Ms ZiYou Quit Work

The appeal of calling it quits on working

I’ve been having fun over the last few months. Actually, rather a lot of fun since I’ve not been working. And you know what I’ve been thinking? Could every day be like this? Could I make it work?

The appeal of giving up work now

As I’ve mentioned in the last few months, I’ve not had to work and moreover, I’ve really been enjoying it. Additionally, I have lots and lots of hobbies I’d like more leisure time to pursue. Could I improve my marathon time with more training? And get through more of my to read list? Not to mention when my Chinese course starts up again, I’d like to dedicate more time to it.

As I have reached the hallowed FI ratio of 25, (although I don’t really think I am FI yet) I am getting the strong urge to take a long, long break. And it’s an idea I am struggling to shake.

The original plan

So it’s probably sensible now to recap my original plan. This was to continue to work for 2 more years clearing a decent contract rate, keeping my high savings rate and then making it to my £750k target (or £700k back up target) in my FIRE fund.

In perspective, as of June 2019, I now have £587k in my FIRE fund. Which, as I’m sure you can agree is (a) not too far off the £700 back-up target and (b) a substantial amount of money in it’s own right.

Original FIRE activities

My original FIRE plan was to go long term travelling, sell the house, lose my material belongings and be a nomad. There are so many countries and place in the world I have not seen yet, that I have a strong desire to see. I see a lot of slow travel in my future, moving from place to place in an ecologically friendly way rather than flying everywhere.

However, I am not yet ready to undertake this travel for a few reasons, but I will be in a couple of years.

Looking for work

Truth be told, I’m not as flexible as I used to be. I’m not hungry for work and have no desire to take contracts that don’t appeal to me. While there are plenty of jobs out there, not many are really calling to me. And this is reflected in my attitude to looking.

Not to mention I just don’t have the patience to deal with recruiters, which is 90% of the battle to securing a decent contract job. The incessant phone calls and sales pitches are no fun – not to mention being screened by people who are fixated on job title – which is meaningless for contractors.

What I could do now

So, I am toying with the idea of taking a break to study Chinese full time. For fun. I think I would have so much fun being a full-time student again. And my Chinese would come on leaps and bounds I am sure with much more time dedicated to it.

Not that I have been hedging my bets, but I have already applied for the full-time course. I was originally planning to drop down to half time – but as I’m not working now this seems like an ideal opportunity.


If I was to stop working, I’d continue with my voluntary work, which means so much to me and bring me good ‘feels’. Moreover, I know I am actually supporting people and helping non-profit organisations with my professional skills. Not to mention that these would keep me one foot in the door of work.

And also

As I get older, I am getting more and more political. I *think* I’d love to get involved in some activism or campaigning, but I’ve always shied away from this as these things need a mega commitment and lots of time. But if I was to stop working, this sort of thing becomes a more and more realistic possibility.

As you may have noticed, I’ve got strong feelings on Brexit and want us to remain. It seems like late summer 2019 will be a time with lots of campaigning to this end. Is it time for me to get involved?

Financial Drawbacks

And onto the downsides of stopping working. Currently, I’m very much at risk due to poor market returns – sequence of returns risk could slaughter me here. And with the Brexit saga ongoing, sterling-denominated markets are not looking very stable. Not to mention a substantial amount of my funds are in pensions, not accessible for another 18-20 years.

Financial limitations

Additionally, given the tight financial situation, if I stopped working I’d end up imposing tight financial rules on myself. I’d be squeezing that budget and keeping my expenses down. I predict I’d be reluctant to spend money and hence avoid going into central London on a regular basis. But would I go so far as to make my life unenjoyable? After all, most of my hobbies are not expensive.

Getting back into the job market

As the daughter of career workers (civil servants no less), I’ve always had it drummed into me you always have to work. That you line up the next job before leaving the existing job.

In a perfect world, all the planets would collide and I’d never need to work again. But this isn’t a perfect world, so I need to plan to get back on the gravy train. And truth be told, that is the bit I am unsure about, put simply what rate cuts would this involve and could I have it after the freedom?

