Is Unlimited PTO a Double-Edged Sword?

Our company announced some benefits changes last week.

On the whole, they were actually really good changes.  They will now offer 12 weeks of paid maternity leave.  (I won’t get to use this (we’re One and Done!), but I’m really happy for the employees who will get to use it.)  They also upped our paternity leave to four weeks and gave US employees another holiday.

They also changed our time off policies.  We now have a hybrid program where some people get “flex PTO,” some people get a bucket of accrued PTO, and some people get a bucket of vacation and a bucket of sick time.

I don’t work in HR, but I have enough context to know why some of these changes were made – to manage regulatory complexities of doing business in a variety of locations, to keep our benefits competitive so we can continue to attract good employees, but also to manage the significant cost of providing benefit programs.

I’m actually now in the bucket of employees who get “flex PTO,” which means there is no accrued amount of PTO given to me in any given year.  We are left to manage our PTO to our own needs.  It isn’t exactly unlimited PTO per se, but there is some flexibility on how much time we can take each year.  A guideline for amount of time to be taken was communicated as part of the change.  The amount of PTO I accrued historically falls exactly in the middle of those guidelines.

In my experience, people are pretty emotionally invested in their benefits.  I had an accrued balance of PTO that evaporated overnight.  Does that annoy me?  Yeah.  But it’s not the end of the world.  However, I know there are some others in the same situation as me who aren’t happy with this change in philosophy on managing time off.

So is Flex PTO Good or Bad?

I’m interested to see how this will play out at my company.  There are definitely some pros and cons from both the company’s and the employee’s perspective.

Pros:

  • Reduces cost of administrative overhead and eliminates need to pay out PTO when employees leave (pretty sure this factored into my company’s decision – $$$)
  • Conveys trust in employees to manage their work autonomously
  • Favors performance-based results over sheer hours worked
  • Is generally viewed as a positive benefit as it encourages work-life balance
  • An attractive benefit to recruit good candidates to the company

Cons:

  • Have to ensure employees don’t abuse the policy – which forces managers to more effectively manage employee performance (not a particular strength for my company)
  • If not administered well, it can actually lead to a culture where people feel like they aren’t allowed to take time off.  (I actually talked to a long time employee who felt like this would be a problem – her accrued PTO was something she “earned” and couldn’t be taken away.  She fears that bad managers could discourage people from taking time off now.)
  • Flex PTO levels the playing field – there are no advantages given to long-term employees.  Previously, PTO was accrued based on seniority – I had the max amount because I’ve worked here for a long time.  Now, anyone who is hired into a job that has the flex PTO plan will automatically have the same time off benefit as me.  For some long-term employees, this is frustrating.

My company is generally know historically for it’s work-hard play-hard culture.  As it has grown, that workaholic culture has been diluted somewhat, but it still exists.  I definitely see the flex PTO as being a risk in some departments as it could discourage certain teams from taking needed time off.

Ultimately though, this policy change has little effect on me.  I’m really lucky that I’m managed very autonomously and I already manage my time off based on the driving idea behind flex PTO.  My time off is based on the fluctuations in my workload as well as overall life demands (such as sickness or a sick kiddo).

Do you have a flex PTO policy?  Does it seem like a good idea or a bad idea to you?

A Look Back: One Year of Being FIREd Up

Real talk, y’all.

This little blog celebrated its first anniversary on November 3rd.  Two weeks ago.  And it has taken me THIS LONG to write a post about it.  Which says a lot about how the past couple of weeks of my life have gone.

Fittingly, the anniversary landed smack dab on the weekend that I attended Cents Positive.  So I had to get a blog post out first about that.  But the Cents Positive weekend led to some sleep deprivation for our whole family.  Then last weekend my mom visited.  Then this past week we had a sick kid which meant more sleep loss.  All this occurred while I was trying to maximize the actual time I had at work, since I had to take a few hours of PTO to watch the sick little one.  (She’s fine, BTW.  Just the first cold of the season.  But she had a fever and couldn’t go to daycare a couple days this past week.)

Here’s that first post from a year ago, if you’re interested.  Guess what?  The reasons I put in that first post for why I set up this little blog?  They’re still true.  Especially these bits:

  • I want to interact more with this community and continue to learn from what other bloggers have to offer.
  • I don’t want to spend the next 17+ years slaving away in a cubicle, working for someone else, doing something that doesn’t provide fulfillment, when instead I could be spending more time with my daughter and spouse.
  • We probably won’t reach true “financial independence” in the next 5 or 10 years.  But I do know that the less we spend, the more we can save and invest, which does provide FREEDOM and OPTIONS to make different choices about how we work in the future.

