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Preview: Comments on: Dealing With Professional Exhaustion In A Financially Sensible Way

Comments on: Dealing With Professional Exhaustion In A Financially Sensible Way

Financial talk for the rest of us

Last Build Date: Tue, 04 Apr 2017 17:51:15 +0000


By: Andrew Stevens

Tue, 16 Oct 2007 17:32:04 +0000

Money isn't everything and it won't make you happy. Don't get me wrong; lack of money can make you miserable. What I would suggest is thinking very hard about how much you'd like the job if you could divorce the exam process from it. If you think you'd still hate it, then I'd suggest looking for a different decent-paying career (though probably not as much as you're making now). If you think you'd like it once the exams are over, then I'd suggest trying to stick out the exams, as long as you can honestly see yourself getting through them in a limited period of time. When I was going to college full-time, I also worked full-time in order to avoid taking on too much debt. This was extremely stressful and difficult, but the payoff was well worth it. However, I always had the end goal in sight and I always knew it was temporary. That made it much easier.

By: undercoveractuary

Tue, 16 Oct 2007 17:25:23 +0000

Thanks for your supportive advice, Andrew Stevens. I agree 100% with your point about how extraordinarily lucky it is that I, as a middle-class well-educated American, have the ability to choose how I want to make a living. That has also added to my deep ambivalence on this choice: how could I throw away such a good paycheck, in field that is consistently ranked as one of the best, when more than a few (non-actuary) friends and family members would love to trade places with me? Life was a lot easier in college when I knew what I had to do: go to the classes that were required for my degree, ace them, get a degree. Not to mention, my deeply competitive personality loved being at the top of the class. I find it harder now, as a strictly middle-of-the-road actuarial student and analyst, to be satisfied with my own accomplishments (or lack thereof).

By: Andrew Stevens

Tue, 16 Oct 2007 01:26:46 +0000

Undercoveractuary, I must say I feel for you. Trying to get through exams while working for a consulting company must be really tough. Don't feel bad about your difficulty coping. Milton Friedman gave up his dream of being an actuary because he couldn't cut the exams; later on, he won the Nobel Prize in economics. The North American actuarial exam process is the hardest professional credentialing process on the planet. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer for what you ought to be doing with your life. The simple fact is that most people never get to where you want to be. Only a tiny fraction of people who have ever lived on this earth have had the luxury of dreaming about doing something they'd find satisfying for a living, nevertheless actually doing it. As for having wasted those years, as any economist will tell you, "sunk costs are sunk." Don't throw good years after bad if you're truly miserable.

By: undercoveractuary

Mon, 15 Oct 2007 14:39:09 +0000

Wow, I'm shocked because this has basically been a fantasy of mine for the last couple of years. I'm an actuary still struggling through exams. I suck at my job-- I'm in consulting-- but I am not nearly so free and unsaddled as your friend. I am engaged, with a wedding pending early next spring, that my fiance and myself are paying for. We have been saving, and must continue to do so, for the next six months to have it. We have a savings account, too, for a house, but we are currently renting. I also have a (relatively) new car with two and half years left on the loan. No other debt, though. My worst problem is not that I dislike my job and that it demoralizes me every day with my inability to keep up with my smarter, more motivated peers, but that I have no idea what else I'd rather do. If I could just choose something-- anything, it doesn't matter what-- and know that I'd be satisfied doing that, I could work towards it. As it stands, I am stuck in a position knowing that I'd have to take a huge paycut to do anything else-- not to mention ditch the years of my precious single life invested in those stupid exams-- and that I'd regret doing that at this stage in my life unless I knew that my personal satisfaction would be greatly increased.

By: sfordinarygirl

Mon, 15 Oct 2007 05:40:32 +0000

This post came at a perfect timing! I've been frustrated by the lack of development and growth at my job. It got to the point where I wasn't getting any sleep and I had to drag myself out of bed each morning. I've decided if I don't get a job offer from the company I interviewed I'm going to work 4 out of the 5 days or even less and take up another temp or retail job with commission to supplement my income.

By: Personal Finance Review - Featuring Joe Money & Bob Cash » Money Smart Life

Mon, 15 Oct 2007 01:30:22 +0000

[...] I told you already, my life is not my job! My quality of life is way more important to me than money.  I bet you’d feel [...]

By: Jasmine

Sun, 14 Oct 2007 21:27:39 +0000

I think this post/story also brings up a good point, don't wait until you are so burned out and frazzled at your job that you need to quit working completly for awhile or enter another lower salary range. That is of course, okay to do if you have the means and are debt-free. But by making the decision earlier when you are not completly stressed and only radical change will do, you are empowering yourself more. There's time to look for a less demanding job in a similar field, start a side business while receiving benefits thru ones employer, etc. Or decide to make a career shift into another arena. But I doubt your friend wants to drive a forklift for the rest of his life considering his educational background. That's alot of talent that's not being put to use.. Sometimes, drastic measures are necessary, and it does sound like this is a good time for your friend to re-evaluate his priorities and relax. Perhaps a remote vacation would really help to remember all of the exciting, wonderful things there are to do/explore in life that keep things interesting!

