How We Managed To Survive Financially After I Left My Corporate Job.

It was September of 2006 when I finally gave notice at what was turning out to be a dead-end corporate gig. While it paid handsomely, it was so incredibly boring that it was sucking the life out of me. I am a curious learner by nature, and to have days go by with nothing but paperwork to push around was killing my spirit! So after 4 years at this job, casually collecting my big paychecks, I quit cold turkey. I gave them a month’s notice so I could assist in any transition, but guess what? There wasn’t one, because they never got around to hiring anyone. Believe me, it was not a healthy environment. But back to how we survived.

See, I quit without having another job lined up. Most people said I was stupid, and I heard it quite a few times when I first announced in on my site. But while I did not have another gig lined up, I did have a plan, and it has paid off rather well, I must say. We had learned a lot about planning when we moved to the beach and our rent tripled (while our income didn’t) , so for months before I quit, my wife and I started shoveling money into a savings account. This would be the account we would live off if I had not been able to make any money for a while. Within a few months, we had put enough away to equal a few months of my salary, so we felt comfortable with me moving forward with my plan.

One month before I quit, I had my resume professional redone. It was worth the money, but the funny part is that I have not had to use it yet. We also started talking to all of our friends and colleagues to let everyone know that I was going to be out of work in a few weeks, which paid off for me big time, and I started contacting old employers to see what they were up to.

So now, let’s consider this the day I walked out the door for good. I left my back problems, my anger issues, my lack of interest in my job, all at my desk that day and went home. What a glorious feeling! That was a Friday, and on Monday I had a part time job as a web designer. And that job (thanks to a friend of mine), which started off as a 20 hours a week for a little while type thing, is still going strong. Granted, I still only put in 20-25 hours for them a week, but it keeps me honest. 🙂

The rest of my money has come from online ventures. I run this site, I run a website on environment and sustainability issues called The Good Human, and I do a lot of other jobs on the side. All of the income from these other sources balances out the hours I put in for my “employer”, and I get to it all from home and in my own time, and I never had to go back to a corporate gig. It’s been a great 17 months so far and I would not trade it for the world.

The key for us was to plan in advance, even if that did not involve having a job lined up – I was not sure I wanted to go back into the corporate world. So we saved a ton of money, as much as we could. We talked to everyone. We cut back on eating out and other entertainment prior to my last day. We lived even further beneath our means for a time than we normally do, because we knew we had to sacrifice for me to be able to leave my job.

And even knowing now what I didn’t know then, I would still do it the same way all again. I have been working for 14 years now since I graduated college, and the last 17 months of all those years has been the most rewarding and interesting, and I hope I don’t have to ever trade it in to go back!

*Previously a guest post at Five Cent Nickel.

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Comments (28)

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  1. Amphritrite says:

    Having switched jobs a few (*cough*) times myself, I’m with you on this one. It’s all about planning. This last time I switched jobs, I also switched coasts, and although the cost of living was comparable, and most wages were, I ended up taking a state job which underpays me by about 7K a year.

    How am I surviving? I was lucky enough to have some foresight on this and planned appropriately. I kept my costs low while moving, I didn’t buy new furniture for the new apartment but used handmedowns. I was also lucky enough to have a helping hand from my mother and sister at dire times.

    Unfortunately, I went into most of this with enough savings to move and sustain myself for several months, and, after accepting a job, I got laid off three months later. The second round of finding a job was horrible – with no savings and nothing to fall back on, I came very close to declaring bankruptcy to get the creditors off my back.

    Thankfully, I’m pulling out of it now. With proper planning and a little forethought, almost anyone can make it. A good rule of thumb is “Plan for the worst, hope for the best.”

  2. david says:

    “Plan for the worst, hope for the best.”

    I couldn’t agree!!

  3. I’m starting think about leaving my career as well. After years of working in the underpaid, under-respected education field, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t branch out into a higher income field (maybe financial services). This would be a 180 degree turn for me, and would mean giant changes in the way I live my life.

    I’m inspired by people like you, who had the courage to make the change they needed, regardless of whether there was a ‘safety net’ in case of failure. It sounds like you planned well for the transition period, and that it’s working out well for you! Congratulations, and I’ll be checking back to see how you’re doing!

  4. Jesse says:

    Though I don’t normally advocate leaving before lining something else up…if you were that unhappy then it really makes sense. Quite frankly too many people stay in too many dead end jobs they are unhappy in for way too long just for “Comfortability” sake.

  5. Llama Money says:

    Your planning made it possible for you. In fact, it sounds like you really didn’t want to go back to a corporate job anyway…. so not having a job lined up sounds like it’s actually part of the plan. Not sure if that makes sense like it does in my head :).

  6. David says:

    I suppose it could have been part of the plan, but I was not thinking of it that way. But looking back after 1.5 years, it probably was!

    And Jesse- yea, I guess that was my point. We all only live once – do you really want to say that you worked a crappy job you hate your whole life because it was comfortable? However, I was never once to advocate leaving a job without a job either!

    Thanks for the comments everyone…:-)

  7. FFB says:

    Great, inspiring story. Almost makes me want to walk out on my job. Almost. I’ll have to bookmark this and come back to it in a few months for inspiration.

