Why leaving my job in finance was the best decision ever

This is my third guest post at Get Rich Slowly. The responses from my first two stories — Budgeting for a Lifestyle Change and Living Like a Millionaire on Pennies a Day — were all over the map. I received comments ranging from folks calling me irresponsible and ungrateful to people who were extremely supportive of the changes I'd made. I've thought a lot about these responses over the last year and a half.

Finance is one of those professions where, generally speaking, the older you get, the more respect you have. Despite having a good investment track record over the few years I'd been in the market, my advice was often disregarded by my employer due to my age and relative inexperience.

I could have stayed for another five or ten years (or more!) and eventually built up what some people might call experience — but still be left largely unqualified to provide investment advice.

So in October of 2009 I made the decision to leave my job.

Nearly two years later, I am certain that leaving my job as a financial analyst was not only the best decision I've ever made, but also one of the more responsible.

While gaining respect in the finance world is tough — it's exponentially more difficult at 24. Would you trust a 24 year old with your money? Would you hand them a million dollars knowing full well they have no idea what it's like to have that much money themselves, let alone how to manage it?
Yeah, I wouldn't either.

Sure there are exceptions to the rule, but that's a battle I didn't want to fight. There are better ways to gain credibility and knowledge than to put up with years of neglect to get there. Getting out from behind a desk for a few years to see the world makes you much more prepared to give advice later in life.

While I was at this job, I took a two-week trip to Brazil. During that time, Petrobras was a company that'd been on my radar, but I knew nothing about the politics and culture of Brazil. Spending just two weeks there introduced me to insights and opinions about the country, and subsequently the company, that I never would have been able to extract from an Argus report.

Choosing to leave my job while I was young has allowed me to see parts of the world first-hand that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to see if I'd stayed with my job. Should I choose to go back to a position like the one I had, it gives me credibility and experience that I never would have obtained otherwise.

I've been forced to become recession-proof.

To say the last few years have been tough economically would be putting it lightly. Had I stuck around, I would have most likely suffered another pay cut or two, and might even have lost my job. Then where would I be? Probably looking for another job.

By leaving when I did, I was forced to get creative with my income opportunities. I started formulating ways that I could survive independent of where I was living, while doing things that I could establish expertise on regardless of my age.

Photography, search-engine optimization, small-business creation — these are all skills I've managed to profit from, and they're skills I never would have learned otherwise.

Looking back, by choosing to pursue my passions, my former company benefited, my former clients benefited, and I benefited.

When I left, my employer no longer had the burden of training a recent college grad. When there are only four people in the company, that's a huge time commitment and financial burden. I was replaced by someone who had been in the finance world for nearly two decades. He's done much more than I have, both in life and finance, and has the background to add significant value to the organization and the clients.

Over the past two years, I've been able to travel, build businesses, and become a much more well-rounded person. Had I stayed in my cubicle, I wouldn't have had that opportunity. I could go back to that job today feeling much more confident about my abilities as an analyst, simply because I now have a basis for reference.

Luckily, I was afforded the luxury of exploring a variety of things that interested me, and in turn have found a much better fit for myself and everyone around me.

Irresponsible and ungrateful? I'd like to think I've been anything but.

Have you ever made a major career move despite the uncertainty? How'd it work out for you?

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mike
mike
9 years ago

Sean, I looked at the first comment after you wrote Living Like A Millionaire, and I think you’d agree, no matter what you write, there will always be naysayers. And it seems that on this site, it’s becoming more regular for some reason. Since you’re into web based business building, what do you think about this idea: http://vagabondover50.wordpress.com/ I don’t have the talent to make it go, but if you or anyone wants to take off on the idea, please feel free. My dad retired at 47. Though frugal, taking a hot stove to his hotel room for example, he… Read more »

imelda72
imelda72
9 years ago
Reply to  mike

I agree that comments here have been veering more heavily towards the negative lately. I’m guilty of it myself. Wonder if it has to do with the mood of the country….

(for those in/from the U.S.)

Btw, you’re Vagabonding after 50 site sounds like a lovely idea, but you might want to reconsider calling everyone over age 50 “seniors”!!

