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Early Life Crisis
Old 01-18-2014, 01:59 PM   #1
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Early Life Crisis

Hi all, long time lurker finally deciding to join in and contribute some Short history on me is mid 30's married w/children and looking to retire sometime around 50. I enjoy reading this forum daily and look forward to participating some now. Wife and I recently began embracing the Boglehead way and are working toward aligning our goals using that methodology.

I chose my user name based on where we are right now. Long story short is, we are looking for a change. I've worked my way up through the ranks into the early levels of mgmt, and with that has come the typical stress levels and personal time intrusions (more so for me based on the industry I work in). Wife and I are looking for a change, we've saved diligently for the 10 years we've been married and seem to be on track to meet our goals...however something is missing. The stress of work, phone calls on nights, weekends, having to respond to the office almost every weekend for another emergency has worn me (us) down. I have an opportunity to make a career change to another company in a new location we enjoy (have family there) and we are trying to work through it. The offer is actually quite good, higher pay and comparable benefits....but it is an individual contributor role. Part of me says that is great, less stress more pay. My current position is burning me out, and the next level of management will only be worse in terms of personal time and stress (I see it in individuals currently in those spots). I'm just struggling with making a change that seems counter to where I have worked to get. The new opportunity seems to offer room to grow, and I am fairly confident I could work up the ladder again if I want. My kids are younger (6/8) so part of me says I should take this, dial back a bit on work to enjoy them and be around more, and when they are older I may have worked my way back up. Life is more than a job position title, and the more I'm in mgmt the more I think I would like to stay in a technical role instead.

Anyway, I'm looking for some feedback from anyone who has maybe been in a similar boat early in their career and chosen to take a step back, how did it work out personally and career wise? We have plenty of emergency funds at this point (>3 yrs) so if we are going to take a risk for this it is a good time. I look forward to interacting on the board and to participating!
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Old 01-18-2014, 02:09 PM   #2
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Welcome earlylifecrisis! I look forward to your participation on the forum.
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Old 01-18-2014, 03:23 PM   #3
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The door is open, run through it! Life is not about keeping score or getting a grade. Life is "pass/fail." Is a title worth having less money, more stress, health impacts, marital impacts, etc.?
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Old 01-18-2014, 03:34 PM   #4
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The door is open, run through it! Life is not about keeping score or getting a grade. Life is "pass/fail." Is a title worth having less money, more stress, health impacts, marital impacts, etc.?
+1
Sounds like a great opportunity to improve your lifestyle. How fast can you pack your bags??
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Old 01-18-2014, 05:35 PM   #5
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Thanks for the feedback already! brewer you have echoed basically what we have been discussing lately. The tough part for me is that I have changed over time. Out of college and almost up until now, I tended to derive a significant level of satisfaction out of work and my career, either progressing up the ladder, fixing problems, being recognized, etc. But ever since the kids, I find myself changing priorities where I tend to value myself based on my family, how my children are raised, and being involved with them as much as I can. It is a bit of a tough mental transition and I don't think I realized it was happening until the last year or so...otherwise I may have pursued something else (or thought harder about promotions) a few years ago. I appreciate the feedback!
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Old 01-18-2014, 05:40 PM   #6
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Welcome elc. Sounds like you and the wife are like minded which really helps for long term emotional and financial success. Good luck with your decision and keep us posted.
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Old 01-18-2014, 06:22 PM   #7
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I dialed back from being a controller to an individual contributor (senior financial analyst) because of burnout when I was about your age - also for more money as it was in a different industry that paid more. After about a year in that role, the manager left, and the director requested that I take the job. I declined (I was a single parent and my youngest was ~ 5 y.o. at the time) so we hired a new manager who was basically a useless figurehead and I continued to manage all the work. Eventually they were fired and the director again requested that I take the job. I was resistant to take it, so he bent over backwards and kept the performance review functions and other kind of HR duties and I managed the work side. Moved on from there to another semi-management role as assistant controller at another company, moved to contract work as an individual contributor for a few different companies and then onto a contract as an acting manager where again I refused the role offered to me as permanent manager. Just don't have the temperament for corporate bureaucracy.