My money isn’t in the right place for a long break

I always hear people planning properly to give up work or retire. They move money to cash and bonds and reduce their exposure to the markets. At the moment I’ve got a 95:5 portfolio, and probably around 1.5 years of expenses in cash around. Truth be told, I think I’d need more cash, and I don’t want to liquidate my investments.

But the nomadic end goal?

And this is a big issue – if I take a few years off now, I am pushing my nomadic travel end goals further down the line by probably a few years. Realistically I’ll still have to work a few more years before going nomadic, so any time I take off now could just delay the end goal.

What to do?

To conclude there is no doubt I am very, very tempted to quit working. I just don’t have that drive to work anymore. I’m going to play it by ear at the moment and see what falls into my lap. If I get accepted full time into the Chinese course, that may be my plan. If an amazing contract comes up, that will be the plan. I’m clearly at a crossroads, waiting for a sign.

Over to you

  • What are your thoughts?
  • Is now the right time to take a break from working?
  • Have you ever taken a long break from work?

Thank you for reading – please leave a comment below and join in the conversation. You can also connect on Twitter or contact me privately.

46 comments on “The appeal of calling it quits on working

  1. I’m struck that some FIREees struggle with the cold turkey approach to work so perhaps a mini-retirement or two isn’t a bad thing to experiment with.

    I grew up in a very poor household and while I could stop working, I still do. Partly that’s because I have a rewarding job, but also partly as someone in their late 40s, I reckon the next job will not be so forthcoming so might as well make hay while the sun shines. Almost certainly, there’s an element of the security of having money coming in when I’ve seen how other relatives have struggled to make ends meet. I have gone part-time though and would consider a sabbatical before I finally walk away.

    Finally, I think a lot of early retirees assume they won’t pick up work of some kind after they retire if they want to. Spending more time in volunteer positions probably puts you in a good place to pick up paid work in the charity of your choice if you want. A lot of paid staff in the charity sector used to be volunteers. Your nomadic wanderings would surface opportunities for bits of paid work or gifts in kind. A lot of people overseas just like to practice their English with a native speaker, for example – and will treat you to a meal or a night’s stay.

    Similarly, there are always ways to sweat your assets a bit more eg by letting your home while travelling, taking in a lodger or AirBnB when not.

    Good luck with whatever you decide!

    1. Thanks for sharing your perspectives GreenCat – and that’s interesting that you yourself keep on working even though you don’t need to financially.

      Now part-time is also something that appeals to me, and if I did get a new contract I’d be very tempted to request 4 days right away.

      And yes, I think I am discounting the potential of picking up work of some kind in the future – which I will no doubt do, at least to get those few years NI credit I still need.

    2. Hi Ms. Ziyou,
      I love your writing, so wanted to respond to your question.
      I was made redundant whilst pregnant on my 2nd child, and after a near death experience, decided to be an at home mother. That was over 15 years ago, and while I’ve retrained twice, ran my own business, and worked in my dream job, I’ve never really “gone back to work” like I used to.

      One exercise that might be helpful might be to write how your life would be if you were a full-time student near end of your first year. What would you be doing in a week? Having so much fun, as you’ve said. Studying Chinese, spending time on hobbies that are not expensive. travelling into Central London sometimes. How could you bring in some extra income while studying? Student life is a lot cheaper of course. Opportunities may arise over the next 6 month while you’re on you’re mini study gap.

      What’s the worse thing that can happen? a) you hate being a full-time student, and try something different b) it costs more that you’re prepared to spend from your savings, and you take up some/more work.

      It sounds like there are no options are closed to you, and sometimes more choices make it more difficult and fearful.

      I remember thinking after I had my daughter…it will be written on my gravestone “here likes Catherine…she didn’t follow her dream…but she had a good job”!

      Best of luck for the future!

      1. Thanks for reading and replying Catherine – it’s really appreciated. It sounds like you had a really traumatic time and then made redundant – so glad you have come out of it.

        Truth be told, I can easily predict what my life will be like as a full-time student – and to be honest, my life wouldn’t change too much. I don’t have any interest in bringing in extra income – side hustling is not for me!

