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Old 05-02-2016, 11:46 PM   #1
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Hi all, haven't posted in a long time. 38 now. I still work for a global marketing agency (almost 9 years). It's been around a long time and has a heritage. I used to enjoy the work and had a hand in it, but I'm high enough in management now that I don't do any of the actual work (manage production/developers). The work is intense. Unrealistic deadlines, small budgets, not enough resources, client politics, internal politics, demanding account people, incompetent project managers. I really like half the people I work with, the other half are @$$holes. I used to take pride in the work and the agency, but now realize that all of our work and hassle and effort distill down to a 3-4% annual revenue increase for the home office that feeds the stock price. That's it. Nothing more than that.

I burned out 3 years ago, which led me to find this forum actually and see that I wasn't alone in how I felt about my job. That caused me to overhaul my lifestyle to LBYM, which has been awesome actually...a really positive change... and gave me a FIRE date of 2023 if I could stay on the path. Ever since it's been bumpy but manageable. In the hard times I remember the path that I'm on and they blow over eventually.

But, I've burned out again and this time it's different. I'm drowning. The only way to fix it for me is to scale and hire a #2. But I'm running into major resistance on hiring, despite a pretty thorough justification (nevermind it's stupid-obvious to anyone paying attention). The politics between departments are at all-time low. I'm getting circumvented a lot because I don't tell them what they want to hear, call out risks, and actually want to execute successfully. Process is getting abandoned all over the place. We've got a couple of big death-march projects and we're going to lose people, yet it seems that I'm powerless to stop it. I've seen 3 people cry at work in the last two weeks. Project managers are enforcers for the account people as opposed to being actual project managers. We will let a client destroy our internal teams, all because they want something that's not realistic and we won't say no.

I realized recently that I may have let this happen over time. I've always cared deeply about the quality of work that I do and have been proud of it. I think that's fed me turning into a workaholic. And I've always chased more responsibility and more money. I've put work above a lot of things. I stopped sleeping well a couple of years ago. Now, I can't sleep without Ambien. Social life outside work? Nope. Vacations? Not often. One day off this year. Hobbies? No. Fun? Very infrequently. Health? Let my weight slip for years, with the drinking and constantly eating out, although I did make this a big priority over the last year and am back in shape. But recently things have gotten a lot worse. I'm constantly stressed out. Nearly every day is a bad day, with heated discussions and conflict. I'm carrying around a knot in my stomatch that doesn't go away, even at night. My breathing is shallow and doesn't feel like it's enough sometimes. I'm having escape fantasies daily (not working, playing music all day, or starting a business). I feel like my mental health is starting to slip a bit. I'm obsessed with the future and the planning of it. I'm losing my sense of humor, am irritable, feel like Debbie Downer a lot, and sometimes think about quitting on the spot without regard for the future. I spend a lot of time outside of work trying to de-stress and not think about work and get angry when I can't stop ruminating about it on my personal time. I don't know how much is the job and how much is me and what is realistic to expect anymore. I just know I don't want to live like this anymore.

But I don't want to jump off my FIRE path either, even though it feels a long way away. It's become very important to me. I've already made it 3 years and that seemed far away when I started. I do have a 6mo emergency fund. The big barrier is finding another job that I enjoy with comparable comp. I don't think I can find it in the area (haven't been looking) but I know I'm paid aggressively for the area and could see a 30% paycut happening, and who knows if I would enjoy the work. And I'm scared of the grass not being greener.

I've been searching the forum for days, combing over stress management stuff on the web for months. This has all felt bigger than me lately, so I am trying to find a therapist via the EAP. Would love some fresh perspectives...

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Old 05-03-2016, 12:54 AM   #2
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Sorry to hear about your work issues. 2023 sounds like a long way off with the stress levels you are currently experiencing. Maybe you could downshift into a job with less pay but also less hours instead of sticking it out for full ER.

Your work experience fits in with a Nat Geo documentary called Stress:
Stress: Portrait of a Killer - Top Documentary Films

Work itself doesn't necessarily cause stress - it is often more a lack of control and abuse from the higher ups in an organization. In the film, the lower rung employees in organizations with less control over their work and deadlines have the most stress. Maybe you would be happier being a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Also, there is the saying that freedom is low overhead. The lower your baseline expenses the less salary you will need to cover them.

Another option besides talking to a therapist might be to take some classes on customer and people management to see if you can deal with the difficult people in your life more effectively.

Even clouds seem bright and breezy, 'Cause the livin' is free and easy, See the rat race in a new way, Like you're wakin' up to a new day (Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether lyrics, Alan Parsons Project, based on an EA Poe story)
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Old 05-03-2016, 08:27 AM   #3
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You do sound very burned out; my sympathies.

Any chance for a vacation any time soon?
"You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore." - - - C. Columbus
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Old 05-03-2016, 08:41 AM   #4
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Life is for living. Sounds very much like you are dying in that position. If you aren't careful to lower the stress, you may literally be dying. If your post is what you normally feel, continuing at that job is really not worth it. Consider if it would be really terrible to change jobs, take a 30% (or whatever) pay cut and work a couple more years (or lower your retirement expenses more). Run some firecalc cases and get a good feel for what risks you are taking financially....maybe changing jobs isn't as bad as you currently feel. At least put out some feelers and see what may be available for you.