It’s interesting how we can plan as much as we want and still, the world has surprises waiting for us.  A few surprising things from this past year that I wrote about on the blog:

A few other posts you might want to check out:

  • My financial freedom manifesto (part 1 and part 2)
  • The post with the most shares as of late
  • The post that seems to bring in the most consistent Google traffic

So, what do I have planned for year 2?  Honestly, there is no big vision.  I would love to post more than I have been lately, but if I can at least post enough to keep the blog from going dormant that will make me happy.

Most of my favorite personal finance blogs are exactly that – personal.  I love reading stories of how other people are navigating the interesting complexities of managing their money.  So in year 2, I imagine most of my blogging will be providing updates on how the FIREdup household is doing that too.

Thanks to everyone who has followed along in year 1.  Can’t wait to see what year 2 has in store!

Financially Empowered Women: My Experience at Cents Positive

This past weekend I attended Cents Positive, a retreat for women who are into money and financial independence (FI).  The event was spearheaded by Tanja, who writes a great FI blog over at Our Next Life and early retired nearly a year ago.

I signed up for a ticket a long time ago but I waffled a bit on going.  I haven’t been away from my daughter overnight yet and wasn’t sure a trip where I would be out of town for 3 nights was the right choice for my first time away.  What we ended up doing is making it a family trip.  (This is where the flexibility of Mr. FIREdup’s freeelancing works out pretty well.)  I sold my ticket for the all day Friday blog event and instead we spent the day doing family stuff, including a trek to Red Rocks.  We were back to the hotel in plenty of time for the Friday night kickoff for the main retreat.

The Retreat

Friday night we had an icebreaker game to get people interacting and meeting each other.  This was pretty key since there were about 85 women at the event.  After the networking game there was food truck dinner and more informal chatting.

Saturday morning was SUPER early for us as my toddler buddy decided to wake up at 4am and not go back to sleep.  I am a very lucky gal, because my exhausted husband took care of this wild little beast all day while I attended the retreat from 9:30 to 6.  There was lots of good stuff on the agenda:  more networking, a presentation from Kara, amazing ignite talks from attendees, a live recording of the Fairer Cents, and a discussion on health insurance.

Sunday was just a morning session and was more unstructured.  We heard from some attendees who are already retired, discussed how to build the community, and then attendees led 10-minutes mini-sessions on various topics.

Was it Worth It?

So was it worth my time?  Absolutely.  I met many incredible, financially empowered women on the FI path, all moving towards the same goal but with totally different journeys along the way.  There were attendees from all these various categories:

  • Low, middle, or high earning
  • Single or partnered
  • With kids, without kids, or wanting kids in the future
  • Sharing money with a partner, or keeping it separate
  • Working for a corporation, the government, a non-profit, as an entrepreneur, on a break from traditional work, or already retired
  • Wanting to retire from a disliked job, shift to a more meaningful career, or continue working in an enjoyable career while still pursuing FI
  • At the beginning of their financial journey, in the long slog towards FI, or nearly at the end

Let’s be honest: retiring at 30 is not practically feasible for most people.  But meeting the ladies at this event reinforced this for me:  FI may not be for everyone but there’s room for a lot of people in this movement.  Don’t let someone tell you that you don’t belong because you don’t fit the stereotype.  

For me, FI represents freedom, independence, a life with more purposeful work and more time with family and friends.   Though I’m not on a fast path to retirement, the worst case scenario is that I “only” retire on time, but with plenty of savings to enjoy my retirement.  And how can that possibly be a bad situation?

Disappointments

My only significant disappointment was that there were many people I didn’t really get to talk to.  It’s difficult to interact with 85 different people when you have such a short window of time.  This was probably exacerbated by the fact that I spent some of my free time with my family instead of the ladies at the retreat.  But all the people I interacted with were very welcoming and easy to talk to and I had some really great conversations.

Takeaways

There were a few more practical takeaways for me, which included:

  • Since I am the household CFO, I need to do a better job of making sure my husband knows where all our assets are and has the account details.
  • I got some fun tips on how to teach kids about money.  And one of the ideas I can probably start in a year or two, which was earlier than I expected.
  • Before I went to this retreat, I didn’t tell anyone in real life about it (other than my husband).  But I’m going to do a better job of subtly sharing my financial literacy with others, especially the women in my life.

