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-   -   has anyone ever taken a job for less? (http://www.early-retirement.org/forums/f30/has-anyone-ever-taken-a-job-for-less-60473.html)

tulak 03-11-2012 12:13 PM

has anyone ever taken a job for less?
I'm in a situation where I'm considering taking a job for less. I'm wondering if anyone here has ever made such as choice and if so, under what conditions?

Right now, I'm in a position that's well-paid, but higher stress and expectations. It's quite possible that over the next year or two my current position will be unsustainable, or more precisely, what I'd need to do to sustain this position is not something I'm interested in pursuing. I have ways that I could probably manage this to eek out some additional years, but there is more risk in eventually hitting a wall. Plus the work environment isn't that great.

I've had an offer for a position that appears to be much more balanced in a good work environment. I've asked a couple of different people at the company and I'm led to believe this is true (this company has won top rating of a great place to work for many years in a row). The commute is also much better, 20 min max compared to about 50 min right now (7 miles one way vs 18 miles). I'd save at least an hour a day and could possibly bike to the new place. And it's a smaller company that is growing, so the long-term potential is a bit higher. The compensation decrease is primarily because it's not an area I currently have a lot of expertise and the job overall is probably more balanced (easy) once I come up to speed. In this job, I would also be learning new areas, which in 2-3 years would definitely make me more marketable. Plus there's the newness factor: learning new things is fun and I think I'd enjoy it, where the current job is more maintaining what I know/have.

Taking this job would probably add a year or two before I'd be able to RE - currently about 10 years out - but that could be worth the trade-off to work in a better environment (that's a hard one to gauge!). There would be no decrease in our current lifestyle. We'd still be able to vacation, spend, pretty much the same as we do now, we'd just be saving less.

So I'm wondering what others think of this situation? If you've ever found yourself making this choice, what are some of the items that you considered? Did you end up making the change?

scrabbler1 03-11-2012 12:26 PM

For me, the closest thing to taking a job with lower pay was twice choosing to work at my same job for fewer hours (and benefits).

The first time was in 2001 when I switched from working full time to working 20 hours per week, most of them from home. This greatly reduced my commute, the biggest thing I hated, while reducing my pay by nearly 50% (about 40% after taxes) while eliminating or reducing some of my benefits. But by 2001, I had become debt-free so my expenses were very low. I was basically buying my way out of my full-time working misery.

The telecommute gig was taken away from me in 2003 but I still worked 20 hours per week until 2007, when I again reduced my weekly hours to 12. This took away one day of my commute (from 3 to 2 days) and eliminated most of my remaining benefits (including group health insurance eligibility - I went on COBRA for 18 months). I still made enough money to cover my expenses with no problem but by 2007 I was already constructing my plan to ER by the end of 2008.

In both cases, all I was doing was saving less while regaining my personal life and reducing my awful commute (75 minutes each way on two different train systems). The type of work I did was unchanged, but I did lose some of the more mundane tasks such as employee evaluations (YAY!).

seraphim 03-11-2012 12:46 PM

Yes, but the new job was secure, and I knew the salary would increase exponentially while the old job was stagnant. Different scenario.

How is the higher stress affecting your health, or your family life? Is it worth it?

plex 03-11-2012 12:52 PM

It is never good to keep working in an unsustainable situation, you or they will just get fed up and the transition will be not be as smooth as it would be with an early exit.

Midpack 03-11-2012 02:25 PM

I'd like to respond, but I didn't give up a high pay/stress job for a lower pay/more enjoyable one, so I could only speculate. But it will be interesting to read about others who have. Interesting question...

donheff 03-11-2012 02:57 PM

I was never presented with the drop in compensation you speak of but I did switch from a very high stress job with lots of prestige to a slightly lower stress job with slightly less prestige. Like you, it was about 10 years before I ERd. Also, like you describe, my new job was in an area in which I did not have as much expertise but through which I saw lots of opportunity. I never regretted making the change.

Aiming_4_55 03-11-2012 03:22 PM

I took a reduction in pay about $15k a few years ago. Also moving from the title of Director to Sr Manager.

I had more personal motives, i.e. growing family, less hours, less travel, shorter commute, work from home, etc.

My new job is becoming like the old as hours are increasing and pay raises/bonus almost equal, so the drop in pay was only for a few years and worth it to me.

It's really a personal choice, but some things that I consider when I hear unsustainable... what are you giving up for what the employer is offering, i.e. personal time, stress/health/sleep/weight gain or loss? Certain issues can not solely be judged by the number of hours. Learning something new can re-energize you even if it's more hours at work.

