Tired of Your Job?

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Tired of work expat leave work quit job financial independence middle east

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In 2008, I was having one of those days at work. We all get them. I called my then girlfriend and said, “I don’t know if I can keep doing this.” Her first comment was, “How are we going to pay my medical bills?” It wasn’t an unreasonable question – in the moment, she felt vulnerable. I felt trapped.

Work got better, but I’ve never forgotten how I felt that day. I certainly wasn’t the only person having a bad day in 2008, a particularly rough year for the world.

Summer is a time for reflection. If you’re lucky, work eases off a bit and gives you space to think about the bigger picture of your life now and in the future.

You may be wondering if you should quit your job. Here are some common reasons:
– You’re bored
– The work is too demanding and stressful
– The work environment is toxic
– You’ve received a better offer elsewhere (but what if…)
– You want to move back home/elsewhere
– You can afford to stop work and be financially independent aka ‘retired’

The last reason is in a different category. ‘Pulling the trigger’ on quitting work altogether has a different set of issues associated with it, which I will deal with in future. Today, I want to talk about the financial practicalities of leaving your current job… when you still need a job.


If you like your job and you’re getting paid fairly, then great – stay there and enjoy it.

If you feel like you’re not where you want to be… the statistics around staying at the same company for too long are startling. After 10 years, your salary is likely to be 30% lower than people who moved around. In many expat countries it seems like the only way to get a proper payrise is to move. My friend changed job twice in 4 months and got an overall 40% payrise in that time.

People get so institutionalised when they have been with the same company for a long time, it’s hard to believe there’s a whole world out there. But once you change jobs, you realise it’s fairly easy to do it again. Will it destroy the career perfection that is your CV/resume? Not if you have a good story to tell.

There are reasonable emotional and practical concerns around shaking things up. The school fees must be paid. Last in, first out in a recession. Better the devil you know, etc.

Building resilience for the jump

What can anchor you through all this is your finances. It’s very unlikely that you change job and then your life is a series of unmitigated disasters. Your finances need to be able to get you through 1-2 years of less-than-optimal profitability as you experiment and transition to a new job/country/life. If it doesn’t work out, you can reverse to some extent.

If every deadline feels make or break for whether your kids can stay at school, you will explode with anxiety. You’ll have to negotiate with toxic colleagues. You’ll say yes to everything.

Building layers of resilience into your finances means that you can walk away confidently from your job if you have to (or if you get pushed). You can say no to certain projects or insist on changes to deadlines and teams. You can push for more days off. You can refuse to tolerate toxicity, or you can just laugh it off and feel sorry for them. Toxic behaviour is usually driven by fear and inadequacy.

And if you don’t get your way? You walk. Knowing that you can do this will greatly reduce your stress at work. Excessive stress is life-shortening – not even the school fees are worth it over the long term.

So what do you need to be a resilient financial badass ready to stick your job when it no longer serves you?

1) Understand financial independence

This is a whole another story, but each part of your finances is either moving you closer to or further away from financial independence. Learn how to set the right direction and estimate how far away you are from your (realistic) goals. Knowing the essentials allows you to break the rules occasionally and go completely off track – you still have your North Star and you can turn back towards it when you’re ready.

Knowing how much is actually enough for a happy today and a happy future – as opposed to the huge number your brain thinks is required – will take a lot of pressure of you to stick with a job you hate.

2) Understand your current finances and their stability

Net worth: assets minus liabilities, paying particular attention to cash and debt levels. How quickly could you sell assets if you needed to? How much do you have in risky assets that could crash? What is the interest rate on your debt?

Monthly savings rate: % income left over after expenses. What will happen to your/your family’s overall income without your salary? Or a lower salary? What is the total of your fixed expenses that can’t be reduced easily? How much could you chop from variable expenses? Will you be able to make your debt repayments for at least 6 months under all scenarios?

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3) Actively manage your expenses

You looked at your expenses in step 2) to take your head out of the sand and figure out your actual numbers. Once you have some ideas for leaving and what might happen, you can look at some expense scenarios. Will you be out of work for some time? Will you have be taking a lower paid job? Will you need to spend a bit more on X and Y to ease the pain of a toxic work environment, but you don’t mind chopping Z?

If you have an expensive spouse or kids, you have to confront this. Do they really want to spend freely if it means having a miserable, greying presence who is barely there for them? There is always room for compromise.

4a) Hoard that cash buffer

6 months of total expenses in cash, sitting in various bank accounts for diversity and earning decent interest (or ‘profit’). You know your expenses are covered for a while, even if income dries up completely. Control your expenses and the buffer will last even longer.

If you dislike your job, start hoarding cash. Career breaks and annoying bosses will seem a lot less scary a) when you have enough cash to walk away from that particular job, or even b) when you have a plan for saving enough cash to walk away within a defined period of time. Knowing the tough times aren’t going to last forever will really help you get through some short-term pain.

4b) Hoard that career change fund

Your cash buffer is for emergencies. Deliberately changing job doesn’t count (though get fired unexpectedly does).

So if you are going to change job and be out of work or on a lower salary for a while, it’s worth setting aside some extra cash to cover your expected expenses during this time. This may seem like doubling up, but if a family member has an emergency after you’ve been out of work for 6 months, you still want the money to cover it.

5) Manage your debt

If there’s one thing that’s going to chain you to your current job, it’s debt. If you haven’t paid off your credit card in full, you had better plan to stick with your job until you do (or find a better-paying job).

I like to bang on about expensive debt (newly defined by me as debt with an interest rate over 5% that is likely to still be over 5% in 2 years’ time). But changing job is about cashflow management, so your monthly payments are more relevant here.

Create a plan for covering your monthly debt payments for at least 6-12 months. Convert your card debt into a consolidation loan. Move your personal loan or mortgage to get a better rate. Haggle with your bank(s). Be a pain.

Most letters to The National’s Debt Panel are along the lines of I took out a loan and then I lost my job, now I can’t pay. Don’t be that way. Resilience is figuring out in advance what income or expense changes could cause you problems, then acting in advance to prevent those problems every becoming reality.

6) Always be looking

People get so hung up on loyalty at work. The company needs you. Well it really doesn’t. You are not such a genius as to be irreplaceable. And if you are, you can probably find a higher-paid job elsewhere if you’re not happy.

Always be looking for job opportunities, keeping your LinkedIn profile shiny, posting your thoughts and commenting on others, networking as much as you can bear. Always be thinking: what else could I be doing? Stay hungry. You never know when you will need your network or what it may bring you.

Yes, this is tedious, so try to formalise it. Comment on posts once a week, go to one networking event per month, update your profile every quarter etc.

7) Manage your stress

Money stress is very real. Work stress is real because it impacts our money-generating ability or our pride. If you can make your money situation resilient and not build your self-worth around your career, you will be less stressed.

Spend time with your family and friends. Cultivate your hobbies. Reach out to others for support (there are some amazingly supportive Facebook groups out there and you can post anonymously). Get your priorities clear.

Play music in the car driving towards work or at the airport (I used it to pretend I wasn’t surrounded by stressed people taking their shoes off at security). Meditate in the stationery cupboard. Go for a walk. Remember – in the general scheme of things, and in the long run, most work doesn’t matter that much. Don’t let it get to you.


Any questions or comments? Add them below. If you need help with the specifics of your financial situation, consider private coaching with me.

Join my Financial Transformation Program (25% off)

After helping tens of thousands of expats to plan, save & invest their own money with confidence, I have created this program combining private coaching, online courses, group learning, accountability and community. It has everything you need to know, the flexibility to suit your experience and life schedule, plus the support to make sure you actually take action towards a great financial future.

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