Mid-career Sabbatical

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Topic Author
SanAntionetta
Posts: 218
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2018 1:42 pm

Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by SanAntionetta »

Hi friends,

Being in my 40s and going through a midlife career crisis of sorts. I’ve been in my industry for 18 years and stayed in for the money but would like to pursue my dream of lawyering (already licensed but have never practiced). I also gave young kids and would like to spend more time with them while they still like me. My husband says I would be bored as a SAHM but I thought while they are in school I could brush up on my skills and figure out what I want to do. Of course this is a financial forum so I’ll lay out the financial part but wondering also if anyone has done this, was it hard to get back into working after a break and would you do it again.

Questions:
(1) would you feel comfortable (a) quitting now (b) in one year (c) in two years (note bonus payouts below)
(2) to prepare what would be your future contribution strategy? In the event of increased income where would you put additional money? (I’m anticipating a promotion imminently)
(3) would you pay off car with next bonus to free up cash flow? The interest is less than my savings account so I don’t like it.

Ages: early 40s, with kids 6 & 3 (entering 2nd grade and preschool in the fall)

Jobs both steady & safe
Net income: his $7500 mine: $8500 after post tax 401k contributions (could go to $9000 if reallocating funds)
Her bonus NET $40k annually in March

Monthly expense: working - $10k, without daycare and working expenses $7500
Emergency fund: $37k

Debt: mortgage $327k @ 2.875% house value ~$500k payment of $2450 includes $250/mo extra
Car: $30k @ 2.8% 3.5 years remaining

Retirement: ~$1MM 65% hers 35 his - four fund vanguard boglehead investments with 80/20 allocation
8.5% is in Roth accounts

Taxable: $40k mostly fidelity total market
529 (6) $25k
529 (3) $14k
HSA 24k

Vacation fund $10k
Christmas Fund $2k

Contributions:
Her 401k: $22.5k plus 10% match ~ $20k plus $6k mega back door
He is not currently allowed to contribute to 401k or HSA
Her IRA: $6500
His IRA: $6500
Taxable: $12k
Savings: $13,800
Ibonds: $6k
529s: $9600 ($400/mo each)
Company stock $2000
Vacation: $20k (I know)
Home improvement $20k
Extra mortgage payments: $3,000

Thanks! And please take it easy on me
srouen
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by srouen »

If I am understanding correctly, you are the primary breadwinner though not by a ton, your husband does not have any retirement benefits to speak of (independent contractor?), and his net income would cover your monthly expenses, but would not cover any of the savings listed under "contributions"? Or could some of those "contributions" come from his salary?

I certainly understand both the desire to spend time with your young kids and the mid-career feeling of burnout. I would also expect it to be very difficult to transition to a career as an attorney at this point in your career. Several years back, a relative of mine actually went from being a SAHM (though for 15+ years) to dusting off the law degree she got pre-kids and it was ROUGH. Of course, YMMV, but I would expect an uphill climb if you do decide that's what you want to do. It's a competitive field, and you may not be able or willing to put in the hours that young freshly minted attorneys do. You may struggle to find a job at all for quite a while.

Before you take the leap, you may want to spend some $$ on a few sessions with a career coach. Maybe there are ways you can downshift in your current position or a similar role within your industry part-time or as a consultant to free up some time without eliminating your salary entirely or adding a goose egg to your resume?

Best of luck to you. It's not easy, but I hope you find a situation that meets all your personal, professional, and financial needs better.
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by TomatoTomahto »

Deleted
Last edited by TomatoTomahto on Thu May 25, 2023 12:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
Topic Author
SanAntionetta
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by SanAntionetta »

srouen wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 8:31 am If I am understanding correctly, you are the primary breadwinner though not by a ton, your husband does not have any retirement benefits to speak of (independent contractor?), and his net income would cover your monthly expenses, but would not cover any of the savings listed under "contributions"? Or could some of those "contributions" come from his salary?

I certainly understand both the desire to spend time with your young kids and the mid-career feeling of burnout. I would also expect it to be very difficult to transition to a career as an attorney at this point in your career. Several years back, a relative of mine actually went from being a SAHM (though for 15+ years) to dusting off the law degree she got pre-kids and it was ROUGH. Of course, YMMV, but I would expect an uphill climb if you do decide that's what you want to do. It's a competitive field, and you may not be able or willing to put in the hours that young freshly minted attorneys do. You may struggle to find a job at all for quite a while.

Before you take the leap, you may want to spend some $$ on a few sessions with a career coach. Maybe there are ways you can downshift in your current position or a similar role within your industry part-time or as a consultant to free up some time without eliminating your salary entirely or adding a goose egg to your resume?

