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What to do?
Old 01-02-2015, 10:41 AM   #1
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What to do?

Hello!

I have been a frequent reader of this forum for quite some time and I appreciate all the wisdom on this site.

I have a quandary:

I am 51 YO, wife is 49. I make pretty great money (for me) at about 200K per year (I am in sales). Problem is, I am seriously burned out in my job. I have been at it for 20 years, I am tired of traveling and our company has morphed from a smaller company with great culture and great people into the evil empire. Through several acquisitions and mergers the company is now run from what I call strip miners who are from outside the industry, but have been brought in to prepare the company for sale. The money and job description have not changed much, except now the company is run on fear and the atmosphere is horrible. I compete with our own sister companies as well as different divisions within our own company. Operationally, we have become a dumpster fire. The job is very stressful and I often lay awake at night worrying. It has gotten to the point where I dread even getting out of bed in the morning to face all the fires and issues that I will surely need to address that day (every day). I could go on and on, but I will get to the point.

In 2008, my wife left her practice. About that time a little business came up for sale that we were both familiar with and is in the same general industry as I am........so we bought it. The thought was then that I would quit my job and that my wife and I would run it together in a much lower stress environment than we were both experiencing. It was kind of a dream of ours. However, it was 2008 and the economy was tanking. She went ahead and started running the business but we thought I should probably stay at my secure job for the time being through all the economic uncertainty.

Fast forward 6 years later....."Her" business is doing ok. She took home about 70K last year, but there is absolutely no marketing or outside sales. All business is from existing customers and word of mouth. It really, really needs someone with experience to drive sales if it is going to get to the next level.

So, here I am....seriously thinking of revisiting the original plan, quitting my job and going to work with my wife in this business. However, I am terrified of giving up the security of my current job - even though I have begun to loath it.

Our situation is:

-1.4M in investable assets, invested 45/50/5 stocks/bonds/cash, mostly in broad based Index Funds
-No debt, other than 180K on 3.5% mortgage
-My wife still gets 35K per year for 4 more years from the sale of her previous business
-We live fairly modestly, spending on average 52K per year.
-We will be eligible for SS

My thought is, with the 35K per year coming for the next 4 years from the sale of my wifes previous business, even if we only maintain the 70K per year in existing income from the business, we will still exceed expenses by roughly 40K/year. This takes into account the new Health Insurance costs we will incur. However, I am very confident that I can increase sales, which would also increase income.

I have no intention of touching our investments until I am at least 60.

Oh yeah, and one more thing. I have a 1 year non-compete. Even though we only have 2 of the same customers in the entire state, and the business only very minimally overlaps my market, I would likely have to sit out for a year.

I apologize for my long and rambling first post. I am hoping that some of you wise folks could give me some objective thoughts because right now my head is spinning with should I stay....or should I go.

Thoughts, comments or otherwise?

Thank you!
The Kook
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Old 01-02-2015, 10:51 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kook View Post
So, here I am....seriously thinking of revisiting the original plan, quitting my job and going to work with my wife in this business. However, I am terrified of giving up the security of my current job - even though I have begun to loath it.
This sounds like the inmates who have known nothing but prison life and fear getting out when their sentence is up.

From what you've told us if you did make the move it is highly unlikely you'd starve to death even if things didn't go perfectly. Continuing the job you have sounds far worse than running your own business.

If I were as miserable as you sound I think I could find a way to conquer my fears of quitting.
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Old 01-02-2015, 11:22 AM   #3
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What you are experiencing due to your present work situation, sounds awful. Think of what this may be doing to your health. Honestly, even though I knew my job was stressful, I was not even aware of how much stress I was enduring until after I retired. It took me a couple of years to shed all that stress and get healthier again. If I had stayed, I am positive that it would have shortened my life.

If you think that seriously negative effects on your health are even remotely possible in your case, then the right choice becomes crystal clear IMO.
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Old 01-02-2015, 11:23 AM   #4
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If I was in your shoes, I'd have a qualified lawyer look at the non-compete and try to figure out how broad (or narrow) it is. The question to ask him is if there is any way to structure your wife's business so that you can take an active role in it without violating the non-compete. I'd also ask him if you are violating it now. I'm not a lawyer but I'd be concerned that you apparently have at least a part interest in a company that you say might be viewed as in competition with your employer.

