I quit my job.
Yesterday was my last day as a financial planner with my prior employer.
I’m one of those odd millennials – not because I quit my job, but because I was there for 10 years. It’s the only full-time job I’ve had.
I started as an intern in 2011, worked part-time in 2012 while in college, and went full-time in January of 2013.
In terms of assets under management, we are about eight times bigger than when I joined. It’s been a wild ride with rapid growth.
I’ve put together desks, organized events, traded client accounts, created more new client paperwork than I care to count, strategized on company processes, helped create content for our website, supported lead financial planners, became a lead financial planner, trained new associates, and have been blessed to get to know and impact the lives of more than 110 families as a financial planner.
It’s been a privilege. And, it feels odd to leave.
I started work with my former employer before I could drink alcohol, had a college degree, and before moving six times across Seattle with a seventh on the way – all in ten years.
My work has been a huge part of my identity.
Now, it is changing.
Today, I’m going to talk about what brought me to this point, how the transition went over the last month, what I learned from it, and be sure to read until the end where I share what I did to financially prepare for the transition.
Life Comes at You Fast
Life comes at you fast. If you had told me four years ago that I’d be moving to Wisconsin, I would have laughed and asked, “What went wrong in my life?”
“Seriously, what went wrong?”
I’ve grown up in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve lived here my whole life. It’s home. Who moves to the Midwest and why?
Temperatures in the teens in the winter. Snow on the ground for months at a time. Summers are hot, humid, and buggy.
It’s in the low 70s as I write this in the Pacific Northwest. Today, I’ve seen bald eagles, herons, waves calmly pushing into shore, and the sky is a soft pastel pink and yellow at sunset. It’s a far cry from Wisconsin. Never would I have thought that moving to Wisconsin would be a good change.
But, it is a good change.
Three years ago, mainly by chance, I met my now fiancée. How we met is a good story, and we never tire of telling it, but that is for another time. Earlier this year, she was accepted into her number one choice Internal Medicine Residency program at the University of Wisconsin. And so, Madison, Wisconsin, here I come. You can have the best plans in the world, but sometimes you fall in love, and life changes.
Life comes at you fast. This year, I got engaged, quit my job, finally felt settled in my home, rented my home to strangers, and will be moving across the country for the first time.
You can picture your ideal life, but life may have a different idea. Now, I am on a new adventure.
How I Actually Quit My Job
This was a tough one. When I joined my prior employer, it was a small company. It was the type of place where you knew everybody’s name, everybody’s significant others’ names, and their kids’ names. Leaving it felt a little like leaving family.
Originally, I thought I would schedule a time with my mentor, but given the company knew that my fiancée had already moved to Wisconsin, I did not want to worry him. You know the meeting that sits on your calendar where you know something bad is going to happen, but you are not 100% positive yet. I didn’t want that for him.
Instead, I asked if he had a few minutes at around 4 p.m. on a Tuesday. It was late enough in the day that we could all go home shortly after, but early enough that I could tell other people in the company who I thought should know.
Then, the words flowed, “I have tough news. I’m moving to Madison.” I find the best way to deliver bad news is to say it directly and pause, allowing it to be heard and felt.
From there, I explained I would be leaving and happy to stay on for longer than two weeks to help transition clients. I felt awful. I’m excited for the next adventure, but at the same time, I’m fortunate and lucky to have worked ten years with this mentor and others. I’m proud of the work I did and the impact I had on the company. It’s tough to leave, particularly when I am established in my career, could have bought into the company, and was offered the flexibility of trying to work remotely.
I gave feedback about why I was leaving not only to him, but to multiple people at the company. I do wonder how much was heard and how much will be acted upon. I hope they reflect on the feedback because they are doing great work for clients.
After the initial surprise as I told others, a transition plan was developed. A plan where I personally was going to say goodbye to 110+ families.
Transitioning 110+ Client Relationships – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
I could have left the firm without helping transition clients to another advisor, but I felt I owed it to my clients. I’ve been on the receiving end of an advisor who leaves abruptly and seen how tough it is not only for the clients, but also the advisor.
Some clients I had known since I joined the firm. Others, only a few months. Either way, I consider my position one of privilege and a blessing.
I get to talk about money, life, and impact people’s lives for the better. I hear things people don’t tell their own family. I’m the security blanket for some people. For others, I’m the expert in financial planning and investments. For some, I’m there for a significant other in case something happens to the person who used to manage the finances. I’m the hand holder when needed. I am an advice-giver, but more importantly, I’m a listener. I get to be many things to different clients, and I love being those things!
The point is that I was having a hard time picturing life without these clients. I knew it was going to be tough to break the news I was leaving, but I did not actually know how challenging it would be until I started.
I knew how many days I had left and did simple math to determine how many I needed to call per day. Then, I called.
I made call after call after call after call after call. How I delivered the news changed as I made more calls. I got a feel for what seemed to work best. “More pausing”, I had to remind myself. Give them space to respond to the news.
I was exhausted. My voice hurt at the end of each day. I was more emotionally drained than I ever thought. Imagine telling the same story over and over again – more than 110 times. Now, imagine needing to tell that story while introducing a new person into their life and trying to reassure them they will be in great hands.
As I made the calls, there was a mix of reactions. Some were relatively unphased, which made sense. You develop a deeper relationship with some clients more than others. Some clients cried. You develop deep bonds when working through really important dreams and fears in clients’ lives. Many were excited for me. They were bummed, but understood it was a good choice for my family.
