Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Help Us Make Sense of it All

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Chindsey
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Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by Chindsey » Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:29 am

Good morning, all.

My wife and I, a dual federal couple, moved our family (ourselves and two children) across the country last summer to settle down closer to family prior to our older child (who is now 6 years old) beginning kindergarten. My DW is 39 years old and I am 40.

We had saved for years and, after much due diligence, decided to purchase the home in cash (currently valued at ~ $435,000). The largest recurring expense associated with the home is annual property taxes of ~ $15,000. We are in one of the premier public school districts in the state, and the taxes are an expense we planned for and are more than willing to absorb until our younger child (now 3 years old) graduates from high school in ~ 15 years.

My wife and I are both federal employees. She currently earns ~ $130,000 annually and has a wonderfully flexible job. Prior to our move, I earned ~ $100,000 and was in a work role that allowed for personal growth and advancement. Very long story short, in order to effectuate the move and stay with my current employer, I had to "voluntarily" step down to a much lesser position/work role that pays ~ $60,000 annually that does not allow for personal growth and advancement. The step down has been a very difficult one for me, to say the least -- both financially and psychologically. For the past 10+ months I have been attempting to reintegrate to my former (~ $100,000/year work role). Suffice it to say, despite me "fighting the good fight," it does not appear to be in the cards.

My wife will be entitled to a "sizable" unreduced pension at age 60 (maybe ~ $50,000/year). Should I decide to leave soon, I will be entitled to a much smaller unreduced pension at age 60 (maybe $10,000/year).

My wife carries our family's health insurance, and we will be able to carry it for the rest of our lives so long as she works until at least age 57.

My wife and I both currently max out our annual TSP and backdoor Roth IRA contributions.

After front-loading the kids' 529s with ~ $48,000 each, we stopped making additional contributions.

Our current net worth is ~ $1,840,000, as follows:

Checking Account: ~ $3,000
Savings Account: ~ $40,000
Vanguard Taxable Investments: ~ $175,000
Vanguard Roth IRAs: ~ $255,000 combined
TSP Accounts: ~ $785,000 combined
HSA: ~ $16,000 (no longer enrolled in an HDHP)
529 #1: ~ $73,000
529 #2: ~ $62,000
Home Equity: ~ $435,000 (no mortgage)

Given that we are in fairly decent financial shape, this all has me wondering what next for me? I am having a terribly difficult time making sense of it all.

As always, thank you in advance.

Chindsey
Last edited by Chindsey on Thu Jul 30, 2020 10:08 am, edited 4 times in total.

sfnerd
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Me Make Some Sense of it All

Post by sfnerd » Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:35 am

Sounds like you aren't satisfied with your job, and that doing nothing won't be a fun option for you at this stage. Are you in a profession where you could go private, if staying a federal employee is not an option?

123
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Me Make Some Sense of it All

Post by 123 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:40 am

Chindsey wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:29 am
...My wife and I are both federal employees. She currently earns ~ $130,000 annually and has a wonderfully flexible job. Prior to our move, I earned ~ $100,000 and was in a work role that allowed for personal growth and advancement. Very long story short, in order to effectuate the move and stay with my current employer, I had to "voluntarily" step down to a much lesser position/work role that pays ~ $60,000 annually that does not allow for personal growth and advancement. The step down has been a very difficult one for me, to say the least -- both financially and psychologically. For the past 10+ months I have been attempting to reintegrate to my former (~ $100,000/year work role). Suffice it to say, despite me "fighting the good fight," it does not appear to be in the cards...
I suspect that you have blinders on with respect to the view of your job/career/employer. Do you thinkyou are stuck with one federal agency? Maybe it's time to move on to another federal agency, even if it involves a significant commute. If opportunities open up in your present agency/location you can always attempt to move back. I think you are stuck within your own "fence". Asset-wise you are doing well.

If government gives you comfort there are also opportunites at city/county/state levels, sometimes those can be better financially then federal.
Last edited by 123 on Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Topic Author
Chindsey
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by Chindsey » Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:41 am

Given the location where we settled, in is unlikely I would be able to work for another federal agency. And given that I don't *need* to absorb a long commute, I don't think I'd be willing to sacrifice the time I now spend with my wife and kids.
Last edited by Chindsey on Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.

runner540
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by runner540 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:04 am

Seems like you and your wife have done a great job financially. How about quitting your job and being a stay at home parent?

