Money, Morals, and Decisions on the Path to FIRE
My friend hit me up with an interesting dilemma the other day. It’s one of those money vs. moral problems, and I think many of us can relate…
“I accepted an offer from [new job] yesterday with a $20K sign-on bonus!… and it’s much more closely aligned with my passion than my current job.
Now, I just have to figure out the best thing to do as far as my transition. I’m debating taking PTO for my last week at my current employer and my first week at [new job] because then I should be entitled to a bonus for the month of April. If I resign any earlier, it is my understanding that I miss out on that entire check. So, although I don’t like the idea, I would just resign on the spot after my PTO and not give any notice.
It is employment at will so their policy states that it is preferential for employees to give two weeks notice, but it is not required. Their policy also says that they can honor pre-scheduled PTO, but that it shouldn’t be used to extend employment. So, basically, I have the right to do as I please, they have the right to do as they please, but it appears that there is only one sure way for me to exit and get that bonus.
Otherwise, I can be a nice guy, but I might get punished for it. Thoughts?”
Ok. First I’ll share my thoughts and how I’d personally handle this situation. Then down in the comments section you guys can tell me all the ways I’m an idiot, and how you’d handle it differently.
Money Dilemma or Moral Dilemma?
A couple things sprung to mind when I read my friend’s comment.
My first thought was that this isn’t really a money problem… It’s a question of personal principles. The moral code that I try to align myself with tells me that working for 2 employers simultaneously isn’t right. I wouldn’t be proud of that type of behavior, and no amount of money would make me feel good about it.
So for me, I’d give my 2 weeks’ notice with plenty of time to start the new job. Bonus or no bonus, I’d still have the $20k incentive from the new employer and be happy moving on with life.
That being said, I am in a different work situation (and financial situation) than others out there. Some of you reading this would think it’s a no-brainer to take advantage and try and get as much money from employers as possible, even if it means being sneaky. It’s just business after all, and we all gotta look out for ourselves. (This has never been my perspective, but I can see why people think this way.)
My next thought was about how high “money” ranks as a factor in my friend’s decision-making process. Is money the absolute most important thing during this job transition? Or are there other factors that are driving the decision?
This leads me to something I’ve been thinking about lately regarding the FIRE movement…
FIRE and Always Prioritizing Money
Most of us are pursuing financial independence so we don’t have to worry about money anymore. We want to live our lives freely, doing whatever activities we please, without having to worry about financial consequences.
But, when is the actual point that we can stop worrying about money? Is it when we reach FI? Will our mindset suddenly shift when we hit that magic number? Or can we transition our decision-making slowly, sooner?
Most people think about FIRE like this:
They put a heavy emphasis on money and make it their sole focus while building wealth. Then once financial independence is achieved, they envision all of their worries and stresses shedding away overnight. Suddenly, money will have little influence on their decision-making.
But this thinking is a little immature. Because it’s extremely difficult for humans to refashion who they are overnight.
A much healthier transition actually looks like this…
As you continue to build wealth, money becomes less and less of a priority. When making big life decisions (career changes, kids, buying a home) you can afford to factor in other important things into the decision-making process… happiness, passion, love, curiosity, health, generosity, etc.
If your ultimate goal is never worrying about money again, start transitioning to that mindset NOW. It will be less of a shock when you actually hit FIRE and allows you to incrementally move closer to the type of lifestyle you want to live, sooner.
This is all just my opinion, of course. Everyone’s relationship with money is different. I just wanted to explain why I’m more interested in helping my friend build a good life vs. suck his employer out of the most money possible.
Other Ideas for My Friend’s Job Transition
Here are a few other options I’d consider in my friend’s situation.
- Since the new job is locked in for May, why not quit the old job now and take the entire month of April off? This is a rare opportunity to take a 4-week break, something that might not be possible for the next few years.
- Instead of giving 2 weeks’ notice, give 6! Do the opposite of what most quitting employees do → Help hire your replacement, transition your accounts and projects thoroughly, and leave on the best possible note. (Heck, they may even figure out a way for you to keep the April bonus.)
- Try renegotiating your current work position. There’s nothing to lose if you’re leaving anyway. Instead of just asking for more money, ask for benefits that might add more ongoing value to your life. Like every Friday off, more PTO, or flexibility that supports your more important life goals.
There’s a handful of other ways to tackle this. And I’m sure you readers have a bunch of ideas and opinions. Let’s hear them!
Ever been in this situation before? What do you reckon?
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