When Should a Middle-Aged Family Man Quit His Job?

The other day I was venting to a colleague about the stagnant swamp I call my career.

Despite having a decent job with decent pay, I am slowly getting destroyed by inane politics and busy-work that ignores my capacity and capability.

“So quit”, says my single, childless, mortgage-less, 30 year old friend.

When I was 30 I would have said the same thing. In fact, I left many jobs early in my career for the sake of advancement.

Today, however, I am more averse to risk. I am 44 years old with a wife, 3 kids and a mortgage. If I screw up I have to answer to a whole lotta people, possibly as we wait in line at the soup kitchen.

At this point of my life, walking away from job security – and the accompanying severence package if I were laid off – is a big risk. At my level of seniority, pay and experience, my severance would be significant.

If I quit and moved to a different company, there is a chance that it wouldn’t work out, sending me back into the job market, resume in hand. Except with nearly zero tenure at the new firm I would receive approximately zero severance.

At my current job level it could take 2 years to find something similar. In comparison, a 30 year old a couple levels down from me could pick up a decent job in 6 months if they tried. It is a simple supply and demand equation. Plus, with fewer responsibilities and a longer career ahead of them, younger job seekers can afford to take a pay cut to start over.

Essentially, for people in my situation there is a huge potential downside risk to leaving a secure job for uncharted waters.

So when will it make sense for me to quit? When the risk of starting somewhere new is paired with substantial incremental financial compensation and job satisfaction.

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