Monday, January 25, 2021

And I'm Out

I wasn't sleeping, and for the usual reason. I was so stressed from work most nights, thinking about deadlines I wasn't able to meet and the series of conversations I'd need to have explaining when we could deliver, that I couldn't turn my brain off enough to relax & doze off. Sometimes I'd be up just to one or two in the morning, sometimes I'd be up through the night. 

After that, being productive at work the next day was more or less impossible. I'd end up even further behind by the end of the day, even more stressed out about how everything was going to be done in time. Lather, rinse, repeat.

COVID certainly wasn't helping. Mrs. Done by Forty and I were juggling full time work and Toddler AF, trying to make sure the kid was engaged and learning (or at least not running face first into furniture) all while sticking to our rule of no screen time. Throughout the day, we'd take turns stepping away from the laptop to relieve the other, swapping our employee and parent hats, and using nights and weekends to catch up on work. And we have a new baby on the way in April, which just added to the anxiety.

On some nights, the stress got so bad that I'd start to have bad thoughts. "Why not just shoot yourself?" I'd think. 

I know this is a terrible, preposterous thought, and I knew it at the time, too. Usually it would take a few minutes, maybe a half an hour of self-talk, to realize that suicide was a terrible solution to the problem of work stress. For one, I don't even need to work. We have a lot of money and are pretty close to our financial goals. I could just quit. Or find another job. Or go to part time. Or just one of us could work while the other watched the kids.

But what about financial independence? And our plans for the future? And health insurance, and on and on and on. What about the people who know you've been working towards this 40-year-old retirement plan? What is everyone going to think when they find out you threw in the towel like some loser?

Why not just keep going for a bit? Gut it out. 

Turns out that the things that make me good at sticking to plans and achieving my goals also make it hard for me to change those plans, even when they're no longer good for me. I worry about failure, and more about perceived failure.

But I wasn't struggling with these thoughts alone. Mrs. Done by Forty and I were able to talk about this, because pretty much everything is on the table when we talk. She'd been thinking I should quit for a while. And all through 2020 I've been seeing a therapist once every week or two, sometimes both my own therapist as well as one Mrs. Done by Forty see together in the same week. 

Once these thoughts got more persistent and intense around December, the busy time for procurement, and it became harder to shake these bad thoughts (especially since there is a literal gun store I walk by when I pick up chlorine for the pool) my therapist finally said it was time to stop working. Mrs. Done by Forty and I both agreed. 

So about ten days ago, I put in my two week notice. My boss was understanding and agreed it was the right call. I'm amazed at how everyone seems to agree that my health and family should come first. I don't know what I was expecting, but not that. Maybe because I'm still not very good at understanding that health and family should come first.

Still, this wasn't the way I thought I'd leave work. I'm dealing with a lot of weird emotions now. Shame, mostly. Shame that I decided to just drop out of the race so close to the finish line. I would have gotten a bonus in March, and four weeks paid parental leave in May. My therapist and Mrs. Done by Forty tell me differently; but in bed at night, I don't feel relief. I feel failure.

Besides missing out on money and some paid time off, the way I feel about how I'm leaving work seems tainted. Am I even retired? Since Mrs. Done by Forty is still working (for a few more months, at least) am I a stay at home dad? Will I pass the tests of the Internet Retirement Police? (No, probably not.)

My emotions are still a bit of a mess. I guess that's okay for now. Leaving work was never going to solve all my problems, even if it reduces the stress I feel from a job.

And money's a poor salve for these sort of problems, too. I know money isn't supposed to deal with what's going on between my ears. Still, since I'm feeling guilt about how my decision to leave work early is impacting our financial independence, I guess we should look at where we really stand at the moment.

Here's where the Mad Fientist had us sitting at the end of December, assuming a 3.5% withdrawal rate, and our 2020 spending:

Click for bigness
So, we were at least on pace to hit FI with a 3.5% withdrawal rate if we stuck around until June as planned. To give some details:
  • Our spending for 2020 was $40,244 
  • This includes only three months of daycare, from Jan-Mar
  • We had some higher medical bills & giving because 2020, but things might stay in this range in FI
We are not exactly where we need to be for a 3.5% withdrawal rate with our 2020 spending. But what if we took out daycare: an expense we could hypothetically eliminate with me staying home? Here's where we would stand at a 3.5% withdrawal rate, but taking out the $3,500 or so we spent on daycare.

Click for bigness.

