Note: This post was first published in June 2020 and updated in October 2021
Another horrible commute.
A highly unpleasant interaction with a passive-aggressive colleague.
A manager that seems to pile on more work every day – and yet isn’t nearly so generous with the recognition.
And the work itself. What (hopefully) seemed exciting early on has now completely lost its lustre.
“Get me out of here”, you whisper to yourself, staring blankly ahead.
You picture yourself, rising from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix. Reclaiming your right to a fulfilling and enjoyable life as you leave your job behind.
For an activity that is supposed to give so much meaning to our lives, work can certainly seem like a dud. There are a variety of reasons for it which I won’t get into today.
Instead, let’s try to answer a key question: just what would it take to make it happen?
Plotting Your Escape
The beauty of personal finance is that you can boil pretty much any question (other than existential ones) down to a mathematical formula.
The starting point, of course, is figuring out how much money you need to leave your job behind.
In the immortal words of The Escape Artist, this is the length of the tunnel you need to dig to get out of the prison camp.
You, the moment you escape that prison camp
Is it 20k a year? Double that? Or some other number?
Everyone will have a different answer. While 20k sounds low in a US context, it can certainly go a long way here in the UK. And as this blog has a very international audience, I am intentionally leaving currencies out of the equation.
Once you’ve figured out the magic number, you’ve got to multiply it by 25. This is why.
The figure you get is the “stash” you need to amass to leave your job behind. The rest is pure math.
Historically, the stock market has delivered a c.8% return over long periods of time. Thus, there is a simple formula that determines how much money you’ve got to put aside every year to achieve your goal.
Have a look at the table below:
If 20k a year is enough to wish your boss goodbye, you need a stash of 500k to make it happen. If you want to get there in 10 years, that means setting aside about 35k a year.
Solving for a much more comfortable lifestyle? To guarantee yourself an income of 60k a year, you need a stash of 1.5 million. That will be just over 100k in annual contributions please.
Now, I do know 35k sounds punchy. 100k even more so. But as ever, remember:
Context Is Everything
The figures above are meaningless if you don’t put them in the context of your annual earnings.
So instead of focusing on absolute numbers, let’s instead have a look at the kind of savings rate they imply for people on various incomes:
If you are solving for 20k a year on a 60k income and want to get there in 10 years, you will need to save 58% of your income.
Clearly, the lower your aspirations and the higher your income, the easier the task at hand.
At the other end of the spectrum, however, is a situation where you are currently on a low income – but would like a reasonably high standard of living in retirement.
While some individuals manage to eke out savings rates north of 60%, it’s probably out of reach for most people. These are represented by the amber and red cells in the table above.
I’ve also crossed out savings rates of 90%+ for obvious reasons.
As you can see, quitting your job in 10 years can be done – but it can also be impossible for people with low incomes and high spending needs.
But what if you were to extend the horizon? After all, Andy Dufresne did take 19 years to dig his way out…
Let’s say you were to give yourself another 5 years. Guess what? It simplifies the task immensely:
In the vast majority of situations, you can get there with a sub-50% savings rate. And there are just a few scenarios where the task at hand is impossible to achieve.
Willing to take 20 years to get there? The path is clear:
Once again, it’s less straightforward for those who find themselves in the top left-hand side of the chart above.
But in the vast majority of situations, victory is assured – and the path to get there is lined with some frankly undemanding savings rates.
Let’s go back to the initial premise of the post for a moment.
If you hate your job so much that you can’t bear to be there another day, you’ve got to find a way out ASAP.
Life is too short to spend years and decades in positions that have an adverse impact on your physical and mental health.
Instead, you are much better off finding a more enjoyable pursuit. Time is your friend. The longer you work, the lower the savings rate you need to leave your job one day.
At the same time, do not underestimate the power of a high income. Provided you can keep lifestyle inflation at bay, a high salary is the equivalent of using a power drill instead of a nail file to dig your way out.
Keeping It Simple
A few other important points to note here.
I’ve assumed no taxes here – neither on the way in or out. Taxation differs by country and jurisdiction, so you’ll need to make your own adjustments.
Equally, I’ve not baked in any employer matching or deferral plans, which can help you build wealth much faster. They also come with some bells and whistles, so tread carefully.
The analysis ignores any raises you will get along the way. Remember – the best investment you can make is the one that grows your skills, abilities and earning power.
