Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

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TiredLawyer
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Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by TiredLawyer »

I have been reading this forum daily for about 6 months now and this is my first time posting. I consider myself a natural boglehead and find the advice on this forum invaluable.

Background: DH is early 40s. DW is late 30s. We have a 2 year old child and live a MCOL city.

Situation: DH works as a corporate lawyer for a big company. DW Is SAHM with a chronic health condition. 2-year old goes to daycare. DH is tired of being a lawyer—there’s a feeling of burnout, underappreciation, and anxiety. DH is in a niche field but also concerned about his skill set no longer improving, potentially not being prepared for future opportunities at other companies; this combined with concerns about layoffs brings more anxiety. Work hours are not that bad for a lawyer—40 hours a week and now working from home due to COVID.

All this leads to the following: Can DH take some time off of work, perhaps 1-3 years until child starts kindergarten? Should DH try to work another 5 years and then consider a career change (is that realistic for mid-to-late 40s?) or FIRE?

We have lived below our means and feel that that should give us some options, but here are the concerns:
* In 3 years, we need to either send child to private school ($25k-$30k) or move to a new home in a good school district. Home in the new school district would likely be $800k - $1m. If we move, we will rent our current home.
* Without DH salary, we could not qualify for a mortgage for a new home
* DH also recognizes that he actually has a great balance of life at current company compared to other lawyers. There is a fear of giving this job up and then having to get a more ‘difficult’ job in a few years at potentially less salary (like $150k - $200k).
* We like our city so moving to another city for a new job is not a great option. Corporate jobs in DH's field come up in this city but not regularly. DH does not want to go back to law firm due to long hours.
* DW’s chronic health condition raises concern about healthcare costs and healthcare premiums without employer subsidy.
* DH is concerned that taking time off during his prime working years could be a career and compensation killer. While DH dreams of FIRE, this does not seem like a reality with a young family with big unknowns like health conditions and future education/schooling for young child.

Here is our financial situation:
Total annual compensation: Low $300k

Investments
- Cash Equivalents: $550k
- Taxable Brokerage: $1.3m
- Retirement Accounts: $900k
- HSA: $30k
- 529 Plan: $20k
- Rental Property: $200k

Current Home: $500k equity

Debt: None (so no mortgage)

Our Monthly Expenses: About $6,200/ month (not counting payroll deductions for health insurance, HSA, 401k, etc.)
Daycare: $1,800
Utilities: $250
Cleaners/lawncare: $300
Food: $1,200
Car Insurance/Maintenance/Gas: $250
Property Taxes/Home Insurance: $500
Disability Insurance/Umbrella Policy/$1m life insurance policy : $100
Home Maintenance Fund: $300
Misc/entertainment: $500
Travel Budget: $500
Charitable Contributions: $500
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Watty
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by Watty »

TiredLawyer wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 1:47 am DH is tired of being a lawyer—there’s a feeling of burnout, underappreciation, and anxiety. .......

Work hours are not that bad for a lawyer—40 hours a week and now working from home due to COVID.
.....
Total annual compensation: Low $300k
If earning $300K for working a 40 hour week job is "not that bad" then what would be "good"? That is fantastic.

Even though the job does not sound like it is engaging making $300K+ a year for a job that only requires 40 hours a week is not something to give up lightly especially in a medium cost of living area. If he does get laid off then that would likely come with a severance package and you could deal with that then.

I would suspect that a lot of the burnout is more related to things outside work like dealing with and worrying about the family health issues and having a toddler while getting into middle age. Even if things are going well dealing with toddler is draining even when you are in your 20s, much less your early 40s.

It would be good for the DH to have a good physical to see if he might have any health issues going on.

Assuming that is not a problem then it would be good to consider getting some professional counseling to try to figure out what is going on with the burnout and how to cope with it.

The pandemic is also causing a lot of people to have a lot of stress and while working from home might sound good some people also need the social contact of going into the office so that could also be part of the problem.

Quitting the job and sitting at home for 1-3 years and doing nothing might not help things. Moving towards something is almost always a better idea than just moving away from something.
TiredLawyer wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 1:47 am In 3 years, we need to either send child to private school ($25k-$30k) or move to a new home in a good school district. Home in the new school district would likely be $800k - $1m. If we move, we will rent our current home.
Buying a home in a good school district is likely a good idea.

Buying a million dollar home would take away a lot of your options especially if you might want to retire early. In a medium cost of living area you also don't need a million dollar home to have a nice house with good schools.

Keeping your current home as a rental property rarely makes sense because you would lose the homeowners capital gains exemption. You would also have a diversification problem since you would own three houses in the same city and that could be a too high percentage of your net worth. Renting a $500K home is also problematic since someone with good credit could likely afford to buy nice home for the same cost in a medium cost of living city. The things that make a home a good rental are often different than what makes a home a good house it live in. If you really want another rental then it would likely be best to sell that house when you move and buy a good rental property.
megabad
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by megabad »

These seem like personal questions only you two can answer. I think financially you could probably make it but you wouldn’t be living as glamorously as you might hope (if you buy a million dollar home). I would think you would need to trim expenses if you were to never work again but I am assuming eventually reentering the workforce.

Other than that, it is up to the both of you to decide. Based on your comments about not moving and niche field, I would agree that working spouse will likely face a career setback if taking that much time off. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t right for you. Based on your assessment, a career change seems like it would either lead to more hours or less pay. Neither of which are good, but you would have to weigh pros and cons.

In general, most folks I know do not have good pay AND limited hours, so I think that combo is rare. Most have one and not the other. Few people I have talked to with more than say 10 yrs in a job would not be “burnt out” on some aspect of it.
student
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by student »

The husband has income around the top 2% of the country and he works 40 hours a week. This is fantastic. You have over $3 mil net worth. Of course, only the husband can tell whether the job is tolerable for few more year. Personally I would continue until the husband hits 50, then reevaluate.
Last edited by student on Thu Jul 16, 2020 7:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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fredflinstone
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by fredflinstone »

Congratulations on a successful legal career. You have worked hard and you have provided well for your family. Sorry to hear it's been stressful lately. Completely understandable. I think FIRE is doable.

My understanding is that you currently have about $3.5 million in assets (including everything, both liquid and nonliquid); you are earning more than $300,000 per year; you are frugal; you have a family of three. You need to move to a new home in 3 years to access better schools (financially, this is a better option than sending your kid to a private school); you have ample liquid assets that you can can use to pay for your new home (no mortgage necessary). You currently own a rental property and want to convert your current home into a second rental property after you move into a new home in a few years.

I think you should aim for about $4 million in liquid assets before retiring. Unless markets drop, this shouldn't take you too long. Maybe only 2 years. If you organize your finances correctly, I think that after you FIRE, your family can qualify for heavily-subsidized health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). You want to aim for "countable" income that is low enough to qualify for cheap health insurance but nearly high enough to cover your family's living expenses. Maybe something like $35,000 - $45,000 per year. When I say "countable" income, I mean income that counts toward the limit used to determine eligibility for ACA subsidies.

You can increase or reduce your countable income by placing lower-yielding investments in taxable accounts and higher-yielding investments in tax-deferred accounts.

As a rough example, you might play around with the following numbers:

~$1.3 million in taxable accounts produces countable income of $13,000 to $18,000 per year. This is where lower-yielding investments should go (CDs, money market funds, short-term treasuries, intermediate treasuries, and a stock fund like QQQ or VTI) .

$1 million in tax-deferred accounts produces zero countable income. This is where higher-yielding investments (e.g. Vanguard Bond Index Fund, value stock funds) should go.