For me, I'm no longer interested in the title, I'm working to further build college/spoil my kids and DW/me funds. I'm seriously thinking of hanging up the Megacorp job for pure contract work (think of the title of Analyst or Associate) ... playing with numbers, but can cover my expenses with about 4 months of work.

MichaelB 03-11-2012 03:59 PM

I worked with people that moved to lower paying jobs. Generally they fell into three categories

- Somewhat involuntarily they chose a lower paying job because of location (commute too long, division being closed)

- Their positions and pay had too much variable component, they wanted less variability in their income, and had to take reductions in total compensation to achieve that.

- They wanted to relocate or change division, there was a specific benefit to doing that, there were only had lower paying options available to them

It is difficult to generalize how people feel about these things. Folks that changed profession or location, took a hit in level and pay, were given the opportunity to learn, did learn and competed successfully in their new jobs tended to view their changes in a more positive light. Many people felt unhappy about being denied better options and grew resentful. Lots of bitterness.

In terms of finding less stressful situations, some stress comes from within. It reflects the demands we put upon ourselves and we carry that with us everywhere we go. Before changing jobs to lower the stress it is important to understand oneself. One question people should ask of themselves is how well they can embrace the choices they make. If they are able to accept all outcomes, deal with unexpected consequences and move on with little regret, it is easier to change. Those that look back too often revisiting their past choices tend to fall into new holes.

Grainiac 03-11-2012 04:12 PM

For many months I have been speculating a similar possibility myself. However, my lower stress options would typically be in the ballpark of 70% pay reduction for a full time job or 90% pay reduction for a part time (20 h) job. With this reality I am currently trying to stick with my current job for a couple more years and get to something like 1.2xFI situation. Whatever I will do after that will be called a hobby, and the pay will not matter.

In the OP's case, would the lower stress job opportunity or something similar be likely available after 1-2 more years in the current higher paying job? If the answer is yes, it would be the third option to consider.

Grainiac 03-11-2012 04:25 PM


Originally Posted by MichaelB (Post 1171725)
In terms of finding less stressful situations, some stress comes from within. It reflects the demands we put upon ourselves and we carry that with us everywhere we go. Before changing jobs to lower the stress it is important to understand oneself.

Now, here you are very nicely describing one of my biggest concerns. Being one who has been blamed for being too ambitious and results oriented even during vacations.

Texas Proud 03-11-2012 05:05 PM

It sounds like you have an option....

I took a job with less compensation because I was let go of my long term mega job a few years back...

But, looking at the commute and other options I would say it was OK in the end....

PS... my compensation at mega was going down anyhow as my bonus was being reduced year after year as they kept moving people around and changing what I did... but it was not enough for me to worry about....

Lisa99 03-11-2012 06:02 PM

Yes I changed jobs with lower compensation to reduce stress seven years ago and haven't regretted a second.

I went from a sales role, that in an average year, included about $70k in bonuses. Hours averaged 70-80 hours per week and if a proposal was involved a lot of weekend work. I was in line to run one of the sales groups but after years of insane hours I was close to burnout and on the verge of divorce.

I went to my manager and told him I wanted his blessing to find another job within the company. He was shocked but did the right thing and helped me find what has become a great job with normal hours. I didn't have to take a salary cut but I haven't gotten a bonus at all in the last nine years...so bottom line I've given up more than $600,000 in income.

I would make the same decision again in a heartbeat. I'm no longer a workaholic, we just celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary and will still be retiring early.

Best of luck with your decision!

Chuckanut 03-11-2012 06:07 PM

Yes, I left a very high paying job in IT (good salary, good medical, ESOP, savings plan and a defined benefit pension) because of the stress level and the demands on my personal time. I was not willing to give up time with my wife and children. I took a 60% pay cut. And, my benefits were not nearly as good, overall.