Laura
Laura
9 years ago
Reply to  imelda72

IMHO, it struck me that maybe one reason why Sean’s article provoke some negative reaction is because it’s easy to perceive his approach as being a grasshopper instead of an ant – instead of industriously working at one position at someone else’s company and building a retirement fund, Sean is hop-skipping around doing this, that, & the other to make ends meet. It’s an approach we tend to associate with financially irresponsible people (not that Sean is one), so I think his posts can push buttons. That said, put me squarely in the camp that says “More power to you,… Read more »

Stellamarina
Stellamarina
9 years ago

Good on you!

Your comments about your learning experience in Brazil reminded me of a book I read a good many years ago….Some money man called Rodgers who motor-cycled around the world and had a whole learning experience re international investment.

Financial Samurai
Financial Samurai
9 years ago

Hey Sean,

It’s been fun to follow your journey. It’s true. The longer you are in one spot, the easier it becomes, and if you were to stay at your job when you hit 30, you’d have a lot more respect, income, and responsibility. Something about 30 makes you that much more respectable, whether true or not.

Good luck with your journey! I think it’s a lot of fun and very entertaining!

Best, Sam

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago

“I could go back to that job today feeling much more confident about my abilities as an analyst, simply because I know have a basis for reference.”

“know” should be “now”

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

Fixed. Thanks!

maria
maria
9 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

Are you the same Amanda that comments at The Simple Dollar regarding typos, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes?

Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
9 years ago

Yeah, people will ALWAYS naysay. I still get “the lecture” when I tell people what I want to do with my life (actually, there are a few things I want to do with my life, and all of them get me the lecture) because it doesn’t make enough, isn’t respectable enough, I should just grow up, etc.

Do what you’ve got your heart set on and what you’re good at. The rest will fall into place, as you have found out.

Brenton
Brenton
9 years ago

I have to say, while mildly interesting, articles like are not useful to 99% of the population in any way at all. I have a baby on the way, I cant just quit my job in order to scrape by on odd jobs while I travel the world. I guarantee you most of the people reading this post are thinking exactly the same way.

It seems like personal finance has somehow morphed into “How to quit your job and travel while making money via blogging(or whatever).”. With some hippiness thrown in about how bad globalization and eating meat is.

/rant

imelda
imelda
9 years ago
Reply to  Brenton

Hmmm, I agree that this post wasn’t that useful, but not because it doesn’t apply to most people. Plenty of parents become entrepreneurs.

Man do I agree with your second statement, though! I think the Tim Ferriss/ Chris whatever (world domination guy) mentality is really taking over!! It gets repetitive and tiresome.

Well Heeled Blog
Well Heeled Blog
9 years ago
Reply to  imelda

It’s the ol’ lifestyle design / minimalist / pick up your life, move overseas, and teach other people to do the same movement. OK – that was a little tongue-in-cheek, and I do admire Sean for making a change and creating something positive out of the experience.

BUT, I also think it’s important to realize that this brand of “lifestyle design” isn’t for everyone, and that it’s OK that it’s not for everyone.

PB
PB
9 years ago
Reply to  Brenton

I like the creativity in articles like this. And being in higher education, I see a lot of young people who would be better off for a “gap year” or some sort of experience before starting college or the next part of their lives. It really lends focus to what is important to the individual.

So many of the choices in my own life were made out of fear that I find joy in other people’s courage.

Kaytee
Kaytee
9 years ago
Reply to  PB

The sad thing about taking a gap year between high school and college is that it takes you out of the running for quite a number of scholarships and grants. Mostly those geared towards high school seniors who meet x, y, z criteria. The key wording being high school senior. Hopefully, this has changed since my days of taking a year off between high school and college to work and decide what I could possibly want to study (1999-2000)

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Kaytee

I think it depends on where you live. Scholarships aren’t as common here in Canada as they are in the U.S., so that wasn’t an issue with a lot of students I taught. Some kids would benefit from the experience — not to mention the additional savings — of working for a year before entering university. In this economy though, I wonder how possible that is.

