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Ready to downshift (at least temporarily) at 35
Old 06-17-2013, 07:31 AM   #1
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Ready to downshift (at least temporarily) at 35

(for more on my own story, please visit this thread. Even though it is a few years old, it will still provide a general idea of where I currently stand)

The basics: 35, married, no kids. No debt whatsoever. House is paid in full. 110% LBYM type. Low annual expenses (highest would be property taxes at close to $6K this year). Current total savings of around $170K.

The problem: my BS bucket is beyond full. I have been at my current job for 13 years and counting. Can-not-stand-ANY-of-it-anymore. No benefits, terrible salary, no perks, not even paid vacation anymore. Did I mention the terrible salary? Less than $30K a year. Used to be higher, but my hours are now cut during the slow months. Industry is on terrible shape so the alternatives, if any, are no different.

The symptoms: an alarming decay in my overall health. Haven't slept well in ages. Gained at least 15 pounds in 1 year. I sit in front of a computer all day long, at a desk that was not originally designed for computers. Bad posture. Weakness, low energy, loss of sexual drive and libido, loss of muscular mass, difficulty concentrating, do not enjoy things as much as I used to, etc... All of this might sound normal at a certain point, but I am only 35!

What makes it worse: On top of the fact that I positively DESPISE my full time job, the hours can be long. TV industry. Working 3 weeks in a row with no days off, no overtime and no extra pay is not unheard of. I always have to beg for time off after long stretches of work, even though it is well deserved. If I don't ask, I don't usually get it.

But wait, there's more! Two additional jobs to supplement my income (one part time from home, the other a start-up that I actually enjoy and am hoping to grow into at least a second part time, also from home) take stress levels to new heights...

The reality of it all: my wife has the better job, with incredible benefits (health insurance for both of us included) and better pay. We can easily live on her paycheck alone. We have a high savings rate and, excluding the occasional splurge, we in fact save most if not all of my income. Since we got married the goal was always to live on one paycheck and save the other one. This is why we managed to save six figures in 2/3 years while making average or low salaries. At one point last year we were saving about $4K a month. This year we bought a "new" (used) car, paid cash, so savings rate have been lower, but we still managed to save $10K+ in 2013 so far.

What triggered my decision: I about had it with my boss this weekend. Long story short, he expected me to work during Father's Day and gave me an attitude when I told him family came first (this after working 2 weeks in a row, and counting, with no extra pay).

The plan: As I was explaining above, we really do not need my full income. At least not to cover bills. I am seriously thinking of downshifting and perhaps even take a few months off to recharge batteries, relax, exercise and feel like my old self again. The goal is to have a face-to-face with my boss and request either more time off, a raise, or different work conditions (or all of the above), or simply tell him that I am moving on. Alternatively, I could offer to work from home (I can EASILY perform most of my duties that way) for a lower pay. I'm sure he would love that. At this point, even a 30% pay cut would not drastically change our lifestyle and it could even give me the chance to grow my own side-business. Again, most of my salary was usually saved anyway, so other than less or no savings (at least temporarily) I do not think we would feel a dramatic shift.

The question to you all: what would you do in my shoes? I am not thinking of calling it quits, but I do need to slow down and re-assess the situation. Some health symptoms are alarming at my age, and and I fear they will only get worse if I continue down the same rabbit hole...

Your experienced feedback is always appreciated.
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Old 06-17-2013, 09:28 AM   #2
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Go!

You have one life. Why on earth would you spend half of it being abused when you don't need to? You could not be in a better position to leave and try your own business. I remember when I quit my job to start my own business. I came home and threw up. I was totally scared even though I had everything thought through. Just the security blanket that had been around so long made it something that was so difficult. Go!
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Old 06-17-2013, 10:21 AM   #3
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35 is too young to be in a hated j*b causing you these severe health symptoms. "The courage to change the things you can" is necessary here; Your life might depend on it. Fortunately, you have some reasonable options and can live on less than this full salary for now.
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Old 06-17-2013, 11:55 AM   #4
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The negative details of your job have little to do with the analysis of your situation. The fact is, YOU have a problem. You choose to work at a particular job when there are much better alternative jobs and/or lifestyles available. And this inexplicable behavior comes at the expense of yourself and your family. Sheeesh........

Stop spending time detailing the myriad reasons you don't like your current employment situation and your boss. It's a waste of time and energy. Instead, change things. Negotiate briefly (very briefly) with your current boss for changes that would make your current situation better. If unsuccessful, move on.

Keep in mind that the bottom line of your situation is NOT your boss or your job. It's your inability/unvwillingness to change. Lots of folks have employment situations they don't care for. The difference is that they take action and move ahead.