Having gone back and forth for the last 10 years as an individual contributor or manager, I have to say I prefer the contributor role but it seems like once you are experienced (and older), everyone turns to you to guide and manage them anyway. I currently have a contract job just working on month ends as a quasi manager (just the work part, not the admin - hate the admin side and the constant wasteful meetings). So I think there's a world of different opportunities out there that might not fit into a neat little box or role but if you're good at what you do and clear on what you want to do, people bend over backwards to keep you and give you what you want. There's also management of projects within individual contributor roles that you can do. And you probably know that there's nothing more a manager likes than not having to micro-manage someone else - that they're self managing.

I've talked to friends and co-workers that are a little older than I am now in my mid-40's that have had a harder time getting work than I have and it sounds like not having been a manager at all has hurt them in their career in terms of opportunities and pay. They just aren't offered those roles where I often am. I've also been in management roles at other companies when I was younger that weren't burnout-prone roles so it's possible to have both. Hopefully it is possible for you at this new company.

Sometimes I look at the path not taken and get notifications on Linkedin that people that I managed or peers in the past are getting pretty good roles as divisional controllers, managers or directors. But I probably have more $ saved than most of them do because of being FI-oriented and have had all but one summer off in the last 5 years as well, most of which were spent RVing all summer. Actually, it's great they're moving up - maybe they can hire me if I ever want a short term contract. :-)

Absolutely no regrets on working less while my kids were younger. We're very close and they're both awesome people. Kids really do want your time, attention and a non stressed out parent more than stuff.
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Old 01-18-2014, 06:24 PM   #8
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......... The tough part for me is that I have changed over time.........
I think that it happens to many of us, at least on this site. We sort of assume that we will reach some kind of contentment plateau between the end of college and retirement, but many of us continue to grow in a direction that favors our experiences outside of w*rk. It doesn't get better.
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Old 01-18-2014, 08:15 PM   #9
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I think that it happens to many of us, at least on this site. We sort of assume that we will reach some kind of contentment plateau between the end of college and retirement, but many of us continue to grow in a direction that favors our experiences outside of w*rk. It doesn't get better.
Definitely my experience. It also does not take a whole lot of introspection to realize that you only have so much time when you remain healthy and have all your marbles: how much of what you have left do you wanna spend in the job?
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Old 01-19-2014, 07:08 AM   #10
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Pick up the book, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. It helped me put some things in perspective years ago. I also had a stress filled career and after 32 years of employment and now 8 years of retirement, I'm glad I stuck it out. The grass does look greener on the other side of the fence but for the most part stress is something you have to learn to manage. I'm not saying don't go for the change, just saying learning how to manage stress won't hurt you either.
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Old 01-19-2014, 09:55 AM   #11
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This is the time to "do" a move ... once the kids hit middle/high school they need stability. Moving will be - or at least should be - off the table.
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Old 01-19-2014, 10:21 AM   #12
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This is the time to "do" a move ... once the kids hit middle/high school they need stability. Moving will be - or at least should be - off the table.
+1 to this … if you are inclined to move for this or other roles. Kids, especially at these ages, are very resilient and still quick to make new friends.

We have moved 4x for "career" over the past 15 yrs and the last one was before our kids (now 16 and 14) started middle school -- from what I've seen since then, I would not move any later. We've told our kids (who have each separately asked one or both of us) that we won't make them move again until they finish high school. DW had a similar experience with my FIL who was a corp warrior and moved the family 4-5x before high school, and then not again until the kids were through. This is a real double-edge sword b/c the moves are what has made it likely we will FIRE in 2016 or 17 … but these were conscious choices to enable getting out early.

You have the advantage of having family in the new location, so perhaps the kids seeing their cousins, aunts/uncles or GPs will help.

As far as the roles, go the advice from others here is sound - just recognize that FIRE is not on the radar screen for many of your work colleagues, peers or contemporaries, and they may well not get your approach to things -- at least until you walk out the door at 50 or less and they still haven't managed to generate a six figure 401k balance.
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Old 01-19-2014, 01:28 PM   #13
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I made the choice 18 years ago to start declining management roles and stay with individual contributor roles. I have friends who thought I was nuts - including 2 that ended up taking the jobs I was being offered.... and regretted taking the jobs. One ended up taking a demotion to get out of the role after 18 months, the other changed companies.