Well that makes me feel better. I suppose if we just assume we won't need daycare then maybe we're FI.

The rub is that we're going to have to pay for some things, like preschool, which cost less than daycare but, still, something. 

What if we wiggled a bit on the withdrawal rate, but kept the partial year daycare expenses in the budget? I know the 4% rule isn't necessarily all that safe, but what if we assumed a 3.75% SWR instead of 4% or 3.5%?

Click for bigness.

So at least on paper, maybe things aren't that bad regarding financial independence. We're close, maybe close enough. The plan was always to work a bit once the kids are in school. Maybe this is good enough?

There are still some unknowns. While we're on Mrs. Done by Forty's health insurance through June, that's when her contract ends. At that point, we'll have to pay for health insurance in the ACA exchanges, or possibly buy short term health insurance for the next six months.

The original plan was to save up an additional $12k in cash to cover the cost of health insurance for the latter half of the year, along with setting aside more cash & investments so we had more of a buffer early on in early retirement. But, yeah, none of that is happening now.

There's also the cost of having MC Baby, along with the possibility of there being some unexpected health issues after she's born. The plan was, in that worst case scenario, that I would keep working, keep our health insurance, and allow Mrs. Done by Forty to stop working. Now that plan's flipped on its head.

On some level, none of these details really matter. What Mrs. Done by Forty and I were doing, juggling work and parenting, wasn't sustainable. The thoughts I was having, with their frequency & intensity, meant something had to give. That something should be the job, right? We were at least close enough to our financial goals that sticking around for another six months might not have been needed anyway.

So why do I feel so bad?

I guess I thought this moment, leaving work, would be some sort of triumph. I'd do what I set out to do, in exactly the way I set out to do it. I thought writing about it would be this cool moment. A success. But life had other plans. I guess my working career ends with a bit of a whimper.

Still, better than a bang.

44 comments:

  1. There are always at two sides to a situation. I think quitting your job is absolutely the right thing to do given your (mental) health condition. Perhaps now it's a good time to explore some local volunteering opportunities, check on Meetup.com for activities, and just be grateful that you are financially set, when compared to most people. I'm still in my early stages of FIRE and I still have at least 4 years to reach my FIRE number. Be glad that you are ahead of people like me and take your time to figure things out. Remember that things are never going to be as good as it is and never going to be as bad as it is.

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    1. Thank you, Hiatt. I like those ideas for finding some good activities (maybe after I get a vaccine in my arm).

      Good luck with your FIRE journey. Four years isn't a long time.

      And I like the idea that things are never as good or bad as it seems. :)

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  2. Maybe it is good enough! :) I'm sure this is a hard decision to arrive at. My hope is that after sitting with it a bit longer, you can celebrate what an accomplishment it is...even if it's not exactly what you planned. Cheering for you!

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    1. Thank you, Penny. I definitely want to celebrate it eventually. For now, I'll totally take good enough! Thanks for the cheers, friend.

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  3. It's cool man. Life isn't linear.

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    1. It definitely isn't linear. Someday I'll have to make plans that aren't in such straight lines.

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  4. I'm so glad you made this choice. Health is so important, friend.

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    1. Thanks, ZeeJay. I agree: health is important. Time for the money to take a backseat.

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  5. I think you absolutely made the right call. I'm glad you're on the best path to healing. Thanks so much for talking candidly about it. You are helping a lot of people by doing so. I too quit my final job in a mental health crisis and it was the best decision I made. It was tough and I had a lot of negative feelings to work through in the following months. Even though I knew it was the right decision and given the opportunity to reverse course go back to work I certainly wouldn't, I still felt very conflicted and had lots of negative emotions about it especially how it ended. Now, over a year later, I still struggle with mental health, but it's a lot easier to manage without the external pressures of work and coworkers. I am much happier and content. I hope you feel similarly soon.

    Luckily life goes on and I'm glad it is for you and your family.

    One note, for us COBRA coverage was much cheaper and better than what was available on ACA exchanges, we just finished our 18 months of that, the ACA plans aren't awful but COBRA was much better for us.

    Also, your net worth might keep going up in the next few years so even though you're not bringing in a salary, you might end up with more a cushion than you thought. That's been the case for us, I have much more now than the day I quit.

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    1. Thanks for that kind & thoughtful reply. It's comforting to know other people made a similar move leaving work & that it turned out okay.

      We'll for sure check out COBRA options when Mrs. Done by Forty leaves work & compare those to ACA. Thanks for the tip!

