My Wife Quit Her Job! Leveling Up On Our Journey To FI

Last week my wife quit her job! After working consistently for over 15 years we decided it was time to pull the trigger and eliminate a stressor from our lives. Currently we are roughly 75% financially independent based on work/life balance.  I work half the year and now Mrs. C. doesn’t work at all.  With that being said we are still very dependent on my real job, at least for the next 5 years, although we are taking drastic steps to lower this dependence. Overall reducing our total hours worked by 900 a year is a major level up on our journey towards financial independence.

Mrs. C.’s Job:

Mrs. C. has worked in auto parts since 2006.  She started out at Autozone and went to O’reilly 5 years ago.  Primarily she worked as a shift manager at Autozone, however she has been a driver, a parts specialist, a merchandiser, and even an interim store manager for a couple months.  Over the years she has turned down becoming a store manager multiple times because those positions have very low flexibility and long hours. If my memory serves me right at Autozone they required a minimum of 5 10 hour shifts, and 1 day had to be on the weekend.  With 4 kids and with my work schedule there was just no conceivable way to make it work. When our 2 nephews came to live with us a little over 4 years ago instead of quitting her job Mrs. C. found a way to stay on for a while.  She worked 2 days a week, 1 was on my day off and the other was on her mom’s day off so that we could watch the kids while she was at work (both kids were under school age).  When the youngest started full time school 2 years ago she increased her hours.

Working In Retail Does Not Pay That Great:

Mrs. C. was earning around $11 an hour when she left.  This isn’t a ton of money. Especially since it is still less than she was earning when she left Autozone 5 years ago.  Her earnings for the last 5 years has totaled just under $50,000.  This may not seem like a lot, but that was all top line income.  Since her job was the least paying, it would be the first to go on our journey to financial independence.  That $50,000 directly increased our savings by roughly $45,000. (Approx 10% went to taxes for Social Security, Medicare, and State of MI.)

For her level of knowledge, her skills and abilities, and her dedication $11 an hour is way below what she should be working for.  Even though she would be capable of being an assistant manager working part time hours, neither company she worked for would approve it.

Aside from being in a dead end role, there are a lot of downsides to her job that I am glad she is getting away from.

  1. Constant sexism:  I get that men typically know more about cars than women, but at least give her a chance.  It’s fairly frequent that someone in person or on the phone will immediately ask her if one of the guys can wait on him or her instead.  Mrs. C. has worked in auto parts for 13 years and is an ASE certified parts specialist.  She gets a bit of enjoyment out of it when the guy she sends over can’t help and she knows exactly what is wrong and what part they need, but still, this sucks.
  2. Customer harassment: This isn’t too frequent, but it does happen.  It’s one thing to be asked on dates, or told you look good, but there are some lines that customers have crossed.  At one point a customer touched her inappropriately and her previous management at the time of the incident did not take the situation seriously.
  3. Undefined roles: Her actual role was a merchandiser.  When our nephews came to live with us she went into this role because she had a deal with her previous store manager that with snow days, sick days etc, there would be times where she would have to call off and this role wasn’t part of needed coverage, so she could make up the hours at a later date and it wouldn’t negatively affect the shift.  Her job was to keep the store inventory organized and easy to inventory.  However due to low staffing her management would frequently need to pull her to help out on the counter.  She didn’t mind helping customers, but this happened so often and for entire shifts, that the work she needed to get done for her role got pushed to the back burner.
  4. Coaching via text.  I really disliked the way coaching was done via group email at one of my previous jobs.  Literally if I made a mistake it was put out to the entire department and I would get multiple layers of management chiming in on it.  Anyways her boss would get fired up about a customer complaint and would shoot off group texts to all store employees. This was seldom directed toward her, but still frustrating to get work stuff, especially negative work stuff on your days off.
  5. Mandatory meetings: I hate the concept of mandatory meetings scheduled outside of normal shifts.  People are expected to drive to work to get paid for an hour to get bitched at.  Her management scheduled these at inconvenient times, most recently on Fathers day at 7AM.

How Did We Decide It Was Time For My Wife To Quit Her Job?