Have you run your numbers through firecalc? What are the expenses of your business? On the face of it, your numbers look like you could make the transition and have a nice second career but you need to sharpen your pencil and put together a 5 year business and home financial forecast before you jump ship.

My concern would be how much drain the business would put on finances if you tried to grow it. Worst case scenario is that you would drain your nest egg in 5 years or so and then have to find alternative work in your late 50's. Finding a new job when you are over 55 is very, very, hard. If you can ensure that this doesn't happen, and you can figure out a way around the non-compete, then I'd probably go for it. Your current situation sounds uncomfortably familiar. My experience is that poisonous work environments don't get better.
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Old 01-02-2015, 11:45 AM   #5
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Thanks for the fast responses!
This is an eye opener. I hadn't thought of it this way before, but wow. Very true!
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This sounds like the inmates who have known nothing but prison life and fear getting out when their sentence is up.

.
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Old 01-02-2015, 11:50 AM   #6
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Thanks, W2R. This is a very real concern of mine. No doubt I am very stressed out. My sleep patterns have been affected and even though I exercise regularly and eat well, my BP has been elevated the last couple of years. As they say, you only live once!!

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If you think that seriously negative effects on your health are even remotely possible in your case, then the right choice becomes crystal clear IMO.
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Old 01-02-2015, 12:05 PM   #7
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Tractor Guy - very valid points. We did take my non-compete to an employment attorney a couple of years ago. The original non-compete was written 7 years ago. Since then, there has been a new owner, territory changes, compensation changes and account changes. It is fairly outdated and she doubted that my current company could prevail in any suit, but that they could cost me a lot of time, money and negative energy in the process.


As far as competing currently, and the perception there-of, I sell only in a B2B model in a very specific market. My wife sells primarily to the public, in a much broader range of products to one or two local companies (who also deal with me) that like to stop by and place orders. Other than that, everything is in my wife's name, we absolutely do not collude and make it a point not to do anything sketchy. I am pretty anal about that. Again, though, I guess if my current company wanted to, they could make things difficult. That is why I was thinking about just sitting out for a year and getting some sort of low stress part time job in the meantime.


I have run my numbers through Firecalc using many different scenarios and assuming I don't touch any of our current investments until 2018, it always give me a 100% success rate even spending up to 70k per year (20K more than current expenses).


The business is pretty much on auto pilot now. Other than perhaps increasing inventory and hiring additional employees in order to meet future demand, there is really nothing more needed to grow the business. No way would I allow it to eat into our nest egg. If anything, we would use existing income from the business to fund any growth needs.
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Old 01-02-2015, 12:14 PM   #8
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I would analyze the non-compete with the interpretation given by your employment attorney. I recall from law school that non-competes are often struck down or construed narrowly against the employer, especially when the non-compete is overly broad or covers a broad geography. If you're targeting different markets, that seems to fall outside of what a non-compete would cover.

You could always work informally for your wife's company. Just don't draw a paycheck for the first year. Don't work full time. If you get a cease and desist letter from your ex employer, talk to your attorney to see if you should sit it out for the rest of the year or whatever. Run the clock out then enjoy working with your wife and building up the biz.
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Old 01-02-2015, 12:27 PM   #9
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I would analyze the non-compete with the interpretation given by your employment attorney. I recall from law school that non-competes are often struck down or construed narrowly against the employer, especially when the non-compete is overly broad or covers a broad geography. If you're targeting different markets, that seems to fall outside of what a non-compete would cover.

You could always work informally for your wife's company. Just don't draw a paycheck for the first year. Don't work full time. If you get a cease and desist letter from your ex employer, talk to your attorney to see if you should sit it out for the rest of the year or whatever. Run the clock out then enjoy working with your wife and building up the biz.
Thanks, Fuego. My non-compete is very broad and factually outdated. My main concern is just the cost and energy it would take to defend it. As you mentioned, though, if I do get a cease and desist letter, I suppose I could just step off for the remainder of the year. The thought of working behind the scenes part time is very appealing. There is a lot I can do to help grow the business invisibly.
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Old 01-02-2015, 02:17 PM   #10
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Problem is, I am seriously burned out in my job....