$1.7 million in real estate (three homes, no mortgages). These will generate countable income of say $15,000 - $20,000 per year.

Your health insurance expenses will go up but you can do your own cleaning and lawncare so those costs will drop to zero. And you shouldn't need to pay for any daycare once you are retired and your kiddo is in school. I think you can cut your food costs a little. If necessary, eliminate charitable donations until you and your wife are Medicare-eligible.

Another option is to retire immediately and move to a lower-cost city where you can live relatively luxuriously on $3.5 million. I know you like where you live now, but moving to a low-cost city would pretty much eliminate your money worries.

Finally, I suggest keep up your credentials so that you can do volunteer legal work at some point. There must be enormous demand for pro bono lawyering and I imagine you could find work that is intellectually stimulating and fulfilling. Once you FIRE, you will have more time and energy to help out your wife and you will have plenty of time to spend with your young child.
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inverter
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by inverter »

Did you feel this way before COVID?
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bottlecap
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by bottlecap »

I suspect burnout is not the problem. You don’t burnout clocking 40 hours of "at work" time with great work/life balance. Plus probably 3 to 4 weeks of vacation.

What doesn’t DH like about the job? I agree a law firm doesn’t sound right for him. Is it the business? Would a different industry interest him? Slightly different legal work? Or is it just legal work, period?

He's certainly not likeLy to earn more putting in less. Almost anything different will be a pay cut, as he's got a great salary in a MCOL city. He could move out of the legal department and into the business side, but that will be a lot more work, so he better love it. Most of my lawyer friends have worked hard at big firms just to get out and get to where DH is (for less pay).

It could also be personal life issue, as others have mentioned. Volunteering for some cause/charity might stratch an itch.

But this has got to be something other than burnout.

Good luck,

JT
WarAdmiral
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by WarAdmiral »

TiredLawyer wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 1:47 am We have a 2 year old child and live a MCOL city.

DW Is SAHM with a chronic health condition. 2-year old goes to daycare.
Managing a 2 Year old can be a handful even with daycare. Things get a lot better as they get older and start becoming more independent starting around age 5. Hang in there...
Freetime76
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by Freetime76 »

OP: I feel DH’s pain on the burnout. A “few” thoughts about the quit/fire aspect...
1. It is definitely possible to “not work” for a period of time, and survive to work again in a new career or new job, but same career. I got tired of “corporate” took off to teach and work contract (dual incomes, less money, no company-paid benefits), missed it and went back to a different angle on the same career ( more money). Single income for much of that period. Same ages as you two. Currently, we are “not working for pay” to remodel a house. DH is about to go back to work now. Because otherwise he is a ball of energy bugging DW all day - lol :D

However:
1.1 DH is the sole earner, yes? This is a risk. If you’re serious, you would want to plan for all the “what if’s”.
1.1.1 What if the next job isn’t forthcoming for years? What if it earns less? How much are you willing to burn to buy time to figure out life and/or refresh? You can always find work...just make sure that if it comes down to it, you’ll be willing to suck it up and do it.

1.2 The healthcare question is huge (US, I’m assuming). If by some chance he does choose to leave his work, even if for a short time, get exact costs in advance for both premiums and care for all of you. COBRA will go for 90 days, and you can choose whether to enroll any time in that period (retroactively). Also, if your taxable income is too low, check to see if you might lose the tax subsidy on the ACA Plans (system wants to put you on Medicaid, which is dumb..we are sorting through that currently).

1.3 To echo Watty, what do both you want? Choose a positive goal to move toward, rather than merely escaping the job.

So...I read possible FIRE and upsize the house as two possibilities in one post. So, you’d take on a mortgage and/or exhaust your cash equivalents plus quit in one go? Sounds like too much at once and cross purposes. Choose a focus - the cash gives you options - like spending it to support yourselves for up to 5 years - ouch :wink: - but it won’t do both (protect you and buy a fancier house).

Are you mentioning FIRE because the rough calculation of 3-4% of the 1.3M taxable is 52K, which is tantalizingly close to your budget amount? I get it!!! Especially if you could sell the rental if needed etc etc.

I am commenting because we have similar conversations in our house the last few years. In your shoes, we would say the budget is close, Let’s say you spend $80K/year - figuring holidays, extras.... Minus childcare, because you’re both home now, right? But add healthcare premiums, and you’ll have to sort that out. :D So, we’d be comfortable bailing (so to speak) for a year or two or three. But - major BUT - you have some serious soul-searching, planning, numbers-crunching to do before pulling that trigger. DH especially is going to need some kind of purpose and direction to his days, whatever that means. Your family will ask, friends won’t get it ...they’re in debt up to their eyeballs and can’t relate. The identity question is real, don’t underestimate it.

-What does DH need to get a job he’d like, or does he even know what that is? Does it have a dollar cost to it (tuition? training?)
-What failsafes do you want in place for yourselves? A cutoff on the cash amount? A willingness to cut xyz from the budget if needed?
-*Exactly* where will you pull income, how much, and consider details: insurance, taxes, etc. etc.
- And What can go wrong?? Plan for it. Then you don’t have to worry about it and can enjoy/use the time.

If you haven’t already, check out JL Collins (I.e. The Simple Path To Wealth”, where he mentions taking a few years off and explaining it to his daughter). And of course the FIRE blogs.

Just a last comment: we’ve had little luck explaining this to our parents. Time has shown that we are doing okay.
Good luck!
VoiceOfReason
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by VoiceOfReason »

My wife is a lawyer that worked in a law firm that she hated for 13 years until she finally got an in-house position at a bank. I totally get it.

This is a big decision for DH. I like where others have gone to try and get at the root cause of the unhappiness. Is it the job? The firm? The niche within law? Or is it middle-age, stress of a toddler, health of DW, etc?

I am of the opinion that the entire family is better off when both DH and DW are satisfied/happy. Both in terms of their job and their relationship. So in that regard I think you should immediately get yourself happy if the job is the core issue to your unhappiness.

However, having said that, I also believe that you give up some of that "freedom" when you have children. Even more so with a SAHW with health conditions.

I would challenge DH to think back to when they were in law school and how that law school person would've thought about the current situation. How thrilled would they have been to have a $300k job in a MCOL area that paid enough to easily allow DW to stay home and care for your kid? And on top of it to have a NW of ~$3.5MM in your early 40's!

I think it likely comes down to the root cause of unhappiness. How much of a priority is FIRE? And finally is DH willing to work more years in a lower paying job but a job he likes vs. fewer years in a job he doesn't like?
EFF_fan81
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by EFF_fan81 »

You have, by my count, a net worth of approximately $3 million and one child. You could both stop working and FIRE right now if you keep your spending moderate.

There's no MCOL I'm the country where it costs $1 million to buy a decent house in a good school district. I could get under that number in every city in the country other than the Bay Area.

I am a lawyer, it's kind of a grind, I don't blame your DH at all. He's done his time now set him free.
Freetime76
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by Freetime76 »

VoiceOfReason wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 7:29 am My wife is a lawyer that worked in a law firm that she hated for 13 years until she finally got an in-house position at a bank. I totally get it.

This is a big decision for DH. I like where others have gone to try and get at the root cause of the unhappiness. Is it the job? The firm? The niche within law? Or is it middle-age, stress of a toddler, health of DW, etc?

I am of the opinion that the entire family is better off when both DH and DW are satisfied/happy. Both in terms of their job and their relationship. So in that regard I think you should immediately get yourself happy if the job is the core issue to your unhappiness.

However, having said that, I also believe that you give up some of that "freedom" when you have children. Even more so with a SAHW with health conditions.