Topic Author
Chindsey
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by Chindsey » Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:16 am

runner540 wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:04 am
Seems like you and your wife have done a great job financially. How about quitting your job and being a stay at home parent?
Given our financials, do you really think I can afford to leave? To no longer earn income? If so, with both kids in school full time, and DW working full time, I feel as though age 40 may be a bit too young not to be engaged on a regular basis is a "meaningful" way.

PoppyA
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by PoppyA » Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:30 am

I took two “step backs” in the course of my career. I did it for the good of my family. My career did suffer, but I looked for joy where I could find it...

How long have you been in this “boat”? Is there a chance you can find some joy outside of work?

In the end I had to commit to my career decision and not look back. All these years later, life is good. I have a strong family.

runner540
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by runner540 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:41 am

Chindsey wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:16 am
runner540 wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:04 am
Seems like you and your wife have done a great job financially. How about quitting your job and being a stay at home parent?
Given our financials, do you really think I can afford to leave? To no longer earn income? If so, with both kids in school full time, and DW working full time, I feel as though age 40 may be a bit too young not to be engaged on a regular basis is a "meaningful" way.
You probably can make work optional - How much do you spend in a year, excluding child care? I don't think you need to save that much more.
You have more than $1MM in tax advantaged retirement accounts (plus a likely pension coming and SS x 2 workers), paid off house, and 2 x 529s that you don't plan on contributing more to.

Topic Author
Chindsey
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by Chindsey » Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:53 am

PoppyA wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:30 am
I took two “step backs” in the course of my career. I did it for the good of my family. My career did suffer, but I looked for joy where I could find it...

How long have you been in this “boat”? Is there a chance you can find some joy outside of work?

In the end I had to commit to my career decision and not look back. All these years later, life is good. I have a strong family.
The "step back" was for the good of my family and, as bummed as I am that I may not (rightfully) be able to return to my previous work role, if I had to do it all over again, I'd do that exact same thing.

I have been in this "boat" since the summer of 2019. I find joy in spending non-work time with my wife and kids. Given the kids' ages, I have had a difficult time pursuing hobbies.
Last edited by Chindsey on Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

SimplicityNow
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by SimplicityNow » Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:55 am

At the end of the day, you put your family first. That is, in my mind, to be commended. The price you payed was job satisfaction and advancement.

In the grand scheme, I think it was a small price to pay to be with family and to have the time to spend with your kids.

Perhaps keep your present job and try the financial coaching as a side hustle to see if you can make a go of it. Even if it doesn't succeed financially, at least it will give you some satisfaction in doing something you enjoy.

Best of luck.

Topic Author
Chindsey
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by Chindsey » Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:58 am

runner540 wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:41 am
Chindsey wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:16 am
runner540 wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:04 am
Seems like you and your wife have done a great job financially. How about quitting your job and being a stay at home parent?
Given our financials, do you really think I can afford to leave? To no longer earn income? If so, with both kids in school full time, and DW working full time, I feel as though age 40 may be a bit too young not to be engaged on a regular basis is a "meaningful" way.
You probably can make work optional - How much do you spend in a year, excluding child care? I don't think you need to save that much more.
You have more than $1MM in tax advantaged retirement accounts (plus a likely pension coming and SS x 2 workers), paid off house, and 2 x 529s that you don't plan on contributing more to.
Good question. Maybe ~ $75,000 per year on the high end (~ $5,000/month + ~ $15,000 in property taxes).
Last edited by Chindsey on Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

kj10
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by kj10 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:01 pm

PoppyA wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:30 am
I took two “step backs” in the course of my career. I did it for the good of my family. My career did suffer, but I looked for joy where I could find it...

How long have you been in this “boat”? Is there a chance you can find some joy outside of work?

In the end I had to commit to my career decision and not look back. All these years later, life is good. I have a strong family.
Thanks for sharing this, PoppyA. I don’t know about the OP, but I needed to hear it.

Topic Author
Chindsey
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by Chindsey » Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:06 pm

SimplicityNow wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:55 am
At the end of the day, you put your family first. That is, in my mind, to be commended. The price you payed was job satisfaction and advancement.

In the grand scheme, I think it was a small price to pay to be with family and to have the time to spend with your kids.

