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Quitting My High Paying Job: Walking Away From a Six Figure Career

Quitting My High Paying Job: Walking Away From a Six Figure Career

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 birtha 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

woman about to quit six figure 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 didn’t meet any fellow software developers on the playground. Yet, after being laid off and lining up a new job, I still chose to leave the workforce and willingly quit my six figure job.

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.

Then silently memorized the article on Grown and Flown when I couldn’t find any. Would I, too, regret quitting my job to stay at home with my children?

$1 Million in Lost Wages

money lost when quitting a six figure job

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

leaving a high paying job for happiness

Choosing happiness.

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.

Related articles I’ve written:

T K

Thursday 24th of February 2022

Thank you for posting this. I left my six figure salary because I was burned out and constantly grappled with the guilt of not being fully engaged with my family due to my high stress role. I am happy being home and am currently seeking another form of employment that will require less of my time and focus. I am still coming to terms with a “lesser role” in title and compensation but with constant self- reassurance that I am doing the right thing in this season of my life, I hope I will be able to leave that past completely behind and move onto future adventures.

Women’s Personal Finance: Wednesday Roundup December 22, 2021

Wednesday 22nd of December 2021

[…] was tough to walk away from a high-paying career. It’s also challenging to give away my possessions and live with […]

Jenn

Sunday 19th of December 2021

I’m so glad to have come across this article. I’ve been struggling with my decision to quit my high paying VP job. I grew up extremely poor and making that move felt so wrong. But after getting laid off at the start of the pandemic, I’ve landed and quit two jobs that I simply hated (terrible culture, high stress, marginalized role). I also have a 2 year old at home with no childcare outside of our 80 year old parents. It was just way too stressful. My husband is also in a high stress executive position and we were not adjusting to parenting very well. We used to work 9-9 everyday and get takeout for every meal. Needless to say, that lifestyle is not conducive to raising a family. Anyway, I’ve been struggling and feeling really stupid for giving up the most money I’ve ever made (money I never thought I’d ever be able to make) but your perspective helps me see what I’m gaining and not giving up. I hope to reach a point where I also no longer regret my decision. How long did it take you to move past the obsession over the opportunity cost? Also do you fear reentering the workforce will be impossible? I’m 40 and I feel like this might be a permanent change for us even though I’d love to go back to work in a few years when the kids are in school.

One Frugal Girl

Friday 24th of December 2021

Thank you for your comment. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to reply to it. It took me years, oh too many years to get over the opportunity cost of leaving my high paying job. I blame that on my view of myself as a software engineer. I wrapped myself up in my title. In my profession and in the compensation I received for doing a damn good job. Now, I don't care about such things. I don't care about my career anymore. It was something I did, but it doesn't represent who I am. Are you trying to figure out who you are without your job? I struggled with that for a very long time. Now, I know who I am and I like who I see when I look in the mirror. If you want to return to work keep in contact with your old coworkers. Go out to lunch with them, send them emails from time to time to check in. It also helps to find a part time consulting position if you have the bandwidth. Do you want to return to your old job or a completely new profession? Now is a good time to ask yourself those questions and start training if you want to pivot after your kids start school.

Frugal guy

Tuesday 16th of November 2021

One frugal guy... Hello, and thanks for sharing your story. I am coming myself to the decision that its time for me to quit my high paying job. i started to work for in my dad's small trucking company started by my brother and father 20 years ago. When the company grew i was finishing my Masters degree but was offered a high paying position 15 years ago and i took it instead of pursuing my Law enforcement career. The money was good and i was motivated to buy my first home. So i gave it 100%, long hours and taking on a lot of responsibility and stress. I was always taught by my parents that money is the key to success in life and that you have to work until to can no longer get out of bed. No matter how many millions you have in the bank is irrelevant. So now that I have paid off my house and have a second rental paid for, i find myself scared to jump off the work train. I am 45 and i want to look forward to enjoying my time with my family. I enjoy being the dad that spends alot of time with the kids and love outdoor activities. I want to be able to be free to go to the gym or bike ride every day or when ever i feel like it. I want to travel and not feel the pressure of having no choice but to "get in my metal coffin every day and go to work" (i love that quote from Patrick Swayze, in Point Break). But i have worked my entire life and the feeling of not having an income is scary. Specially because my parent told me that i was insane and should be committed to a mental institution for wanting to quit 5 years ago. They told me that anyone would kill for my income and i was too young to stop working. My siblings and parents basically said they would disown me because i was just trying to be lazy. This lead me to make a decision with my wife that i would work 5 more years and i would quit after that. 4 years have passed and now that its time to begin to make my exit, i am getting cold feet. I am scared to jump because i have always worked and i am making 150k a year. I think since my parents have always ingrained that walking away from a good job is insane, its the reason why i am scared. I have financially put myself in a great position since my house is paid off and i have a second rental. I know that i am ready but walking away from money is super difficult (especially since my parents remind me constantly) I am thankful to come across blogs like these that show that people walk away from high paying jobs to pursue happiness.

One Frugal Girl

Thursday 18th of November 2021

Thank you for your comment. It may help to run your numbers one more time. What can you cut back on? How long can you live on the money you've already saved? What about paying for medical insurance and other high-cost items in retirement. Pull out your spreadsheets and review your figures. Sometimes we can find courage in the data. If you are nervous I would try this before making the decision to quit. Ultimately, you don't have to live by the rules of your family members, but it may help to show them why this isn't a risky plan!

Charlotte

Friday 6th of August 2021

Such a great post and discussion!

When my daughter was 18 months old, the company I worked for re-organized but instead of applying for a new position, I chose to be laid off. I was a SAHM for 2.5 years until she started pre-school. I went back to work then. It was not perfect but 100% the right decision for me. I was able to pick up my career where I left off with a slight pay cut but the following year, I was able to negotiate a significant pay raise.

Now she is 7 and I want to semi-retire so I can be home more. I too am struggling to leave the job, not so much for the money but for being “valued” at my work and I love the company as well. We will reach coastFI in about 3-4 years but I want to semi-retire by next year. I hope to find a WFH job later but I am older now (46) and I don’t know how hard it will be to find a job especially after taking a few years off again.

One Frugal Girl

Tuesday 24th of August 2021

Hi Charlotte, Searching for new jobs when you are older is difficult. I've seen many forty-year-old friends face age discrimination in the workplace, but you should definitely search for options. So many local jobs are now remote. I think you can make this happen!