I would challenge DH to think back to when they were in law school and how that law school person would've thought about the current situation. How thrilled would they have been to have a $300k job in a MCOL area that paid enough to easily allow DW to stay home and care for your kid? And on top of it to have a NW of ~$3.5MM in your early 40's!

I think it likely comes down to the root cause of unhappiness. How much of a priority is FIRE? And finally is DH willing to work more years in a lower paying job but a job he likes vs. fewer years in a job he doesn't like?
VoiceOfReason said it: an attitude of gratitude really does help flavor the day .
Random Poster
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by Random Poster »

TiredLawyer wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 1:47 am Background: DH is early 40s. DW is late 30s. We have a 2 year old child and live a MCOL city.

Situation: DH works as a corporate lawyer for a big company. DW Is SAHM with a chronic health condition. 2-year old goes to daycare. DH is tired of being a lawyer—there’s a feeling of burnout, underappreciation, and anxiety. DH is in a niche field but also concerned about his skill set no longer improving, potentially not being prepared for future opportunities at other companies; this combined with concerns about layoffs brings more anxiety. Work hours are not that bad for a lawyer—40 hours a week and now working from home due to COVID.

All this leads to the following: Can DH take some time off of work, perhaps 1-3 years until child starts kindergarten? Should DH try to work another 5 years and then consider a career change (is that realistic for mid-to-late 40s?) or FIRE?
I could have made a similar inquiry here a few years ago. In fact, I probably did.

I don’t have a child, or a house, or a spouse with a chronic health condition, but a few years ago I was pretty much in your same situation. Same type of job. Very niche area of the law. Same feelings of burnout. Same salary (give or take, depending on the year due to stock grants and bonuses). Same hours. Same concerns about layoffs, which seemed to occur every year in other departments. Definitely same feelings of anxiety and concern about skill stagnation. And so on and so on.

When I made my inquiry, most people said we would be fine financially to quit (either totally or for a limited break) but they also said something to the effect of “giving up a job that pays $X to go live off of $Y isn’t easy and may not be reversible.” Which is true. And I’m very conservative by nature and so I kept working. But it really did become a grind. Showing up at the office to do the same stuff over and over again for clients that didn’t really seem to appreciate (much less learn) anything I was trying to teach them, having very little control over much of anything, constantly being given problems (that mostly could have been avoided or minimized had the clients taken the legal advice in the first place!) and so on. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Ultimately what happened is that I got laid off this past March. And truthfully, when it happened, I was happy and relieved (because there was finality in that situation and I was just done with the work and that company) but also scared and concerned about the future (namely, how to pay for health insurance). I’m still working though the latter part (right now, I’m on COBRA, and regular unemployment will cover those premiums), and I’m still somewhat isolated from the full feeling of being unemployed and living without a net because the expanded unemployment benefits covers all of our monthly expenses and then some. Of course, those benefits are scheduled to end in a few weeks.

So all of that to say this: Yes, I think that DH (I’ll call him you) can take time off a work, if you are truly prepared to never get that type of opportunity again. Not saying that you won’t, just that you might not. You might get a better one, or a worse one. It is hard to say. But if you are prepared to accept that the money may never be as good as it is now, then I say that it is fine to walk away.

The conservative thing to do would be to keep working and saving, but that is easy to write when the writer isn’t the one who has to get up every morning and do the work. And maybe working more is just making things worse, if actual layoffs in other departments increases your work load and the like. And if you are a one-more-year type of person, you’ll probably never feel like you have enough and can walk away.

You probably already are financially independent, at least on the margins. The taxable account balance seems a tad low to me to make it a clear “you are there” but having a paid off house certainly helps and provides options.

My caution to you though is this: if you are like me, and are so burned out and exhausted from the lawyering experience and the work environment, it may be very difficult to put any effort into finding a replacement job when the time comes. Since I got laid off, I haven’t put any real work into looking for anything. And maybe that is okay. As I said, at least on the margins, you are likely financially independent and so maybe you don’t need to find another job later on anyway.

So what would I do? I’d keep working, because I love money and am a overly cautious person. But I don’t think that you have to if you don’t want to. Hope that helps.
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TiredLawyer
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by TiredLawyer »

This board does not disappoint. I appreciate all the thoughtful replies. I apologize for not knowing (yet) how to use the block quotes so that I can respond to each question in a single reply.

As far as DH knows, the source of discontent is not just the job. In fact, when DH first got the corporate job, he was thrilled with the hours and it was a day & night difference from his big law firm days. DH vowed never to forget how great the corporate job was, but alas with the passage of time, life became more complex and memories faded. From DH's perspective, the raising of a young child has very hard, particularly at the infant stage when both DH and DW were both working (DW only became SAHM recently). Since DW has a chronic health condition, DH has stepped in to do many feedings, diaper changes, midnight checkups on baby, etc. in addition to his job. DH admittedly also has some self esteem issues and perfectionistic tendencies, which means that sometimes his emotions swing from "Not doing good enough at the job" to "I'm doing great" depending upon how a particular task went at work. DH's fear of failure combined with being physically tired means that he prefers to do what he is good at at work since it uses less brain power; however, the tradeoff is that he feels stuck doing the same things all the time and not improving. DH was in therapy earlier this year before COVID got bad, as was also in therapy off and on through the years. DH feels like he has a pretty good handle on self esteem and perfectionistic tendencies, but knowing what is wrong is much easier than changing many years of how DH was raised by his parents.

FIRE without some other purpose would not be good for DH as he likes to feel productive and accomplishing something. DH has not figured out what the next something would be. But the time off and freedom sounds great to DH since he feels tired and stressed.

Folks are correct that an $800k-$1m house in a MCOL is not absolutely necessary. We could find a comparable house in the suburbs for around $500k-$600k. DH's commute pre-COVID was about 20 minutes each way but moving to the suburbs would add about 50-55 minutes to his total commute. DH did not want to waste any more time on the commute and since most attorney jobs are still near the city, we wanted to remain close by.
megabad
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by megabad »

Sounds like there is a lot going on. Just a thought, but would there be anyway to take a sanctioned sabbatical from work (but still retain the position)? I know some companies offer that and maybe it would be a short term solution until the family figures everything out?
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fredflinstone
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by fredflinstone »

TiredLawyer wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:27 am This board does not disappoint. I appreciate all the thoughtful replies. I apologize for not knowing (yet) how to use the block quotes so that I can respond to each question in a single reply.

As far as DH knows, the source of discontent is not just the job. In fact, when DH first got the corporate job, he was thrilled with the hours and it was a day & night difference from his big law firm days. DH vowed never to forget how great the corporate job was, but alas with the passage of time, life became more complex and memories faded. From DH's perspective, the raising of a young child has very hard, particularly at the infant stage when both DH and DW were both working (DW only became SAHM recently). Since DW has a chronic health condition, DH has stepped in to do many feedings, diaper changes, midnight checkups on baby, etc. in addition to his job. DH admittedly also has some self esteem issues and perfectionistic tendencies, which means that sometimes his emotions swing from "Not doing good enough at the job" to "I'm doing great" depending upon how a particular task went at work. DH's fear of failure combined with being physically tired means that he prefers to do what he is good at at work since it uses less brain power; however, the tradeoff is that he feels stuck doing the same things all the time and not improving. DH was in therapy earlier this year before COVID got bad, as was also in therapy off and on through the years. DH feels like he has a pretty good handle on self esteem and perfectionistic tendencies, but knowing what is wrong is much easier than changing many years of how DH was raised by his parents.

FIRE without some other purpose would not be good for DH as he likes to feel productive and accomplishing something. DH has not figured out what the next something would be. But the time off and freedom sounds great to DH since he feels tired and stressed.