Thank yous!

Tanja, you really are a community builder. Thank you for creating this event and bringing together such an impressive group of women!

And THANK YOU to all the ladies I had a chance to meet this weekend.  Keep on being “weird,” because more of our weirdness is needed in the world.

When Unemployment Ends: An Update

It was the end of April when Mr. FIREdup lost his job, and it’s been quite some time since I’ve provided an update.  So how are things going?

Unemployment and Job Searching

Mr. FIREdup was able to get unemployment benefits for a while.  During this time, he was applying for jobs every week.  Unfortunately, most of the applications disappeared into the ether, with no follow up at all.  He did spend some time talking with a potential employer about a job that was very similar to the one he left in April.  However, neither he nor I had a good gut feeling about the job.  I don’t think it would have been bad, but I don’t think it would have been great, either.  The joy of living below our means is that we aren’t in a financial situation where he has to take a job just to pay the bills.   

Another Option?

The hubby has been talking to one of his old bosses since this spring about the possibility of going to work for him again.  His old boss runs his own small company and has kept his business going through both good times and lean times.  He was interested in hiring my husband again, but just couldn’t quite justify the cost without the long-term business to support it.  So he had a proposition for Mr. FIREdup to do some long-term freelancing.

This freelancing option was being considered at the same time as the full-time job mentioned previously.  We decided that we were in a good enough place financially that we could handle the fluctuations in his income if he chose to freelance.  He has a great working relationship with his old boss and felt like he could learn and grow more from that work than from the full-time job that he was being considered for.

Freelancing Begins

Mr. FIREdup is now several weeks into his freelancing gig.  The weekly pay varies depending on the projects going on that week.  Most weeks have been a small amount, but he is now working on a couple projects that will pay more (but also require more work output, of course).   The nice thing is that Mr. FIREdup can work mostly flexible hours and can usually work from home.  I’m not a night owl, but my husband can often get a lot of productive work done late in the evening when the creative genius strikes.

Family Time

The benefit of Mr. FIREdup working a flexible job is that he has time to pick up some extra household work during the week, such as grocery shopping, laundry, mowing the lawn, etc.  This means it’s a lot easier for us to do fun family things on the weekend.  Mr.  FIREdup also has the time to make dinner early most nights of the week and have it ready in time to soothe our hangry toddler.

A side benefit is that it’s a lot easier for us to go out of town or plan events that require time off.  I’ve been at my job for a while, so I have plenty of PTO.  Mr. FIREdup didn’t have that luxury before.  Now, we only have to consult with one employer to plan time away, rather than two.  (He can always work while we travel if necessary, too.)  As an example:  I took a few hours of PTO this past Friday and the two of us shared a margarita and chatted on a quick afternoon date before running errands and picking up our daughter a little early from daycare.

…But Still Not Enough Time

The thing I’ve been working on is balancing my expectation regarding household needs against Mr. FIREdup’s work obligations.  I am learning to be more realistic about the number of household chores he can take on.  It’s easy for me to forget that even though he’s not working a traditional job outside the house, his freelancing work is still real work and some weeks it’s nearly a full-time obligation, depending on what project he is completing.  While we have more free time as a family overall, there are still some pesky household to-do’s that will continue waiting to get crossed off that to-do list.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Future?

We don’t know what the future holds for this freelancing gig.  It could disappear as soon as the spring if the client doesn’t continue to have the funding to pay for the work.  Mr. FIREdup does continue to keep an eye on full-time jobs as well.  It’s a little scary but also a little exciting to daydream about what he might be doing in the next chapter.

Gratitude

While our saving for FI has slowed down some, it hasn’t slowed down nearly as much as I expected.  Mostly I have my well-paying corporate job to thank for that, but it’s also the result of the accumulation of good financial decisions over the years.  Honestly, some days I feel like I’m getting away with something, because we don’t have two adults in our household that are frantically working 50+ hour weeks while trying to care for a child and have some semblance of a personal life.  That vision of “success” has become so ingrained in our societal expectations that it feels almost like there is something wrong if we’re not adhering to it.

Financial Freedom = Flexibility for Lifestyle Design

This pause in the rat race of having two full-time working adults in our household continues to make me think about financial freedom and the trade-off between time and money.