Man, I feel for you. I felt that way in one assignment I had. Finally said I'd quit rather than continue. Turned out to be the best decision in my life. Company didn't want to lose me so put me in a position I wanted and I ended up staying 20 more yrs with them before I retired. I hope you find something that makes you equally happy.
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Old 05-03-2016, 08:47 AM   #5
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I have been spending the last three years working in a job I absolutely dislike -- to put it nicely (though at this point I am not experiencing the same stress and conflict as you). I have picked up new skills, however it was not worth the turmoil I have felt these last few years. It has changed me, though I hope just temporarily. There is a light at the end of the tunnel for me (impending layoff/severance) and that is what gives me energy to continue to rise and go to work.

Given, I will never put myself in this situation again for money. If I find I don't like my next job, I will not stay.

Your path to FIRE gives you options. It might set you back, but you will get there eventually. You're closer than you were yesterday.

Good luck.
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Old 05-03-2016, 08:57 AM   #6
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After taxes, a 30% pay cut is probably less than 15%. Save yourself. Get out of that job...
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Old 05-03-2016, 09:09 AM   #7
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Maybe just wear jeans and t-shirts to work. Laugh. Take vacation. Go home on time. See what happens.
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Old 05-03-2016, 10:29 AM   #8
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I am so sorry to read this. Your stress just pours off the page. I have felt that sensation, though not to your degree, more than a few times in my life.

All I can offer is my sympathy and a strong suggestion to leave this job, whatever the cost, and find something else that works for you. Even if your ER is delayed by a pay cut, it is far better to live the life you have than to hold your breath and wait for the day you can exhale. That's suffocation.
“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching.”
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Old 05-03-2016, 10:39 AM   #9
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I join the chorus. Get out. So what if you delay ER to 2026 or so? On your present path you may well not make it to 2023.

Those hours are only tolerable IF you enjoy the work or can literally find no other way to put food on the table. You don't enjoy it (in fact, it is killing you), and I suspect you can find something else, even at 15% real salary cut.
OMY * 3 2ish
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Old 05-03-2016, 10:41 AM   #10
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I left a good paying job for half the money and no stress. Sometimes you just can't look at the money as being the most important thing. Within 4 years I was making the same amount and 10 years I doubled the salary from the stressful job.

Everything works out in the end. Save yourself and remember there are so many opportunities out there. Being mentally and physically healthy is more important than money.

Even cutting my salary in half did not deter early retirement.
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Old 05-03-2016, 11:05 AM   #11
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Oh wow I could've written that word for word, down to the every small detail. I've been looking elsewhere but haven't had much luck in the area. I know I need to get out, I'm ready to take a pay cut for a better work-life balance but haven't been able to find another middle-management position yet. Having said that here's what I'm doing to help alleviate the stress:

I'm less available to work, after I leave work I don't return emails or calls right away anymore unless it's an emergency (being in IT there are a lot of them). Even then I wait a few mins to see if someone else will jump in and just use my judgement.

I've started to workout at home once or twice a week or go out for a 5mi bike ride.

I've started to eat one or two salad lunches and cut down on soda. I've started to take multi-vitamins.

I still have rough days but I don't stress over it all as much as I'm used to doing. If I get laid off because I'm less available to work then I guess it was meant to be- one door closes, another opens...
Target FI age /year: 50/2025
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Old 05-03-2016, 11:05 AM   #12
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With regards to the pay cut, you might think about how much are you making per hour now after taxes, job and commute costs. I left a corporate job to work on my own and my earnings per hour went up since I no longer had a commute, wasn't putting in 60+ hours a week on a salaried job with a lot of useless meetings and had more tax deductions.

One of our kids was interviewing last year and there was a huge difference in hours expected from company to company. One place asked if 80 hours was a problem. Another said 55 was the standard work week. I pointed out that the 80 hour place was the same as asking if he minded working for half pay the going rate. I find it interesting no interviewer ever says they pay half the market salaries, would that be a problem, instead they just act like job candidates are not career oriented or some kind of shirkers if they aren't willing to put in long hours on a regular basis.
Even clouds seem bright and breezy, 'Cause the livin' is free and easy, See the rat race in a new way, Like you're wakin' up to a new day (Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether lyrics, Alan Parsons Project, based on an EA Poe story)
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Old 05-03-2016, 11:22 AM   #13
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I read who you wrote and started having workmares!

My position was very similar(I'm 3 years into retirement/recovery), but you're smarter than me. I didn't recognize that I had a choice, you do. I would start looking first to practice and learn what's out there.

Whatever you do, don't continue the sleeping pills and such. I didn't follow that and was pretty sick. All kinds of pills and ailments and stress. My anxiety is soo much better. Got off the ambien, didn't sleep much for a month but now I do. Dropped 55 pounds no longer need bp meds or any of the multiple pills.