Never regretted it for a minute.

justplainbll 03-11-2012 06:20 PM

Yeah- to join the Army and see the world and 30 years later to quit when the customers / clients began to fancy themselves as computer and application system design experts. Now (16.5 years later) my interest and dividends are greater than what my final salary was, 36% of it is tax-exempt, and my pension and OASI benefit is over 80% of my final salary.
+ I do not use, let alone recycle, dryer sheets

growing_older 03-11-2012 06:28 PM

Twice I have left higher paying jobs in terrible work environments for lower paying jobs with much better work life balance. In both cases, the better situation lasted about two years until that little corner of megacorp was forced to change their ways to the more high-stress high hours style favored by the dominant megacorp. I don't regret it, but I'm sorry I couldn't find a longer lasting work life balance, even if I had to give up some salary to do so.

brewer12345 03-11-2012 07:50 PM

Yes, in a roundabout way. In 2008 I lost my very high pay, very high stress, insane commute job maybe two months before Leman went bust (disaster for my industry). Faced with few employment prospects, I signed up with a non-public employer at a significant reduction in total comp (salary 10% less, bonus 95% less). It was not without stress, but it was stable and offered excellent benefits, far less stress, more time off, and a merely strenuos commute. When my industry recovered I could have gone back to the high pay, high stress job track, but chose not to do so. Even better, I got the opportunity last year to transfer to a position created for me in the exact location I wanted to be.

The biggest issues in downshifting were all in my head (with some additional "help" from my parents). I had always been extremely ambitious and clawed my way up. I went to an elite high school that it was literally impossible for the wealthy to buy their dumb kids' way in for them, a top 15 undergrad, a top 10 MBA program (at night while I was working full time), and I passed all 3 CFA exams on the first try (still got most of the 15 pounds I gained in the 3 weeks before the second exam since DW went into labor with #1 less than 24 hours after I completed the exam). I was used to pushing myself very, very hard. It difficult to adjust to a job where you are a mile above what you are asked to do and most of the people with 25 years experience doing it appear dumb enough that it is a wonder they have enough functioning brain cells to continue breathing. Its not like I was terribly happy being the racecar in the red all the time, but it was all I knew and this fishmonger's son was eager to show that I could make it with the best and brightest of the wealthy scions. Time passed and after chafing a bit I realized that I had a better life with less stress on my marriage and more time for my kids. The fact that I could run rings around 99% of my coworkers and do the work of three of them wasn't rewarded with pay, but it was (and continues to be) rewarded with iron-clad job security and good treatment. My reputation and some close experience with my new coworkers pretty much was all that was required for them to create a new position for me and allow me to name the location.

Nords 03-11-2012 08:46 PM


Originally Posted by kiki (Post 1171636)
I'm in a situation where I'm considering taking a job for less. I'm wondering if anyone here has ever made such as choice and if so, under what conditions?
So I'm wondering what others think of this situation? If you've ever found yourself making this choice, what are some of the items that you considered? Did you end up making the change?

Yep, I fell off the career track about halfway through my 20 years and ended up leaving the front lines for the backwater eddies of training commands.

I knew that I'd be more likely to be struck by lightning than to get another promotion, but the change wiped out a huge amount of stress and brought a measure of life back to the work/life "balance". In fact a decade later my biggest "regret" was not leaving active duty for the Reserves.

A few years later spouse went through the same process, leaving active duty for the Reserves just a couple years short of eligibility for a military retirement. Once again the quality of life shot way up and the stress dropped way down.

It's only money. You can get more of that some other place and find another path to retirement. Once you destroy your health, though, it's hard to get that back.

Ironically a career change might make you more creative, more productive, and more prone to pay raises. You never know where a move like this will take you, especially if it has the potential to make you happier.

You'll also be living more cheaply when you're not confronted with the lifestyle expenses of high stress, a weakened immune system, and possible cardiac/stroke rehab.

spncity 03-11-2012 09:49 PM

Seems like the change in the commute alone would improve quality of life... and cut 10 to 15 percent off of the number of hours you spent on working & commuting.

Ed_The_Gypsy 03-11-2012 10:02 PM


Yes, I have. I once quit a top-paying job with no job in hand because the boss was the most offensive man I ever worked for. I expected a period of unemployment but was confident of another job, which I expected to pay less. I got work immediately because of the market and my reputation--at a lower rate, as expected,. Understand that I am a contractor and this does not frighten me. Who I work for and my work conditions are very important to me. Life is too short to suffer.

The new job sounds attractive. If it were me, I would go for it.

The fact that you are considering it tells us that your work conditions are important to you as well. Listen to your heart.


Meadbh 03-11-2012 10:03 PM

I recently made such a change. I traded a crazy busy job (~80 hours per week) with lots of travel for a location with better weather, a busy job, and more sleep. There are, of course, different hassles, but the extra sleep is worth a lot. I am convinced that had I not made the change, I would be dead within 5 years without ever having made it to ER.

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