I could be more sympathetic if you didn't have choices. And, I really wish you the best. But until you take the responsibility to position yourself to improve your situation, your circumstances seem to be of your own chosing.
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Old 06-17-2013, 12:27 PM   #5
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In sales, we call this type of situation one where you are negotiating from a position of strength. If you think you can make this situation work (I doubt that from what you've said), then go to your boss and politely let him know the conditions that you would consider staying. If you can leave and not starve or have to live outside, then by all means, pull the ripcord. More money can make you feel a lot better for a very short amount of time. Having a boss who is a Richard is the more important issue here.

I'd get the hell out of there if I were you. Life is too short.
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Old 06-17-2013, 12:35 PM   #6
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Consider looking into depression and/or anti-anxiety medications. It's helped me a lot with all the little nagging things that I was over-reacting about.

But, even after that, I think it's time for you to move on. Get that start-up going, and leave the other job behind.
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Old 06-17-2013, 04:08 PM   #7
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My husband was in a super stressful situation a few years back. It was manifesting with physical symptoms brought on by stress. (Higher than typical blood pressure, heart racing, etc.)

Like you we always have tried to live within one paycheck... So we were in a good position for him to quit.

He did, and it was the best thing ever. His next job was much better, less stressful, etc.

Because we didn't have the financial concerns (other than not being able to save while he was unemployed), he had the freedom to leave a really bad job.

I understand the stress and physical issues of a bad job... both personally, and from observing my husband. No job is worth losing your health.
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Old 06-17-2013, 05:06 PM   #8
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You aren't living. You are dying.

That's how your post reads.
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Old 06-17-2013, 07:13 PM   #9
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.....I'd get the hell out of there if I were you. Life is too short.
+1 Time to change jobs. Quit, take a few weeks to recharge batteries and then start something new. You seem miserable - time for a change.
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Old 06-17-2013, 10:32 PM   #10
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You need to move on, something will work out better than what you are living thru now. I wish you the best!
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Old 06-17-2013, 11:48 PM   #11
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What would I do if I were in your shoes?

1) Talk about all this stuff with your wife. Her opinion is much more valuable than ours, as your partner.
2) Look for another job. You are in a cycle of misery. Hit the job search hard.
3) Start building healthy habits. Take a walk after work. Spend time (even a little) doing things you like. If your unhappiness persists despite a job change, consider an evaluation for depression. Crappy health isn't inevitable with work. You do have some influence.

In your past post, you mentioned you spend a lot of time thinking/obsessing about ER. If too much time is spent on this, it can only lead to stress. Kind of like staring at the mirror all day waiting for gray hairs to sprout. It will happen, but you've got a life to live between now and then.

Every marriage is different, and I can't speak to yours, but it is my belief that both partners should contribute equally. The definition of contribute varies of course. Like you, we are DINKS, so equally contributing to us means we both work full time until we reach FI. Just because DH can comfortably pay all the bills on his salary doesn't mean I get to downshift. I think it's fair that I don't let up off the gas pedal until he can too. So that's food for thought, but not a prescription.

Good Luck.

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Old 06-18-2013, 12:07 AM   #12
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I always like the idea of having a new job before you quit the old one, but in your case it doesn't seem like you have to worry too much about poisoning your relationship with your current employer. Even if you upset your boss, it sounds like you don't have much worry making waves that could affect employment in other similar jobs, if you are soured on the whole industry.

Can you look for a new job at the same time you create a more sane work schedule for yourself? What would happen if you don't work 15 days in a row? At terrible pay and terrible conditions, what chance is there that someone else would even want this job? Can you work with your boss to improve any aspects of it?

Meanwhile, get that job search fired up. There have to be better positions.
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Old 06-18-2013, 10:29 AM   #13
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Thank you all for the feedback. I'm appreciative and humbled by some of the comments. It is true: nobody forced me to stay at my current j*b for this long. That is entirely my own doing. The only reason why I did it was precisely because of the high savings rate my wife and I were enjoying during the last couple of years. It became almost automatic. However, stress levels are at a new high now, and the health symptoms I described earlier truly concern me. They were not there 2 years ago. I do undoubtedly need a lifestyle change.

I'm hoping to have a talk with my boss tomorrow. As for my wife, she is fully on board and has, in fact, been begging me to quit for at least one year now. She can see how miserable I am better than anybody else...