By: Siena

Sun, 14 Oct 2007 19:08:35 +0000

Seems like what your friend needed a sabbatical from his job, but starting a new business also takes a lot of time and is a mental juggle. Is the business in his field or is he looking to change his field of work? Also, with a phD, did he consider teaching? Could he have cut back hours with his old job? Or found a less stressful job with a different company? A friend of mine has the same job but switched companies and it has made all the difference. Either way, hope your friend succeeds with his new business venture.

By: Bill

Sun, 14 Oct 2007 17:39:15 +0000

Why not consulting, or another white-collar job? The longer he plays around on the loading dock, the harder it is to get back into that world should he suddenly have a need to earn more money (think medical expenses, especially long-term care for a parent)

By: dong

Sun, 14 Oct 2007 16:20:03 +0000

I'm not sure it's a given that PhD will land you an academic job that you want. I work with plenty of very bright PhDs, and the academic route was something they had to give up because it was so competitive. That said PhD in math can land you a lot of great jobs in many industries. However the greater issue, sometime it's not about having a "great" job. You can can have "great" job with great hours, and still feel the life being sucked out of you. I applaud people who plan, quit, and reassess...

By: vh

Sun, 14 Oct 2007 14:09:51 +0000

hmm. This story is sooo not complete. A Ph.D. in math will get you a nice academic job right out of grad school; a few years in the Real World will have search committees falling all over themselves to hire you. Now I will say that unless you have duck feathers that allow a great deal of nonsense to slide off, academia may not be for you...but if you can put up with the BS, it's a good gig with adequate pay (especially if you start out with some savings) and excellent benefits. I taught at my university for 10 years & then moved into a better-paid quasi-administrative position. Teaching is very hard work (if you do it right), but you get a three-month break in the summer and, at schools on the semester system, a month-long winter break. The present job, though it has a 12-month contract, entails about as much actual work as your pal is doing as a part-time forklift operator-cum-book reader. While many faculty here are frustrated with the university's administration (which is probably no worse than corporate management), few hate the job enough to quit. Possibly your friend should visit a doctor for a full checkup?

By: Deila

Sun, 14 Oct 2007 13:28:42 +0000

Great. Yet another job taken from someone with less education by someone who was 'bored' with making a TON of money. 'No life' was created by himself by going home every night to play X-Box instead of socializing, having friends, having a girlfriend, etc. Now his idea of a good workday is to sit on his butt and READ. And getting paid for it. Why not just stick out his current job, in his current situation, stash all that income away again, then RETIRE after 5 years? Sounds more plausible to me.

By: Louise

Sun, 14 Oct 2007 12:08:12 +0000

I quit my job and moved from one state to another 7 years ago and it was the best thing I ever did. I was stuck in a rut, so I downsized by moving from the inner city to a regional area still within commuting distance of two large cities. This freed up capital to invest and travel and gave me time to re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my life. I started a small business and now work part time, live only a mile from the beach and go swimming nearly every day. I can see the common sense of your friend taking the $11 an hour job. It stops him eating into his savings which can then be used for future investments as well as giving him breathing space.

By: infix

Sun, 14 Oct 2007 06:54:55 +0000

Just curious: why would your friend even bother with the $11/hour forklift job? Compared to his previous salary it's a pittance and it's probably not even worth doing given that he saved up a lot of money as an actuary. Why not do a bit of actuarial consulting on the side and make 5X to 10X that $11/hour? Or if he's totally burned out on actuarial work, why not work on running for those political offices fulltime?

By: Smart Man

Sun, 14 Oct 2007 05:39:30 +0000

The smartest thing your friend did was to stay single. No women. No kids. That saves a lot of dollars. Divorce and child support together are the biggest dampers on wealth in today's matriarchy. Men: Stay single. Stay free.

By: Penny Nickel

Sun, 14 Oct 2007 01:18:04 +0000

Great post-- "Your job is just a way to pay for your life," indeed. And I bet we'll be talking more about this kind of thing as we get further into Your Money or Your Life...

By: Andrew Stevens

Sat, 13 Oct 2007 23:43:20 +0000

The usual rap against actuarial work isn't that it's stressful (other than the exams), but that it's boring. I suppose that it would be for many people, though I don't meet all that many people who work in jobs I think are a whole lot more exciting. That's why I'm guessing it was the exam process that burned him out. (I'd actually be curious to know which exam, but I don't expect Trent to know or to tell us if he did.)

By: plonkee

Sat, 13 Oct 2007 23:24:38 +0000

Funnily enough a few of my friends are actuaries in different fields. If I was guessing I'd say that you're friend was an insurance actuary, given that Des Moines is an insurance town. Anyway, all my friends really enjoy their jobs but they are well suited to the career. There's a lot to be said for not picking a job based on the money.

By: Wylie

Sat, 13 Oct 2007 23:17:28 +0000

The real reason he is cutting out buying a new 360 game each month? Halo 3 came out and it is all he needs! Just kidding. But if he wants to play in between reading classics, my handle is jouissance.

By: Andrew Stevens

Sat, 13 Oct 2007 19:20:55 +0000

I assume your friend was an actuarial student (or perhaps a consulting actuary). I can't imagine anyone quitting a non-consulting actuarial job because of stress. The actuarial exam process, however, is extremely stressful and difficult even for people who have a PhD in mathematics. Actuarial students get paid well and the exam raises are fantastic, but the Fellowship exams in particular are exceedingly difficult (pass rates are about 40% even after the weeding out process of the preliminary exams which have pass rates even lower).