(As it happens, now may well be the best time to get a raise – this is how.)
Importantly, the analysis assumes you’ve got no debt – but no assets either.
Finally, I am assuming you invest your savings in a 100% stock portfolio with an 8% nominal return. In reality, you would probably want to recalibrate your asset mix as you get closer to retirement.
Your boss, wondering whether you are coming in today…
Remember – as with any prison escape, the most important thing is to figure out the direction of travel and to just start digging.
You can always fine-tune your approach along the way.
P.S: Bonus Feature
In the comments section below, one of the readers (Anni) made a good point about expanding the tables to show what the journey would look like for people on lower incomes.
The revised tables are below.
As expected, it will be much tougher to get there in 10 years. That being said, giving yourself an extra decade of a runway can do wonders in making the impossible possible.
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Banker On FIRE is an M&A (mergers and acquisitions) investment banker. I am passionate about capital markets, behavioural economics, financial independence, and living the best life possible.
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29 thoughts on “How To Lose Your Job In 10 Years”
Interesting, the savings rate is really low to achieve £20 000 passive income in 20 years. It looks achievable for almost everyone, even people who save the standard 10-20%.
However, I do think that if your job is that bad, it might be worth trying to find something better. 10, 15 or 20 years is a long time to deal with horrible commutes, unpleasant coworkers and controlling managers. For someone like me who can live off sub-20k (single person, frugal hobbies), it is super easy to find wonderful, fulfilling work that pays somewhere in the 30-50k+ range, either through a lower-stress job or going the self employment route.
I am a Pilates and German teacher and, most recently, book editor. All of those jobs are fun and scalable: I can do one hour a week or forty. At the moment, I am choosing to work a high-ish number of hours in order to max out ISA/ LISA each year, but as I get closer to FI, I can reduce this. Even reaching £1k in passive income will allow me to work only 2-3 days a week and spend the rest of my time however I like.
I would not want to give all of my work up anyway, because for me it is a source of joy. I get to spend time with super interesting people I would never otherwise meet: successful business owners, motivated schoolchildren, a lord and lady, awesome retired people …
So yes, I am definitely working towards FI, but I am also really enjoying the 9 more years that it will take me to get there.
I couldn’t agree more. No amount of money is worth living a life you hate.
That being said, I know quite a few people on 500k+ / year who are absolutely miserable, simply because they cannot get their spending under control.
In addition to having a highly enjoyable journey, the other benefit of being in your position is when you do scale down your hours, you can increase your prices. There will always be a person or two willing to pay two or three times the going rate.
It’s interesting you say you know people on £500k pa and are miserable. As you’ve mentioned that’s purely a function of their spending.
I find the mindset of those types of individuals remarkable. Its the equivalent of being stood at the open prison gate yet choosing to return to your cell…. their is safety in the known vs the unknown.
It’s fascinating, isn’t it?
What’s even more striking is that one of the reasons they are so miserable is that their jobs are highly precarious. They are worried that once they lose their jobs, they won’t be able to spend at current levels… and yet they do nothing to reduce their outgoings!
That is why I think low recurring expenses are so important. I guess you can always splurge on one-time things like holidays, but if your basic expenses are low, then it is much harder to get into financial trouble.
Good point, I hadn’t thought of that. I will probably keep some loyal long term clients and tell everyone else that prices are tripling! 😀
Great post! Motivating for people to see this!
Great post! I don’t want to retire completely ever. I am building a dividend oriented portfolio. I guess 500k portfolio with a part time engineering gig will get me going!
Indeed. As far as life design goes, it’s tough to beat a combination of an enjoyable part-time job with a healthy portfolio of that size. Once you get there, you can always re-calibrate along the way.
I cannot imagine not working completely and think most people who think they do not want to work at all are in for a rude awakening once they get there.
Love the way you have titled this “how to lose your job in 10 years’ 🙂
I have found that since coming off furlough and am becoming more FI I have started resenting my own workplace, I am looking to change careers too so that doesn’t help. So excited to hit survival financial independence number. Should hit it fairly easily by around age 35 depending on if I can maintain my current savings rate.
All the best!
You’ve hit the nail on the head. No matter how much you may love your job in the beginning, a time will come when that love affair may fizzle out.
Everyone needs a backup plan.
Banker on Fire. Nice article. Given current interest rates what makes you feel comfortable that 25 is the correct multiplier. History gives me little comfort given rates have never been zero.