Though I’m a proponent of FIRE, I don’t think it’s likely that we’ll both fully “retire” anytime soon.  I think it’s much more likely that our future holds a mix of work like what we are doing now – freelance/full-time, part-time/full-time, or possibly even part-time/part-time or freelance/part-time?  That would be amazing!

What mix of work works best for your (or your family’s) situation?  What kind of time vs. money trade-offs do you make currently?

Small Steps, Big Gains – Q3 Goals Recap

In September I set a personal goal to exercise at least 10 minutes every day.

How did I do?

28 out of 30 days last month, I met this goal!  And a strange thing happened along the way.

Because I spent part of the month battling knee and back pain (#thisis40), many of those days, my activity didn’t consist of running or other high impact activities.  Instead, I chose to walk.  And as a result, I logged more miles of walking than I have in any month in the past three years.  These small amounts of activity, done almost every day, resulted in more mileage logged than in other months where I’ve logged fewer, but longer activities.

This feels like an analogy for where our household is with our financial progress, too.  Since April, when my husband lost his job, we’ve slowed down on the savings and investments.  But those dollars trickling in to my 401(k) every paycheck are steadily increasing my balance over time.  Progress is progress, whether it happens $1 at a time or $1,000 at a time.

Here’s a look at how my 2018 goals are shaping up now that we’re three quarters of the way through the year.

Financial Goals

Max out 401(k).  On track!  I was a little unsure if I’d be able to keep contributing at the same level after Mr. FIREdup lost his job.  But we’ve rallied.  (More to come soon on Mr. FIREdup’s current work situation.)

Fund 25% of Financial Freedom goal for non-retirement funds.  At 26.5%.  YAY!  As long as the markets hold this goal will be met.

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Make 2017 IRA contribution/Finalize will.  Done!

Minimalism/Simplicity

12 Items in 2018.  My plan is to limit clothing related purchases to 12 or less items this year.  As of today, I’ve purchased nine items.  I’m right on track for the year.

Blogging

Average one post per week two posts per month.  There are days I think about scrapping this blog altogether, and then there are days where I love it.  I’ve posted at least twice a month every month this year, and while I’d like to do more, practically speaking this goal is sustainable.

Share quarterly updates on progress against the Financial Freedom goal.

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One year ago, we were at 67.3% of this goal; now we’re at 78.2%.  At this same clip, assuming no major market correction, we could meet this goal in two years.  Which is AMAZING, guys!

Stretch Goals

Get 2nd mortgage balance below $10,000.  Today this balance stands at $13,537.93.  While we’ve got the money to pay it down, I’m not sure I want to liquidate that much from our savings account.  Time will tell.  I could see myself getting annoyed and just paying it down out of spite before December 31 rolls around.

How are you doing against your goals for the year?  

Not Always Either/Or. Sometimes It’s Both.

There’s an awful lot of divisiveness on the Internet on a range of topics these days.

And taking a controversial stand on something online often leads to more attention, thus perpetuating the echo chamber.

Is this getting worse?  Why is it so challenging to see the commonality rather than the differences?

The older I get, the more I realize it is possible to acknowledge two seemingly disparate thoughts at the same time.

Here’s a few examples, specifically related to personal finance:

  • While many people can pull themselves up by their bootstraps (or achieve FIRE), not everyone is fortunate enough to be in a situation to move up the socioeconomic ladder (or to retire early).
  • It’s possible to feel empathy for someone who is drowning in debt while at the same time celebrating the hard work and discipline that goes into paying it off.
  • It makes more logical sense to invest in the market rather than pay off a 4% mortgage, but there is a tremendous peace of mind for some people in being mortgage-free.
  • Some people are willing to work 80 hours a week to make more money and get to FI sooner, whereas others recognize that time is a finite resource and choose a slower route.
  • Pretty much everyone agrees an emergency fund is a great idea, but some feel better with a big pile of cash sitting in the bank.  Others might hate to lose out on market returns and choose a smaller e-fund with the option to leverage credit, home equity, or investments in time of need.
  • Work on that side hustle.  Turn it into a business if you want.  Or, spend your time working hard at your 9-to-5 if that’s where you’ll have the biggest payoff.
  • Common canon in the personal finance community says you should buy a used car but sometimes a new car might be the right choice.  (Side note: My first new car lasted me 13 years.  My second one is going strong at almost 5 years and I hope it lasts at least as long as my first one.)
  • Despite much evidence to the contrary, it’s not actually forbidden to have cable, if that’s your thing.
  • The 4% rule works for some while others might feel better with a 3% withdrawal rate.  Guess what?  I bet this depends on your risk tolerance…
  • Just because you haven’t been discriminated against when it comes to pay or promotions, that doesn’t mean that others haven’t.