Perhaps keep your present job and try the financial coaching as a side hustle to see if you can make a go of it. Even if it doesn't succeed financially, at least it will give you some satisfaction in doing something you enjoy.

Best of luck.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it and agree wholeheartedly.

I need to get smart on how I would begin the financial/behavioral coaching (side) hustle. Is there such a thing as a "help one set up a small business from A to Z" coach? ;)

Topic Author
Chindsey
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Me Make Some Sense of it All

Post by Chindsey » Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:12 pm

sfnerd wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:35 am
Sounds like you aren't satisfied with your job, and that doing nothing won't be a fun option for you at this stage. Are you in a profession where you could go private, if staying a federal employee is not an option?
Yeah, I'm not satisfied. I am an attorney by training, but I have not practiced law in ~ 12 years. I do not have any real desire to return to practice. And, unfortunately, I don't believe I could go private with the work I do currently.

One thing I have considered is becoming a money/behavioral coach for current and former federal employees/members of the US military with access to the TSP. With nothing to sell but my time and conflict-free guidance, my focus would be helping folks assess their individual need, ability, and willingness to take risk, and leverage their TSP accounts to reach financial independence and begin living life on their own terms.

Topic Author
Chindsey
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Me Make Some Sense of it All

Post by Chindsey » Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:15 pm

123 wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:40 am
Chindsey wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:29 am
...My wife and I are both federal employees. She currently earns ~ $130,000 annually and has a wonderfully flexible job. Prior to our move, I earned ~ $100,000 and was in a work role that allowed for personal growth and advancement. Very long story short, in order to effectuate the move and stay with my current employer, I had to "voluntarily" step down to a much lesser position/work role that pays ~ $60,000 annually that does not allow for personal growth and advancement. The step down has been a very difficult one for me, to say the least -- both financially and psychologically. For the past 10+ months I have been attempting to reintegrate to my former (~ $100,000/year work role). Suffice it to say, despite me "fighting the good fight," it does not appear to be in the cards...
I suspect that you have blinders on with respect to the view of your job/career/employer. Do you thinkyou are stuck with one federal agency? Maybe it's time to move on to another federal agency, even if it involves a significant commute. If opportunities open up in your present agency/location you can always attempt to move back. I think you are stuck within your own "fence". Asset-wise you are doing well.

If government gives you comfort there are also opportunites at city/county/state levels, sometimes those can be better financially then federal.
Given the location where we settled, in is unlikely I would be able to work for another federal agency. And given that I don't *need* to absorb a long commute, I don't think I'd be willing to sacrifice the time I now spend with my wife and kids.

rgs92
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by rgs92 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:18 pm

I usually recommend that the main consideration in a career is job security above all else unless you have a particular passion or special talent for some sort of vocation.

This is analogous to the Boglehead principle of investing in the entire stock market since it's apparently the only reliable strategy that can maintain a high level of performance level over the very long term. It seems to me that government employment is often the best road to a stable income. Anecdotally for most people I have known who work for a living, this seems to be the case.

So this is how I would approach the path of setting career/life options.
Last edited by rgs92 on Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:30 pm, edited 3 times in total.

almostretired1965
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by almostretired1965 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:24 pm

I doubt that anyone can offer much advice that is really useful unless you give us a bit more detail about your situation, e.g., the location, your skills and experience, etc. That said ......

Financially, I agree that you guys are in great shape and so long as nothing changes on the home front, your family will be fine regardless of what you decide to do. However, and I am not suggesting that you have any reason to not trust your spouse whole heartedly NOW, the truth is, stuff happens. The world is littered with folks who thought they had a sure thing, until it wasn't. To abandon gainful employment without a plan for the worst case scenario, is, in my opinion, a mistake regardless of your sex. Once you are off the professional track for a few years, it is really hard to get back on.

Given that you are unhappy with your current role, I would look more closely at how you can move on to a new career that might be more appealing. This will require a clear eyed assessment of your current skills, finding the right opportunities that leverage your existing experience, and obtaining the training necessary to fill any gaps ...... I did exactly that 20 years ago when I was in my mid thirties, though I was a bit lucky and actually found someone that was willing to take a chance on me, without needing to take a pay cut.

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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by Reamus294 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 1:42 pm

You've done a great job saving. Depending on your goals, it sounds like your retirement future could already be covered.