You make a great point. Probably too long a topic to describe in a comment but I’m generally less fussed about interest rates (as they typically move in line with inflation and also have a tenuous link to stock market returns).
That being said, the 4% is indeed a rough rule of thumb that needs to be adjusted based on your specific circumstances and risk appetite. Here’s a great post from Monevator outlining some of the nuances:
Thanks again for pointing this out as a very important caveat.
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4% or whatever – there’s a lot more security in the 4 percent rule than expecting to keep earning over the next 25 years.
Saving and investing is the only way to go imo and if it’s not 4% but 3 or 2 or 1 – who cares?
Better to live lkfe that you love.
That’s right. Think best to view the 4% rule as a general guidepost as opposed to a detailed map to the hidden treasure.
Can always recalibrate once you are closer to the exit point and have more visibility to what life looks like then.
This paper by John P Greaney – one of the very early FIRE pioneers – is definitely worth seeking out:
“Drive Your Financial Advisor’s Porsche and Retire Before 40 — The simple arithmetic of saving and investing”
Great tip. Found, downloaded and added to my reading list.
I wish you’d have included one more line in “current annual income” for lower/”normal” income earners. With our OECD gold medal worthy taxes, it’s very hard to earn 40k€ net… the median is somewhere around 25k€/year depending on where you live. Obviously for the lose-your-job-in-ten-years-chart that would mean saving like 150% for the smallest stash, so that makes no sense, but we could fit in the 15- and 20-year-chart 🙂
The idea for your post is great, of course, thanks!
Thanks Anni. Yes, sadly your point on income taxes is spot on.
I’ve inserted the three new tables at the end of the post above – hopefully it helps! As you say, tough to do it in 10 years but quite possible if you give yourself a bit more runway.
The tables are fantastic! Great job!
But how about allowing for inflation? It seems a little unrealistic to ignore inflation over a 10-20 year time horizon. 10 years at 3% inflation reduces purchasing power by 25% and at 20 years that’s 45%. Easier to assume a 5% (at most) real return and that earnings / contributions increase in line with inflation.
You are spot on. Inflation plays a big role and you cannot ignore the effect it has on the purchasing power of your money.
That being said, I found that it’s best to illustrate these concepts in as simple of a way as possible. Many of the readers here are just starting out on their journey. In the beginning, the important thing is to get going and you can always re-calibrate approach along the way or as you get closer to retirement.
For those who are a bit more advanced, I usually try to include the underlying spreadsheets in my posts so that they can tweak the maths to reflect their own circumstances.
And yes, I do agree 5% real return is probably the max we are looking at going forward.
Thank you thank you THANK YOU! You’re the best <3
This is really motivating. I'm currently looking at a savings rate of about 66% (of the aforementioned ~25k€) which means I won't quite make it in 15 years, but I will get there!
Of course James is right when he says 8% is optimistic, but maybe I won't need a 500k€ stash, and I'm not at 0€ now as I've already been saving for a while – but as a general idea this is very helpful.Will print this out and put in on my fridge 😀
Your comment honestly made my day, very glad to hear Anni!
Thanks for putting this post out and laying out the percentages!
I feel like for higher income earners (100k+), it’s quite easy to stash up 50%+ of income because there’s not much to spend on especially if you’re not married/have kids. For example, it’s mostly just money on rent + food + travel for me which won’t exceed $50K/yr.
I also wonder about the 4% rule as income: If let’s say I had 1.5MM in net worth, I’d yield around $60K/yr. I am wondering if I should really wait until 2MM+ to retire for a safety margin + having a couple hundred grand on the side for emergencies?
I assume at $1.5MM I wouldn’t want to expose 100% of my net worth to the market, or am I being too conservative here?
Depends on when you retire. If in your 30s / 40s, you can’t really avoid the market. The ups and downs are exactly what makes the SWR possible in the first place!
Nice article. Out of interest, what would you say makes work feel like a dud? What things would you say you enjoy and don’t enjoy about being an investment banker?
I enjoy most things about banking – the client-facing work, the intellectual challenge, the diversity of work, the mentorship.
The two things I dislike are the politics (gets worse as you go up) and the hours. Not the quantum of hours, but rather the unpredictability.
If I could have undisturbed weekends and holidays, I’d be happy to work in banking until I retire.
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