Folks are correct that an $800k-$1m house in a MCOL is not absolutely necessary. We could find a comparable house in the suburbs for around $500k-$600k. DH's commute pre-COVID was about 20 minutes each way but moving to the suburbs would add about 50-55 minutes to his total commute. DH did not want to waste any more time on the commute and since most attorney jobs are still near the city, we wanted to remain close by.
Move to the suburbs, find some part-time volunteer legal work that you will find fulfilling, take up pickleball (fun, social, and great exercise), and retire. You will likely qualify for subsidized health care. With a $3.5 million nest egg and annual expenses of $70,000 or less you and your family should be able to live off of interest, dividends, and rental income for the next 50 years at least.
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carolinaman
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by carolinaman »

As someone whose work involved long hours, lots of work pressure, work politics and a lot less than $300k, to call your husband's situation "burnout" seems crazy.

IMO, he needs an attitude adjustment. What does he truly hate about his job? What can he do to improve his work life?

What might be helpful is to talk with a psychologist who deals with burnout. He/she could help him figure out what his issues are and how to deal with them.

A lot of people do not like their jobs but find ways to make them tolerable.

Your financial situation is fantastic but if he works another 5 to 10 years it would be much better. $300k 40 hour jobs are not common. You are frugal and seemingly not driven by money, but you have a lot of expenses in your future dealing with your child's educations, medical expenses, etc.

Best wishes.
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TiredLawyer
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by TiredLawyer »

Random Poster wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:16 am
Showing up at the office to do the same stuff over and over again for clients that didn’t really seem to appreciate (much less learn) anything I was trying to teach them, having very little control over much of anything, constantly being given problems (that mostly could have been avoided or minimized had the clients taken the legal advice in the first place!) and so on. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
Yes, the loss of control and having to solve everyone's problems all the time. And the politics and egos of clients and other attorneys.
Ultimately what happened is that I got laid off this past March. And truthfully, when it happened, I was happy and relieved (because there was finality in that situation and I was just done with the work and that company) but also scared and concerned about the future (namely, how to pay for health insurance). I’m still working though the latter part (right now, I’m on COBRA, and regular unemployment will cover those premiums), and I’m still somewhat isolated from the full feeling of being unemployed and living without a net because the expanded unemployment benefits covers all of our monthly expenses and then some. Of course, those benefits are scheduled to end in a few weeks.
I am sorry to hear this. DH says exactly the same thing about being both scared and relieved at the same time.
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by Big Dog »

Watty wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 5:54 am
TiredLawyer wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 1:47 am DH is tired of being a lawyer—there’s a feeling of burnout, underappreciation, and anxiety. .......

Work hours are not that bad for a lawyer—40 hours a week and now working from home due to COVID.
.....
Total annual compensation: Low $300k
If earning $300K for working a 40 hour week job is "not that bad" then what would be "good"? That is fantastic.
Bingo; it don't get any better than that. OTOH, given that income level and (relatively) low work week, I would expect that such a job would be ripe for layoff. (If I was CFO, I'd certainly look to reduce in-house Corp legal expenses.)

In answer to your question, taking 2-3 years off? Absolutely not, particularly with a SAHM. Lawyers are a dime-a-dozen. Restarting a career would mean a huge hit to income. Plus, you need the medical ins.
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fredflinstone
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by fredflinstone »

Big Dog wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:59 am
Watty wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 5:54 am
TiredLawyer wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 1:47 am DH is tired of being a lawyer—there’s a feeling of burnout, underappreciation, and anxiety. .......

Work hours are not that bad for a lawyer—40 hours a week and now working from home due to COVID.
.....
Total annual compensation: Low $300k
If earning $300K for working a 40 hour week job is "not that bad" then what would be "good"? That is fantastic.
Bingo; it don't get any better than that. OTOH, given that income level and (relatively) low work week, I would expect that such a job would be ripe for layoff. (If I was CFO, I'd certainly look to reduce in-house Corp legal expenses.)

In answer to your question, taking 2-3 years off? Absolutely not, particularly with a SAHM. Lawyers are a dime-a-dozen. Restarting a career would mean a huge hit to income. Plus, you need the medical ins.
why should he work at all? He has $3.5 million. At a withdrawal rate of 2% ($70,000 per year), he can live off of his nest egg for 50 years at least. Medical insurance is very inexpensive if one's income is below a certain threshold.
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hirlaw
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by hirlaw »

Retired (mostly) attorney here. People outside of law may not realize the stress and anxiety that many lawyers face. I understand a lot of professions involve stress. In my state, the Lawyer's Assistance Program found that 32% of attorneys 30 yrs. old and younger had a drinking problem, 28% of attorneys had some form of depression and 11% had suicidal thoughts. This is much higher than most other professions, even higher than health care workers (although probably not during the current environment!).

I am certainly not a mental health professional. However, it could be that your husband is suffering from anxiety and depression. Before making a move that could be a "flight" response, he may consider a session with a professional that may be able to help through therapy and/or medication. It helps a lot people. :happy
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Watty
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by Watty »

One thing for him to watch out for is that if he feels burned out then switching to a different job doing legal work may not really make a lot of difference since he would still be doing legal work. I was in a totally different field, software development, but after I had been doing that for 20+ years I found that I just could not get excited about it like I was when I was just out of college. It was at times interesting but when I was in my 40s writing my third or fourth inventory system it was really just a new version of things that I had done before so it was not very exciting.

It could still be interesting at times and I did not slack off but it was basically just a job at that point. If I had went to work doing the same thing somewhere else then it would have been little different. For the last ten years or so I compared it to the job the guy bagging your groceries at the grocery store did in that you could have a good day but you did not expect it to be all that rewarding. At that point it was a lot more important to look my other activities outside work to define myself.
TiredLawyer wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:27 am DH did not want to waste any more time on the commute and since most attorney jobs are still near the city, we wanted to remain close by.
Most is not "all", they may not be the high paid corporate jobs in his niche but there are jobs in places you would not automatically think of.
TiredLawyer wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:27 am Folks are correct that an $800k-$1m house in a MCOL is not absolutely necessary. We could find a comparable house in the suburbs for around $500k-$600k.
If you do decide to retire early and live frugally then you might not fit in well in the more expensive areas.

You also seem to like the city you are in now but if you move out into the suburbs it will be a lot different than what sounds like your current urban lifestyle. You may also find that you will rarely go to things downtown just because it takes so long to get down there. If you move to the suburbs it will also become hard to maintain friendships with your old downtown friends.

Just for brainstorming you might consider if there are any college towns out the outskirts of the city you live in now. They might allow you to live in the center of town and where DH could work nearby and you could be in more of a city setting. In the city I am in there are several college towns that are less than two hours away.
Last edited by Watty on Thu Jul 16, 2020 11:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
Random Poster
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by Random Poster »

Big Dog wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:59 am Lawyers are a dime-a-dozen.
Good lawyers aren’t.

And those who earn $300k+ are generally pretty good lawyers.
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by Big Dog »

Random Poster wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 11:34 am
Big Dog wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:59 am Lawyers are a dime-a-dozen.
Good lawyers aren’t.

And those who earn $300k+ are generally pretty good lawyers.
Sorry, but yes good lawyers are plentiful. The US graduates 2x the number of lawyers actually needed every year. The T14 keeps cranking out really smart attorneys every year. Plenty of Big Law Associates making bank, but quality of life sux. It definitely is a rarity to be making $300k and only working 40 hours a week (in any field). Congrats to him. Keep it going and look for a hobby (golf?) to do in his spare time. Personally, I'd be thinking about Plan B since this is not likely to last.
EFF_fan81
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by EFF_fan81 »

Going to post again with a more thorough set of thoughts since you and I are in pretty similar circumstances.