If I was in a similar situation I would take advantage of trying to find something with a better fit. Whether it was stay at home parent or pursuing a completely different career becoming a personal or small business financial planner. If your SO is on board, I imagine having a stay at home parent can be very beneficial to more quality time for everyone in the family and it would let you pursue a passion part-time to see if it is viable or see if you are really passionate about it.

I'm around the same age, took a different job and struggling to get motivated to excel. My SO could soon be earning twice my salary, which is great. It starts to get me thinking in a similar direction, what's next and how can I better support the family and myself.

With my personality, I like to reduce risk before making a decision, so I'd map out worse case scenarios and make sure I'm ok adapting with those. I'd also meditate more to make sure I'm in good place to make a large decision. This decision may feel risky, but you've already reduced a lot of the risk by being very financially stable. Good luck!

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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by calmaniac » Tue Jul 28, 2020 2:54 pm

almostretired1965 wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:24 pm
Given that you are unhappy with your current role, I would look more closely at how you can move on to a new career that might be more appealing. This will require a clear eyed assessment of your current skills, finding the right opportunities that leverage your existing experience, and obtaining the training necessary to fill any gaps ...... I did exactly that 20 years ago when I was in my mid thirties, though I was a bit lucky and actually found someone that was willing to take a chance on me, without needing to take a pay cut.
I want to add one thing to almostretired1965's great advice above. Your financial assets are such that you have the luxury of recreating an encore career in whatever manner you wish. Unlike most people out there, you can afford to work part time for a few years while taking some courses or developing a new skill to move into a new work area, or starting a solo business, etc. Your finances are such you have the freedom to recreate your work to fit your lifestyle, interests, and skillset.
62 yo, 1-3y til retire. AA 70/30: 30% S&P, 16% value, 14% intl, 10% EM, 30% short/int govt bonds. DW & my Fed pensions now ≈60% of expenses. Taking SS @age 70--> pension+SS ≈100% of expenses.

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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by PoppyA » Tue Jul 28, 2020 3:07 pm

Yep, you just need to find your spark again! The small business bureau helps people start businesses. You are also in a unique position to help in your community if you so desire ....art museum, teach at a college, teach people to read, learn how to shoot a gun, become a school board member, what is it you always wanted to do my friend? Build it.

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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by Bobby206 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 3:11 pm

I would look at the numbers for how long you need to work to get a nice pension. I would put my head down and get THERE! That's a long term gift horse that has a huge financial and emotional value. Being dual pension retirees would be nice. Plus, and I hate to say this, but people do get divorced. You can't bank on your spouse's pension. Bank on yourself! Good luck.

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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by RocketShipTech » Tue Jul 28, 2020 3:13 pm

Bobby206 wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 3:11 pm
I would look at the numbers for how long you need to work to get a nice pension. I would put my head down and get THERE! That's a long term gift horse that has a huge financial and emotional value. Being dual pension retirees would be nice. Plus, and I hate to say this, but people do get divorced. You can't bank on your spouse's pension. Bank on yourself! Good luck.
Even if it’s 10 years more of your life on a life expectancy of 30 or 40 more years?

Getting “emotional value” out of finances is confusing ends with means.

rich126
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by rich126 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 7:29 pm

You could always quit and then reapply down the road. I've done that. Spent 15 years at a government job and couldn't take it anymore. Then about 12+ years later returned for another 6 years, before I gave up again. The second time boosted my high 3 year avg salary by more than 2X and qualified me for health insurance (obviously not a concern with your wife).

Maybe things will change with management or new openings will be available. Hard to say since I don't know where you are but it is a possibility.

I know some people say "Just tough it out". That can make for a miserable existence. I did that for about 12-18 months and while I survived and ended up doing well, it sure wasn't good for my health. Thankfully afterwards I hit the gym (slowly) and greatly improved my health. It did give me new perspective on people suffering in their jobs since I've generally had things well (although totally bored now and likely to move again).

Also depending on the type of work you do, maybe there is a job you can do remotely. I know I would accept less pay to work full time from home. I did that for about 5 weeks this year and it was great.