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  6. Enneagram 3 by chance (I am, and I recognized some stuff throughout this post...).

    Keep your head up, I have faith it'll get easier!

    Also sending you a Twitter DM.

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    1. Hi Pete! I didn't know what Enneagrams were until you mentioned them in the comment but, yeah, that does sound like me. Thanks for reaching out & for the book recommendation, too. Cheers.

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  7. Being a silent reader here for some time, I think you made the right choice and will be fine! Starting out planning to FIRE as soon as possible in Germany, my husband and I realized quite quickly how much of pressure we were putting on ourselves in jobs we don't really love, even without kids. According to various calculations I saw, 4% should be fine if you are flexible to add some income along the way. We are actually planning with 5 % and both switched to part time and a bit of side income some months ago, which made work soooo much better and enjoyable!

    Congratulations that you made that decision! I can imagine it does not feel as good as it "should", but the result is the same - so what? :) You are set financially, can enjoy time with your family and are free to design the live you want for the future.

    Actually, one part that I find hard to relate to in the FIRE movement is to stick to something you do not want to do and that is stressing you out, so that you are free at some point on the future. Maybe it was good fortune for you to jump heads down into your current situation! Who knows how long you would have stayed it a "bearable" situation without really needing to ;)

    All the best to you and your family, I keep fingers crossed you can enjoy it soon without further worries, because I am sure you will always find solutions if it should not work out as planned…

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    1. First, thanks for writing and congrats on your move to part-time FIRE. That sounds great and something we might take up once the kids are in school.

      I agree that sticking to a bad situation just to hit FIRE probably is not a very good plan. Maybe it was the best just to get out.

      And you're right, even if things don't work out as planned I'm sure we can figure out something, some sort of solution.

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  8. Sounds like it may have been a bit overdue....but glad you pulled the trigger.

    Give yourself some time, and some grace. It may feel weird for a bit, but who knows what will happen in a year...in five....have an open mind and give yourself permission to explore life differently.

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    1. Yep, probably a bit overdue! I'm trying to keep an open mind, for sure.

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  9. "I guess my working career ends with a bit of a whimper.

    Still, better than a bang."

    Very very very much better. I know you will need some time to feel at peace with your decision. Until then, let me be grateful that Mrs. DBF and your therapist encouraged you to take THIS step of quitting instead of gritting it out. There's no heroism to compounding your mental health challenges for a bit more money. That money cannot buy back whatever may be lost if you broke under the pressure. Saving yourself is priceless and I am glad you did. You and your family's happiness and ability to be together is absolutely worth leaving early.

    In my book, getting out safely is a success. Getting to have a choice is a success. Perhaps it feels less like it was your choice than you would have liked or imagined but you were able to leave on your own terms in the end, after giving notice. I can think of a lot of ways you might have exited that weren't on your terms.

    I expect that when it comes time for me, I'll slide out the same way. Quietly and stealthily.

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    1. Hi Revanche. Thanks so much for the kind words, as always. It's hard for me to see this as a good or heroic decision now but maybe with a bit more time I won't see it as a failure.

      Like you said, just getting out might be the thing. It's a ridiculously good option that most people obviously don't have. I should feel lucky!

      Best of luck when you decide to slide out, friend. And thanks for always being there!

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    2. Don't let me accidentally tell you how you SHOULD feel, you will feel how you need to feel and that's fine. I'm just very happy that you're in a slightly better place now and hope peace comes to you. <3

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    3. Thanks again, friend. Definitely feeling much better.

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  10. I could be wrong, I haven't run numbers, but if you are *close* at a 3.5% withdrawal, then if you model it as "we can swing things on 3.2% if the market is low and 3.8% when the market is high", I bet the number of "successful" scenarios goes up a LOT.

    Also.... the impact of being a stay at home Dad on mental health, at least in scenarios where it is not 100% on your originally intended terms, can be worth discussing (this is also true for stay-at-home Mom). My Dad was a SAHD, and I'm super grateful for it (I started college part time at age 14- something that never would have been possible if he hadn't been home). But the truth is he had a felony record (LSD dealing), so it wasn't like he had his pick of job opportunities. It's complicated. On balance, I think being an educational concierge suited him moreso than "homemaker". I myself became a parent during grad school, and the impact on my mental health has been complicated. I am doing OK now, in part because I've been able to let go of the fixation on screen time / intensive-parenting model. Truth be told, I wonder if sometimes people are drawn to that parenting style, out of guilt from work-life conflict. The truth is there is no way to be an Ideal Worker and an Ideal Parent, and something has to give.
    Anyway, that is a very personal over-sharing way of saying: keep an eye on that mental health. Not only is it worth prioritizing, but it is not a sign you have made bad decisions if it doesn't get better instantly from cutting out the job. It's probably normal to feel ambivalent, and I think that occurs in the FIRE community more than is sometimes discussed (and even in the *regular age* retirement community, at least for the initial adjustment).

