If someone offered you one million dollars, would you take it? I bet you would emphatically say, “yes, most definitely, without a doubt!”
I never thought I would pass up that much money, but one day I did. I’ve given up $1 million worth of income over the past seven years, and I did so by quitting my six figure job.
If you are saving, investing, and dreaming of financial independence, you probably think I’m either crazy or a complete idiot. After I made the decision, I might have agreed. Since quitting my six-figure job and walking away from a high paying career, I’ve experienced many complex emotions.
A Little History
Growing up, my mom left her job to stay home with my brother and me. As a kid, I wasn’t aware that this was a decision my parents had made. It was just the way our family worked. Every weekday dad drove to a job in the city, and mom stayed home. It was the only world I knew.
Stay-at-home parents were common in my community. None of the moms in my neighborhood worked in traditional 9-to-5 jobs when I was a child.
Then one day, my mom talked about going back to work. I was nine years old and mature enough to let myself in and out of the house alone. (Latch key kids were all the rage back then.)
The Lesson I Learned
That’s when my mom first mentioned her decision to stay home. It was a simple explanation, straight and to the point. Her job wouldn’t cover the cost of child care, so she quit, but now that my brother and I were older, she could return to work.
It’s interesting how my nine-year-old brain internalized and interpreted my mother’s words. I created a mantra of sorts inside my head: after giving birth, a low salary was the only reason to quit your job.
Over the years, I heard this message echoing back to me repeatedly. Women told me they didn’t earn enough to continue working. Many said, “by the time I pay for daycare, I have little to nothing left.”
Many of those women wanted to stay home with their children, but none framed their decision in that context. None of them listed desire as the number one reason for leaving the workforce. Instead, they always mentioned money as the primary reason for staying home.
Quitting a High Paying Job
So imagine how conflicted I felt when I made six figures and decided to walk away from my high paying job. Didn’t people quit their jobs because it didn’t make financial sense to continue working?
I didn’t fit that mold. In fact, I lived the opposite of that. I made too much money to quit my job. In the beginning, walking away seemed like an impossible decision to make, and giving up a high paying job was out of the question.
At the time, I didn’t know anyone who had purposefully left a high paying position.
My female role models at work all remained in their jobs after the birth of their children. No one I knew left their professional careers to raise kids.
I was and still am incredibly proud of my prior career. There is something gratifying about being a female in a male-dominated industry. Sometimes, I still miss the pride I felt in my former role.
Regret Quitting a High Paying Job
So, was it a mistake to give it all up? Did I make a bad decision when I chose to quit my six figure job?
I asked myself that question for years.
I asked every stay-at-home mom I met about her prior profession. I scoured the Internet for stories about other women who gave up high paying careers.
$1 Million in Lost Wages
Why was I so conflicted? Because I spent the greater part of my life obsessed with money. I wrote a blog about personal finance centered on maximizing earnings, saving as much as possible, and investing for the long haul.
My weekly routine consisted of clipping coupons, searching sales circulars, increasing my income, and nickel-and-diming my way to $1 million.
I began working at fifteen and worked throughout high school and college. I was proud of that fact. Who was I without a job? After years of growing our net worth, I found it difficult to stop focusing on wealth accumulation.
Then there was the question of lost wages. What did seven years out of the workforce cost my husband and me? I estimate around $3 million.
At least $3 million! It amounts to over $1 million in lost wages over the past seven years alone. Add on additional compounding for an extra thirty to forty years, and holy mackerel, that’s a lot of missed moola!
And of course, the longer I stay out of the workforce, the more significant that number looms.
Leaving a High Paying Job for Happiness
My situation is unusual but not unique. I was searching specifically for stories of happy, stay-at-home parents who left high paying jobs, but now I realize I should have widened my net.
There are hundreds of reasons people quit high paying jobs to be happy. Each story is unique, but the reasons are all similar.
Most of us walk away from a high paying job to find a deeper purpose beyond our six-figure careers.
While I still don’t find a lot of highly paid parents exiting the workforce, I have discovered an entire FIRE community full of individuals who are leaving money behind.
That’s the case for anyone who considers early retirement, isn’t it?
Do I Regret Quitting My High Paying Job?
Do I regret quitting my high paying job? More specifically, do I regret leaving my job to be a stay-at-home mom? Not at this point. Will I regret it 30 years from now? I don’t think so.
I have many thoughts on the subject (some still conflicting), but I know life shouldn’t be taken for granted. My heart pulled me in this direction, and thanks to significant savings and a spouse who continues to work, I’ve been given the option to stay home.
That’s a personal choice, and it doesn’t reflect on the choices other women make or the fact that many women don’t have the luxury of choice at all.
I don’t worry about money anymore, but sometimes I still fear for our financial futures. What if we get sick or need long-term care? Three million would certainly cover the cost of those bills. Will I regret the decision in the future? Perhaps, if I’m still blogging, then I’ll let you know.
The truth is life is all about choices. I love so many aspects of staying at home with my children, and I don’t regret spending the last seven years outside of a cubicle.
If you handed me $3 million on the day my son was born, would I have felt differently? Most definitely, but thankfully that didn’t happen.
Luckily, I recognize that life is about so much more than money.
Walking Away From a High Paying Job
In retrospect, I wish my mom had said, “I stayed home because I would have regretted leaving you behind each day.” Or “I stayed home because I cherished the time I spent with you.”
My mom could have said, “I didn’t do it out of necessity, but rather out of desire.” Staying home was her preference, so these things all would have been accurate, and hearing those words would have completely changed my mental model.
I wish money hadn’t factored into the way she spoke about that decision at all. I wasted too much time second-guessing my decision for ridiculous financial reasons and feeling guilty for passing up so much cash.
Quit High Paying Job To Be Happy
Long-term happiness didn’t reside in bigger paychecks, long hours, or high-level promotions. The success that I thought might make me happy didn’t.
At the root of it all, my work life and my dream life weren’t compatible with one another. I wanted to leave my high paying job for less stress and more time with my children.
After quitting my six figure job, I mistakenly focused on what I’d given up. Instead, I should have focused on what I received in return.
That’s when it dawned on me. I didn’t give up three million dollars. I left my high paying job for time with my children and exchanged my next promotion for a better quality of life.
Leaving a high paying job for happiness isn’t easy, but that’s precisely what I did.
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