  8. Tom says:

    You are truly an inspiration! I am currently where you were. I have a good paying, dead end corporate job that is sucking the life out of me. Unfortunately, I have a wife, 2 kids, a mortgage and lots of debt. It will be a while before I can take the much needed plunge.

  9. david says:

    Tom – anything is possible, it just takes work. Although I don’t have kids or a mortgage, my wife and I shoveled everything we could at our debt to get rid of it. It was worth “living without” in order to get rid of that monkey. Best of luck!

  10. fathersez says:

    You could be writing my story.

    I am where you were in September 2006. I also have a plan and hope to be able to write about the whole process of walking away, with as equal cheer as you have done.

    Thank you for the encouragement!

  11. Pete says:

    Great post – it’s almost enough to inspire me to up and quit today! (almost).

  12. I quit cold turkey too. I just couldn’t take the monotony of my work.

    So far its been great! actually living off dividends, passive income and side jobs. haven’t replaced all my w2 income, but I’m sure I’ll get there within the year.

    plus I can focus on learning and reading all the stuff I never had time to do before.

    being gainfully unemployed rocks!

  13. […] How We Managed To Survive Financially After I Left My Corporate Job. – I hope to be able to do this one day as well. I’ve always dreamed of stepping out of the corporate job, working for myself and doing what I want to do. It’s articles like David’s that give me hope I might be able to do this. […]

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  17. Do you think you would ever go back? I assume that you, like most bloggers, are relatively young…mid-30s? That would leave you plenty of time to re-enter the corporate world. Or, for that matter, to build a profitable business of your own. If you owned a f/t business, would that feel to you like being back in a job situation similar to what you left?

    For us old bats, the picture is slightly different. At this time, my concern is whether I can hang on to a decently paid job (not great, but more than good enough for government work, which it is) until I’m 66 (full retirement age) or 70 (the longest I think I can bear it). It’s a year-to-year nonexempt contract, meaning I can be canned at will, for no reason whatsoever. So in the back of my mind I’m always thinking (well, “worrying”) about what I will do if & when that happens.

    In some respects, I don’t care. If I were really confident that I could get away with it, I’d give notice today…not because I don’t like the job but because I’m sick of commuting, tired of working and distrust an employer that has treated many of my coworkers in a way most kindly described as “scurrilous.” But a) I’m not convinced that a half-mill in savings will support me for the rest of my life, and b) it darned sure won’t do that unless I sell my home and move someplace lots cheaper, a major upheaval that doesn’t appeal much.

    I have very strong editorial skills, but those are neither as marketable nor as well-paid as your technical skills — it’s unlikely I could make enough to supplement retirement income so that I could stay in my home and maintain a middle-class lifestyle. Besides…I can’t expect to keep working into my 80s or 90s.

    Two friends are significantly younger but still middle-aged. They hate their jobs. Like me, they’re in academic fields that don’t translate readily to the real world, despite (between the two of them) proven fund-raising skills, supervisory experience, and track records as strong self-starters. At mid-life, it’s not so easy to find a new job in a culture permeated with bias against age.

    I think all three of us feel trapped. Only one seriously plans to take a walk, and she has a spouse with a good income and health insurance. The other two of us have quietly made the conscious decision to disconnect psychologically from the workplace, to stay under the administration’s radar, and to do as little work as possible. It would be good to KNOW that we could market our skills on the freelance market for enough to keep the wolf from the door. At least.

  18. Wess Stewart says:

    I’m glad you’ve been successful. My wife would never let me do that.

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  20. david says:

    @Funny About Money – Not unless I 110% had to and was down to my last nickel. And I already have a profitable business – the money I make from blogging, writing, editing, graphic design work all has a tiny overhead of internet access and my rent.

    @Wess Stewart – My wife doesn’t “let” me do anything…we are partners, not bosses of each other! 🙂

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  24. hank says:

    I would consider it a lot more if I didn’t have the kids to worry about. I am in the mortgage and kids situation where it’s not just my wife and I anymore. I still am considering cooking it up, but it has to be a much less risky strategy and the Work From Home benefits are keeping me around certainly, but bravo to you!

  25. Kate says:

    I am glad you posted your story. I went through the same thing 2 years ago when I left my corporate law job, burnt out, without a clue where I would be heading. 2 years later, i have not gone back to law, but i survive on interest from the money i saved from working my butt off as a lawyer, and from doing odd-jobs online and for friends. I have no intention of ever going back to law nor working for anybody else.
    And I am HAPPY. The happiest I have been in a very long time. I make a fraction of the money i used to make, and I dont have a job title, but I have my sanity back, I have my health, and supportive family and friends. Freedom feels wonderful!

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  28. Sherry says:

    I have 19 weeks left until I am free. I must say I am a little nervous about this new chapter but I am choosing peace. We will have socked away enough for a raining day…… living off of my husband income. Here are some of the things we have decided to do to help with the transition…..rent out our home and rent a cheaper apartment (hopefully sell the home in two years when the economy turns around), homeschool our son instead of paying for a private education (not comfortable with public education), and selling my car. Within this time I will have finished my masters program and successfully started a at-home business. Once we have adjusted maybe my husband can join me in the next 5 years. My husband is a local driver; fortunately he doesn’t have the same stresses that I have but the wear in tear on his body is not good. The three of us are looking forward to this venture together 🙂