Can You Afford to Quit Your High Stress Job?

by Debra Karplus

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"Happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul," according to philosopher Democritus, c. 370 BE. More recently Ralph Waldo Emerson in the late 1800s stated "Money often costs too much". In a 2013 study, the Wall Street Journal states that less than half of Americans surveyed were satisfied with their jobs. According to the American Institute of Stress, 6% of people's stress comes from lack of job security, 20% is from juggling work and personal lives, and 28% is caused by "people issues" and the 46% majority of stress stems from workload. So, there's a very high probability that you are part of the majority of Americans either dissatisfied or stressed, or dissatisfied and stressed with your job. But can you afford to quit your job for a life that brings more joy and less stress, but perhaps less income, maybe significantly less income?

In the 1987 film Baby Boom starring Diane Keaton, a high-powered female executive, because of a series of unexpected circumstances, quits her job, moves to rural Vermont, and starts a home-based business. Okay, that's fiction. But, what about Tricia Shepherd? She's a 40-something Indianapolis-based TV news anchor who quit her high-profile job that kept her away from home much of the time to spend more time with her husband and children. She is now running a non-profit organization and working as a freelance writer, which she writes about in her recent book Know When to Run.

What is your job-related stress costing you?

Stress is the "secret ingredient" lurking behind many diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure), sleep disturbances, and digestive problems, to name just a few. These diseases can shorten your life and interfere with the quality of your life during those shortened years. So if stress contributes to ill health, and illness is costly, what is the financial cost of your work-related stress?

And then there are the intangibles. Stress can also interfere with your relationships with your spouse, children, friends, workmates, and others. Is it worth being stressed from your job, even a high paying job?

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Will your lifestyle and family situation permit you to "downsize" your work life?

Before you turn in your letter of resignation to Mr. or Ms. Boss, think long and hard about the financial needs of you and your family. The core question is "How much money does your family need to survive?" Figure in your age and your spouse's income if you have a spouse in the workforce. Can you afford to stay in your current home if you earned significantly less money?

And what about your children? How many do you have and do they still live at home? Is there a solid plan for financing their college education? How are you saving for your retirement and how many years away from retirement are you and your spouse?

As a frugal family, have you determined your needs versus wants and figured out ways you could scale down your monthly/yearly living expenses without sacrificing a reasonable standard of living?

Related: Ways to Adjust to a Lower Income as a Family through a Simpler Lifestyle

These days, many people stay at stressful jobs to maintain their health insurance. How will you insure you and your family with the benefits offered at your workplace?

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What are some realistic alternatives to your current job?

A possibly not-so-obvious solution might be to try to learn some stress management techniques. There are numerous techniques, programs, and perhaps classes in your area related to stress reduction, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or just more physical exercise in general and other ways to better manage your stress.

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Maybe you are just really ready for a change in your current work situation. You'll need to determine what is really stressing you out. Perhaps you are just working way too many hours and could negotiate with your employer reduced hours or a similar job with your company but with less responsibility. But if your company just seems a bit too fast-paced, perhaps you could do the same kind of work but with an employer where things are a bit more relaxed. Or if you like the nature of your work, perhaps there is a way that you could either work remote from home or become self-employed as an independent contractor either for your current employer or for another company or for more than one enterprise.

If your children are very young and with a babysitter or day care, you might want to take a serious look at the cost of child care and see if being a stay-at-home parent might be a financially sound alternative to your high stress job.

Reviewed January 2018

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Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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