        More importantly – I love how you frame it that there are no options closed to me, and that is very true. It’s the choice paradox in action.

  2. What a fantastic conclusion to your post. It’s really refreshing to read you going through all the thoughts and then simply say “I feel I’m waiting for a sign,” because I think all of us need reminding now and then that life happens and that is very much a big controller/manipulator of our financial choices. It’s clearly a good sign that you know what you want and feel that you have these options open to you.

    Good luck!

    1. Hi Black Penny – oh yeah – I do think luck is a lot of life. Most successful people are lucky, and similarly, lots of struggling people are unlucky.

  3. Massively biased comment, but here goes…

    Are you kidding? You *literally* only live once. You are going to die one day.

    You are rich and can contract at a day rate that I’m sure could support your living expenses if you worked for some low percentage (20%) of the time if all of your stash disappeared overnight. Even if you lost your professional skills from under-utilisation and had to take lower paying freelance work (perhaps writing, which you’re good at) to top up because a 4% SWR should really have been a 3.5% SWR then that still sounds like a good foundation for an awesome life to me.

    How is this even a question? I’d say take an indefinite break, do what you’re passionate about and then see where the mood takes you. I took this step with significantly less resources and a family to support and I 100% believe that it was the right move. Ironically, I now work full-time for myself, but that’s what I enjoy.

    Again, I’m biased, but IMO FI is an overkill method for achieving the freedom/autonomy/meaning most of us are after. Whether or not you’re ‘quite there’ is irrelevant. Go and squeeze the juice out of life!

    1. Hi Andy – thanks for sharing – I *love* your comment. You are certainly helping me see the bigger picture and that I have many options if I live life a little more dangerously. I don’t deny that it is very, very tempting.

      1. > if I live life a little more dangerously

        Bare knuckle boxing: dangerous. Walking through the rough part of town on your own at 3am: dangerous. Sharing needles with people you don’t know: dangerous. Base jumping: dangerous.

        Having a few years off to find out what you want from life when you’re a reasonable portion of a milionaire, have no non-feline dependents and solid income producing skills: not remotely dangerous. Imagine yourself trying to convince somebody who routinely faces actual danger (perhaps a doctor in Syria) that this is dangerous.

        It’s hard, but worth it to separate ‘things which are dangerous’ and ‘things which I’m scared of’ in your head. As I’ve written at length, I was bricking it when I decided to not have a job anymore but it was completely irrational.

        Sorry if this sounds ranty. It’s just that everyone in the PF community seems to be very careful so I thought that my gung ho approach might provide some balance.

        That ‘years until I die’ clock is ticking… 🙂

        1. Well – you are certainly taking the wording seriously Andy!

          It’s more a balancing act of a little more work now and a luxurious travel lifestyle or winging it and hoping for the best.

          1. Perhaps I inadvertently channelled my inner pedant!

            Sorry – I’m feeling particularly enthusiastic about life today for some reason. Winging it FTW though IMO.

            I really like Tim Ferriss’ idea of ‘mini-retirements’. How about setting aside a fixed amount of time, after which you can reassess? For example, professional skills don’t go stale in a year but they do in 5. So you set the mini-retirement length to exactly a year and book an appointment with yourself to make a decision then. If you want to go back to contracting/employment then, do it, in full knowledge of what being job-free feels like.

            Just a thought.

          2. I like your enthusiasm for life and winging it – and given my tax / company situation, I’d want to make a decision before April…

  4. Hi there, yes I’d quit working if you are ready. Its a difficult decision no doubt. I’m hoping to be in that position in a couple of years. For me, I’m thinking of going part-time, in phased retirement. My wife has already reduced her hours.

    It obviously takes a lot of motivation over a long period of time to become FI (without an inheritance or lottery win), so the determination to get there makes it difficult to let go of work. You see it a lot in Fire blogs, either not actually retiring when they can, or like RIT giving up work, even leaving the country, and then coming back and back into work. Fire people are usually very self motivated to get there and therefore have a problem not working. Due to its nature involves working hard and saving for long periods of time.