I make about $20k less per year than I would if I'd gone the management route - but have a very good work/life balance. I have NO regrets.
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Old 01-19-2014, 01:53 PM   #14
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Follow your gut. I've had both management and individual contributor roles and they each have their pros and cons. The type of stress may be different but I've had stress in each - sometimes significant stress. Like rodi, my comp is less (for me probably $100k less) then some of my peers that stayed on the manager track. Perhaps I could have retired a couple of years earlier if I had stayed on the manager track, but perhaps I could have eaten a whole in my gut or had a heart attack at work. Who knows. Therefore, no regrets here either.

I agree with Frayne that learning to manage stress is the most important thing we can do for ourselves. I would say don't do it if you are running away from your current job. Do it if you are running TO the new opportunity.
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Old 01-19-2014, 02:25 PM   #15
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All of this is great feedback, thank you so much. I agree with frayne on trying to control the stress, I certainly can do a better job of that. In my particular case, some of the stress is fallout from the job (i.e, kids/wife upset that I am always on the phone, going in, etc). The actual stress from the job itself is mostly manageable, I just fear the next step for me would be stress levels that would be even more intrusive. I've seen next level managers lose marriages and hair over time

My wife is a SAHM, so the decision is especially important since this is our only income (my career). The kids are the big driver for me, my folks moved around quite a bit until I was in 5th grade and then settled down through high school which was good and is important to me as well for my kids.

We are still gathering the info to make a decision, but we are starting to lean towards taking the risk, we've worked hard to get where we are to be able to take a step back and slow the pace down.
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Old 01-19-2014, 03:14 PM   #16
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I think that it happens to many of us, at least on this site. We sort of assume that we will reach some kind of contentment plateau between the end of college and retirement, but many of us continue to grow in a direction that favors our experiences outside of w*rk. It doesn't get better.
+1 and exact same experience here. I was shocked at how quickly I burned out on my career, one that I had been so intensely committed to as recently as ten years ago. Now, until retirement, I only have 54 Tuesdays, and every other week w*rking 60% and 80% (all Mondays and every other Friday) to go!

From your post, it sounds like there is no downside to this move. Good luck and welcome!
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Old 01-19-2014, 03:38 PM   #17
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This is the time to "do" a move ... once the kids hit middle/high school they need stability. Moving will be - or at least should be - off the table.
Depends on the kid. From 6th grade through the end of high school, I went to 7 different schools in 7 different states. HI and SC in 6th grade, OH and MA in 7th, RI in 8th, IL for 9-11th and MO for 12th. Things worked out fine.
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Old 01-19-2014, 04:52 PM   #18
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I too have changed my goals as my career and age have progressed. It really started when I learned about self awareness. Then I contemplated deeply about what really mattered to me and identified my core values and principles. I also worked hard on identifying stress inducers and worked on reducing/eliminating them. No surprise that most ended up been self influcted. Not much bothers me anymore at work or outside. I am control of my feelings and attitude rather than being shaped by others. Very powerful.

As a middle manager leading a 100 person engineering org at a top US Megacorp the next promotion would be into Exec ranks. But I'm a strong advocate of work life balance and lead by example, which has even resulted in lower perf ratings and lower raises! Well I have come to peace with that.

Live first, work second...until we FIRE. Consider measuring success by your "happiness" meter instead of income or career position. Of course happiness measure must include your DW and kids.

Best wishes

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Old 01-19-2014, 05:29 PM   #19
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I wouldn't hesitate to run FROM certain jobs or work environments. I don't play games I can't win anymore unless they're fun either.

You wouldn't catch me ever again working in a sweatshop environment like public accounting was 20 some years ago with their 200+ required billable hours per month or for a workaholic boss. Nobody would ever say don't leave an abusive relationship unless you're leaving TO something else - sometimes you've got to bail and save yourself. Every time I've left behind one of those types of jobs I felt as if I had somehow failed or something was lacking in me / couldn't cut it or whatever. That was nonsense but when you're feeling like the frog in the boiling pot of water you don't think clearly.
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Old 01-19-2014, 08:12 PM   #20
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I think you need to go with your gut as well. Candidly, I think you're a bit young to plateau and coast, but it sounds like there would be some good opportunities at the new employer.

I transitioned from a management role to an individual contributor role in my mid-40s, but more because I was FI and didn't care to deal with the bureaucratic bs that my management role required so I carved out a nice niche for myself that I milked until I retired.
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