I think you are depressed and ground down from your legal career (including probably quasi-PTSD from law firm life) and struggling to adapt to a new job and new stage of life. I was going through the same thing for a while but have mostly gotten over it.

What you are going through has very little to do with money. For a long time, your career was your life and as difficult as it was the challenge and advancement up the firm ladder and building of a financial base was what made you tick. Now it is not and you are struggling to adapt and also dealing with the challenges of little kids. (It can be a challenge, but know that it will pass, and you might miss these days when it does -- for better or worse, they grow up quick). That's TOTALLY OK. That doesn't make you a bad person or lazy or unambitious.

I am a believer in stages of life. At this stage in your life, you are just stacking some easy cash and dealing with babies. That's fine. You can still learn from your job. You are just learning at a pace that's less rapid than before, and detaching yourself. I know you might be wondering "what if I stayed and was making a million dollars at the ol' firm" but you also know objectively that that life is not worth it and the price on your health and your family is too high. There is more to you than a resume or a deal sheet and you know it. Fundamentally, you need to work on detaching your self worth from your career. The goal is to become intrinsically motivated not extrinsically motivated and to seek self-actualization and not status markers or money. The primary purpose of FIRE is that it is a a method that when done correctly allows great freedom to permit that. YOU ARE ALREADY FREE, YOU JUST DON'T REALIZE THAT YOU ARE.

You have many options that you think you do not have. For example, you could move to the suburbs and work from home (or if that's not allowed, get a new job where it is). You could stay put and use private schools (and switch if you decide to change your life). You can practice a different type of law. You can start a company, or start a new firm. You can take a sabbatical and then go back to work. You can move somewhere cheaper. Heck, you can move somewhere more expensive that's more exciting. You don't need to buy a million dollar house and then commute an hour a day to a job you don't like. So don't! If you don't want that life, all you need to do is have the courage to reject it. 99.99% of the world would kill to be in your position.

I disagree that "lawyers are a dime a dozen." Some lawyers. Not lawyers with fancy firm experience, big corporate experience, who are smart and conscientious enough to save $3.5 million by middle age. Don't let a naysayer box you into being less than you could be. Don't let your concerns with status anxiety cause you to chase things you don't want to chase.

I would not actually make sudden moves right now. I would try to work hard on mentally detaching from your job. My motto now is "I'm going to do my employer a solid during working hours and then live my life with ZFG with my family and three little kids outside of working hours and vacations. I'll always be competent at what I do because that's my ethic, but if someone doesn't like me or my work there are a million other things I can do with my time and I will." I actually enjoy my job a lot more now, and am fine to stick with it even though I know I could FIRE by restructuring my life (moving out of HCOL, mainly) tomorrow, with less money and more kids than you. Maybe in a few years I will get fire back in my belly and try to climb the ladder. Or maybe not. It's my choice, not anyone else's, and if nobody gives me a job I want I'll just create my own.

I have a journal on the MMM forum that I use to organize my thoughts. I'd recommend you do that for a year while living your normal life. You'll feel better, and develop clearer plans for what you want out of your life. (You can PM me and I'll give you my screen name over there and we can sort this out in more detail together.)
IMO
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by IMO »

hirlaw wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 10:21 am Retired (mostly) attorney here. People outside of law may not realize the stress and anxiety that many lawyers face. I understand a lot of professions involve stress. In my state, the Lawyer's Assistance Program found that 32% of attorneys 30 yrs. old and younger had a drinking problem, 28% of attorneys had some form of depression and 11% had suicidal thoughts. This is much higher than most other professions, even higher than health care workers (although probably not during the current environment!).

I am certainly not a mental health professional. However, it could be that your husband is suffering from anxiety and depression. Before making a move that could be a "flight" response, he may consider a session with a professional that may be able to help through therapy and/or medication. It helps a lot people. :happy
What's funny about your post is that lawyers cause significant stress and anxiety for those in the medical field (and other fields)! All of that contributing to burnout .... :D
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by X528 »

Big Dog wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 11:43 am
Random Poster wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 11:34 am
Big Dog wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:59 am Lawyers are a dime-a-dozen.
Good lawyers aren’t.

And those who earn $300k+ are generally pretty good lawyers.
Sorry, but yes good lawyers are plentiful. The US graduates 2x the number of lawyers actually needed every year. The T14 keeps cranking out really smart attorneys every year. Plenty of Big Law Associates making bank, but quality of life sux. It definitely is a rarity to be making $300k and only working 40 hours a week (in any field). Congrats to him. Keep it going and look for a hobby (golf?) to do in his spare time. Personally, I'd be thinking about Plan B since this is not likely to last.
There are way, way too many lawyers:

https://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com

Even established lawyer with good careers can have problems down the line. Lawyers who downshift their career, or leave practice, can have problems if they want to gear up again later.
Last edited by X528 on Thu Jul 16, 2020 2:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
toocold
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by toocold »

When reading this post, did anybody else find it odd that the author referred to people as DH and DW? Usually dear or darling husband (DH) or dear or darling wife (DW) refers to how a person is related to the author, so I was confused. I think the author is the husband, and if that is the case, it would be odd to refer to oneself as DH, whether they truly are dear or darling.

Sorry to detract from the conversation. :happy
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by hirlaw »

IMO wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 11:59 am
hirlaw wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 10:21 am Retired (mostly) attorney here. People outside of law may not realize the stress and anxiety that many lawyers face. I understand a lot of professions involve stress. In my state, the Lawyer's Assistance Program found that 32% of attorneys 30 yrs. old and younger had a drinking problem, 28% of attorneys had some form of depression and 11% had suicidal thoughts. This is much higher than most other professions, even higher than health care workers (although probably not during the current environment!).

I am certainly not a mental health professional. However, it could be that your husband is suffering from anxiety and depression. Before making a move that could be a "flight" response, he may consider a session with a professional that may be able to help through therapy and/or medication. It helps a lot people. :happy
What's funny about your post is that lawyers cause significant stress and anxiety for those in the medical field (and other fields)! All of that contributing to burnout .... :D
Nothing against those in the medical field! My son is an emergency physician at a major children's hospital.
hirlaw
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by hirlaw »

IMO wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 11:59 am
hirlaw wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 10:21 am Retired (mostly) attorney here. People outside of law may not realize the stress and anxiety that many lawyers face. I understand a lot of professions involve stress. In my state, the Lawyer's Assistance Program found that 32% of attorneys 30 yrs. old and younger had a drinking problem, 28% of attorneys had some form of depression and 11% had suicidal thoughts. This is much higher than most other professions, even higher than health care workers (although probably not during the current environment!).

I am certainly not a mental health professional. However, it could be that your husband is suffering from anxiety and depression. Before making a move that could be a "flight" response, he may consider a session with a professional that may be able to help through therapy and/or medication. It helps a lot people. :happy
What's funny about your post is that lawyers cause significant stress and anxiety for those in the medical field (and other fields)! All of that contributing to burnout .... :D
Nothing against those in the medical field! My son is an emergency physician at a major children's hospital.
EfficientInvestor
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by EfficientInvestor »

Is it an option for DH to go part-time at the current job and still retain benefits? I am only 32 and recently did this. I still intend to work 40 hours a week in most weeks. But being classified as an hourly employee gives me the freedom to take time off without pay when I need the flexibility. As long as I work at least 30 hours per week, I still receive full benefits. This might be a good middle-ground while you figure our what your future should look like. In my case, I have 2 young kids and my wife needs extra help around the house every week due to current COVID lockdown. However, I'm also in the process of starting a side-business that I intend to make my full-time job once it is sustainable. So the part-time classification also gives me time during the week to work more on the side business if I want to. When I had the conversation with my boss about the change, I just explained it by saying I needed additional flexibility in schedule due to my personal life situation and having young kids. In your case, DH could have a similar conversation with their boss by saying they need the added flexibility of schedule right now due to personal and family reasons and leave it at that.