    I have some wealthy relatives past and present who have built up nest eggs and not use them but pass them down. Which is great, but I think if you have a good net wealth, why not spend some of it, it doesn’t all need to go to the taxman/little Tarquin. My wife worked for a guy who dropped dead just before retirement. You don’t know whats round the corner and have to make hay whilst the sun shines.

    Campaigning as a feminist leftist seems completely bonkers to me . Just dont tell them you’re a capitalist, living off dividends and capital growth from those patriarchy-led world-killing companies 😉

    I suppose the worse that can happen, say with a market crash, is you have to go back into work to top up your savings. I’d definitely consider de-risking your portfolio (a lot), if you do decide to pull the plug. You have the choice to work contracts and travel in between. Or continue earning as FI, and watch your portfolio grow. Well done, and good luck.

    1. Hi Adam – yes, the idea of part is also starting to appeal a lot at the moment, and something I’d definitely consider advocating for.

      I’m happy to let go of work and working but know I can make much easier money now than I’m likely to be able to in the future.

  5. One typical preparation for FI transition is an asset allocation manipulation. The concept is named “bond tenting”: raise bond exposure before transition and ramp it back down afterwards. It’s meant to counter sequence-of-return risk.

    The bond tent I plan to use for my (US) household is to ramp up to 40% bonds across the five years before I transition, then ramp back down to 10% bonds again across ten years. You could rebalance quickly if you wanted to (and could handle the tax implications).

    Paired with working one more year but living on your FI budget, this might be a useful strategy. Though, with 18 months’ cash already, you might well decide to be half investor, half student for the next year: convert your portfolio into FI trim, and study Chinese. Bonus: figuring out how to go nomadic falls into both halves, as far as I can tell. 😀

    1. Yeah, I’ve heard of that idea as a very effective approach to mitigation of the sequence of returns issue. The thing is, I’m not really sure it’s for me – something I need to think about more. But as you say, it can all be done very quickly with just a few orders….

      And going nomadic is easy and I’ll have no hesitation in pulling the trigger when the time comes in a few years.

  6. I’d be flexible and see what happens. If a really good gig comes along, then take it.
    Otherwise, enjoy the Chinese program and enjoy the downtime. I’m sure something will come up.

  7. I like the idea of being flexible and taking the time as it comes. You have a significant cushion right now and even a small amount of income could make a big difference with sequence of returns risk. What about looking into lower paying, part time / temp work at some point? You’re spending is so low I don’t think it would take much to make a big impact.

    1. Hi Angela – I do concur flexibility is the key. While I’ve still got a decent earning potential, I’m not really looking at lower paying work as I do actually like my work. But it’s good to know I potentially have options in the future.

  8. I think you’ve got the right idea to just take things as they come for now.

    I’m not tempted to stop work (much as working with the public can be less than fun) but I’m nowhere near where you are with savings. So that would explain that. Also, I just don’t know what I’d do with myself all day. I have chronic fatigue and have to moderate my activities, so it’s not as though I could fill my days with volunteer work and political campaigning the way you might. So I think I’d be very bored without work and the funds necessary to travel.

    Just take it slowly for now and see where you’re at in a month or so. You may have your answer after a little more time away from work. (Or, as you said, the perfect contract may fall into your lap.)

    1. Thanks Abigail – I’m always in awe of people that like working with the public.

      And filling my time has never been my problem – it’s more to opposite fitting it all in round here.

      But yes, I’m just going to take it easy and see what happens…

  9. Hi Ms ZiYou,

    That was a very well thought-out pro’s and con’s analysis of “Should I stay or should I go?!” Imho. I think ultimately, it will depend on how much of a risk taker you are. You’re obviously smart, hardworking and talented enough to succeed either way – whether you take the plunge now, or stay working a few more years. And you’re so young that I think ageism will not affect you, if your portfolio takes a nosedive and you do decide to go back to work later.

    But ultimately, whether or not you have “enough” is a personal decision. And being able to sleep at night counts for a LOT in my book 😉 You have to be comfortable with your own decision, and only you can assess that.