  1. Her total income is now roughly 25% of our yearly savings.  I ran the numbers and if we reduced our savings by 25% each year, it would have roughly no impact on our early retirement or wealth building plans. 5 years ago it was closer to 50% of our total yearly savings. Our standard of living would greatly improve by her not having to work roughly 900 to 1,000 hours across 150 days of the year.
  2. It looks like I will be promoted at one of my jobs.  I have worked for the same employer since 2006.  On our project I have been in a position that is similar to an assistant project manager.  Our PM is planning to retire at the end of this year and I am being trained to take his place.  This means I will not only earn more money, but I will also be a full time employee with benefits and year round pay.
  3. Her economic value is much higher than her compensation: I touched on this above, but she is certainly worth more than $11 an hour.  Moving her from working in auto parts to managing and growing our rental portfolio will have a much stronger impact on our long term net worth. Bottom line, her time is better spent elsewhere.
  4. Health reasons: Mrs. C. has Graves Disease, a permanent autoimmune disorder, along with some other health issues.  There are some aspects to her current job that make living with Graves more difficult and harmful to her.  For her mental and physical health leaving her current job felt necessary.
  5. So much scheduling.  With 4 kids, doctors appointments, extra curriculars, visiting family, our calendars are insane.  August has literally no blank spaces on it.  Eliminating 2 to 3 scheduled events every single week is a big win.
  6. Safety: Thankfully Mrs. C. has never been at a store during a robbery, but 2 of the 3 stores she has worked at have been robbed while she has been an employee there.  One of her coworkers had a gun to his head while being screamed instructions to get money that he couldn’t access and the situation continued for several minutes while the robbers instructed him to break into the safe with the tools that the store had.  Mrs. C. has not worked nights in many years from the safety aspect, but it is still a factor in my mind at least to get her out of that being a possibility.

Increasing Our Rental Income:

We’ve bought 2 houses in the last 9 months.  The first one we had rented out 2 months after purchase and the 2nd one we are moving Mrs. C.’s mom into now.  This house is a less expensive house than the house she is in now (our previous home) and its market rent rate would be around $800 a month,  the house she is in now which is a 5 bedroom, would rent for around $1,200 a month.  Once she is moved we will rent out our previous home at market rate, and at that point our total rental cash flow will exceed Mrs. C.’s yearly earnings in auto parts.  We are actively searching for our 4th rental property now and plan to scale to 10 total rentals in under 5 years.

Mrs.C.’s Work History:

When I first met Mrs. C. she was working 2 fast food jobs (I met her when she got the 2nd job, working at the KFC I was employed at).  She then left fast food to take a full time job at Meijer.  She worked the early shift as a merchandiser, I think it was something like 6AM to 2PM.  She then worked at Autozone for several years and left there to work at O’reilly 5 years ago.

Before I met her she worked at JoAnn fabrics for a while and had also worked at Subway. Since I have known her she has not been without a job at all, she has always had one lined up before leaving.  Her only gap in employment was when she had to be off work towards the end of her pregnancy with her first kid over 16 years ago.

Mrs. C.’s Other Jobs:

  1. Raising 4 kids: This is a ton of work.  All of our kids are in scouts and have different things going on different days. Our kids are 16, 10, 7, and 6. This is especially difficult when her husband leaves for weeks at a time for work, sometimes with little notice.
  2. Cub Scout jobs: In a cub scout pack there are about a dozen job titles and Mrs. C. does at least half of them. There is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes on!
  3. Rental Property Manager: Going forward her primary work will be managing the rentals that we own.

Conclusion

I’m thrilled that we are finally in a position where she can quit her job.  Our yearly average hours worked are being reduced from roughly 2,200 to 1,300, which is way better than the 4,000 hour average of a 2 full time worker household. If you could take an 11% reduction in total income for a 41% reduction in total hours worked wouldn’t you? On top of that my hours are compressed into a lot of 72 to 84 hour weeks, so total days worked is around 130. The numbers don’t lie, it made a lot of sense for my wife to quit her job.

I’m looking forward to getting the ball rolling on our rental property empire and will have several articles on that in the coming months.  Our plan is for Mrs. C. to never return to an actual job again.  This obviously didn’t happen overnight.  It took 15 years of consistent planning, saving, investing, and living well under our means to put us in a position where we could drop to one income.

Have you ever significantly reduced total hours worked for a better quality of life?  Any regrets?

John C. started Action Economics in 2013 as a way to gain more knowledge on personal financial planning and to share that knowledge with others. Action Economics focuses on paying off the house, reducing taxes, and building wealth. John uses the free tool Personal Capital to track his net worth and posts quarterly updates on his finances. Check out the Action Economics archives section for all past posts.

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