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How to Quit Your Job With The Support of Your Spouse

{ 27 comments }

A couple of weeks ago, I had coffee with Alice who is thinking about quitting her corporate job. She works more and more with people 10-14 years younger than her and pretty soon, they will have learned everything that she knows. She is stressed out at work and she wants to start her own business. Alice read my story about being a senior engineer and it resonated with her because there are many parallels. At this point in her life, she’d rather find a more flexible job, take a pay cut, and build her own business.

quit job with your spouse's support approvalQuitting a stable job is never an easy decision. There are many obstacles to leaving those regular paychecks behind, but the first thing Alice needs to tackle is to convince her husband to get on her side. Her husband thinks she should double her efforts at work and try to turn things around there. Her boss wants her to be more assertive and control her colleagues more. I agree that she should try to improve her performance at her day job, but I sense that she really wants to give her business a go.

When I first told Mrs. RB40 about my plan to retire by 40, I was met with skepticism and incredulity. Her family had low income for many years when she was growing up and she placed a high value on financial security. In addition, she was 5 months pregnant at the time so imagine how she felt when she heard I wanted to quit my job. Anyway, it took time, but I got her on my side and here is how I did it.

Communicate

I don’t know if it’s like this in your family, but it’s quite difficult for us to talk about serious subjects. Mrs. RB40 knew that I didn’t like my job much, but she thought it was the same general malaise that afflicted all workers. I had to make it clear to her that the job just wasn’t the right fit for me anymore. I shared my annual reviews with her and she saw that I was doing worse and worse every year. My physical and mental health was deteriorating and she could see that the job was taking a big toll on me.

Basically, I had to overcome the mental barrier to “take it like a man” and open up to Mrs. RB40. By communicating clearly and making a case to show her that I’d be much less stressed, she came around and agreed that our family would be better off without my old engineering career. After all, it’s better to have me around for the long term than losing me to a heart attack or something equally dreadful.

So for Alice, she has to convince her husband that life will improve after she quits current job. She has to have a serious discussion with her husband and show why her job is not the right fit for her anymore.

Life goes on without a paycheck

Once Mrs. RB40 got on board with the idea of quitting, then it was time to figure out how to do it financially. We’d lose 2/3 of our income when I quit so that was a big reduction. Luckily, we always lived below our means so our monthly expense was not very high. Our plan was to reduce our expense as much as we could and increase our income through various means. Here are the steps we took.

  1. Track your expenses – This showed us what we spent our money on and we cut back on things that weren’t important. We got rid of cable TV, switched to prepaid cell phones, cooked at home more, got rid of one car, and generally lived a more frugal lifestyle.
  2. Increase cash flow – I shifted the stocks in our taxable account to dividend paying stocks. This created extra cash flow. We increased rental income by acquiring an additional property. I also started making online income from blogging.
  3. Saved 1 year of expense in a saving account – We saved $50,000 in our saving account as a backup. This gave Mrs. RB40 some peace of mind. If things went badly, we could still function for at least a year while I try to find a new job.
  4. Saved and invest all the income from my paycheck for a year – This year long test run showed that we could function without my paycheck.
  5. Health insurance – We made sure that Mrs. RB40’s insurance would cover me and junior. Having one spouse working full time is good in this case.

Alice mentioned that she is willing to work a lesser paying job (part time?) to make ends meet while working on her business. That’s good, but I’d like to see her do other things on this list too. It would be nice to have one year of expense in a saving account so they’d have time to find work in case her husband loses his job for some reason.

Set a timeline

Many entrepreneurs give themselves a certain amount of time to work on their business. Alice can devote one or two years to building her business and if things didn’t work out, she could go back to work in her old career. Her husband probably would be more receptive with some kind of timeline. They could see how well the business does in one year and figure out if it’s worth it to continue pursuing her dream. One year really is a very short time.

What’s the worst case scenario?

Lastly, they’ve got to ask themselves – what’s the realistic worst case scenario? What if Alice’s business didn’t work out after 2 years? Could she go back to work in her old career? Would her skills be outdated? Her business will be in the same industry so I’m not sure what the ramification is. I’d imagine that employers would prefer an entrepreneur with some business experience, but I’m not familiar with her industry.

Go Team

Of course, I’m a little biased because I think everyone should try following their dream. It worked out for my family and I think it can work out for others too. I’m an optimist. The most crucial thing is to work as a team. If Alice’s husband doesn’t support her decision to quit, then there will be a lot of conflicts in her family and it will be even more difficult to succeed in starting a business. Follow some of these steps above and see if he’ll come around.

Do you have any advice for Alice? What else can she do to convince her husband to support her decision to quit?  

Photo credit: flickr christie_verbose

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is increasing his investment in real estate with CrowdStreet. He can invest in projects across the U.S. and diversify his real estate portfolio. There are many interesting projects available so sign up and check them out.

