Less stress less money
September 17, 2019 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Did you quit your high paying stressful job for a less money and less stress? Do you regret it?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (24 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, I did. I do not regret it at all.

I cut my paycheck in half to go from a basically 24-hr on call type job to one with very structured hours and work I leave at the office 75% of the time. Both jobs had similar work so I didn’t give up what I actually did. I did forego the chance to scale the ladder for even higher pay for a more flat structure where there’s no real chance for promotion or raises. (So, had I stayed, I might someday have been making 5 or 10 times as much salary as I will at current job.) While I have always been ambitious about the kind of work I wanted to do, I never had an ambition for power or a particular title, so it was a really good trade-off for my interests. Before I made the switch, I tallied up the monthly spending and saving I cared about and the spending I could cut and made sure I could afford to switch.
posted by sallybrown at 7:42 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did. I don't.

I had a 24/7 on call job with a good paycheck and a good career trajectory. I left that industry to a very similar one where I am only now making 75% of my previous pay after 2 years of raises. I will never make as much at this job as I would have had I stayed at the previous job. I made some budget changes to accommodate the change, but honestly a lot of my money was going to (a) lifestyle/possession creep and (b) convenience factors because I had no time to do anything myself.

I am so much happier. I drink less. I eat better. I sleep better not worrying whether my phone will ring in the middle of the night. I can sit through an entire movie without being anxious about work.

Zero regrets. I love my life now.
posted by assenav at 7:53 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yes i did. Second question not as clear.

I cut paycheck in half. Im way less of an asshole and way less stressed. So win. But basically any job is stressful. Im less stressed but i still have job stress, still deal with idiots, still dream of deserted island escape etc.

But i would still make the change. Making that decision essentially changed my entire perspective on work and stress and what's important... Im different now. Fully different. No longer type a, no more road rage, i drive slow, i stroll through the grocery store. These are major obvious changes in my personality.

So i guess that's your answer. You have to be able to live the life you want money wise but you can't work yourself to death for nicer brand clothes or a bigger house if that's not your personality.
posted by chasles at 7:54 AM on September 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

My friend's husband was about to have a nervous breakdown from the pressure at his sales job, he switched to a very different type of work (groundskeeping/maintenance) and it's lower paying but not bad overall due to benefits/union and he is apparently much easier to live with. My friend had to let go of her dream of having a "fun" sportscar in the summers and adjust their budget in other ways but I think on the whole agrees it was for the best.
posted by lafemma at 7:54 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did ten years ago -- law firms to government. Cut my salary by 60% and I've never regretted it.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:55 AM on September 17, 2019

Yes and while I don't regret it, I do have new worries about retirement and general financial security.

I still feel good that I left my prior job that has promotions and career paths and next steps for a comfortable, engaging job that just has performance expectations and a certain amount of job security. But I worry that I would have a very difficult time finding another job, should something happen to this one because the job I took is something of an ill-defined position in a very niche field.

I'm fortunate that I have a spouse I can rely on, with their own good income. Like sallybrown says, I did not really ever have much career ambition, so I don't miss being in an environment where I'm expected to have that or where people compete for every crumb. There's still shitty office stuff; there's still aggravating commute nonsense; there's still frustrating projects and aggravating tasks and dumb stuff I gotta do at work. But it's easier to leave at the desk when I go home.

As the US gets worse and worse for workers of all kinds, I feel a little ahead of the curve in lowering my expectations for income and retirement by choice, though.
posted by crush at 8:00 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

I quit a higher-paying/more senior job (way more responsibilities, more meetings, more pay) for my old job (more flexibility, less responsibilities, less pay) with zero regrets. My current position would allow me to move up if I wanted. My hope is that when a more senior position opens up, I will be able to negotiate a position with more flexibility and less responsibilities. If it isn't possible, I'm happy to stay in my current position until retirement. The increase in salary is not worth the headaches.
posted by jraz at 8:01 AM on September 17, 2019

I did. It was about 25 years ago and probably the toughest decision I’ve ever made. I have NEVER regretted it. Not for a single second.
posted by bookmammal at 8:22 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did, back in 2002. It was a big help at the time, tho I'm not in the dtress free, low pay job anymore.
posted by vrakatar at 8:36 AM on September 17, 2019

I did and absolutely am happier. However, I also saved up a lot beforehand so I didn't have financial concerns. I got rid of stress, and with more free time, was able to learn and explore lots of aspects of life that had passed me by.
posted by storybored at 9:09 AM on September 17, 2019

I did. I was in a situation where I had what I considered "fuck you" money thanks to the death of a parent and I did what I had wanted to do and said "fuck you" to my job working for an online community you might have heard about. I went straight to doing more freelancing with a few anchor freelance jobs in there. My relationship improved, my friendship with my now-former boss improved, my stress levels improved.