...the company is run on fear and the atmosphere is horrible....

...The job is very stressful and I often lay awake at night worrying. It has gotten to the point where I dread even getting out of bed in the morning to face all the fires and issues that I will surely need to address that day (every day).
These are the parts that jumped out at me. The job you have sounds horrible, more like a prison sentence than a job. That is heart attack material - what good will it do you if you're dead or incapacitated from the stress?

You really need to get out of there and do something good for yourself.
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Old 01-02-2015, 02:23 PM   #11
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Jump. How much fun would you have growing this business vs continuing to pour your talents into your current employer?

Even if you had to sit on your hands for a year, you can afford it.
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Old 01-02-2015, 02:31 PM   #12
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Sounds to me like you would be a perfect fit in your wife's business. Like others have said, I would have a lawyer take a look at your non-compete clause. But in any case, I wouldn't continue as you're doing in a stress filled environment.
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Old 01-02-2015, 03:11 PM   #13
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These are the parts that jumped out at me. The job you have sounds horrible, more like a prison sentence than a job. That is heart attack material - what good will it do you if you're dead or incapacitated from the stress?

You really need to get out of there and do something good for yourself.
You know what, Walt34? You are right. Absolutely right. I have been holding myself hostage for the money, but what good is it if I am miserable, unhealthy, or.... (echem), dead? Thank you!
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Old 01-02-2015, 03:20 PM   #14
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Jump. How much fun would you have growing this business vs continuing to pour your talents into your current employer?
Thanks Bestwifeever! This is exactly what eats at me. I know I can do what I do for myself instead of my employer, and have more fun and satisfaction (and possible more money) while doing it. It's there for the taking but for some reason I just haven't been able to pull the trigger.

I must say.....reading these comments and outside perspectives is making things a little clearer.
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Old 01-02-2015, 03:21 PM   #15
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There is no way I would continue to work for your current employer. Been there and quit when it was no longer "fun". Cannot believe all the money I spent and alcohol I drank on the weekends trying to de-stress! Run everything by the attorney one more time and then figure out how you can grow your business ( from the sidelines, if need be), Good luck
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Old 01-02-2015, 03:23 PM   #16
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Thanks Ronstar. I am going to chat with my wife this weekend and likely take my non-compete to another employment lawyer asap.
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Old 01-02-2015, 03:40 PM   #17
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@ Choices - no doubt it is not fun and I am sure it has affected my performance in my current job, even though I am still doing very well. I too was using alcohol as a de-stressor and although I recently realized it and cut it way down, I shouldn't have to feel like I need to escape from the stress. I am going to chat with my wife about taking my non-compete to another employment lawyer asap.
Thanks!
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Old 01-02-2015, 04:42 PM   #18
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she doubted that my current company could prevail in any suit, but that they could cost me a lot of time, money and negative energy in the process.
Non-competes have gotten harder to break. The law now favors the employer. And in the end, is it worth the risk of an expensive lawsuit? Even if you prevail, you lose. They have deeper pockets for such things.

Kook, is there an option to decrease your hours? Go part-time? It isn't a perfect solution but it could be a first step. I have faced the same work stress and it isn't fun. That is how I have addressed mine.

If not, and you believe the business has serious potential to expand (and you would know), then maybe it is time to move on. Good luck you!
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Old 01-02-2015, 04:57 PM   #19
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I worked for a guy we called "Little Hitler." When offered a transfer within my company, I jumped divisions and flew the coop.

Life is not worth serious anxiety, gloom, despair, misery and deep depression for another 10 or 20 years.

Time to say "Adios!"
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Old 01-02-2015, 05:07 PM   #20
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From your description, your current job is going to kill you. Figure out what needs to be done regarding your wife's business and your finances, and get out.



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