The bottom line is that personal finance is personal.  It’s great to educate others, and to share your own experiences.  That’s what I love about this community.  But there’s not ONE TRUE WAY to go about being successful at this personal finance thing.

What personal finance canon have you seen that I didn’t include above?

Optimizing for Happiness

I recently listened to this episode of the ChooseFI podcast, where J from Millennial Boss talked about her career hacking.  She has made several moves to advance her salary and career, but now she is in a job she really enjoys and mentioned that she is working on optimizing for happiness.

This phrase struck a chord with me, especially since it aired shortly after I interviewed for another job.  Despite being sad when I initially declined the offer, it gave me a chance to reflect on my current situation – and it led me to a greater appreciation for all the things my current company and job have to offer.  I am optimizing for happiness right now and I didn’t even realize it.  Here are some of the factors contributing to that.

My job pays well.  It would be nice to make more, but since I’ve been in the workforce for a while, my pay is pretty good.   My pay looks even better when evaluated in relation to the number of hours I work and the stress level of my job.  I don’t work much overtime, and my job (generally) doesn’t keep me awake at night.  I’ve had jobs in the past, when I made less money, that required more hours of work and involved higher levels of stress.

My job has some great benefits.  I feel blessed that I could easily add Mr. FIREDup to my really good health insurance when he left his job this spring.  I was granted some stock options a couple of years ago and they will be partly vested this fall.  We have a gym at work; it’s free.  It has workout machines, fitness classes, a pool, and a locker room.  I recently found out that spouses can join our fitness center for free, too!  It’s amazing to have the opportunity to head out for a lunchtime run during the workweek when time allows.  Which leads to my next point…

My job has a fair amount of autonomy and flexibility.  I can work from home if I need to.  I can leave for a doctor’s appointment or take an early or late lunch break to get outside and enjoy a run on a sunny day.  My manager trusts me and my ability to get my work done and doesn’t micromanage me.  And in general, I work with intelligent, motivated, capable people.  This is something I likely take for granted as the average level of talent at this company is not typical of all workplaces.

I have amazing time off.  Since I’ve worked for my employer for a long time, I get a pretty good chunk of time off every year (at least by American standards).  My company also has a (paid) sabbatical program that I’ll be eligible for next year!

I don’t waste precious time commuting.  My commute is generally 30 minutes or less round-trip – plus I can work from home on occasion.  If I were to work in another part of the city, that would be 30-60 minutes a day of additional commuting time, which would directly eat into time with my family in the morning and evening.

At this point in my life, I don’t need to chase money, because we have enough to pay our bills; what is more precious to me is time, and I am maximizing that precious resource.  I’m optimizing for happiness.  What a lucky place to be.

Money Diaries: A Week of Spending

One of my favorite things about reading blogs is learning about the personal money stories of others.  So in that vein, I thought it might be fun to show a week-in-the-life of my spending.

Here’s everything I spent from last Monday through yesterday (Sunday).

In terms of our household finances, this look only includes what I spent and doesn’t include Mr. FIREDup’s personal spending.  However, we have a joint credit card that most household expenses go on, so this includes the vast majority of purchases for our family.

Without further ado, here we go!

Monday, 8/20

No spend day.  Drank free coffee at work, packed leftovers for lunch, and Mr. FIREDup made dinner at home.

Tuesday, 8/21

Coffee from cafe at work – $2.10  

Daycare – $280.00    (This is a killer to our budget right now with just one income, but I love our daycare.  The rate should go down a little early next year when our toddler moves up a room.  There is also the possibility of part-time care starting then, should Mr. FIREDup not be working a traditional full-time position at that time.)

I packed leftovers for lunch and we had dinner at home again.

Wednesday, 8/22

Amazon – $12.99   (A step stool for our toddler so she can reach the sink to wash her hands!)

Vending – $1.15   (I packed a sad lunch from home and bought some Cheetos from the vending machine to supplement.)

Thursday, 8/23

Annual life insurance premium – $389.24  (Mr. FIREDup and I both bought 20-year term policies this year.  NOTE: Don’t wait until you’re 40 to buy life insurance.  It’s stupid expensive.  I have more to write on the life insurance process in a future post.)