I was lucky I got to do what I did. I do miss the job but not the job as it was at the time. I miss having a bunch of colleagues. Freelance work is a lot more hit or miss, I have to do more hustling. If I had waited a bit, there might have been a different outcome, but I was at the end of my rope. I never went back to having a single regular job. I sometimes think I would want one, but I did have a decent amount of flexibility (along with the stress_ at my last job-job and I don't think I'd want to go back to a world of a regular 9-5-ish situation.
posted by jessamyn at 9:09 AM on September 17, 2019 [11 favorites]

Yes. Paycut of about 75%, and my salary now is maybe 20% of what it would have been if I'd continued on with even modest success (and far less than if I'd grabbed a brass ring or two).

Regret is a more complicated question. The cut in hours meant a big improvement in general quality of life and relationships. Also, I traded a purely mercenary job for a public-spirited one, which is a real comfort at this particular historical moment. However, if I stay in this job I'll never own an apartment in this city which I continue to love despite its obvious and increasing flaws; much more importantly, I worry a lot about retirement. (And I can't afford a dog because I can't afford a $400/mo. dogwalker, which hurts.) I ask myself with some frequency if this is sustainable.

I also know that although I wasn't doing my best work at 60+ hours a week, neither am I doing it at 40 and change. My job is hard and can easily soak up just all the time you're willing to give it. Working with a similarly limited team means we just do a lot less, especially against adversaries who are all working 60+ hours. Because I'm proud, ambitious, and don't like losing or giving up, I struggle with that to some degree. I think this will bother most people a lot less than it does me, though.

Finally, I worry about getting stuck--there's not a lot of opportunity for promotion here, especially to a job I'd actually want to do, and frankly when I look at the senior people still holding my job I don't feel like I want to be them. There's only so long I can be here before I will be stuck. Diminishing options is a scary feeling.

It's very frustrating that there are few options in between what I'm doing now and what I was doing then.
posted by praemunire at 9:24 AM on September 17, 2019 [6 favorites]

Yes, I left a better-paying position that I held for many years. I lived in one of the most beautiful places in the world but worked an incredibly stressful job that literally nearly killed me. It took me a very long time to be brave enough to accept I needed to move on. I took a lesser-paying job that required uprooting my entire life and moving thousands of miles away to a major city I wasn't very fond of, but I was closer to my family and didn't come home in tears every night, wondering if I would live another day.

So much happier now. I choose to live more simply to compensate for the salary difference. I'm ok with that. I'm not sure in the long run how this will affect my retirement life, but for now, I'm happy, healthy, and so glad I chose life over a paycheck.
posted by HeyAllie at 10:06 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yes. I went from being a full-time Reference Librarian to being a Librarian Sub in a large library system. I was fortunate in that I could get health insurance at a reasonable rate through my husband's work (although now he's moved out of that job and into consulting, so we buy our own). So long as the state continues to woefully underfund libraries, they'll need subs. So long as I don't steal books or punch patrons, I'll continue to be the best damned sub in the system.

I would rather live frugally and be able to make my own choices about when and where I work, than have more money but be locked into a schedule that includes a measly number of vacation days, while also working nights and weekends. If something comes up (like when our car broke down on New Years Day and we burned through our emergency fund for the year in the first week because of it) then I pick up more shifts. If I want to go to New York for two weeks, I just don't take shifts those weeks. I usually work 3ish days a week, I have a handful of libraries that I sub at regularly but sometimes I have to go further afield to pick up a shift.

As far as I'm concerned there are zero downsides. Zero regrets. Sure, I could make more money, but couldn't we all? I'm glad to get off that treadmill and focus more on being happy with what I have than scratching away trying to attain the awesomest vacation or the snazziest gizmo.