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Brenton

I’m not about to quit my job and move overseas either 😉 But I think articles like this help people to see new possibilities. Even if we don’t take advantage of them ourselves, we might be more understanding and supportive of people who do. When I was teaching high school, a lot of parents were stuck in the mold that their child must go straight to university and then to a preferably high paying, white collar job somewhere. That path doesn’t suit everyone, but people are amazingly resistant to things like taking a year off to work or volunteer before… Read more »

Ann
Ann
9 years ago

I found this post most timely!!! I am retired and happily busy volunteering. One volunteering gig has developed fleas in large swaths of carpet near where I work for them. And I have gotten bitten 7 weeks in a row!!!

Since they cannot afford to replace the carpet , I am regretfully going on break from working there. I love the folks there and the work itself, but your post helps me focus of what I can learn and contribute, and great people I can meet by serving somewhere else…

Thank you!!

Beth
Beth
9 years ago

Good for you 🙂

I went back to school at age 26 and never looked back. I met my fair share of naysayers, including my family and friends! Some were lucky enough to have high paying careers that they were passionate about, and others simply were of the mindset that a job is just a pay check so you might as well stay where the money is.

We all have different approaches to our jobs/careers so I think we have to do what make sense for us — even if it doesn’t make sense to everyone else.

Briana @ 20 and Engaged
Briana @ 20 and Engaged
9 years ago

I had the decision made for me: my job laid me off. It definitely put me in a situation where I was forced to reevaluate what I wanted to do with my life and my career. I’m now pursuing entrepreneurship.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
9 years ago

“it’s exponentially more difficult at 24.”

That word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Sorry, pet peeve — it annoys me when people want to use “exponentially” as a smarter-sounding synonym for “much”.

Joe
Joe
9 years ago

Inconceivable!!

Yeah, its an awkward use of the word… if he wanted to use a more interesting math related term there I would recommend “orders of magnitude”

Emily
Emily
9 years ago

I’m glad that things have worked out for you, I will have to go back and read your previous two articles. It’s a timely topic for me as I’m 27 and am preparing to change career/ possibly go back to school. The scary part is that I may need to quit my current job before I have something solid lined up for the future. But I’m on a career path that I knew was wrong for me at 20, but I stuck with it because by then it was the only degree I could finish within 4 years. Then I… Read more »

Jason
Jason
9 years ago

How timely! I just left a 13 year career in public education (High School Counselor) to pursue photography. Not even 30 days ago I walked into an office and resigned. It was THE most difficult decision I’ve ever made, yet the most confident thing I’ve ever done. It was not a quick decision…actually years in the making. Two weeks in Greece this past summer helped me speed things along! After almost a month, I cannot ever imagine going back to that mindset. I work at a completely different pace and in a completely different way now. It is an amazing… Read more »

bobj
bobj
9 years ago

Maybe quitting saved your life as well.
I look around the office and the stress is making everyone unhealthy!

My grandpappy always said..”your health is your wealth”

ceebee
ceebee
9 years ago

I quit my ‘dream job’ when it became a nightmare. Since then (8 years ago) I’ve gone in a completely different career direction, very happily, and I didn’t go traveling/blogging or start a business. I just got into a different line of work. Sometimes leaving is the best or only option. To Naysayer No. 6 I say, don’t be so literal. No-one’s suggesting everyone quit their steady job and go blogging. But everyone CAN look at their situation and decide if something needs to change, and if it does, to make the change, always testing and adjusting to suit individual… Read more »

MikeTheRed
MikeTheRed
9 years ago

Like a lot of posts here that aren’t “how to” types of articles, I feel the naysayers in the comments are getting hung up on the details and are completely missing the overall point. It’s not about quitting your job and trying to become a full-time blogger, or travel the world on $5 a day. It’s not about going minimalist and abandoning all material possessions etc. The big take-away here should be “Take charge of your life” and focus on what will make your life better rather than what will make you simply “successful” by others measures. I can’t even… Read more »

Brenton
Brenton
9 years ago
Reply to  MikeTheRed

I dont think its a good idea to reccommend to people that they should quit their good paying jobs in their 20s during a slow economic time, in order to work odd jobs and travel the world. That sounds like the opposite of good financial advice.

Yaryna
Yaryna
9 years ago

I left a job in the financial sector to join the U.S. foreign service 10+ years ago…took a 2/3 pay cut, but have been paid back in interesting experiences all around the world instead…(It also forced me to get my financial life in order, which I’ve managed to do with the help of GRS and other tools…)

Always said I would leave the job if it became boring…over a decade and counting!