That was how I handled the stress. Overeating, too much alcohol, not taking care of me. I realize now that I let that place own me with the golden handcuffs. They're not worth it. If the environment is toxic it's time to leave, self preservation.
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Old 05-03-2016, 01:08 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Sarah in SC View Post
I am so sorry to read this. Your stress just pours off the page. I have felt that sensation, though not to your degree, more than a few times in my life.

All I can offer is my sympathy and a strong suggestion to leave this job, whatever the cost, and find something else that works for you. Even if your ER is delayed by a pay cut, it is far better to live the life you have than to hold your breath and wait for the day you can exhale. That's suffocation.
+1 I hope you can change to a situation that is better for you. Good luck.
"The mountains are calling, and I must go." John Muir
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Old 05-03-2016, 02:08 PM   #15
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That was the story of my "second to last job", I don't like being yelled at.

Called up my favorite head hunter and said "get me outta here"

He did and I happily moved to a new job at a new company in a lower paying less stressful position that I retired from 18 years later.

The less dough was worth every cent -
Retired at 59 in 2014. Should have done it sooner but I worried too much.
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Old 05-03-2016, 05:35 PM   #16
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You for sure need a change and a break. But you should also look very carefully at how you got here, or the next job/company will become the same in about 2-3 years.

You have a good awareness of your own contribution to your work style, so that has to change wherever you go. Take that therapy route you mention.

A lot of places are similar, if not quite as bad as you describe. If you've been at the same place for 9 years there's a decent chance that pay cut to jump might not be as bad as you think and if it is - so what? You can always adjust with that many years left. Once you make the decision to jump (even if it's not tomorrow, but "i am looking and will give 2 weeks later this summer") you might find some immediate slight relief.

Either way, if you do nothing, that Early Retirement might result in a Short Retirement and that's not what the goal is.

Good luck!
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Old 05-03-2016, 05:57 PM   #17
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Like others have already said, I could have written this almost verbatim at one point in my life/career.

Update your LinkedIn; let people know and trust know you are available; call a recruiter or consulting firm. You might be surprised what you find; I was. Note that eventually, either travel or relocation will likely be necessary to avoid a pay cut unless you live in the hub of activity for your trade. That is definitely stress but a least it is of a different flavor.

If your current employer counters, make sure to get all promises in writing with a nice severance package if the terms are not met.

While I am still a bit of a mess, things are much better than they once were. And, I firmly believe I can further improve my situation. Remember, there is hope.

Overcoming fear and inertia is a difficult but necessary step on your road to a better place.

Good luck.
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Old 05-03-2016, 06:44 PM   #18
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While FIRE is a worthy goal, there is never any guarantee what the future holds. Most people here are willing to sacrifice now for a secure future, but most will also say that you can't sacrifice so much that you're miserable.

I know it can be hard to even start a job search when you're so overwhelmed and busy, but just starting to take concrete steps to improve your situation will help you feel more in control.
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Old 05-03-2016, 07:57 PM   #19
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I was very similar about two years ago. The quality of my work suffered drastically (I actually directed a crew to install some road barrier backwards). I was unofficially demoted and have been trying to catch my breath since. I started feeling markedly better last summer, but Still mostly bad days, much daydreaming, much wandering around blankly. Shockingly, I got good reviews last year and only one person has asked me what I've been doing the past three weeks. And that was a month ago.

I did take sleeping pills for a few months, but never had more than 5 drinks a night. I tried headhunters and passed my resume around quietly, looking for work that'd pay about 75%. No interest.
Never did get to a therapist since my plan requires a doctors note and it Takes months to see a doctor around here. Ridiculous.

So my advice is to take 2-HR lunches and walk around the park. Breath deep. Walk some more at night. Ween yourself off the drugs. Skip a meeting here and there. Try that therapist. Maybe you'll get lucky and you'll get laid off and you can take advantage of unemployment benefits. Really give you time to regroup. Seriously, take care of yourself.

It seems so twisted when your best option is to get fired. What kind of culture is this?
Why be normal when you can be yourself?
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Old 05-03-2016, 08:16 PM   #20
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Get off the ambien, it can be dangerous if used regularly. From your post it seems you are not yet financially prepared for ER but it is clear you need a change. Often, I think, or rather usually, the fear of change is worse than handling the change itself.

You can either 1) change how you work where you are, stop caring as much, don't answer calls or email after work, and accept that you might get fired, demoted, scolded, etc., or 2) find a new place of employment, or if you are able to, 3) start out on your own.

I started my consulting business full time when I was about 32, and although my employment prior to that was not nearly as bad as yours, being my own boss was infinitely better. And over time was better financially as well.

1. Stop the ambien, it's okay if you can't sleep, no more ambien.
2. Stop caring so much at work, take it a little easy, don't respond to the tirades or answer emails after work or after a certain hour.
3. Start putting out the feelers for a new job.
4. Decide if you want to find new employment, or maybe start out on your own.
5. Then jump.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.
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