    It's also VERY OK to work at getting the help you need. Parenting in a pandemic is a LOT, no matter WHAT else is going on. Money doesn't solve that, though I'm so happy you probably do have enough!
    Take care.

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    1. Hi there, Becca. Sorry for the late reply -- had to take a break from thinking about this.

      I appreciate you sharing that story about your dad. Mrs. Done by Forty became a parent during grad school and it was a rough adjustment, for sure.

      I like the way you put it that it's not possible to be an ideal worker and an ideal parent all at once. Everything has a tradeoff.

      I'm trying to see what you're saying that it's okay that we did what we did, given the pandemic and everything else that's going on. Being forgiving of myself is tricky but trying to get there. Thanks again, Becca.

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  11. Leaving work doesn't solve everything, but it remove stress and give you time to figure out a solution. I think it's the right decision. Money doesn't mean much if you're not healthy. You need to be healthy so you can be there for your family.
    I really hope everything improves soon. It'll probably take a while to adjust, though. Good luck with everything. If you want to talk, you can DM me through Twitter. I went through a similar transition when I retired.
    Best wishes
    -Joe

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    1. Thanks, Joe. I appreciate the offer to talk and, beyond our blog names, I've thought you were a blogger who maybe most closely mirrored our path to FI & RE.

      Like you said, got to be healthy & be there for the fam.

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  12. I'm so glad you quit! I'm sure you can find something to bring in a little money if you see the need in a few months. In the meantime, enjoy! Those little ones don't stay little for long!

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    1. Thanks, Amanda. You're right, they don't stay little for very long. It's scary to think how quickly the past 2.5 years went with Toddler AF.

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  13. CONGRATS!!!! I think it's all supposed to be scary no matter how it "ends" lol... Though I do feel your pain :( I bet when time slows down more and everything sinks in you'll have more clarity of things. But in the meantime we're all cheering you on!! Welcome to your next adventure - it's def. not going to be boring!! :)

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    1. J Money! It's been a while, and thanks for commenting. I'm optimistic that you're right, and that things look better once I can slow down and take a better look at the situation.

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  14. This is a triumph in my book! You chose your health and your family over paid labour and that, to me, is both very much a success and a wonderful example of what your frugality and personal finance skills are designed to do -- give you this flexibility which can certainly be lifesaving.

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    1. That's a much healthier outlook that I had when I put in my notice. Thanks for helping me see the positives in the decision. Cheers.

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  15. Sometimes leaving is the brave thing to do. Good for you for making the necessary but difficult choice. Cheers to the next phase of your life!!

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    1. Thank you, Linsday. It doesn't feel brave to me just yet but I really do appreciate that sentiment. Cheers, indeed. Time to celebrate this next phase a bit.

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  16. I worked 2 jobs and in the end lost my Ex wife,i know you feel like a failure but your life was going in the wrong direction and you needed a change. Give yourself a break,in 1 year this won't matter,only your family and your health is important.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear that about your ex wife.

      I do need to give myself a break: something I've never really learned how to do. I did need a change. I need to stop beating myself up for something I know was a needed decision.

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  17. I guess it really is "Your Money or Your Life". Choosing life is always the right answer, DBF. And if I may...

    This is a movie I would watch. It has all the elements of a hero story. No one wants to watch someone who has it all, gets it right all the time, faces no adversity, and then in the end gets everything exactly the way s/he dreamt it. You have been through a lot. Clearly. But what we got to see was a good and decent man choosing life. Choosing his family. We got to see a man vulnerable and uncertain, exposed to real demons, do the heroic thing. If I'm watching this movie, I understand how hard it must have been for this guy to leave after a decade spent in the public pursuit of his goals. To leave money on the table. Money that would've secured him the (mostly) arbitrary financial goal he set. Money that, justifiably, this man has some right to say he earned through years of dedicated service to the company. Instead we see a man who, despite being that close, remembered the sunk cost fallacy. He remembered what he might be giving up in that pursuit. We see someone who chooses life - literally and figuratively - and we can't be happier for them. At the end of this film we see a family that is so much better and happier and stronger because of the very difficult choices our hero made.