As for your financial picture...if I were in your shoes, I would quit today. However, I have a side-business I am already working on and have that sense of purpose outside of my current 9-5 job. So I would say that financially speaking you can retire today. But from a personal standpoint, it doesn't sound like DH is quite ready for it. Hence the proposed transition to reduced work hours until you figure it out.
Nearly A Moose
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by Nearly A Moose »

A few random thoughts (full disclosure, I'm a big firm lawyer in a HCOL area, have been at this gig for over a decade, have a family life, and really enjoy it, so (1) I have my own biases, (2) that's a glimpse into what they are, and (3) I realize that's atypical):

I can't tell how debilitating DW's medical condition is, and that could have a huge impact on DH's life. If he's functionally a regular caregiver for DW and a toddler and working a full-time job, that can be taxing and could change some of the analysis. I get the impression it's not quite that bad, but that reference could mean a lot here.

But my instinct would be to not be rash and to really think very hard before walking away from what on paper sounds like a great "typical law" job. On paper this family probably can FIRE, but they're really close to being able to FIRE with a lot more confidence and flexibility (e.g., want to take that kid to Paris when it's 9, just book the flights!)

If the effort of taking care of the kid is significantly affecting DH's outlook, hang in there. I personally found the 1.5-2.5 yr old stage to be the hardest. Things change noticeably between 2 and 4 years old. Our 5.5 and 3.5 yr old routinely run off and play unattended for embarrassingly long stretches now. And before you know it, that kid is going to be in school full time. Not sure if more kids are in the plans or not, but that's really something to consider, especially if some of the general family fatigue is caused by DW exhausting herself with the kiddo during the day. What would DH (or DW) do all day?

It's hard to tell what's cited just as an example and what is driving things, but at 2 years old, you're presumably done or soon to be done with nighttime nonsense, diapers, and stuff like that. I can't stress enough how much things change when you're sharing your home with a functional little person rather than a toddler.

Would hiring any more in-home help (either for DW's medical issues or for the kid) help in any way? You make enough that you could afford a nanny or household services.

It's really worth digging into how much of this is driven by things that will change (COVID, the age of the kid) versus how much driven by DH's mental health and wellbeing versus how much is driven by just being tired of the grind. I get the distinct impression that some professional counseling could help, either to alleviate some issues or to provide clarity.

Has DH thought about career changes? He's earned enough that he can afford for his savings rate to go down so long as lifestyle doesn't inflate:
--If you like the company but are tired of legal work, is there a non-legal role you can transition into? Sometimes even with niche roles there are opportunities to do that.
--Alternatively, if you are in such a niche that your skills are in high demand and there's a market, you could try hanging your shingle and targeting companies in that space. I know a few former corporate lawyers who retired and hung their shingles to be "outside general counsels" to smaller companies in the same sector. You might be able to do something similar.
--Is there interest and opportunity in teaching?
Pardon typos, I'm probably using my fat thumbs on a tiny phone.
Nearly A Moose
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by Nearly A Moose »

One other thought to add: I get the impression DH has some anxieties about work, performance, etc. This family has saved a ton of money for a family at their stage and seem to have their collective head on straight. I'm conservative enough that I would stick with awhile longer, but DH can do that with the confidence that if he screws up and gets fired, or gets caught up in office politics, or the company does arbitrary downsizing, then who cares? He's also in a much better position to say "no" to crap work or to take some risks in delegating work, doing work differently, etc. Perhaps a shift in thinking might help a little in the job-satisfaction department.
Pardon typos, I'm probably using my fat thumbs on a tiny phone.
protagonist
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by protagonist »

TiredLawyer wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 1:47 am I have been reading this forum daily for about 6 months now and this is my first time posting. I consider myself a natural boglehead and find the advice on this forum invaluable.

Background: DH is early 40s. DW is late 30s. We have a 2 year old child and live a MCOL city.

Situation: DH works as a corporate lawyer for a big company. DW Is SAHM with a chronic health condition. 2-year old goes to daycare. DH is tired of being a lawyer—there’s a feeling of burnout, underappreciation, and anxiety. DH is in a niche field but also concerned about his skill set no longer improving, potentially not being prepared for future opportunities at other companies; this combined with concerns about layoffs brings more anxiety. Work hours are not that bad for a lawyer—40 hours a week and now working from home due to COVID.

All this leads to the following: Can DH take some time off of work, perhaps 1-3 years until child starts kindergarten? Should DH try to work another 5 years and then consider a career change (is that realistic for mid-to-late 40s?) or FIRE?

We have lived below our means and feel that that should give us some options, but here are the concerns:
* In 3 years, we need to either send child to private school ($25k-$30k) or move to a new home in a good school district. Home in the new school district would likely be $800k - $1m. If we move, we will rent our current home.
* Without DH salary, we could not qualify for a mortgage for a new home
* DH also recognizes that he actually has a great balance of life at current company compared to other lawyers. There is a fear of giving this job up and then having to get a more ‘difficult’ job in a few years at potentially less salary (like $150k - $200k).
* We like our city so moving to another city for a new job is not a great option. Corporate jobs in DH's field come up in this city but not regularly. DH does not want to go back to law firm due to long hours.
* DW’s chronic health condition raises concern about healthcare costs and healthcare premiums without employer subsidy.
* DH is concerned that taking time off during his prime working years could be a career and compensation killer. While DH dreams of FIRE, this does not seem like a reality with a young family with big unknowns like health conditions and future education/schooling for young child.

Here is our financial situation:
Total annual compensation: Low $300k

Investments
- Cash Equivalents: $550k
- Taxable Brokerage: $1.3m
- Retirement Accounts: $900k
- HSA: $30k
- 529 Plan: $20k
- Rental Property: $200k
If I read correctly, you don't like your job, you are ~ 40 y o, you have close to $3M in savings which is a great buffer.
A few options:

1. If you hate being a lawyer, quit, get training in something that interests you (or try your own business if you have a dream), live somewhere more modest than where you have planned and send your kid to public school. This is the riskier of your options but you are already well-educated and should probably have little difficulty finding a job you like within a reasonable amount of time. One does not need a $1M home to be happy, or private schools to assure a good education. FWIW I have an attorney friend who went this route when he was in his 30s. He never went back to school but worked as a forest ranger for awhile, then owned a print shop, and now owns a motel. He is close to 70 now and has no regrets. He hated law.

2. Keep working until you find a new job possibility and do whatever is needed to save as much as you can while educating yourself in a new field and apply for jobs, or start one on the side....also put the home upgrade and any other lifestyle upgrades on hold until you get the new job and are sure you can afford it. This is a more prudent approach, and probably the one I would recommend if you are not so miserable in your current position that it is ruining your life. There are plenty of good school districts in which you can live without owning a $1M home (though I cannot speak for your area...perhaps that is not the case). And if you didn't move you have enough assets to afford $25K/yr for private school if that is a priority for quite awhile in the future until your life gets settled.

3. If you define your happiness by wealth and status more than you hate your job, you might want to keep your current job indefinitely and make the move you are planning or private school, especially if there is potential for advancement. $300K+/year is a lot of money. This would not be my choice.