I'm hoping for a compromise where I would keep my current job but work significantly less hours, and exclusively from home. In the meantime, I would be making between $800 to $1400 a month from my side business and second, part time job (hopefully more, but I'd rather be conservative than overly optimistic about this), so it's not like I would have ZERO income. This would be between $800 to $1400 that we would be saving every month. My wife's salary easily covers all bills. And if I play my cards well, I could offer a 40% or so pay cut in exchange for the work conditions I mentioned above, for a total of about $3K a month and an average of no more than 20 hours of work every week, entirely from home. THAT would make me happy. Easier said than done, though, since my boss is terribly afraid of change, severely stuck in an 1980's mentality, and also categorically against the whole "working from home" concept (ironically, I perform much, much more efficiently when left alone, and I even have better work tools at home than what he provides me with).

My main fear/concern would be to go from saving $3K/$4K a month to saving $1K or less, or nothing at all, and then be faced with a situation where I am unable to find a proper job for a long time... Still, I think the odds are not too impossible at this point in my life.

Thank you all again for the comments. Please do chime in with more, if possible, specially if you were faced with a similar position at one point in your lives.
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Old 06-18-2013, 10:42 AM   #14
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Karloff,

I'm not sure if you shared exactly what type of position you have, but based on the hours you say you are working, making $30K seems like a lot of work for little pay. Is this a typical salary for your line of work? Are there other companies that would pay more for your services?

I hired someone who used to be a television news reporter a few years ago who also made about $30K in salary. He had a great personality and I made him a sales person on my team. We are in a completely different industry, and he had no experience, yet after two years he is now one of the best members on the sales team and is earning over $70K. I doubt he ever would have thought he would be successful in a completely different career and industry, yet he did fantastic as soon as he got the hang of it.

Give it some thought. I would not want to work that hard and not be fairly compensated for it.
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Old 06-18-2013, 10:59 AM   #15
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Karloff,

I'm not sure if you shared exactly what type of position you have, but based on the hours you say you are working, making $30K seems like a lot of work for little pay. Is this a typical salary for your line of work? Are there other companies that would pay more for your services?

I hired someone who used to be a television news reporter a few years ago who also made about $30K in salary. He had a great personality and I made him a sales person on my team. We are in a completely different industry, and he had no experience, yet after two years he is now one of the best members on the sales team and is earning over $70K. I doubt he ever would have thought he would be successful in a completely different career and industry, yet he did fantastic as soon as he got the hang of it.

Give it some thought. I would not want to work that hard and not be fairly compensated for it.
Hi Ready. Unfortunately, yes, salaries are extremely low in this "industry" (if you can call it that nowadays). I used to make about $36K (salaried position, with 2-week paid vacation) and now it's basically $3K a month during busy months (and they ARE busy, trust me!) and half of that 4 or 5 months a year. No benefits. I am considered a "contractor", so I pay twice the Social Security amounts. In other words: a loose-loose situation. Everything changed for the worse with the rise of YouTube, social media, cheap hardware and equipment, and a perfect storm of other factors that would require its own thread to discuss properly. But, in short, the entire entertainment paradigm and landscape are changing. Dramatically so.

To answer your question, my position is one and all of them. I produce. I design and maintain websites (on a daily basis). I design and edit books, booklets, postcards and promotional items. I direct TV segments. I am a cameraman (live and on-location) and I am also a receptionist. Oh, and I also take care of the tenants that we share the building with. Yes, I know. My boss is getting a ridiculous deal. That is why I am finally ready to pull the plug and stand up for myself.

Your story is inspiring. And it's PRECISELY what I want to do. I have a Bachelor's degree (and a Thesis, so it would be something above a Bachelor's, but my college years were completed in South America, where I am originally from, and there is no equivalent degree here as far as I am concerned) in media and Television, but I am completely DONE with the industry. I am sure there are many types of businesses that could benefit from my multimedia background, my diverse skills and my work ethic. My boss doesn't have your foresight, though. Every time I propose a different way of doing things he shuts me down. He could be covering my entire salary (and then some) by not doing much at all if only he would pay more attention to the company's website, for example. A huge revenue stream we never take advantage of.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.
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Old 06-18-2013, 10:26 PM   #16
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You should read the IRS rules on whether you are truly a contractor or just a fake employee.

Independent Contractor (Self-Employed) or Employee?

It sounds like you're an employee. File form SS-8 and let the IRS decide.
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Old 06-19-2013, 02:30 PM   #17
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What triggered my decision: I about had it with my boss this weekend. Long story short, he expected me to work during Father's Day and gave me an attitude when I told him family came first (this after working 2 weeks in a row, and counting, with no extra pay).
I would have been unemployed the second that kind of attitude left his mouth. I'd either have quit on the spot, or said something to him that would have gotten me fired. I can take a lot of BS rolling downhill, but one thing I will not accept is a boss or customer getting abusive or condescending.