Good luck.

greengrass222
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by greengrass222 » Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:38 am

Hot dammmm, you guys saved up an enormous amount of wealth in a relatively short time. Sounds like you might be a patent attorney. Why not be a corporate attorney for a private company? The pay is significantly better, and usually benefits such as health insurance are much better than the federal government. Another option is to work in a patent office for a university.

If you stay with the current job, is It part time? Can you work another part time job elsewhere? Part time teaching can be very rewarding for intellectual growth.

Another "remote" job is being an editor for a journal.

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burt
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by burt » Wed Jul 29, 2020 6:06 am

rgs92 wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:18 pm
I usually recommend that the main consideration in a career is job security above all else unless you have a particular passion or special talent for some sort of vocation.

This is analogous to the Boglehead principle of investing in the entire stock market since it's apparently the only reliable strategy that can maintain a high level of performance level over the very long term. It seems to me that government employment is often the best road to a stable income. Anecdotally for most people I have known who work for a living, this seems to be the case.

So this is how I would approach the path of setting career/life options.
If I had to do it over again (retired) I would choose job security.
I've been layed off 3 times in a 40 year career.
Very stressful. Applications, job interviews, moving. Starting at ground zero proving myself all over again.
Learning new systems and business culture. Developing new relationships with co-workers and managers. Getting acclimated to the new location.
Very stressful.

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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by BuckyBadger » Wed Jul 29, 2020 9:36 am

I wanted to be another voice suggesting you seriously consider quitting and becoming a stay at home parent - if that is something that appeals to you and you and your wife are comfortable with it.

From the money side, your 60k is getting taxed at the top of you bracket, so your overall decrease is going to be less than you think. Remove any expenses relating to commuting or anything else that you might be able to take over (childcare, house work, etc) and you see even less of an effect. Even once they're school aged, you'll need someone to either watch them or drive them to summer camps. There's a lot of emotional labor involved, too, that if you took over might allow your wife to reach even greater heights in her career.

If she is comfortable and willing to work to 57 or to full pension age, you should be fine by then even if you slow down your current rate of investing. If you were planning on a substantially early retirement (like, 50) then you'd need to keep pouring money in, but at this point with a retirement goal 17-20 years in the future and ca 1.5mil already AND a substantial pension in your future, you shouldn't have any trouble at all!

Additionally, although your kids are a little young for the coming deluge of after school activities, sports, and events, at some point in your future, you will have to be prepared to have someone available for that sort of thing. Also consider the possibility that remote learning may become a staple of future schooling for children.

So anyway, I think you're in a better place that you think you are, and quitting your job would have more positive benefits and fewer negative benefits than you might realize.

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Chindsey
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by Chindsey » Thu Jul 30, 2020 7:02 am

Thank you all very much for your thoughtful insights and feedback. I find value in every single comment.

No doubt the next ~ six months to two years is going to be a very interesting/exciting/fun/scary time!

Chindsey

hightower
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by hightower » Thu Jul 30, 2020 7:11 am

Chindsey wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:29 am
My wife will be entitled to a "sizable" unreduced pension at age 60 (maybe ~ $50,000/year). Should I decide to leave soon, I will be entitled to a much smaller unreduced pension at age 60 (maybe $10,000/year).

My wife carriers our family's health insurance, and we will be able to carry it for the rest of our lives so long as she works until at least age 57.

Our current net worth is ~ $1,840,000, as follows:

Home Equity: ~ $435,000 (no mortgage)

Given that we are in fairly decent financial shape, this all has me wondering what next for me? I am having a terribly difficult time making sense of it all.

As always, thank you in advance.

Chindsey
Not sure what you're asking exactly, but let's summarize what you currently have. Your pensions (I'm jealous) are equivalent to 1.5 million dollars of investments assuming a safe withdraw rate of 4%. Considering they are guaranteed for life, they are pretty freaking amazing (again, I'm very jealous).

Add this to your 1.4 million dollars of investable assets (your home equity doesn't generate income), and you have 2.9 million! That's 116k of income a year with a 4% safe withdraw rate.

AND, you have a paid off house. AND you have guaranteed free health insurance for LIFE. WOW. So you guys are sitting quite pretty right now IMO.

Lesson learned here kids...get a high paid government job. If only I could go back in time and talk to my 20 year old self...