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help DIY investors analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Ibelieve February 12, 2018, 12:14 pm

    Thank you for this article. Great advice. I am currently in a position where we work together and we are very unhappy. The long and short: a year ago we both decided to quit our jobs due to lack of fulfillment and lack of time being spent together. We looked into “couples who work” and took an Inn job together. Through this, we have realized we want to work for ourselves. Our boss is dishonest and a runs her business poorly. This situation has further pushed us to see our desires. We want to embark on homesteading and creating a woodworking business. A lot to take on!!! We have communicated, planned, and are trying to buy land as our first step. We have decreased our living expenses, gotten rid of all furniture and unnecessary items, and saved $5k. We have set goals and realized as you mentioned, life is too short to be unhappy. We are 40 and feel that we have paid our dues and deserve our piece of the pie.
    Alice and her spouse should take a chance. I was terrified to embark on the couples job, not knowing what would happen and now even more so for something that could/ not work. But I feel strongly now after lots of talks that the risk is worth it. We have reached out to family just in case things go south later we can go stay and reboot and go back to “normal” lives if need be.
    The undue stress, health issues and sanity are well worth letting go to be happy. I would rather live below my means and struggle, so to speak, than be losing my mind and my relationship to mediocrity or what society believes how my husband I should live. Take the chance Alice!!! Thanks again RB40!! You give our truth more validity!! Cheers!!

  • Anton Ivanov September 28, 2014, 9:00 pm

    I think communication is really the key here. You both need to be 100% on board with this decisions so the person who keeps on working doesn’t feel like he or she got the short end of the stick.

    Plus it’s a big lifestyle change for both people, and the best way to make it easier on both is to be completely open with each other.

    Great post!

  • Ben Luthi September 25, 2014, 1:20 pm

    Great thoughts. I’m in a position right now where I’d love nothing more than to take the leap into my building my freelance writing career, but we don’t have much saved up. At the rate we’re going, it will be years before that happens. It’s frustrating, but I’m slowly growing my clientele and increasing my rates, so hopefully I’ll eventually get to the point where my side income will be enough to make a smooth transition.

  • Chris Huntley September 25, 2014, 9:50 am

    Hey Joe,
    We met in the airport coming home from FinCon.

    I’ve now had a chance to go through your site and just wanted to say I’m very impressed with what you’ve accomplished, and how you publish your sources of income and goals for all to see, even though you may not have quite hit all your goals.

    I think one thing I’d add to your article here is to start a home based business of some sort as soon as possible after quitting your job. The tax deductions from being able to write off home office expenses, meal, entertainment, etc, are substantial (but of course this only works if you have one spouse still working and paying taxes).

    • retirebyforty September 25, 2014, 9:58 am

      Hi Chris,
      Sorry I wasn’t more talkative at the airport. I got 1 hour of sleep and I caught a bad cold. I’m just starting to feel better today. 🙂
      I love home based business. It’s a great way to occupy your time. Most people wants to keep working and self employment is a great compromise. The tax advantage is really nice too.

  • debs September 24, 2014, 6:59 pm

    Reading this makes me think that maybe we should just sell our house and quit our jobs sooner rather than later. We’re only just over $1m net worth including principle residence though.

    • retirebyforty September 25, 2014, 10:05 am

      Why do you want to quit your job? What will you do after? Please share more with us.

  • Asset-Grinder September 24, 2014, 2:10 pm

    With such a leap I would suggest holding a garage sale or putting items not needed online to sell to give yourself an even bigger cushion. Also treat yourself for doing so. Take a $500 vacation but make a point to sell $1000 worth of stuff. Give the actions a reward!

  • Sam September 24, 2014, 1:46 pm

    Life really does go on without a paycheck. We adapt to our incomes for sure. It’s never as bad as we think!

    • retirebyforty September 25, 2014, 10:04 am

      You’re right that it’s never as bad as we think. Human are great at adapting and entrepreneurs will work things out somehow. I forgot about your article! That was a good one.

  • Justin @ Root of Good September 24, 2014, 11:48 am

    I like that you mentioned “What’s the worst case scenario?”

    I often think that way about big decisions. I can model out how it would probably work, but as long as the worst case outcome isn’t unacceptable, you can always take a leap and see how things work out. Give it a few months or a year and see where you’re at and take it from there.

    • retirebyforty September 25, 2014, 10:02 am

      Unfortunately, people take the worst case scenario too far. People tend to think they’ll lose their house and become homeless as the worst case scenario. However, is that really realistic? Most entrepreneur can go back to work in their old career, start a new business venture, or just work part time to get by. It’s never as bad as you think.

  • Vawt September 24, 2014, 10:49 am

    I agree that setting some clear timelines, monitoring expenses beforehand, and forecasting business costs and living expenses going forward are critical. I would also try to start setting up the business before quitting. Things like writing the business plan, incorporating, getting accounts set up, etc. can all be done ahead of time. It might give her a glimpse of what is to come.