Best of luck to you. It's not easy, but I hope you find a situation that meets all your personal, professional, and financial needs better.
Thanks for the thoughtful advice. A career coach might be a great bet. I was thinking of starting up my own private practice. My experience would position me well in certain areas of the law. I could consider doing contract work on cases as well to pick up extra cash.

I don’t hate my industry, I made the mistake of going onto the leadership track when I’m happier as an individual contributor. Now I make too much money to go back to an IC role. My job is pretty easy but dealing with frustrations like bad data and no resources to update ancient systems is really annoying.

My husband isn’t a contractor and indeed carries our medical insurance, he just isn’t eligible to contribute to the 401k plan until mid-2024. Our contributions going forward would be limited without my salary, which is why I’m trying to fill the buckets now to give me extra flexibility.
jaqenhghar
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by jaqenhghar »

Hi OP,

https://themomproject.com/ has a good list of part-time/contractor/etc postings for folks looking to re-enter a variety of professions.
Florida Orange
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by Florida Orange »

There's an old saying: it's law school, not lawyer school. You don't learn how to be a lawyer in law school. I would suggest getting a job as an associate at a law firm for at least a couple of years first, and then decide whether to open your own practice. Going out on your own with no previous experience will be risky and difficult. I don't want to crush your dream of being a lawyer, but it's a tough profession. Also, I'd probably stay and get the bonus in March. Best of luck to you.
Topic Author
SanAntionetta
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by SanAntionetta »

Florida Orange wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 9:34 am There's an old saying: it's law school, not lawyer school. You don't learn how to be a lawyer in law school. I would suggest getting a job as an associate at a law firm for at least a couple of years first, and then decide whether to open your own practice. Going out on your own with no previous experience will be risky and difficult. I don't want to crush your dream of being a lawyer, but it's a tough profession. Also, I'd probably stay and get the bonus in March. Best of luck to you.
Fair enough. I do want to do something different, I’ve been miserable and bored for years, just trying to plan an exit strategy. Unfortunately being a working mom I have zero time to actually figure it out so for now trying to fill our buckets and not sure if I should pay off the car to increase cash flow or focus on 529s so I don’t feel guilty stopping contributing for a bit or just building cash.
pizzy
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by pizzy »

SanAntionetta wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 11:42 am I’ve been miserable and bored for years
You can fix bored, I'd bet that would fix miserable also.

Is the job filling up the 40 hours per week or is that part of the boredom?
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Wannaretireearly
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by Wannaretireearly »

You make good income!
I’d focus on what is wrong with current role and transition laterally within the company. I’ve known many ppl to also go from manager to IC. Be very happy and make lots more money. I manage a few of them :)
“At some point you are trading time you will never get back for money you will never spend.“ | “How do you want to spend the best remaining year of your life?“
Topic Author
SanAntionetta
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by SanAntionetta »

pizzy wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 11:45 am
SanAntionetta wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 11:42 am I’ve been miserable and bored for years
You can fix bored, I'd bet that would fix miserable also.

Is the job filling up the 40 hours per week or is that part of the boredom?
I honestly think it’s being stuck at home all day post-pandemic. I do take breaks to work out, walk, bike ride, play piano, and even get to work outside on my patio sometimes but I’m a social person and miss being around people. We have Teams sure but it’s not the same. We do have an office and I go in 1-2 times a week but there will be 1 or 2 people there and it’s just not the same. I know people love the flexibility of remote work but it’s isolating.
pizzy
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by pizzy »

SanAntionetta wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 12:00 pm I honestly think it’s being stuck at home all day post-pandemic. I do take breaks to work out, walk, bike ride, play piano, and even get to work outside on my patio sometimes but I’m a social person and miss being around people. We have Teams sure but it’s not the same. We do have an office and I go in 1-2 times a week but there will be 1 or 2 people there and it’s just not the same. I know people love the flexibility of remote work but it’s isolating.
Many places are like this now. How would you fill your days without the job? work out, walk, bike ride, play piano

Have you thought about group fitness classes? You may find people in similar situations that you could do other things with during the day...

Bike clubs, golf, pickleball...

Volunteer, start slow
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Globalviewer58
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by Globalviewer58 »

“That's right,' she told the girls. 'You are bored. And I'm going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it's boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it's on you to make life interesting, the better off you'll be.”