Edit: I didn't see that you're both only 39/40 years old! That 1.4 million in assets could easily grow to 5+ million by time you two pull the plug and that's without adding anything else to it. You can do whatever you want at this point in your life. If I were you, I'd just keep working until you have that pension locked in, then quit and do something else you might enjoy. Support your wife in her role since she is making the big bucks and her pension will be so valuable with the health insurance and all. You guys are set. Nice work

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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Thu Jul 30, 2020 7:34 am

The pensions are going to carry you through. I'm wondering why you've stopped 529 contributions, however. $48k each is a great start, but is only a little more than the costs for 4 years of community college where I live (I have a son in community college), and contrary to popular belief, kids can't get loans beyond Staffords at between $5500 and $7500 a year depending on their year in college. PLUS loans are parent loans and any private loans offered are going to require parent cosign, making them parent loans. If they are going to be in a 4 year college....even state college....I think you'd want to contribute a bit more to each of those.
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Topic Author
Chindsey
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by Chindsey » Thu Jul 30, 2020 7:35 am

Thank you, hightower. And good question. I apologize. I'm having a hard time articulating my thoughts. The best way I can describe it is that I am just trying to make sense of it all.

After a long fought "battle" with the gigantic bureaucracy that is my large federal agency, I feel grossly underemployed and underpaid. Should I choose to stay, it appears the "voluntary" step-down in job role I was required (by "big Human Resources") to take to effectuate the transfer (to settle down closer to family) is one I will be stuck in for a long time. I now effectively serve as an administrative assistant with no promotional potential.

Some of the questions that are swimming around in my head ... Do I need to continue to earn an income? If so, how much would be adequate? Is the current ~ $60,000/year sufficient? If ~ $60,000 is more than adequate, should I stick it out in my federal job for another (up to) 17 years to maximize my future pension? Regardless of the financials, how can/should I best handle the day-to-day, psychologically (knowing I am willing and capable of adding so much more value to my current employer)?

And the biggest question of all ... If my earning a given annual income is not a concern, what is an attorney with ~ 11 years of federal government service to do when he has come to find that his true passion is providing guidance/assistance/support to others on personal finance-related issues/matters?

My pension is locked in at an annual payout of ... 1% * Average "High-Three" Salary * # Years of Service.
Note: If I were to leave soon, at age 60, it would be roughly ... 1% * $95,000 * 11 ... or $10,500/year.
Last edited by Chindsey on Thu Jul 30, 2020 10:07 am, edited 4 times in total.

PoppyA
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by PoppyA » Thu Jul 30, 2020 7:52 am

Over the course of my career, I found myself working for less than desirable managers doing less than desirable work. The one thing I learned is things change. Sometimes quickly, sometimes over the course of time, but they do change.

I have seen people get locked up, get sick, move on, even die and all of a sudden the landscape changes. As a manager, I have also seen employees who were in the “Penalty box”, that management had written off, rally and become valuable team members. Again, time changes things, managers change, etc.

Are you a Management fighter? If so, then maybe these “problems” won’t go away, and instead always be around you.

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Chindsey
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by Chindsey » Thu Jul 30, 2020 7:59 am

PoppyA wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 7:52 am
Are you a Management fighter?
While I am certainly not a "Management fighter," I am not a "yes man," either. I have and will always respectfully pursue (up the chain of command) what is "right" based upon agency policy and precedent. Unless/until I throw in the towel and leave.

Currently, "big Human Resources" is unwilling to approve a critical need request by my office for me to be reintegrated to my former (desired) job role (and pay grade). The denial was contrary to agency policy and precedent, unsupported by the facts, and not in the best interest of my local office or the agency, as a whole. It should be noted that all but the final of numerous individuals needed for approval signed off on the request. It was the final approver that provided a verbal denial.

It's been a long several years and I'm just running out of steam.

hightower
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by hightower » Thu Jul 30, 2020 8:25 am

It sounds to me like you need to just leave your current position entirely and find a new job. Like I described above, with the assets you all already have saved up, if you let them continue to grow for the next 20 years or so, you'll have $5+ million dollars to live off of, without even touching your pensions. So, why are you worrying about a $10k/year pension for yourself? It shouldn't even be part of your decision making. You can do anything you want at this point. Go find your dream job in the private sector if you want. Technically you don't need to work at all. Your wife can support you for the next 20 years. But, it sounds like you enjoy your career and would like to work, so that's why I encourage you to just change jobs and be particular about finding a position that makes you feel good.