My advice? Quit. Pure and simple. When a job starts affecting your health and mental attitude as yours has, it's past time to leave. No amount of money (especially if you don't really need it to survive day to day) is worth that. No amount of money, small or large, is worth the health decline you mentioned.

It sounds like the industry you're in is declining. I'd quit, take a break, and think about possibly learning new skills, possibly in a related field, and finding another job or line of work. I've never been at a job for 13 years, but I know people who have, and it's my observation a lot of them have blinders on when it comes to their work. It's not their fault, it's just that they're so focused on one field for so long, it's hard to see the forest for the trees.

Step out of the trees, take a break, retool, and then take a fresh look at the forest. I bet you can find a career path you'd enjoy a whole lot more, without having to deal with the Boss From Hell who pays a pittance and isn't appreciative of your work.

Good luck!
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Old 09-02-2013, 05:00 PM   #18
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Today being labor Day, I thought it'd be appropriate to offer an update on my venture into the world of self-employment (for those joining the thread now, please do read the first post, since it describes the usual trials and tribulations of how I ended up walking this road in the first place)...

It's now been 2 months since I quit my job and started working from home. It turns out that everything might indicate that I made the right decision after all. Lots of trepidation, some false starts and a few expected bumps were, however, de rigueur at first. My boss (now ex-boss) did not take the news of me wanting to work from home and/or under a different capacity well. In fact, we ended up pretty much screaming at each other and things looked ugly for a moment or two. After 13 years in the company, I thought I was going to have the usual talk about resignation and/or slowing down. Instead, I felt I was asking for a divorce.

Eventually things calmed down. In fact, everything ended up working perfectly. Too good to be true, even. July is always the worst (ie: busiest and craziest) month of the year for us, and I was DREADING having to go through the same old once again (15-hour days, 14 days of non-stop work, etc., etc.) After the argument, my boss finally agreed to my conditions and he even let me take the rest of July off, with full pay. I couldn't believe my ears.

July came and went, I collected my usual paycheck, and I started spreading the word about me going solo on a full time basis. By the time August was in full swing I was, mercifully, extremely busy.

I kept my boss as a client, and am now working 100% from home. No more dealing with BS. And if I do, it is from the comfort of my own chair, listening to my music in the background, and with my own coffee in hand. The rest of my clients are also happy that I can now dedicate more time and attention to them.

Things were not perfect, though. Every fiber in my body was still in doubt. I had a really hard time ignoring the computer. Guilt crept in while listening to music at 11AM. Or 1AM. Or all day long. But the worst was the sleeplessness. After a few weeks of trying to adapt to a new routine while barely getting 3 or 4 hours of sleep at night, and ye olde fear of the unknown ("what am I going to do NOW?"), I finally realized that THIS was what I always wanted and I should make the best of it.

I set my goals and expectations low, however. As explained in the first post of this thread, we live off of one paycheck and my own salary was normally saved in full, so I decided I was not going to stress about numbers and adding to our retirement accounts anymore, at least not while I was growing my own business, and specially not during the first year. I told myself that if I made $2K in August I would be happy, and if I ended up making $3K I would actually consider myself successful, this being my very first month on my own, and all things considered (again... all money that we don't really "need" to pay bills). Long story short, a few projects coincided with each other, and my grand total for the month finally came to $6015. Triple of what I was hoping for, and more than I have ever made in my entire life.

I could not believe it. I honestly never imagined that in a million years. And even though I was hoping to slow down and work a lot less, the opposite ended up being true. But all those long hours don't seem to bother me as much anymore. Still, I know there will be bad months ahead, so, again, most of that excess cash that I was not anticipating is, as usual, being saved.

Working from home has also given me the chance to spend more time on things I love doing, and a heck of a lot less on all the ones I hated and dreaded. My wife tells me she doesn't recognize me anymore (in a good way) since I am now happier and more active. I lost 15 pounds, go to the gym almost every day, and yesterday I just filled up my car after 1 month and 3 weeks!

Better yet, September is also looking like another very good month! All in all, I am extremely happy and thrilled with my first foray as a free-lancer.

Thank you all for the feedback and encouragement. It did help. And I'm glad I listened.
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Old 09-02-2013, 05:17 PM   #19
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What a great outcome! Thank you for updating us. While your income will fluctuate, such a strong start is very auspicious. It certainly sounds like you made a really good decision. That workplace was toxic! Your next task will be to become comfortable in your new role. Just think of each day as a gift. I predict you will soon be sleeping like a baby!
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Old 09-02-2013, 06:37 PM   #20
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Karloff,

Thanks for the update. It sounds like things are off to a good start!

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