    As someone who just FIRE’d with way more than 25x my projected annual budget (I’m a big chicken and like Greencat66, being older I didn’t want to risk not being to find another job if my portfolio crashed), I think there’s a level of fear we all have to face when we first cut the cord – and that fear will not abate until we’ve lived without a job for a while. So I understand exactly where you’re coming from, and (not to be sexist, but…) I think a lot of FIRE bloggers, being male, are more naturally comfortable with risk and discount that fear.

    Best of luck Ms. ZiYou!!!!

    1. Thanks FF – I always love and appreciate hearing your perspective, as someone in a very similar situation.

      And you’ve got to the crux of it – am I a risk taker?

  10. I’m about to take a sabbatical! Can’t wait. I want to see if I can earn enough to cover my expenses doing something I love like coaching and living somewhere cheaper.

  11. I think your financial numbers (26.7 x spend) give you the option of ceasing work but I can understand that you prefer them to be better (34 x spend). You have a lot in high US markets and appear to be looking to be reliant on an Safe Withdrawal Rate approach with sequence of returns risk. That would need thinking about. You also have to manage two pots one of which is not accessible before age 57 which complicate your planning.

    The bigger question, ignoring the numbers, is whether you want to take this break. I would suggest you can so long as you aim to keep your options open for a return to work. I took a few months out when I was around your age and that helped me clarify what I wanted to do next in terms of work. At that time my numbers were such that I knew I had to go back to work but they gave me options on how I chose to do that.

  12. Hi, thinking about this some more. I think the key questions are 1) have you got enough of a bridge from now until aged 55/57 (when you can start to draw pensions), and 2) have you got enough to do in terms of hobbies and travel to fill the time. Which raise other questions, about how much you like work, and what you’re going to do when you’re time rich. Being an accountant I mess with a spreadsheet forecasting what I think I’m going to need in future, but its all best guesses in the end. Cheers

  13. The £587k you have accumulated in your pot would be enough for me to quit working immediately, so in your situation I’d be tempted to not go back!

    Would you be able to live on the income from this pot once your cash surplus has been depleted, or is most of it stuck in pensions?

    With your skills and experience, you would always have the option of returning to work at a later date, contracting like you’ve always done. Doing projects and then travelling in between projects (this is what a member of the family is doing – she’s currently on a 3-week jolly in the Balkans).

    If you were able to rent out your place to go on your travels, the rental income could cover most/all of your mortgage so that would be one less payment to make and you won’t be paying the usual household bills. I guess you’d then need to balance out your travelling spends against that.

    Interesting plan to study Chinese full-time, a real commitment that would really advance your language skills.

    Good luck with what you choose to do – what a nice dilemma to be in!

    1. Hi Weenie – that’s the big question – would I run out of money before pension age? It’s a bit hit and miss at the moment.

      And it does annoy me that my house isn’t very easily rentable and I’m leaning towards selling up before going full-on nomadic. So I don’t really have the easy option of renting it for shorter periods and returning.

      If I gave Chinese more focus, I reckon it would come much, much more. And I’d move towards being able to truly understand.

      I agree, it’s not a bad dilemma to have.

  14. Super interesting post. I have recently had some of the same thoughts. It seems like you are in a very good financial position, and while it does carry some risk to stop working now, I believe you should take some chances in life and always ask “what is the worst that can happen?”. Imagine you stop working and the markets crash. The worst that can happen is that you will have to go back to working. Imagine however that you quit working, you spend time on things that matter, you spend more time on hobbies. Who knows? You might also start making money on a hobby. I know few people who have retired early who don’t make money in retirement 🙂 looking forward to hearing what you decide!

    1. Hi Carl – thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, it’s balancing those risks of having to go back to work. And I have to say that I think I am the least entrepreneurial person there is…but who knows what the future holds.

  15. Do it, just do it!

    Personally, I haven’t taken a break, let alone a long break, from work. But plan to leave full time working much sooner that I thought I would!

  16. You say “it does annoy me that my house isn’t very easily rentable and I’m leaning towards selling up before going full-on nomadic. So I don’t really have the easy option of renting it for shorter periods and returning”.

