Yup, you read that right: I quit my job. In the middle of a global pandemic.
No, I haven’t lost my marbles, despite what some might think.
“Are you sure you want to do this now with so many people losing their jobs?”, asked one friend. Yep, I am. And I did.
I was ready to take a sabbatical just before ‘the-virus-that-shall-not-be-named’ gave us all a collective kick in the nuts. But as 2020 unravelled into chaos and uncertainty, I decided to stay a little while longer ‘just in case’.
Exactly a year later, my ‘you-need-to-quit-now’ gut instinct was still alive, well and gnawing away at my insides, so I pulled the trigger.
This time, there was no turning back.
Why I quit.
I left my job for several reasons:
- My body and mind were screaming out: “You need to give me a break and spend more time getting me fit and healthy again”.
- I wanted more time to focus on my personal projects (one of them being this blog) that have been floating around in my head for years now.
- I wanted to (finally) get to tackling my list of life-home improvement/optimization to-dos that had grown way too long from being sidelined repeatedly, and give each of them the time and resources they deserve from start to completion.
- The time felt right for me to slow down and recalibrate my perspective on life outside of everyone else’s rules, expectations and ‘normal’ so I can figure out the whats, hows and whys for the next chapter of my life.
- I was plain ol’ ready to do something different.
While I’d taken breaks of 12 months or longer from full-time work before and prepared for all of them responsibly (ie with enough cash reserves and a plan), this was the most financially-prepared I’ve ever been for one.
And considering the events that have unfolded over the past year, I’m glad that I went ‘extra’ this time around.
Here’s how I did it.
Save big or go home.
I’d been saving and investing consistently for well over a decade, but just over four years ago, I decided to go big to speed up my FI progress.
This meant that every ringgit that came in minus expenses was sent to my emergency/cash-cushion fund, my handful of sinking funds (which I set up to cover specific areas of my life), and income-generating investments that pay me even if I don’t work.
Some months, I’d run dangerously low on cash in my savings account because I was so aggressive with funneling whatever cash that came in to my respective funds and investments.
But make no mistake — patience was the name of my chosen game and I’m glad I made the sacrifices that I did.
Yes, I splurged once in awhile so I didn’t feel deprived, but by and large, I kept my expenses low by cooking and packing my own lunches to work, driving an old beater of a car (which in hindsight, probably wasn’t the safest thing to do), saving on rent and sharing costs by living with my family, as well as dropping my old habit of shopping for fun.
It was all worth it.
I now have:
- A 3-year emergency fund-cash cushion that covers my monthly living expenses, in place.
- Sinking funds set up to cover expenses in specific areas that I know will pop up at some point in the future. These allow me to be prepared for them mentally and cash-wise. It’s this sinking fund system that made it possible for me to save up for and buy a new car in cash recently.
- A Freedom Portfolio (inspired by Dividend Magic’s Freedom Fund, although mine isn’t all stocks) that generates enough income to cover my cost of living (which will come in handy should I decide to extend my sabbatical). This is a portfolio I don’t plan to tap into (not the capital anyway) so it can keep growing well into the future.
Yes, I’m financially secure, but I’m still a long way from my goal: Reaching Fat FIRE, which means I’ve got plenty of work (and earning) to do.
As I’m writing this, I’ve been officially unemployed (or is it ‘funemployed’?) for just over 3 months now.
Taking short holidays while I was working full-time was almost never effective in terms of relaxation because it generally takes me anywhere from two weeks to a month to de-compress from a work-dominated headspace.
So as you can imagine, my first month or so away from work were filled with a constant need to go, go, go and get stuff done, which I did by keeping myself busy with various home-improvement projects and my personal creative endeavours.
But now that I’ve slowed down somewhat, I’m finding myself more appreciative of the simple things in my life, like meals with family and friends, going for workouts, rediscovering my love for cooking and learning new things.
Most of all, I appreciate them more because I’m now free to do all these things without the stress and exhaustion from a 9-5 grind constantly creeping up behind me.
Am I planning to slow down to a standstill? Not by a long shot, especially since I’ve got my sights on Fat FIRE. But I do plan to savour this precious slice of freedom I’ve managed to buy myself with sacrifices I’ve made over the past couple of years.
What’s next? I have an idea, but I’m not 100% sure….yet. I’m having fun playing by ear for now, but when I am, you’ll be the first to know 🙂
If you’re thinking of quitting…
Wanting to quit your job is one thing, but actually doing it can be a lot trickier than it seems, depending on what your life situation is.
And when you’ve got bills to pay, it takes plenty of planning ahead to make sure you’ve got yourself and the people who’re depending on you, covered.
Personally, it took me approximately a year-and-a-half to ‘execute’ my resignation, mostly because I wanted to make sure I was 100% ready financially to take the leap.
OK to be fair, you never really feel ready.
Having done this a handful of times, I can tell you this: Once your numbers are in order, you’re more or less OK to pull the trigger.
What ‘getting things in order’ looks like will be different for everyone, but by and large, it’s a good idea that you:
- Have a new job lined up and employment contract signed on the dotted line before you hand in your letter of resignation if you’re not planning to take a sabbatical.
- Have the cash for your monthly expenses x [insert number of months you plan to be unemployed here] (plus a little extra just in case, if possible) safely stashed away in a savings or money-market account that you can easily withdraw from, if you do plan to take a sabbatical.
- Have a 6-12 month emergency fund fully-loaded and ready to cover your basic living expenses. You never know when you’ll need a cash cushion to fall back on no matter how secure you feel (remember 2020? ).
- Discuss your plans to leave your job with your family and/or partner before quitting. If you have a family depending on you, they need to know what’s coming so everyone can prepare for it together.
- Have a personal medical insurance plan going 3-4 months before you resign (since most, if not all policies have a waiting period of up to 120 days before your health benefits kick in) to keep you cushioned against large, unexpected medical expenses.
The more prepared you are financially, the less likely you’ll be to second-guess your decision to quit.
And if you know that leaving will do you more good than harm in the long-run, quit you must.
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