    • retirebyforty September 25, 2014, 10:00 am

      Alice is already starting her business. She has a website and she’s looking for investors. It’s going to be tough for such a small business, though. She’ll try kickstarter and see how it goes. A good business plan is necessary if you need help from investors.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor September 24, 2014, 9:20 am

    You’re surely right Joe. Without her husband on board, her stress level may be higher after she quits than before. Every entrepreneur needs the support of family and friends–that can make the difference between success and failure.

    Maybe there’s an opportunity for Alice to do both–go to part time at her job (or another job) to keep some steady money coming in while also working at launching her business.

  • writing2reality September 24, 2014, 9:17 am

    Definitely a hard sell at times, but as you’ve said, communication is key. The better the communication in relationship, the manageable a decision like this will be. Personally, putting the focus on creating a solid stream of passive income from my dividend growth portfolio and peer to peer lending investments. This will give me the flexibility to pursue other entrepreneurial endeavors as time goes on.

  • Simon Cave September 24, 2014, 8:04 am

    The good point is that she has 2 years to develop her business and to make it work. It’s a good timeframe!

  • nicoleandmaggie September 24, 2014, 7:21 am

    It took a while for DH to quit his job after he realized he wanted to quit. It’s hard to let go of a sure thing to pursue something that isn’t as sure. He took some time off from the job which didn’t quite work out in terms of the start-up he worked at during his time off, but did make him realize that it really was his regular job he hated, not work in general. So we started saving up money and cutting expenses so we had a big emergency fund and could live on just my salary. When we reached that point, he quit. Then he looked for work and worked on side projects for a few months. Now he’s working a different much better job that he loves for 2x the salary. So it worked out.

    We did make these money decisions as a family. It is a lot easier to have one spouse take risks if they’re measured risks. We had a time-line. We had goal-posts. We both read Your Money or Your Life for thoughts on how to get there from here and what to think about and why.

    • retirebyforty September 24, 2014, 10:14 am

      Taking some time off is a great option. I forgot to put that in.
      It’s great that your husband found a better job. Life is too short to work in a job you don’t like. Working as a team is essential when you make these kind of decisions.
      Thanks for your comment.

  • My Dividend Pipeline September 24, 2014, 7:13 am

    Thanks for the tips. My wife similarly thinks I am just going through the “I hate my job” phase so I don’t bombard her with personal finance articles daily or anything too radical. I just occasionally remind her how nice it is when we can just sit around and enjoy some peace and quite without the chaos of life all around us. Then I just keep socking away extra money into long-term passive income accounts. One day in the next few years, I’ll show her in black and white our monthly dividends vs monthly expenses and hopefully she will have an “ah ha!” moment. My plan definitely is a time released strategy that hopefully will play out successfully.

    MDP

    • retirebyforty September 24, 2014, 10:12 am

      It’s nice to have the time to build things up like that. It took me about 2 years before I left my job. I think that’s a good timeline. I’m not sure if Alice is willing to wait that long, though. She wants to devote more time to her business soon. Good luck!

  • SavvyFinancialLatina September 24, 2014, 6:43 am

    I think she’s going to need the support of her spouse. Making a plan together like you and your wife did is very smart. Even though we’re only 24, we already started thinking about early retirement and pursuing whatever we want to do. It’s motivated us to continue living below our means and save. I don’t think I would have ever thought about early retirement if I hadn’t joined the personal finance blogging world. Pretty crazy!

    • retirebyforty September 24, 2014, 10:09 am

      It’s great that you’re working as a team right from the start. You have a goal in mind and you’re working toward it. For us, we didn’t plan to retire early, but we were just lucky that we were naturally frugal. Good luck!

  • Tawcan September 24, 2014, 5:33 am

    Great tips. Communication is very important in any relationships. Mrs. T and I have talked about our finances and our long term plans. We have already had discussions about early retirement and living in different parts of the world. It’s nice to have both partners on the same page. Alice should definitely start the conversation with her husband.

    • retirebyforty September 24, 2014, 10:10 am

      That’s great! I also try to bring up the option of living in different parts of the work occasionally. I wouldn’t mind living full time in Thailand for a while, but Mrs. RB40 likes to have a home base. We’ll see how it turns out in 15 years or so. Maybe we can rent out our place while we’re oversea.

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods September 24, 2014, 4:44 am

    I wholeheartedly agree on the importance of communication. Mr. Frugalwoods and I talk through our finances and our plans in great detail quite frequently. I think it’s important to realize that it’s not going to happen in one conversation. It’s an evolution–just as Alice didn’t come to this decision overnight, her husband isn’t likely to change his mind immediately either. Good luck, Alice!

    • retirebyforty September 24, 2014, 10:07 am

      I agree. It will take time to shore up their finance so I think she’ll have time to work on convincing him.

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