    As your current house doesn’t seem to form any part of your long-term plan, had you considered selling it now and possibly replacing it with something else (a flat or house, in a location that ticks your investment and possible later living boxes) that would be suitable for short or long term rentals and would keep your toe in the housing market whilst you’re away being nomadic? Owning property, even if it’s let, does strip a lot of long-term financial risk out of the equation….

    In terms of a sabbatical, you could always go test out your low-cost nomadic living concept for a few months? That’d give you a good break and confidence in your projected future expenses? Heck, you could always go full-on immersion and trek round China, practicing the language as you go….

    1. Hi Yann – thanks for reading and commenting.

      Although my house isn’t good for the future, it’s the perfect place for now. My cat and chickens wouldn’t fit into a flat very well! I’m also not too bought into the idea that you always have to own property.

      I have commitments that mean I can’t go away for months at the moment, hence those options are not a go-er, despite them being very attractive options. But in a few years, things will change and nomadic life will be possible.

  17. I might be alone here, but I’m in the camp of toughing it out until you hit FI. I’m in a similar boat (2 years or so from our FI goals) and, I, too, am considering a break pretty regularly.

    My take is this: time now isn’t necessarily any more valuable than time later. I suppose I could die at any moment but in all likelihood, I will be on this earth for many decades more. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be working towards financial independence.

    So taking a year off now has some great appeal and upsides, but it also has some opportunity costs: it means I’ll have to work more later. How much more?

    Well, if my savings rate is at 66% now, even with a 0% market return, a year of work buys me two years off later. That is a good deal. Working for a year gives me two years of complete freedom.

    Taking one year of complete freedom now, has an opportunity cost: two years later, that I could have had, but now don’t.

    Anyway, that’s how I’m looking at it. And this is just my opinion and I very clearly can be, and often am, wrong. 😉

    1. Thanks Brian for coming and giving me the opposite point of view to everyone else. Indeed, I really see your point and there is a potential opportunity cost.

      And my big challenge is the potential nature of it – from where I am, it’s not a dead cert either way. Decisions, decisions.

  18. I’m a bit late on this one as I’ve been taking a break from blog stuff, but I just wanted to chip in and say definitely get involved in campaigning! On a selfish note, it’s very personally rewarding (those ‘feels’ but also the camaraderie you get when you work alongside people with a shared passion). On a less selfish note, it’s surely one of the most meaningful ways to spend your extra free time 🙂

  19. Hi Ms ZiYou. I’m glad you are going well and enjoying your break. I’m in a not too dissimilar position to you although I’m not yet near the 25X mark. I have been debating at length with myself over whether to slog through another few years to achieve FI or whether to go part time and take longer to get to FI but enjoy a better work life balance now. It’s not an easy choice. With my personality I wouldn’t enjoy a full break now because I haven’t achieved FI. I would be thinking that I should be working still.

    With automation I don’t think my job will be around for very long and with elderly parents I am conscious they may need more of my help going forward. As a result I am thinking that I should keep going until I hit my number as the best approach but I flip flop on this on a continual basis. As difficult as these options are our previous efforts have given present and future us options so that has to be a massive positive.

    1. Thanks for reading and replying Never Give Up – yes, part-time is definitely an option I need to be exploring more.

      Automation and ageing parents are certainly valid criteria for making a decision, and if you were FI they would be much easier to navigate. Having said that, I’m not sure they should drive decisioning.

  20. Love your blog!

    If it were me I’d take the mini retirement and the chance to be a full-time student and see where that got me. Maybe read the book Pivot or Working Identities in the meantime, both well respected guides to mid-life career change (which for me means midlife change of what we’re doing, not necessarily ‘career’), both with interesting case studies and evidence-based approaches.

    And as another feminist Remainer, please, yes, if you haven’t already got involved with campaigning, do it now. Those of us who’ve been active since the referendum have really run out of steam (I’ve just taken the last six months off from it), and you could make a real difference at local. regional and national level at this stage. All still to play for.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, much appreciated.

      I’m sure I’ve read pivot, but def going to look up that working identities book – I love the spiel turning fantasy into reality!

      I agree all is still to play for with brexit, and maybe it is time I got involved….

What do you think?