BuckyBadger
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by BuckyBadger » Thu Jul 30, 2020 11:11 am

If you want to keep working by all means keep working. For some people, Work is Life.

But don't try to convince yourself that you *need* to keep working because you most definitely don't.

Stick5vw
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by Stick5vw » Fri Jul 31, 2020 2:28 am

Unclear why the final approver would not sign off on your request, when everyone else supported. Is there no way to petition again, with people backing more forcefully and pushing on your behalf? When you took the step down to effectuate the transfer, was there an expectation that you would eventually be bumped back up to your prior salary? Sounds like a nightmare but you "did what you have to do" for family and there is nothing wrong with that at all.

If that doesn't work out in your favor (and it sounds like you've concluded it won't), I'd leave. Being under employed, under paid, and under valued will psychologically crush you. It is the road to unhappiness and burnout, and I think you realize that.

You and your wife have done an amazing job with your finances which affords you a great deal of flexibility. Others have run the numbers already and it seems like you will be fine in almost every scenario (just make sure you're wife's job is stable) Would definitely recommend thinking through your options and pursuing opportunities externally. You seem well-qualified and surely could pivot into something else, either straight away or with some additional training? What do you want to do? Once you get your ducks in a row, go for it and don't look back. But toughing it out for 17 years in a job you hate will not end well.

Good luck

bryaninDC
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by bryaninDC » Fri Jul 31, 2020 2:51 am

Why even work for pay at this point? You're swimming in it. Go do what you want to do without worrying about what you'll get paid for it. Or don't work, or be a stay at home parent.

wackerdr
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by wackerdr » Fri Jul 31, 2020 6:33 am

PoppyA wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 7:52 am
Over the course of my career, I found myself working for less than desirable managers doing less than desirable work. The one thing I learned is things change. Sometimes quickly, sometimes over the course of time, but they do change.

I have seen people get locked up, get sick, move on, even die and all of a sudden the landscape changes. As a manager, I have also seen employees who were in the “Penalty box”, that management had written off, rally and become valuable team members. Again, time changes things, managers change, etc.

Are you a Management fighter? If so, then maybe these “problems” won’t go away, and instead always be around you.
duplicate

wackerdr
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by wackerdr » Fri Jul 31, 2020 6:34 am

Chindsey wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 7:59 am
PoppyA wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 7:52 am
Are you a Management fighter?
While I am certainly not a "Management fighter," I am not a "yes man," either. I have and will always respectfully pursue (up the chain of command) what is "right" based upon agency policy and precedent. Unless/until I throw in the towel and leave.

Currently, "big Human Resources" is unwilling to approve a critical need request by my office for me to be reintegrated to my former (desired) job role (and pay grade). The denial was contrary to agency policy and precedent, unsupported by the facts, and not in the best interest of my local office or the agency, as a whole. It should be noted that all but the final of numerous individuals needed for approval signed off on the request. It was the final approver that provided a verbal denial.

It's been a long several years and I'm just running out of steam.

You are in a very secure position - finance and health insurance, that you can even think of becoming a SAHP.

I will admit , I don't know your mental makeup, or what a long tenure in government will make to one's risk appetite, or fire in the belly. It is fairly common in private sector not to put up with things for too long if the job is so demotivating. I myself didn't stick anywhere for too long after the job satisfaction was no longer there, or there were too many politics that were distracting the core job at hand.

Coming back to your situation - You should be desperately wanting to do the personal finance advisory. With your financial position, if you are spending too much analyzing pros/cons - You are not ready yet, you value your government position too much, you have some inner fears , you may have burnt out. None of these are unreasonable. You just need to want the other thing more than you current job. Objectively speaking, your financial situation affords that. It is the mental makeup that needs to be there.

You can quit your job tomorrow - and start working towards building your consulting practice on financial management. It will take a combination of volunteering with a financial NGO + writing a lot + building audience on LinkedIn + participation in industry events. It will take 12- 18 months in my estimation. It is similar to building a business - even if you don't make as much money. But you have all the flexibility to balance your time with family.

The thing you need to recognize is, it requires a lot of hard work on your part, so that others will take your financial advice seriously. If no one reaches you out even for free advice, it will be very demotivating and you will not be able to stick for too long. So in essence, marketing yourself is the key even if you want to do free work.