    You're a hero in your own story, friend. Never forget that.

    And never forget that the internet retirement police can eat a d#$k. It's your life. Now you have so much more power over it than most people can ever hope to achieve. Make it the best one possible for you and your beautiful family. If that means have 4 side hustles that you legitimately enjoy and care about - git it. If that means having a steady part-time job that makes you smile more often than not - git it. If you want to build a board game empire - git it. But you get to choose. And you, my friend, will certainly choose life.

    Love. Peace. Shalom.

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    1. I don't know if this would make for a great movie, friend. For one, the lead has a mug made for radio.

      I do like the idea of trying out some new things, maybe even a hustle that makes some side money if I enjoy it.

      I really appreciate all the help you provide, friend, and for helping me make the initial decision, too. Love ya, buddy. Shalom.

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  18. Thank you for having the courage to share you darkness, and also, your scary decision.

    I had a contract end, and didn't chase a new job - it made my family very uncomfortable. There was no fixed end to my unemployment or what I'd do next (I felt burnt out by the industry). It ended up only being 6 months off, but I suffered the same 'who am i?' identity concerns. I took pride in my profession of 'before' and 'after' I was paid a lot less. In the end, now 18 months on, I'm back in a professional role at a company like where I was for the first 9 years of my life. But in the valley of darkness, I wondered who I was, what value I had to the world, if I could work again (would the stress and politics be too much).

    And I don't have kids - which is usually women's 'pause' or stop working. I realised if I made a life changing decision to have kids, time not working would be 'ok' by society, but perplexing otherwise. So another bundle of life to grapple with.

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  19. Appreciate the honest reflection, rather than sugar coating a transition that likely comes with mixed emotions for anyone. This is a big shift!

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  20. Hey DBF

    I'm so glad I came across this post on Twitter. It sounds like you made the right decision for you right now. Just try to give yourself some grace and some space right now. You can always take a look at the financial side of the equation again in a few months (or a few years) and figure out what you want to do next. I'm so glad you had to resources to walk away from a bad situation!

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  21. Thank you so much for not throwing in the towel and thinking of alternatives. I've known 3 too many people who did not go through with alternatives. It's the saddest thing in the world to speak to a loved one whose time was too soon. I hope your earlier than expected retirement gives you the refueling you deserve. Thank you for sharing this story

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  22. Great post on quitting. Leaving my current job definitely feels more like failure than anything. As much as I wanted it to work it just didn't.
    When I left my career it felt more triumphant even being in a similar mental health place as where you were. I was optimistic it would be better and things would improve with family life and the marriage and ultimately, it lasted 10 months before I was separated. Talk about feeling like a failure...
    Add in the fact that my industry was and still is in the toilet, Chesapeake laid off 230 more people yesterday, and there aren't any jobs to go back to at this time.
    I'm feeling better writing about life and things in my blog again now, but yeah, I feel you. Shame, failure, all of that was more the feelings I felt about this post divorce. Like, I quit my career for what? Nothing.
    I'll say it does get better. Rather, for me it has gotten better thru time. I still have days where I feel more failure than anything, but they're fewer than the days I feel good about life.
    The 12th, I'll have free time back and this time will enjoy it and appreciate it a bit more.
    Hang in there and be grateful you are so close to your number that you're not forced to work a job that makes you feel like that for another 10-15 years. ����

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  23. Congrats DoneByForty! You did it! Don't worry, all of these thoughts are totally normal. Human brains are hardwired to make sure we survive so we have constant anxiety and worries, but today is a lot less dangerous than the caveman days. Don't sweat the small stuff. Remember that your investments will continually compound despite what the calculator tells you! Keep up the great work!!

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  24. Cash crunches and bad financial health are completely understandable. But at does not mean you continue doing a sick job that is taking a toll on your mental health. I am glad you prioritized your health over some stressful job. Don't feel bad, God has plans for everyone.

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  25. You made the right decision. I am in a similar boat, so close to being able to FIRE, but not quite. There is a small gap to bridge. I keep telling myself that we will figure out it. We will. You made the right choice. Your health and happiness are more important.

    After I engineering my exit from my CEO job, I had about 4 months where I had to continue to work to train employees on various things that I did, and make sure the business was in good shape. It was the longest 4 months of my life. I promise you that you made the right choice. You got this.

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