Coffee at work – $2.69  

Chipotle – 0.00  (Had lunch with a friend, but used a Chipotle gift card so there was no out of pocket cost.)

Beer at bar – 0.00  (Convinced a co-worker to leave work a little early and we hit up the local watering hole for a drink.  She picked up the tab, so I promised to pay next time.)

We had dinner at home.

Friday, 8/24

Gas bill – $29.70  (I got paid today, so paid this utility bill and a credit card.)

Coffee at work – $2.69  (This was a bad week for this habit.  It tends to go in waves.  Some weeks I don’t buy coffee at all; most weeks it’s once or less.  Some weeks are like this one and I buy way too often.  This habit tends to be correlated with my co-worker’s behavior.  It’s uncommon for me to go when she doesn’t.  A true reflection of how our behavior is influenced by others.)

Pizza dinner – $34.86  (Two side salads, a large pizza, and a beer that I shared with my husband.  We had enough leftovers for lunch on Saturday.)

Saturday, 8/25

Grocery store – $132.03  (A week of groceries.  Lots of needs and several wants, too.  This is a little higher than our average weekly spend, but not by much.)

We ate all our meals at home this day.

Sunday, 8/26

Coffee – 0.00  (Had morning coffee with a friend and used a gift card.)

Concretes at Culver’s – 5.23  (Had a BOGO coupon so we had this as an afternoon treat before a stop at the library to pick out new books for the toddler.)

We ate all our meals at home this day, too.

So there you have it!  A week of spending.  Anything in there surprise you?  Would you like to see this feature again?  Would love to see others share their diary, too!

The Importance of Having a Network (aka I Declined a Job Offer)

At the beginning of last month I had a bad week at work.  I was in a lull between projects and had time to overthink my career future (I’ve been overthinking my career future for a while now).  This overthinking resulted in me casually looking at jobs on LinkedIn.

And I found a job I was really interested in.  It was a fit with my skills and was with a really intriguing company.  I applied that weekend.

After two+ weeks with no word, I assumed they weren’t contacting me for an interview.  I was a little bit heartbroken, but work had picked up again and life was busy and I didn’t have much time to think about it.

Shortly thereafter, I got contacted for a phone screen.  Despite being sick that morning, I trudged through the quick screening call.  A few days later, I was called to come in for an interview with the hiring manager.  The interview went well and I had a good feeling that there was mutual interest.  It was time to do a little due diligence.

After discovering that an acquaintance from earlier in my life – one whose judgment I trust – knew the hiring manager, I reached out to to see if she had any feedback.

Let’s just say the feedback…wasn’t good.

It was sad to learn this, but I was thankful to get the intel.  Also, at the point where I reached out to my friend to get feedback, it didn’t really matter yet anyway.  I didn’t know if the interview would even lead anywhere.

But my intuition had told me my odds were good and I was right.  The recruiter contacted me with an offer.  After a brief phone call, she sent over an official offer letter along with benefits information.

After much deliberation, I concluded that the right choice was to decline the offer.  While there’s no guarantee that I would have a bad experience working for the hiring manager, I also know first-hand how challenging work can be when you work for a difficult manager.  Also, I’m not trying to escape a bad job situation; in fact, in many respects, I have a great work setup.  Combine that with the fact that Mr. FIREDup’s work situation is still in flux, and I just didn’t think I was at a point where taking this kind of risk made sense.

I still analyzed the offer details to get a feel for what an external company could offer in terms of pay, bonus, benefits, and time off.  The offer was comparable to my current package, but not better; the pay was slightly less (with some potential upside) and the PTO was a little less (which is probably going to be the same anywhere I go at this point).  Basic benefits were similar.  There are some amazing unique perks at my current company that I’d have to give up no matter where I would choose to work next.

There was quite a bit of anguish in deliberating over this opportunity.  The company is SUPER interesting and would offer an environment different from the one I work in now.  And the job sounded like such a good fit with my skills and the unique mix of work experience I’ve gathered over the last several years.