― Maria Semple, Where'd You Go, Bernadette
tashnewbie
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by tashnewbie »

If your goal is to have more time to spend with your kids, I don't think being a practicing attorney is going to help. I guess you'd have more time with them in the short term, before you return to work. But you'd be starting from the "bottom" of the totem pole as an attorney and would need to work a lot of hours. It might be difficult to get into firm work, but perhaps some smaller firms would take a chance on you because of your real-world business experience (larger firms might too if you went to a T14 law school). Government work wouldn't be as time-consuming, but I think you might have difficulty getting hired there too.

As a practicing attorney myself, I recommend finding a way to make a change in your current profession. It sounds like an IC role would be a better fit, and the money likely would be good, not as much as you make now, but sufficient. If money is a major concern, it would probably take you years as an attorney to get to your current total comp level (if you didn't land at a big law firm), if you ever did.
Glockenspiel
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by Glockenspiel »

You need some time with other adults. I'd recommend finding a group where you can participate in something you all enjoy. Whether that's working out, drinking wine, volunteering, or anything. My wife and I have become great friends with a lot of our new neighbors and it has dramatically improved our mental health and happiness.
Topic Author
SanAntionetta
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by SanAntionetta »

Glockenspiel wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 12:26 pm You need some time with other adults. I'd recommend finding a group where you can participate in something you all enjoy. Whether that's working out, drinking wine, volunteering, or anything. My wife and I have become great friends with a lot of our new neighbors and it has dramatically improved our mental health and happiness.
This is good advice. We do have neighbor friends but now our oldest kids are all in school together they are all over scheduled. They are mostly SAHM so there’s a little envy going on “oh we will never get this time back with our kids” stuff going on. My baby is also no longer a baby and I feel like it’s slipping away from me and I’m going to turn around and she’s going to be a teenager that hates me.
ThankYouJack
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by ThankYouJack »

FWIW my spouse and I have both taken career breaks. I'm glad we did, but I wouldn't say it made us happier and it definitely isn't a cure for boredom.

Before quitting, could you use a bunch of PTO to test the waters to see what staying at home would be like?

Also, maybe a good life/career coach would be helpful?
Topic Author
SanAntionetta
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by SanAntionetta »

tashnewbie wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 12:24 pm If your goal is to have more time to spend with your kids, I don't think being a practicing attorney is going to help. I guess you'd have more time with them in the short term, before you return to work. But you'd be starting from the "bottom" of the totem pole as an attorney and would need to work a lot of hours. It might be difficult to get into firm work, but perhaps some smaller firms would take a chance on you because of your real-world business experience (larger firms might too if you went to a T14 law school). Government work wouldn't be as time-consuming, but I think you might have difficulty getting hired there too.

As a practicing attorney myself, I recommend finding a way to make a change in your current profession. It sounds like an IC role would be a better fit, and the money likely would be good, not as much as you make now, but sufficient. If money is a major concern, it would probably take you years as an attorney to get to your current total comp level (if you didn't land at a big law firm), if you ever did.
I know I’m glorifying it, we have so many recovering attorneys that work in our field. I know I’ll never work for BigLaw and don’t want to put in that kind of hours anyway unless it’s for my own self.

I’m in the cusp of a promotion, I have asked for more, apparently I’m getting it but it’s a six month process with HR (I don’t doubt it it takes them like three months to even post a position) so I’ll be patient and see what’s up.

I would like to position myself financially to make a change securely even if it’s in my current field but less $, so I have options. We bought a moderately sized home that we could afford on one salary and save 30% of our income just in retirement, so it seems plausible.
Topic Author
SanAntionetta
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by SanAntionetta »

ThankYouJack wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 1:03 pm FWIW my spouse and I have both taken career breaks. I'm glad we did, but I wouldn't say it made us happier and it definitely isn't a cure for boredom.

Before quitting, could you use a bunch of PTO to test the waters to see what staying at home would be like?

Also, maybe a good life/career coach would be helpful?
Sounds like I need a life coach or a therapist :P
Glockenspiel
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by Glockenspiel »

SanAntionetta wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 12:53 pm
This is good advice. We do have neighbor friends but now our oldest kids are all in school together they are all over scheduled. They are mostly SAHM so there’s a little envy going on “oh we will never get this time back with our kids” stuff going on. My baby is also no longer a baby and I feel like it’s slipping away from me and I’m going to turn around and she’s going to be a teenager that hates me.
Keep engaging your baby, treating her like a person with real thoughts, feelings, and opinions, and she won't hate you. Once you start dictating to her exactly what she has to do, she's more likely to rebel and disengage from you. Keep an open and honest dialogue always, never criticize her for anything she tells you, thank her for opening up to you, and try to be a willing mentor instead of a dictator and she will keep a good relationship with you. Honestly, a therapist would be really helpful. I did some therapy earlier this year and it helped quite a bit, but now I just follow some really good podcasts which has helped me keep a good perspective.
pizzy
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by pizzy »

SanAntionetta wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 1:34 pm Sounds like I need a life coach or a therapist :P
It's most likely the answer.
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tashnewbie
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by tashnewbie »

SanAntionetta wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 1:34 pm
ThankYouJack wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 1:03 pm FWIW my spouse and I have both taken career breaks. I'm glad we did, but I wouldn't say it made us happier and it definitely isn't a cure for boredom.