If your spouse's health issues are potentially very expensive, that may limit your possibilities. Accept that change usually involves compromise and uncertainty.
Last edited by protagonist on Thu Jul 16, 2020 2:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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TiredLawyer
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by TiredLawyer »

Thank you to all the lawyers and spouses who have shared their stories. It is comforting to know that we are not alone in our struggles. I know many of us actually enjoy many parts of the profession but sometimes the demands are just too much. And truth be told, there are times when I handled more stress and workload, but my tank is closer to empty right now. I am hoping the child rearing gets a lot easier in the next 2 years and am thankful for the advice of not making a rash decision.
j9j
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by j9j »

300k+, 40hr work week, mlcol area. Don’t give this up.

Caring for a young one is taxing. Maybe get some more in-house help(part time nanny, more frequent maid) so DH is less drained.

At your rate you will have 5mil+ at 50 then options really open up.
Last edited by j9j on Thu Jul 16, 2020 3:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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cowdogman
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by cowdogman »

Stay the course.

I'm a commercial finance attorney. I semi-retired after 30 years. I worked in large firms and as general counsel for a large (in assets) company.

Every career has its up and downs, and I think lawyers are especially prone to fantasizing about career changes or just walking away.

In hindsight the best aspect (by far) of my career was that the compensation allowed me to provide for my family--nice houses, excellent education, a high level of comfort.

I often thought about doing something else--anything else--but looking back it's clear that such a move would have very, very likely been a mistake.
EddyB
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by EddyB »

Big Dog wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:59 am
Watty wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 5:54 am
TiredLawyer wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 1:47 am DH is tired of being a lawyer—there’s a feeling of burnout, underappreciation, and anxiety. .......

Work hours are not that bad for a lawyer—40 hours a week and now working from home due to COVID.
.....
Total annual compensation: Low $300k
If earning $300K for working a 40 hour week job is "not that bad" then what would be "good"? That is fantastic.
Bingo; it don't get any better than that. OTOH, given that income level and (relatively) low work week, I would expect that such a job would be ripe for layoff. (If I was CFO, I'd certainly look to reduce in-house Corp legal expenses.)
Respectfully, I don't think the commenters who are talking about the salary/hours being "fantastic" and an obvious target for layoffs understand the realities of some varieties of the legal job market, the costs of outside legal advice and a bunch of other relevant factors. The legal industry is much more stratified than some others, more akin to the frequent discussions on this board about "tech" (where FAANG engineers and IT support at your local medium-sized business are both in the same field in one sense, but not in a way that any insider would consider relevant) than to discussing pay for doctors. I don't know exactly what the DH in question does or what type of "big company" he works for, but he's a "corporate" lawyer---outsourcing at least some slice of "corporate" legal (e.g., M&A and securities law issues, sensitive corporate governance topics) to a first- or even second-class law firm is only going to buy something on the order of 300 or 400 hours of time (blended across lawyers at a range of experience levels), and many aspects of the work are going to suffer from more limited internal access and institutional memory. Aside from the most senior in-house attorneys and the next level down who aspire to move up, a huge part of how in-house legal competes for lawyers is the (reality or suggestion of) easier lifestyle than at law firms, where an associate with less than a decade of experience can make 50% more than the DH described in the OP.
rich126
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by rich126 »

With your assets you have a lot of options but it also sounds like you don't want to give up anything. Private school is a huge expense and not necessary. If you want to retire early, instead of upsizing the housing costs, it would be better to downsize or relocate. Also if you have medical issues, giving up health insurance sounds dangerous to me. And your husband is getting to the age where all of us start having more medical issues.

I can relate in some ways because giving up things can be tough, but most of us can't have everything. I'm close to retirement now (later 50s) and am pondering similar things such as do I sell my house right now at what I believe is a high price, if so, do I rent (haven't rented since college)? Would I be happy living in a lower cost of living area? If I go low cost and don't like it, could I afford to move back to where I might prefer?

Could I just quit now and "hibernate" for a while and hope the virus diminishes and then find a job in 3-6 months?

As an engineer I like everything to have solutions but in life it doesn't always work so smoothly.

And while I may be able to quit now, I keep coming back to numbers (making these up but you get the point):

Retire now and start spending $40K+ a year from retirement portfolio vs. keeping working and spending $0 from retirement savings AND save another $30K-40K a year. That $70K+ "savings" a year keeps me thinking that working is the better path rather than cutting it close on retirement.

In my case I will most likely move back east after spending a year out west (thinking it was my final move) to be closer to family and getting a better paid job with more benefits. Hopefully I will enjoy that job more than my current one (not stressful but just boring).

Good luck.
supalong52
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by supalong52 »

I think DH can quit and take a few years off. I did the same a few years ago and it has not hindered me professionally. The key is to have a solid network that you can tap into when he wants to return to the practice of law. People hiring off Internet sites might be put off by the gap, but others who know him in a professional context should be eager and willing to make referrals.
Katietsu
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by Katietsu »

rich126 wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 5:01 pm With your assets you have a lot of options but it also sounds like you don't want to give up anything.
This is what I thought as I read through the posts. Is the OP possibly trying to talk themselves into the status quo. If a retirement is looming, then there is no need to consider the commute. Also, the standard for an acceptable home seem to be taking precedence over other lifestyle options yet there is a great concern for job burnout. It just seems like there is a great deal of uncertainty and chaos about which way to turn to move forward. Under those circumstances, you might not be ready to give up a good job that you might not be able to step back into in a couple of years.

For the short term, would extra help around the house take off some of the pressure? A nanny instead daycare, for instance. Or hiring or increasing hours for a housekeeper? Even something as simple as having the SAHM use instacart for grocery shopping can free up what seems like a weekend of chores.
hoffse
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by hoffse »

OP, hang in there.

I'm a corporate/tax attorney, also with a 2-year old, working from home without childcare since mid-March.

It's been.... interesting.

We had plans for kid #2 that we have put on ice because the work/life blend (not a balance - a total blending I could never have foreseen) is totally exhausting.

My husband does not have chronic health issues, but he's another lawyer probably going up for partner this year. That's another level of stress.

I can tell you what we have done to cope with this during the short term:

(1) Lots of outside time for the whole family. We get an early start and take the toddler to an empty church parking lot to ride his bike every day that it's not raining (and hell we have even done it in the rain if I'm being honest). Then we go for a 4-5 mile family walk so that we can get some exercise, get some fresh air, and see each other/talk. That's the only quality time my husband and I get right now, so we make a point to try to do it every day that we can.

(2) We work at odd hours and swap off constantly throughout the day. That might mean we are working at 4 AM and not able to take a 10 AM call because the other has an actual hearing at that time. It just is what it is.

(3) We talk about our frustrations and have a no-blame policy if one of us is on edge with stress during this whole thing. We have to be each other's safety valve to let off steam. We are also trying to cut ourselves some slack for not being "perfect" at everything right now. That is hard to do, but we try.

(4) We have locked our liquor cabinet and only unlock it on the weekends. The key is in a really inconvenient place. We are drinking less now than we were pre-COVID. Similarly, we have limits to how much coffee we consume each day.

(5) We have committed to making no major life decisions until COVID passes and we can resume a sense of "normal" again.

It's entirely possible - maybe even likely - that your job is the primary source of stress and dissatisfaction for you right now. But I would submit to you that we are dealing with some very strange world events right now that are probably exacerbating it. Having a 2-year-old is the icing on the cake (thank God for Daniel Tiger). I would encourage you to at least adopt #5 above and not make any major life decisions until you are through this rough patch. At a certain point the COVID weirdness will be largely past us - probably within the next year. You can survive anything for a year.