Declining Gracefully

I can’t even recall the last time I declined a job offer, it’s been so long ago.  Here are a few takeaways I’d offer:

  • Call with your decline rather than sending an email.  Email might be okay, and it’s kind of the easy way out, especially for someone like me who can get thoughts out better in writing than verbally.  But calling is a more genuine way to connect.
  • Have a script.  Have a quick one or two sentence summary to explain why you are declining.  I wrote out my response and then ran through it in my head before I made the call.  And give a reason for the decline.  I obviously couldn’t give the pure truth for my decline in this case, but the reason I gave was also true:  I thought I was ready to leave my current company, but upon further reflection, the timing isn’t right.
  • Give a sincere thank you.  It was not a stretch for me to tell the recruiter that I genuinely appreciated the opportunity to interview for the position.  There was a lot of time and effort put into the screening and interviewing process, and I wanted to recognize that effort.
  • Give a timely response.  I didn’t take much time to deliberate.  I didn’t want to delay their hiring process as they likely had another candidate or two waiting in the pipeline.
  • Don’t burn bridges.  You never know when you might run into someone again further down the road in your career or personal life.  I live in a large metro area with many employers, and was interviewing at a company where I didn’t know anyone, yet I still had someone in my network who could provide first-hand experience working with the hiring manager.  If this were the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, my Bacon number would be 1.

There was some dread in making the phone call, but I did it, kept it short and sweet, and it went as well as it possibly could.  It felt like the door was left open to potential future opportunities as the company grows.

Closing Thoughts

I have zero regrets in applying and interviewing for this job.  It helped me clarify a few things:

  • I thought I was ready to leave my current employer, but this experience made it clear that it’s not quite the right time.  But…
  • It also seems likely that if my current position doesn’t grow or change, that the time to move on from what I’m doing now will be sooner rather than later.
  • Yes, I have marketable skills…but they’re a unique set of skills and experiences, so it will take time to find my next thing, whatever that ends up being.
  • It’s REALLY valuable to stay attuned to the market and keep job search skills fresh.  I would argue this is important for everyone, because even if you are in a great job at a great company, circumstances can change rapidly.

I thought about the pursuit of financial freedom several times throughout this process.  If we were further along in our financial freedom journey, it’s more likely that I would have taken the job.  For me, that’s the point of financial freedom – I wouldn’t be dependent on making a high salary, so I could selectively choose to do work that I find meaningful or rewarding or exciting.  On the flip side, since we haven’t reached our financial freedom goals yet, my current employment situation is a little more lucrative and will help us make progress towards those goals more rapidly.

What would you have done in this situation?   Would you have taken the risk, or stayed put?

All the Things we Regret with Money

Last week I listened to this episode of Paula Pant’s Afford Anything podcast.  She was interviewing Emma Pattee, who became a self-made millionaire by age 26.  Emma and Paula have both built real estate portfolios that provide enough cash flow to sustain their living expenses (the elusive “FI” of financial independence).

In this conversation Paula and Emma started talking about the psychological aspects of money.   They each shared stories on their path to FI where they had decided to not spend money on something and later regretted the emotional loss that went along with making that decision.

Listen to this truth bomb from Paula (slightly paraphrased):

“Both of us were motivated by the same thing…and for both of us, that was largely anxiety – we did it not because we wanted a big house with a fancy car, we did it because we were just anxious people who wanted the psychological security of a safety net in order to relieve some of that anxiety we felt.  That was our motivation…It’s funny, because being in a very emotionally unhealthy place led to a behavior that had a lot of positive reinforcement…There’s been a lot of external validation to just being a basket case.”

Does this conversation point strike a chord with others the way it does with me?  Perhaps it hit me so hard because I see myself in what Paula says.  My obsession with saving comes from a mindset of anxiety and fear of the unknown future, not from one of abundance and confidence.

Just as it is unhealthy to spend beyond your means, it can ALSO be emotionally unhealthy to become obsessed with squirreling money away!  And this is not something I often see addressed in the FI community.

Spending Regret and Satisfaction

I have definitely had times in the past where I regretted not spending money on something.  One example is that I did not study abroad during my graduate program like a couple of my friends did.  At the time I didn’t feel comfortable spending the money and instead took a well-paying internship.  This was fifteen years ago and any amount of money I would have spent on the education and travel would have long since been paid off by now.  The regret of not spending a few weeks in Italy, unencumbered by work or family obligations, still lingers.

There have also been times where I was stressed about spending money at the time but in retrospect have fond memories associated with that monetary outflow.  The first one that springs to mind is a big trip I took with my best friend five years ago.  We bought expensive handmade Turkish rugs in Istanbul and a split a case of wine in Tuscany.  My only regret is that I didn’t buy more wine!

Can you think of any instances where you wish you would have spent money instead of squirreling it away?  What is your motivation for saving for the future?

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