If you don't want to take the building the business route, you can retool with right certifications/ online classes in the industry you want, build your profile as a subject matter expert, and target the companies. Right now is not a great time for job hunting, but your retooling and targeting will take 6-8 months, so Q1 of next year is possible, and I will bet that it will get you more than 60K you have been doing in federal government.

For either of the above to happen, you need to quit your job. Otherwise, it wont happen.

Keenobserver
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by Keenobserver » Fri Jul 31, 2020 10:34 am

Based on your finances, I think it would be a tragedy if you continue to work at a place where your are miserable or unhapppy. Millions of people dont have your finances and dream of being in a position similiar to yours so they can quit jobs they find soul-sucking or difficult to tolerate. You only have one life to live, and spending another 17 years at a job you dont like just to get some.more benefit, whilst you dont even really need the job to me is criminal. Time is not a renewable resource. You are blessed with the finances you have, time to leave your brain behind and make decisions witb your heart. You can afford to let your heart take the lead this time mate.

ncbill
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by ncbill » Fri Jul 31, 2020 1:59 pm

Keenobserver wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 10:34 am
Based on your finances, I think it would be a tragedy if you continue to work at a place where your are miserable or unhapppy. Millions of people dont have your finances and dream of being in a position similiar to yours so they can quit jobs they find soul-sucking or difficult to tolerate. You only have one life to live, and spending another 17 years at a job you dont like just to get some.more benefit, whilst you dont even really need the job to me is criminal. Time is not a renewable resource. You are blessed with the finances you have, time to leave your brain behind and make decisions witb your heart. You can afford to let your heart take the lead this time mate.
+1000

Anyone in OP's situation should find another job, whether government or private, or start their own business, or be a SAHP.

Given their family's secure financial position, OP's current job situation isn't something they have to endure just to pay the bills.

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TNL
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by TNL » Fri Jul 31, 2020 6:15 pm

First of all, congrats. You guys are doing GREAT.

At your age, I would not pull the plug entirely unless you absolutely desire to be a stay at home parent OR absolutely desire to go into private practice or another agency. I think you would unhappy if you weren't working and engaging your mind. While you've definitely earned the right to take a few years off, why not keep the job that you have and work with a career coach to find your next move, whether it's an encore career or a side hustle? What about a side hustle writing a blog for federal employees or a financial coaching business while you keep your current job? I'm not saying stay in the job forever, just stay in the job until you decide what to do next and maybe a career coach could help.

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Chindsey
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by Chindsey » Sun Aug 02, 2020 2:22 pm

I can’t thank you all enough for the incredibly thoughtful feedback. The soul searching continues.

Chindsey

Wanderingwheelz
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by Wanderingwheelz » Sun Aug 02, 2020 3:10 pm

hightower wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 8:25 am
It sounds to me like you need to just leave your current position entirely and find a new job. Like I described above, with the assets you all already have saved up, if you let them continue to grow for the next 20 years or so, you'll have $5+ million dollars to live off of, without even touching your pensions. So, why are you worrying about a $10k/year pension for yourself? It shouldn't even be part of your decision making. You can do anything you want at this point. Go find your dream job in the private sector if you want. Technically you don't need to work at all. Your wife can support you for the next 20 years. But, it sounds like you enjoy your career and would like to work, so that's why I encourage you to just change jobs and be particular about finding a position that makes you feel good.
You’re making assumptions of future performance of equity returns and with a couple who is 39/40 there is risk in projecting $1.8MM out to $5MM. Nothing is promised to us, which is why there are many of us here who have 80%-30% of our investable assets in bonds/cash.

For the record I am 49 with a not completely different situation than the OP (wife earns more than me, not enamored with my job, etc). We have enough put away that most everyone, even here, would tell me to quit and retire. But that’s hard for some people to do.

MathIsMyWayr
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Re: Mid-Life / Mid-Career Crossroads - Federal Couple - Help Us Make Sense of it All

Post by MathIsMyWayr » Sun Aug 02, 2020 9:16 pm

Chindsey wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:41 am
I don't think I'd be willing to sacrifice the time I now spend with my wife and kids.
Life is all about setting priorities and making choices. One has to be willing to give up something first before trying to get something else. Life is cruel, but that is life.

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