Make a note on your calendar for July 2021 and reassess.
sean.mcgrath
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by sean.mcgrath »

TiredLawyer wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 1:47 am DH is tired of being a lawyer—there’s a feeling of burnout, underappreciation, and anxiety. DH is in a niche field but also concerned about his skill set no longer improving, potentially not being prepared for future opportunities at other companies; this combined with concerns about layoffs brings more anxiety. Work hours are not that bad for a lawyer—40 hours a week and now working from home due to COVID.
Not sure this is helpful, but here you go. My father, in his 40s, came to the conclusion that his field was not a great fit (he was a Theology professor, and as far as I can guess had just not got tenure for the second time). He used the GI bill to go back to school and get a degree in computer science (the 70s), and went into a completely new career. We had about three years of intense poverty (six children, my mother a Catholic school primary teacher as sole income). He went on to work in IT for 20+ years.

So what's my point? I can tell you, as kids we (mostly) did not mind the poverty -- that stress was all on my parents. He went through hell (delivered phone books, sold encyclopedias on commission, whatever), but ended up in a better place.

What I tell my kids is that this taught me you can always make a career switch, even though everyone says you can't. It might be painful, and it might mean a big change in standard of living, but if you stand together and it makes sense -- go for it. You will suffer, but the kids will be fine.
qwertyjazz
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by qwertyjazz »

Why not hire some live in help? Would still be netting more money than quitting and can take off some of the extra work - sleep more. Sleep is often a big driver of feeling of stress
G.E. Box "All models are wrong, but some are useful."
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Watty
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by Watty »

qwertyjazz wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 6:05 pm Sleep is often a big driver of feeling of stress
That was might thought too especially when you pick the user name "TiredLaywer".

In addition to DH talking about sleep with his doctor there are all sorts of sleep tracking tools like Fitbit and Apple watches.
megabad
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by megabad »

Watty wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 6:42 pm
qwertyjazz wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 6:05 pm Sleep is often a big driver of feeling of stress
That was might thought too especially when you pick the user name "TiredLaywer".

In addition to DH talking about sleep with his doctor there are all sorts of sleep tracking tools like Fitbit and Apple watches.
Lol. Fitbit would probably just display--"you have a young child, no point in monitoring sleep"
khram
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by khram »

Big Dog wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 11:43 am
Random Poster wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 11:34 am
Big Dog wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:59 am Lawyers are a dime-a-dozen.
Good lawyers aren’t.

And those who earn $300k+ are generally pretty good lawyers.
Sorry, but yes good lawyers are plentiful. The US graduates 2x the number of lawyers actually needed every year. The T14 keeps cranking out really smart attorneys every year. Plenty of Big Law Associates making bank, but quality of life sux. It definitely is a rarity to be making $300k and only working 40 hours a week (in any field). Congrats to him. Keep it going and look for a hobby (golf?) to do in his spare time. Personally, I'd be thinking about Plan B since this is not likely to last.
Those schools still pump out lots of new grads. If you're relatively smart in that you can test well, you grew up fairly privileged (access to SAT training, AP classes and so on), have access to loans, it's not unrealistic to get into one of them. You can even get a lawyer job. Moving up and making $300k or more takes a different skill set, one which is not as common.

Same thing holds in any field really. I am not sure what the law school drop out rate is, but I'm sure plenty of people get through who don't make it in the sense of getting a high-pay job (or they burn out after a couple years).
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anon_investor
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by anon_investor »

TiredLawyer wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 2:54 pm Thank you to all the lawyers and spouses who have shared their stories. It is comforting to know that we are not alone in our struggles. I know many of us actually enjoy many parts of the profession but sometimes the demands are just too much. And truth be told, there are times when I handled more stress and workload, but my tank is closer to empty right now. I am hoping the child rearing gets a lot easier in the next 2 years and am thankful for the advice of not making a rash decision.
Just to add another opinon, this coming from someone with a similar background as DH. I was a big law associate that felt extremely burnt out with 2 kids under 4 at the time with a stay at home spouse; which led me to go in house a few years ago to a mega corp now working 9-5, with a 3rd kid on the way. It sounds like kids were not in the picture when DH was in big law. I still remember never having time to spend with my kids trying to hit insane billable to make some bonus that I would never have time to enjoy. I sometimes forget this, and my spouse makes sure to remind me, which helps me to appreciate the time I have now for my family working regular people hours. I helps to keep that perspective sometimes, especially dealing with issues at work (that might cause stress).

With kids it definitely gets easier in some ways when they get older. They are more independent, but you also have to find more stuff to keep them occupied.

Is DH able to change divisions within his company or has has DH considered another in house position at another company? The change of scenery might help. I know at my company, the "culture" between the various divisions can be a bit different.
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TiredLawyer
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by TiredLawyer »

hoffse wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 5:38 pm OP, hang in there.

I'm a corporate/tax attorney, also with a 2-year old, working from home without childcare since mid-March.

It's been.... interesting.

We had plans for kid #2 that we have put on ice because the work/life blend (not a balance - a total blending I could never have foreseen) is totally exhausting.

My husband does not have chronic health issues, but he's another lawyer probably going up for partner this year. That's another level of stress.

I can tell you what we have done to cope with this during the short term:

(1) Lots of outside time for the whole family. We get an early start and take the toddler to an empty church parking lot to ride his bike every day that it's not raining (and hell we have even done it in the rain if I'm being honest). Then we go for a 4-5 mile family walk so that we can get some exercise, get some fresh air, and see each other/talk. That's the only quality time my husband and I get right now, so we make a point to try to do it every day that we can.

(2) We work at odd hours and swap off constantly throughout the day. That might mean we are working at 4 AM and not able to take a 10 AM call because the other has an actual hearing at that time. It just is what it is.

(3) We talk about our frustrations and have a no-blame policy if one of us is on edge with stress during this whole thing. We have to be each other's safety valve to let off steam. We are also trying to cut ourselves some slack for not being "perfect" at everything right now. That is hard to do, but we try.

(4) We have locked our liquor cabinet and only unlock it on the weekends. The key is in a really inconvenient place. We are drinking less now than we were pre-COVID. Similarly, we have limits to how much coffee we consume each day.

(5) We have committed to making no major life decisions until COVID passes and we can resume a sense of "normal" again.

It's entirely possible - maybe even likely - that your job is the primary source of stress and dissatisfaction for you right now. But I would submit to you that we are dealing with some very strange world events right now that are probably exacerbating it. Having a 2-year-old is the icing on the cake (thank God for Daniel Tiger). I would encourage you to at least adopt #5 above and not make any major life decisions until you are through this rough patch. At a certain point the COVID weirdness will be largely past us - probably within the next year. You can survive anything for a year.

Make a note on your calendar for July 2021 and reassess.
Hang in there as well. I can't imagine the load the both of you are pulling right now with full-time lawyer jobs (plus a partnership year to boot) without childcare. I have faith that your family will come out of this stronger with the partnership, communication, and empathy you have shown each other.
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TiredLawyer
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Re: Tired Lawyer, Need career and life advice

Post by TiredLawyer »

qwertyjazz wrote: Thu Jul 16, 2020 6:05 pm Why not hire some live in help? Would still be netting more money than quitting and can take off some of the extra work - sleep more. Sleep is often a big driver of feeling of stress
We should have hired a nanny or night nurse for at least a year when our child was first born. But being first-time parents, we didn't realize how hard it would be. Perhaps naively, we had high hopes that our child would start sleeping through the night after a few months. And frankly, I felt fine the first few months with the adrenaline and excitement that comes with having a new baby. But the waking up 2-3 times a night continued until closer to the second birthday, and now it's hard to climb out of the sleep deficit. Things are getting better slowly but it is taking time.
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