We’re deeply unhappy with our jobs, new research shows. Indeed, Gallup’s recent “State of the Global Workplace: 2022” revealed that job unhappiness is at an all-time high, and that nearly 1 in 5 workers reports being miserable. And a global study conducted by the Workforce Institute revealed that about 4 in 10 U.S. workers wish someone had warned them not to take their current job.
Plenty of things are to blame. A 2022 FlexJobs survey found the number one reason people quit their job is due to a toxic company culture, followed by low salary, poor management and a lack of work-life balance.
But whatever the reasons, one thing is clear: If you’re unhappy at work, you’ll want to start saving so you can quit if it becomes truly unbearable. (And good news on that front: Some savings accounts are now paying more than they have in a decade — see the best savings account rates you may get now here.)
Of course, it’s best to find a new job before quitting, pros say. But, “if that’s not possible, I would look at your actual spending for the past 12 months and set a realistic monthly budget for the period you expect to be out of work. I prefer to see at least 12 months of liquid savings, but unless you have substantial assets that can be sold, the absolute minimum would be 6 months,” says certified financial planner Kelly Berenbaum at Blue Tree Financial.
Of course, all these numbers depend on your personal financial factors. “If you’re the primary earner in a couple or responsible for children, the monthly expenses and therefore the overall dollar savings are likely higher,” says Berenbaum.
You’ll also want to keep inflation in mind. “The inflation rate is hovering around 7% in 2022, which will decrease the buying power of your savings and the longer you’re out of work, the higher the impact of inflation on your savings,” says Berenbaum.
Ultimately, when it comes to having liquid savings prior to changing jobs or voluntarily being temporarily unemployed, more savings is always better, says certified financial planner Philip Mock, founder of 1522 Financial. “The leaky roof, the broken air conditioner, the sudden medical expense and the aging car transmission all do not care that you have recently lost your job. Expenses can and will pop up, so be prepared,” says Mock.
You also need to consider how long it might take you to find another job, says certified financial planner Mark Struthers of Sona Wealth Advisors — which will depend on your industry, your skills, your level of experience, your ability to relocate, the economy and more. “If you’re a high-earning professional over the age of 55, it may take longer than if you’re a 35 year old mid-level professional,” says Struthers.
Regardless of whether you have savings, support or multiple income streams, Roccia says you want to be reasonably sure you can survive for at least six months because any less than that and you may be forced into more reactive choices. And some experts recommend erring on the side of caution with an even more robust savings. “The general rule of thumb is enough to cover your expenses for 6-9 months, six if there are plenty of jobs for what you do, and nine if there are fewer,” says Dr. Somava Saha, founder of Well-being and Equity in the World (WE in the World).
Note too that many pros think we may be entering a recession, so that is important to keep in mind. “Especially during times of economic uncertainty, having a financial safety net can allow you to make informed decisions on your current job experiences, not how much money is in your account,” says Toni Frana, career services manager at FlexJobs.
Quitting to start your own business
Another thing you may be considering is quitting to start your own business. Certified financial planner Jason Co at Co Planning Group quit his 9-to-5 job to begin his own financial planning practice, and he advises people looking to start their own business follow a few key plans.
“Take at least three people out for coffee who are a few years into the industry you are planning on entering, and ask them how long it took before they became profitable and had a livable income. If the average time to reach profitability is three years, I would add an extra year due to the recession, which means you’ll need to find a way to survive on your savings for four years,” says Co.
You’ll also need to factor in start up costs and double that number, he says. “If you have a spouse who’s still working, that would reduce the need to save a multi-year warchest, but for the sake of the marriage, evaluate how quitting will affect the health of your marriage,” says Co.
What if you can’t quit your job?
Figure out what it is you don’t like, as most people don’t hate all aspects of their job, says John Roccia, director of career services at Ama la Vida. “Usually, they hate one or two aspects so much that it’s ruining everything else,” says Roccia.
To tackle a scenario like this, he advises looking to change the things you actually dislike. “Love your job but hate your manager? Talk to a senior leader about opportunities for internal moves. Hate the hours? Discuss paring back your responsibilities. The point is, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” says Roccia.
It’s also important to recognize that no job is perfect. “We, as a society, tend to expect too much from our employers. We want our jobs to fulfill us and give us meaning and social connection. Our employer cannot be all things to us, we have to have other outlets,” says Johnston.
While quitting and finding a new job might be the obvious solution for someone who hates their current gig, Johnston says you should also reframe the way you think about work. “If you’re someone who lives to work, now may be a time to think about your employer as just a paycheck. Find things that bring you joy outside of the office, perhaps that’s a volunteer opportunity, spending time with family or going to a gym,” says Johnston.
Meanwhile, Frana recommends reflecting and examining the reasons behind any strong emotional feelings that led you to hate your job. “Ask yourself, is it just this job or have you felt this way in previous jobs as well? If you’ve felt a strong resentment towards the majority of your previous roles, you may want to dig deeper to determine why certain work situations elicit such strong, negative feelings,” says Frana.
Other things to consider if you’re quitting your job
Get yourself ready to take another job.“People often ignore career-boosting moves until they’re unemployed, but taking some courses or reaching out to old contacts are more powerful moves when they’re done well before they’re needed,” says Roccia.
If it turns out you do in fact need to look for a new job, Frana suggests being clear on what factors are non-negotiables, such as remote work options, a competitive salary, work-life balance, shared values and healthy company culture. “Having a list of your must-have benefits and job factors before going into your search will help you weed out any misaligned opportunities,” says Frana.
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