you would if you stayed put. Your views on what you're able to do are colored by your current situation.

But do listen to conrad53 and be financially ready for your landing, and don't burn any bridges as you never know where your old colleagues will end up either!
posted by rouftop at 4:36 PM on October 18, 2010

Money is not an end in itself; it's for using to support yourself and your family, plan for the future, care for your community, and buy stuff you need. You have your needs well covered, so accumulating more money is not the best use of your time. 1 caveat: don't burn bridges. Quit politely, in case you ever need to go back.

Money doesn't buy happiness; lack of money(poverty) buys misery.
posted by theora55 at 4:57 PM on October 18, 2010

Assuming you can invest at just 2% higher than the inflation rate -- and assuming you would never get a raise -- the $45,955 a year that you're considering foregoing could become:

$142,033 in 3years;
$241,519 in 5years;
$508,176 in 10 years;
$802,587 in 15 years (and all of these numbers are in TODAY'S money, which is to say, we're talking about the amount of wealth you think of today when you hear "$241,519").

Based on your description of your lifestyle, I'm going to estimate that you spend $20,000 a year on living expenses.

Only you know how long you want to let the music play, but be aware that if you hang on for:

3 more years, you can retire 7 years early;
5 more years, you can retire 12 years early;
10 more years, you can retire 26 years early;
15 more years, you can retire 40 years early.

Escape is a fun fantasy, but if you can defer the gratification, then earning many extra years to kick back with your family, hobbies, or passions could be pretty fun, too.
posted by foursentences at 5:21 PM on October 18, 2010 [7 favorites]

Can you wait six months to a year? In that year, live only on your theoretical reduced salary. I know you're saving now, but you need to budget for everything. Don't think of the excess as your breathing room, build breathing room into your new budget. Then save the excess on top of that.

You'll not only see exactly what life is like on the reduced salary; you'll have a pretty huge nest egg.

It seems like you're not sure what exactly what you want to do. Maybe you should wait to quit and give yourself all that free time once you you know what you would actually do with it. Right now it just sounds like you need a long vacation.
posted by spaltavian at 6:02 PM on October 18, 2010

All good feedback so far. But as an alternate plan, would your industry be the kind that would let you take an unpaid sabbatical/leave of absence for, say, a year or so? I left my job for nine months to do pretty much exactly what you described (and I work in an industry where this sort of thing is not especially common). I had a largely great experience and came back to my job afterward, but if I hadn't, I don't think it would have put my employer out terribly - I wasn't being paid anything while I was away, after all.

Depending on your field of work, you could sell this to your bosses by highlighting the benefits for language development or cross-cultural experience or something else entirely. Or you could be (half) honest and just tell them that you've always wanted to see more of the world, but that you value your job and would like to try to work out an arrangement.

Now, it's clear that you're psychologically pretty much done with your job. And asking for a leave might not fit with the fantasy of cutting all ties fully and completely and hitting the road. But if it worked out, an arrangement like this would let you travel for a good long time - most ESL contracts are around a year, anyway - and get some perspective on the work you do, without giving up the opportunity that you seem to feel blessed/cursed with.

At any rate, this is something you should pursue only if you're ready to quit either way, since you'd be effectively telling your employers that your head's in another place.

Another bit of info that might have been stated already - if you do decide to straight-up quit, besides planning things out in advance, check out ESL contracts for the country you'd like to visit. Depending where in the world you want to be, you might find that certain times of year are harder to find work than others, or that finding a teaching position depends on applying for time-specific programs.
posted by nicoleincanada at 6:12 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also: My nine months of free-wheeling taught me a hell of a lot about myself, including the fact that I'm apparently not much of a 'jumping blind' person - that although I value freedom, I also like having a job with clear expectations that I can work toward on a daily basis, and that while having tons of free time is wonderful in many respects, it can also be unexpectedly overwhelming and difficult and rather a lot of pressure, depending on your personality.

I learned a lot of other stuff, too, but what my travels did NOT reveal to me is my true calling, the thing I am meant to be doing, my life's work, etc. Which, I think, is a fantasy some of us (or maybe just me) harbour - that we'll be walking through downtown Rome and suddenly, in a flash, know what it is we should be doing with our lives. Or that we'll randomly meet a forest ecologist while hiking in the Czech woods, and realize in the intense ensuing conversation a previously untapped enthusiasm for forest ecology, and on the invitation of the forest ecologist, travel to the Amazon to take part in a critically important rainforest research project...etc.

