Why You Should Quit Your Job And Go On Mini-Retirement
Disclaimer: If you are truly happy with your career, stop reading this now. I’ve got no words of wisdom for you. Nothing. You lucky son-of-a-b….!
For everyone else, I would like to share my thoughts on why you should quit, how to go on a mini-retirement, and why it made sense for me.
Why You Should Quit
If you are like most people, your career started in an unexpected company, industry, and/or job function. You finished school, interviewed at several places and then eventually picked a job that felt right. You then embarked on a string of related jobs that became the arc of your career.
But let’s go back to the beginning. Why did that first job feel right? Was it simply because you had a good rapport with the interviewer? Maybe you were a fan of the company’s products? Perhaps the industry fascinated you? Or was it simply the highest paying offer you got?
I picked my first job for all of those reasons and it kicked off 23 years of international business development in PC hardware & software, e-commerce, and mobile.
Then on May 30th, 2016, I quit my six-figure job and my entire career without having a clue as to what would come next. All I knew was that I wanted to do something entirely different, something I could be passionate about.
Common Mistakes When Quitting
Before I delve into the ‘why’s and ‘how’s to quitting, let me say a few words on how you should not quit. The mistake most people make is that they wait too long. They wait until the point when their daily routine has become too stressful, too onerous to continue. They wake up one Monday morning in a fit of anxiety and convenience themselves that the time to leave is now.
Next is a race against the clock to find a new job before completely losing it at the old job. It’s what I call the Tarzan Syndrome: not being able to let go of the old vine until a new one is firmly in grasp, even if the new one isn’t ideal. The result is a haphazard search for a new job that is more about starting dates and salary than about what makes you happy. It is merely trading for a new business card and not much else. A couple of years down the road, the pattern will undoubtedly repeat itself.
Why You Should Go On Mini-Retirement
Quitting shouldn’t be about finding better job. I think it should be about finding the right career. To continue the Tarzan metaphor, you need to let go of the vine, spend some time on terra firma and then decide if you want to climb back on the vines or get out of the jungle entirely.
The problem is that letting go without a new vine in hand is really scary. This is especially true if you were like me- I didn’t have a clue as to what I wanted to do next. All I knew was that I needed some time and space to gain a new perspective and break the Tarzan Syndrome. In essence, I needed to retire for a little while. So, I walked away from my job and promised myself that I would not work for at least 6 months.
It took me two months just to get to the point where I wasn’t thinking about my career on a daily basis. Once my mind let go of the past, I spent the next few months taking inventory on my likes/dislikes and daydreaming. Finally, I got to the point where I could start writing down some possible new careers and then evaluated each until I picked one that inspired me.
It will be shocking to my former colleagues, but my next career is not related to technology at all. My wife and I will be starting a home decor business later this month. You see, I have always had latent interests in retail and design, but without taking time off, those interests would have never emerged to the point where I would have seriously considered them for my next career.
How To Mini-Retire
So, now that you know some of the benefits to quitting and staying unemployed for a long while, the obvious question is: How the hell can I go on mini-retirement and still make ends meet?
Well, it isn’t easy. It will take planning, creativity, guts, and a tremendous amount of flexibility, but it can be done.
Plan A: Move To Paradise
The first thing you need to do is to simplify life and drastically reduce expenses before your time off.
In my case, we sold our house, two cars, furniture, and everything else except for five suitcases of clothing and one suitcase of toys for our daughter. Then my wife, 6-year old, and I moved to a low-cost location that was purposely far away from our past lives. We picked Bali. It turns out that there are gorgeous, low-cost places to spend your mini-retirement throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia. (And yes, there are answers for all the problems around visas, health insurance, schooling, housing, banking, etc.)
So in review, we got rid of all of our debt, cut our monthly expenses by 60%, and removed virtually all of our clutter…all while enjoying time in paradise.
Plan B: Don’t Move To Paradise
I highly recommend Plan A, but if it isn’t realistic for you, there is another way. It goes something like this:
- Sell your home or rent it out
- Sell one (or all) of your cars
- Sell off most other possessions
- Move into a low-cost rental near public transportation
- If you have kids in private school, see if you can suspend their enrollment for a semester and home school them instead
- Cancel all your subscriptions
- Eat at home more
- Health insurance will be a problem, but perhaps you can elect the cheapest coverage possible just for the time you are out of work.
You might be surprised by how much savings you can recoup and how much you can cut out of your monthly budget. Who knows? After going through this experience, you might discover that you don’t need as many “essentials” as you once thought.
It will take you several months of preparation before you can tell your boss, “I quit”. First of all, you should keep working at least until the end of your next bonus period. Also, you will need at least 3 months to rent/sell your home (and other possessions) and to plan what to do about your health insurance, children’s schooling, etc.
Equally importantly, make sure that when you do leave, you do so on good terms. Give your employer ample notice, and help however possible to fill your void before you are gone. Don’t betray anyone’s trust or badmouth them before or after you quit. If your new career falls flat, you’ll probably revert to your old industry/job function and will eventually cross paths with all those you left behind. So, in between tendering your resignation and leaving your job, you should work on mending relationships, not burning bridges.
So that’s it. Take at least a half-year mini-retirement to give yourself the time and space to plan your next career. In my case, I went from high-tech exec to starting a new business selling home accessories.
Of course, if my new career fails, I will have lost 1+ year of salary and wasted over a year’s worth of living expenses. Sure, it is risky, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you have any comments or questions or want to know more about the details of Plan A, I’d love to hear from you.