Workwise, I think that I'm a much better Librarian when I'm not doing it every day. Burnout is a real thing. I was burning out quickly and going part-time has definitely prolonged my career as a Librarian by letting me breathe. I'm no longer moving up the ladder (I probably fell off the ladder) but that is not a priority for me.
posted by Gray Duck at 10:17 AM on September 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

Last year my wife quit her high-paying job that was 90% hell, not for an immediate alternative option, but opting to be temporarily unemployed. (It was quit or collapse, mentally and physically.) It took her a year of cobbling things together, but now she's in a much better job in a similar field, paycut of about 35%. There's still some job stress but nothing like before. She doesn't regret it at all.

I quit a not-very-lucrative field that wasn't stressful but ate up all my time to pursue other projects; now I make even less money, but am pursuing those other projects and more fulfilled because of it. (I worry about money, but I don't worry about regretting what I did with my life.)
posted by Beardman at 10:17 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Mr took a 20-30% pay cut (variable because of bonuses at previous job) four years ago and has zero regrets. He used to bite his nails until his fingers bled and two weeks after starting the new job complained to me that his nails were too long to use his tablet. The money was nice, but I'd much rather have him not dead of a stress-induced heart attack.
posted by telophase at 10:58 AM on September 17, 2019

I "got quit" (heh) from a measly, $14 per hour job with miserable co-irkers to self-employment, at $40 per hour.
However, the measly job was about 35 hours a week; now I work maybe six to eight hours a week generally. Although I'm poor, I'm much happier and significantly less ready-to-kill.
Cutting back expenses is essential.
posted by BostonTerrier at 11:23 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

I took a huge pay cut about a decade ago and regret it sometimes! But that job was seriously sapping my will to live. My outlook on life is much better now.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:30 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

By way of counterpoint, I did and it was actually really bad!

It was a mostly boring job that I could do in my sleep. I found the lack of mental stimulation really hard, it made focusing on tasks difficult and my motivation was so low (note this was a corporate training job, so it wasn't like, assembly line or anything).

I was alone when I wasnt delivering learning and had no team. The business unit didn't really "get" me. I actually found it incredibly stressful. The money was not a big deal, it was about a 20% pay cut, but my pay was already good.

I guess what I'm saying is money tends to loom large in these kind of decisions. But there are a lot of other factors at play; be sure to take them into account, too.
posted by smoke at 1:26 PM on September 17, 2019 [5 favorites]

When I lost a well paid federal law enforcement officer job with great benefits and a pension, instead of getting another law enforcement role, I decided to be an entrepreneur in two industries (real estate and bodywork). I'm a lot happier and more positive about my future than I've ever been in my life, but it's also more work.

I find myself thinking about work all the time and studying all the time in order to get the information and build the relationships I need to be successful. When I worked in government, I would do anything possible to avoid thinking about my job as much as I could, because I didn't find what I was doing to be meaningful and was really there for the benefits and security of direct deposit every two weeks. I would come home and dissociate immediately. Now I love what I do, love discussing it and sharing it with others, and love meeting other people who work in similar roles.

My next goal is to scale up enough that if I have be sick for a couple days, or want to go on a trip not intended for work, the boat won't sink if I look away...
posted by zdravo at 3:15 PM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yes, and no. The reason for the "no, i do not regret" is because I also became single around that time and so my cost of living dropped DRAMATICALLY after all was said and done. Sure it cost me all of my savings and retirement but whatever. Much less stress that before. Buying shit I don't need never made me happy anyways, "retail therapy" be damned.
posted by some loser at 5:23 PM on September 17, 2019

I quit, and I’m much happier now.

I was a preschool special education teacher in the public school system. A well paying job for me in my late 20s, yes, but it was a lifestyle, with no time for much else. Hours of paperwork, meetings, very very difficult students. Some moments were rewarding but moreso I was frustrated, tired, and just not feeling confident in my role. I left after three years, worked odd jobs for a year or so, and now almost 35, I split my time between nannying a sweet 7 year old and growing my printmaking business. I make about half as much money as I did before (!) but my work life is now thriving. Right decision all around! Good luck to you, whatever you’re working through.
posted by sucre at 7:14 PM on September 17, 2019

Sort of...

I quit a high-paying stressful job to do nothing at all (except train a puppy, and go surfing), with intent to find something less stressful and lower pay at an indeterminate point in the future. I remained unemployed for a few months, got a lot happier, then decided it was time to go back to work.

I went on a few interviews and found a role that's lower stress than my last gig and, much to my surprise, increased my pay even further. I've been in the new role for six months and I'm told I'm much easier to live with now :)
posted by whisk(e)y neat at 9:08 AM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

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