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
9 years ago

After a layoff from my almost 6 figure salary 3 years ago, I took a job as the operations manager of a pet supply store. Because I wanted to. *gasp* While Im back in the Corporate Jungle now, I learned so much about myself in that job. About small business. About management. About myself as an employee and what I was looking for from a job. Such a hugely enriching experience. I wouldn’t trade it for all the potentially lost income. Its no about running away and blogging. Its about changing your circumstances. If you are unhappy with something? Fix… Read more »

Carrie Smith @ CarefulCents
Carrie Smith @ CarefulCents
9 years ago

You have done what I dream to do. I’ve been lucky enough to find extra sources of income and other creative outlets, but my real passion is to quit my full time job. So I can travel and live a little more exciting lifestyle. Bravo to you for taking that chance!

Chris
Chris
9 years ago

Nice article. It is important to constantly try and figure out what is best for you and if you have it your family on a regular basis. Sometimes you need to pick up and travel the world. Sometimes you need to settle down and enroll your kid in public school. It is okay to not do what everyone else tells you is right, because it may not be what you need.

Tony
Tony
9 years ago

I’m sorry, but to me it sounds like hogwash your comment that by traveling to Brazil you somehow obtained more insight into Petrobras. If that was the case all Brazilian investors in Petrobras should have a better track record than international investors which of course is nonsense.

You may have had your reasons to quit your job but please don’t try to find amazing positive byproducts of your decision.

Stephen
Stephen
9 years ago

Sean,

I’m in exactly the position you were in back in 2009. ust today submitted my “resignation” for the end of September. s worried as many around me are, it’s good to hear from other like-minded people who feel that leaving their job behind the desk might be the best move they ever make. I’m excited to find something that is better for me.

Megan
Megan
9 years ago

Great article! I worked for years in a job that was just that, a JOB. After having my second child, my husband and I realized that financially, it didn’t make sense for me to continue working at this job – after paying for daycare, I was basically making about $50/month. I am now at home with the kids, and I started my freelancing career. I’ve tackled assignments that I never would have dreamed of had I stayed in my old job. I’m also in the process of writing my first novel, which I probably wouldn’t do if I never took… Read more »

Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey
Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey
9 years ago

The most important things in life are not learned inside the four corners of the classroom nor within the boundaries of our office cubicle. I am glad you made the right decision of leaving your job… and enjoying it.

Jenn
Jenn
9 years ago

To the naysayers:

I read GRS in my blog feeder. I popped over here to the website because, although I am old enough to be Sean’s mother, I am about to make a career change, and wanted to see if there were any hints or tips in the comments that might help me.

I do not plan on traveling the world and blogging (I have two kids at home), but I do appreciate these types of articles. They help give me the confidence that I need to make what I know deep down inside is the right choice for me.

Lee
Lee
9 years ago

Being a Brazil lover went last year and feel hard to this vibrant country. I have always had a dream of working and living to Brazil. Would love to understand how it can be done. I have never even thought of opening a business there. I’m quite inspired.

Rebecca
Rebecca
9 years ago

I have a question: Could you write an article on different ways to reduce taxes for someone who earns a good living but doesn’t own a home and had no typical deductions.

That would be a great article!

Thanks

Teva
Teva
9 years ago

Sean, Appreciate this article. At 25, I too work in finance, and am planning on pursuing my passion– to become a naturopathic doctor– beginning in 2012. Yes, there’s lots of uncertainty, including where I will live, taking classes still needed before starting school, and then, of course, paying for medical school. In the last year and a half, I’ve been able to pay off all my debt (family, moving expenses, student loans), establish solid credit, and support myself. I now have more confidence than I did before, which is why I am able to realize that going after your passions,… Read more »

Elwanda Clayter
Elwanda Clayter
7 years ago

Happy to have found such a great blog

Brock
Brock
4 years ago

Man, totally agree. Glad you went for it 🙂

The materials that we own, come to own us, eventually. This also includes a job.

I made the decision to travel the world only a few weeks ago. Pumped.

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