There comes a time in every person’s life when they realize that their current job is simply sucking the soul right out of them. Normally, I don’t advocate stepping off of a financial ledge like this, but when your current primary employment is bringing you nothing but total misery and a paycheck, it may be time to step away and find another direction for your life. Maybe you want to stay in the field, but your current employer is driven by Satan himself; maybe you’ve just found that you no longer have any passion at all for what you’re doing. No matter the reason, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
No matter what your financial situation, you can quit your job in a year. Anyone can do it as long as they have a plan and stick with it. Here’s what you do.
Step One: Figure out why exactly you don’t like your current job. Is there simply too much work? Too many aspects of work that are outside of your control? Too many responsibilities that you’re uncomfortable with? People you’re uncomfortable with? Your passion is now elsewhere? Make a very, very detailed list of the problems with your current employer. If these problems are one or two in number, you might be better off addressing these problems directly within the scope of your workplace. For example, if your life is hell at work because of a new administrative assistant, discuss this with an appropriate person in your workplace. There might be a healthy solution that doesn’t involve you walking out.
Step Two: Define, with as much detail as possible, what you plan to do in one year when you quit. Obviously, you’ll have to do something. Likely, if you’re quitting your job for stress-related reasons, it’s going to be something that doesn’t make nearly as much money, especially at first. The same is true if you’re quitting to start an individual creative career, such as being a writer; you’re not going to have much money. So you need to consider doing something that maybe doesn’t pay well, but allows you to continue to live while you follow your muse without being burnt out.
Here’s an example: I know one person who worked as a computer programmer for $50,000 a year who wanted to quit so he could do “nothing.” Since “nothing” was pretty broad, I asked him what he meant. He said he wanted to read and enjoy nature and simply unwind. I suggested that he find a job doing something unstressful where he could probably read while at work, like working at a convenience store. What’s he doing now? He’s behind the counter of a 7-11 and he couldn’t be happier with his life.
Step Three: Figure out exactly how much you spend in an average month. Include everything you ever spend. Don’t forget anything, even if it’s not regular, like auto insurance, taxes, health insurance, and so forth. Look at your pay stubs, every receipt you have, every statement you have, and everything you can remember. Sit down and figure out what you spend on average in a month. It will be surprisingly high; don’t worry, it is for almost everyone.
Step Four: Lower that number as much as reasonably possible. If you want to quit, you’re going to need to get rid of some of the waste. This site is loaded with suggestions on how to do this, but the real key is look for ways to zero out (or nearly zero out) everything that is nonessential. Find free entertainment. Eat cheap food. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need.
If you’re really considering this plan, you may want to spend the first month participating in my 31 Days to Fix your Finances program, a series of articles that revolve around re-engineering your financial picture in terms of your true life goals.
Step Five: Take that difference and start putting it in a high interest savings account. Don’t even give yourself a chance to spend it, have it auto-deducted from your primary checking account. Many people can put as much as half of their pay into savings if they buckle down and commit to it. I recommend HSBC Direct, which gives a 5.05% APY savings account, which basically means for every $100 you put in there, you’ll earn $5.05 in interest over a year. You might also want to pay off any high-interest debt if possible; make those credit card balances vanish.
Step Six: Start transitioning your life efforts towards your post-job life. Let’s say, for example, that you’re quitting to become a writer. Your free time right now should be devoted (as much as reasonably possible) to getting that writing career started. If your plan involves going back to school, you should fully immerse yourself in the process of applying and selecting a school. Meanwhile, gear back at your main job and merely do what’s required. If you’re going to be walking out the door in several months, there’s no reason to kill yourself, plus exerting yourself too much at work will reduce your energy for working at your post-transition goals.
Step Seven: Let the year go by. You can use this time to get used to living more frugally, building up some savings to help you when you quit, and also focus on your goals after quitting your job. For a lot of people, this period convinces them not to quit their job. The simple fact that they’ve readjusted their life priorities and know that they’re setting themselves up to be okay if the job disappears makes much of the stress of the situation leave.
Step Eight: A year later… quit your job. If you’re still miserable at work after a year, but you’ve got money in savings, your worst debt is gone, and you’ve been preparing for a post-job life, now is the time to quit. This really could be the first day of the rest of your life, especially if the stress level of your job was literally killing you.
Remember, no job is worth your life. If you are no longer enjoying life because of your job, get out. Get out now while you still have some life and some spirit left inside of you.