Before quitting, could you use a bunch of PTO to test the waters to see what staying at home would be like?

Also, maybe a good life/career coach would be helpful?
Sounds like I need a life coach or a therapist :P
I agree. I wouldn't make any drastic changes until you can get some (hopefully) impartial advice from a trained third party.

I just don't think you should operate under what I consider to be a delusion that practicing law is going to be better than your current profession. Perhaps all you need is a change of scenery in your current profession (could be an internal transfer). Take your time to make a solid decision.
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Watty
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by Watty »

SanAntionetta wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 8:01 am And please take it easy on me


You are doing fantastic financially. You have a million in retirement savings so if stopped working and just lived on your spouse's income you would not need to save any more and could likely easily retire well before the time your youngest kid heads off to college in about 15 years.

You have a lot of decisions and a big factor is making sure that you and your spouse agree on any big changes that you will be making. A huge risk to giving up your career is that after a few years your marriage might fail then you would have a lot of trouble supporting yourself.

One option that you might consider would be to take a three to six month sabbatical or leave of absence from work then decide what you want to do.

If I understand it correctly you are in some sort of corporate management roll now.

Just for brainstorming have you considered getting into corporate law? I never really worked with them but the mid-size Mega-corps that I worked for all had a couple of corporate lawyers on staff.

I have never worked in law but I recall seeing that the entry level job market for new lawyers is pretty rough if you are not in the top 10% of your class at a top law school and often does not pay as much compared to the "big law" salaries. The time demands for becoming a new lawyer or starting up your own practice might also be excessive especially since it looks like you like to travel a lot.
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Watty
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by Watty »

SanAntionetta wrote: Thu May 25, 2023 8:01 am And please take it easy on me


You are doing fantastic financially. You have a million in retirement savings so if stopped working and just lived on your spouse's income you would not need to save any more and could likely easily retire well before the time your youngest kid heads off to college in about 15 years.

You have a lot of decisions and a big factor is making sure that you and your spouse agree on any big changes that you will be making. A huge risk to giving up your career is that after a few years your marriage might fail then you would have a lot of trouble supporting yourself.

One option that you might consider would be to take a formal three to six month sabbatical or leave of absence from work where you could return to your current job without a long term plan then decide what you want to do.

If I understand it correctly you are in some sort of corporate management roll now.

Just for brainstorming have you considered getting into corporate law? I never really worked with them but the mid-size Mega-corps that I worked for all had a couple of corporate lawyers on staff.

I have never worked in law but I recall seeing that the entry level job market for new lawyers is pretty rough if you are not in the top 10% of your class at a top law school and often does not pay as much compared to the "big law" salaries. The time demands for becoming a new lawyer or starting up your own practice might also be excessive especially since it looks like you like to travel a lot.
runner540
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by runner540 »

Sent you a PM
FunnelCakeBob
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by FunnelCakeBob »

I'd stay at least until you're eligible for the bonus. $40k is too large to let go as you strategize your next move. Keep the car payment rather than paying it all off now.

I wouldn't quit yet since you still haven't figured out your offramp. You're in a good position since you're already licensed in your state, but just never gone into the legal realm. If you switch now and become an associate at a law firm, kiss reasonable work hours and work/life balance good bye because work life revolves around number of billable hours at firms. Along that line would be less time for your kids as well time for work out, walk, bike ride, piano, etc. Not knowing your current field/industry/profession makes it hard to provide more specifics. But your years of experience in your current field could be a great asset if you make the lateral transition to go as in-house lawyer, instead of decamping for a law firm. Maybe not the legal department at your current company but most places could use lawyers with good business sense and technical understanding of their products and business processes. I'd reach out to industry contacts who are inhouse lawyers and get an overview of the work life and learning curve involved.
8301
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Re: Mid-career Sabbatical

Post by 8301 »

You cannot use the fancy word "sabbatical" unless your job is waiting for you. You are simply quitting your job.
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