I came home emotionally and physically exhausted nearly every day.
In the back of my mind, I was always thinking, “How are they going to take the news? What will they think of the new advisor? How can I make this transition better? Can I deliver the update better to the next person?”
As I made the calls, I became more comfortable, but most calls started with a slightly tight chest, clenched jaw, and a faster heartbeat. Then, something interesting happening.
Conversations opened up. More questions were asked. Clients said, “Hey, I have this one thing I’ve been meaning to ask you.” Perhaps it was about an annuity for a family member, umbrella insurance, or how best to take withdrawals in the future.
More personal conversations happened, too.
The conversations ranged from how people seem less considerate of others today and less willing to sacrifice for the greater good to my plans for the future, when I planned to get married, and what type of medicine my fiancée was going to practice.
People wanted me to still send them holiday cards. They wondered what I was doing next. They hoped I would stay in touch. Since I can’t reach out to them, the best I could say was, “I hope so, too!”
Not all went smoothly. Like anything in life, there is the good, the bad, and the ugly. Those ones sit in the pit of my stomach.
But, overwhelmingly, the kindness, energy, and excitement my clients showed kept me going through the transitions.
And, I kept calling. One call after another. And another. And another. Until each client was personally contacted.
Now, my next endeavor begins. I can’t share what it is yet, but I’ll have more to share in the coming weeks.
How I Planned Financially for Quitting My Job
How does one prepare to quit their job? Let me tell you – carefully.
From a cash flow perspective, what I am working on next will take time to build. I wanted enough runway without needing to get another job for an extended period of time. What this means is I have been saving cash over the past few years. It was originally intended for another purpose, but since that did not work out, it’s now my transition cash.
I created a barebones budget and determined I have enough cash to get by the next few years. It won’t be pleasant or easy, but when you build something from scratch, it takes time to gain traction, and I want to be focused 100% on building without needing another job.
I’m a financial planner. I work around money. I’m relatively unphased by it. Even though I am very comfortable talking about money and planning for my future, the thought of not having a consistent paycheck is scary.
I had to run the numbers multiple times and talk it over with multiple family members to make sure I was not missing anything. Even financial planners need help and reassurance.
It’s tough to leave a consistent paycheck. Thankfully, I only heard words of encouragement from the people I contacted. Again, you can plan as much as you want, but life happens. A plan is only the plan until something changes. I imagine that’s how the next few years will go with my budget.
Since my disability insurance was through my previous employer, I needed to find new disability insurance because I plan to work in the future. I tried obtaining an individual disability insurance policy, but due to a recommendation by a cardiologist to get certain testing that isn’t going to reveal anything important, I was postponed. I don’t plan on doing the testing because it’s unlikely to catch an abnormally fast heartbeat to show I have SVT. It only happens a few times a year, isn’t life-threatening, and most people go their entire lives without huge issues.
I’ll be able to join a group in the future that offers group disability insurance, but I will not have it for a few months. I’m concerned about it, but there is nothing I can do it. Hopefully, everything is okay until I can have the group disability coverage in place.
What about health insurance? I plan to go on COBRA and continue my employer coverage for a few months. That’s going to be about $400 a month. I’ll look at the healthcare exchange more, but it looks like I may find plans for around $300 a month, but the coverage will likely be worse.
I plan to get married next year, and then I can get on my fiancée’s health insurance. For the two of us, it’s going to be about half the cost of my individual health insurance. We need healthcare reform in this country. I don’t know how to fix it, but health insurance should not be tied to your employment. It’s a terrible system, and it’s a hill I am willing to die on.
I’m also renting my home. I talked to my insurance agent and updated my homeowner’s insurance to a rental dwelling, which among other things, would help cover a loss in rental income if something happened to my home where my tenants needed to move out, and I suffered a loss in rent. After careful thought, I decided to manage the property by myself and do it without a property manager. We’ll see how it goes. Over three years, a property manager was likely going to cost me between $15,000 and $20,000. The way I saw it, that’s many flights home if something goes wrong. Plus, a good reason to see family and friends.
Maybe I’ll regret it. After all, I am a reluctant landlord. I never wanted to be one, but we want to return home to this specific house after three years. Hopefully, it turns out okay.
Leaving a job is not easy. Leaving a job to build something without a paycheck is even tougher. Sometimes a leap of faith is exactly what is needed. Or, at least I hope it is!
Summary – Final Thoughts
I still laugh to myself as I think about going back in time and telling myself I would be moving to Madison, WI. There is no world where I could have made sense of it at the time. My prior employer was where I thought I would spend my career, but here I am.
I’m unemployed without a paycheck and starting to build something new. I’m leaving for an extended road trip to unwind and relax. Although family commitments are higher than a few years ago, overall, I have fewer commitments than I’ve ever had. If ever there were a good time to take a short break, it’s now.
Although I’ll wonder how my clients are doing, there is no work to be done this weekend. I don’t have to worry about who I need to contact next week. I can ignore the stock market performance. I’m not thinking about end-of-year tax planning that starts in the fall. Heck, I don’t even need to read the news to stay up-to-date on what is happening in the world.
I can do whatever I want.
And, that’s a strange feeling. I haven’t had it in a decade.
Don’t forget to stop and enjoy what life has to offer. Lively conversation, delicious food, the smell of saltwater in the morning – whatever it is – enjoy it.
Life comes at you fast.