Which isn't to say that that sort of stuff doesn't happen -- I'd just suggest it's not the norm, and that you'll be happiest if you look at travel as the end in itself and not necessarily as something that will make the road ahead any clearer.
posted by nicoleincanada at 6:30 PM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

Just to chip in with my two cents - I had a similarly well-paid job in Switzerland which I left at the end of October 2008. I flew to Argentina with a rucksack and no plans. In the intervening time I have travelled all over South America and a fair chunk of North America and am now settled back in Buenos Aires because I want to be. I'm in the process of setting up myself up doing something I want, simply because I can. Figuring out what to do has been a gradual process, and for many months I didn't know what I wanted to do but there was no pressure, so I was able to let myself go and drift, after many many years of working because that's what one does.

Basically nobody can guarantee that you will come out of an travelling / teaching experience knowing what to do with the rest of life. However as societal pressures are telling you that the good job is what you should be doing, otherwise you wouldn't be asking this question. So you need to stop listening to society and start listening to yourself.

Go for it.
posted by jontyjago at 7:45 PM on October 18, 2010

Starving grad student here. It sounds stupid and trite and like it's been said a million times before, but I'm just going to say it:

You can't put a price on happiness.

I've had offers to quadruple my salary, and I only regret passing them up when I have to grade.
posted by chicago2penn at 8:26 PM on October 18, 2010

All of this is great advice.
I've quit every job I've ever hated. Most of them after a day or so.
Sometimes under very VERY counterintuitive circumstances. (quit a film and turned down an offer for a year of well-paid work on another project, with 4 month old twins).

I've never regretted quitting EVER, and everything has turned out far better than I could have possibly imagined.

Chose the quality life.
posted by asavage at 8:59 PM on October 18, 2010 [14 favorites]

The restraint involved in not closing the above answer with "and the end result of those choices was that this very day I was hobnobbing with the president" is impressive.
posted by phearlez at 10:39 PM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

No, you are not crazy. If work is killing your soul, save your soul. If you have decent savings and manageable outgoings you can even consider the joy of quitting without another job to go to (I did this eighteen months ago and have no regrets at all. It saved my life). Otherwise, look for something else. Money really isn't everything, you know. It's something, but not something worth making yourself miserable for.
posted by Decani at 4:48 AM on October 19, 2010

Response by poster: So much to read through and consider. Thanks for all that.

As a follow-up to some of the 'themes' that formed in the messages.

Sabbatical is definitely not an option with this position and company that I am in.
If/when I leave, I will try hard not to burn bridges. I'm in my early 30's, left several jobs before and never burned bridges. This particular group might be upset no matter what I tell them, but I will approach it very calmly and rationally. It's not a crime to leave a job, especially if you're not violating your word. Give proper notice, offer to do what is needed to make it easy as possible for them, and if they're still upset, then you just gotta go with it.

I have a small retirements savings as well as a nest egg set aside. If/when I leave, I would not touch either one on the road. My nest egg could carry me for several years if I stay debt free. But I have been building a separate small travel fund that I think could carry me until I find some work overseas.

It's a tough decision to make, and I may not leave for another month or two, or even three. But, having worked VERY HARD from my late teens until early 30s, I can tell you that, while I do not regret anything, I do feel as if I missed out on a lot of experiences and memories. There was no college dorm lifestyle, studying abroad, backpacking through Europe, spring break in Florida (not that I would like this one anyways)....etc. So I've always planned on getting to a point and then hitting the road to see what's out there. Might be nothing. Might be everything. But all I know is that I'll never know...unless I go look. Where I come from, hard work is a way of's how you survive. But, maybe I'm part of this new generation that wants to look beyond it all and see what's on the other side. Challenge the cultural and societal norms and do something different. Know what I mean?

I'm not naive to expect to find my life's purpose on the road. But, I might just find happiness...and inspiration...and a person that is inspired is capable of almost anything. I'll take that over the zombie-like, dead feeling that I have now.
Thanks again to all of you. I am going to re-read the comments again.
posted by Yunani at 4:59 AM on October 19, 2010

Yunani....with no family, debt, obligations, you must 1,000xs go. I'm in your position except I have a mortgage and a sick child who I need to have premo insurance for. Those are my choices and priorities and I don't regret that but being in a job because you have to for the money SUCKS.

Have fun teaching overseas. Tell us how it was when you get back. ;)
posted by stormpooper at 6:31 AM on October 19, 2010

Yuamni - I am very close to your situation - well paying job, no debt, no kids, and good savings (except I owe a few years to the navy), and I have a BURNING desire to packpack/couch surf for a while before becoming an adult again... I don't have any paticular words of wisdom, but I hope it works out well so that in a few years you can make a post of all the great times you've had (and that will motivate me to have the balls to do it too)
posted by aggienfo at 7:42 AM on October 19, 2010

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