Our Golden Handcuffs // Sticking It Out in Stressful Jobs Until We Retire

happy monday, friends! we got our first ski turns of the season in on saturday, which plastered our faces with big, goofy grins for several hours after we left the slopes. but let’s not talk about saturday, let’s talk about sunday. if your household is anything like ours, sunday is always an asterisk kind of day. like barry bonds and that home run record. it’s the weekend, and you can spend the day doing something awesome, but it’s also the harbinger of the new work week.

a few years ago, we noticed a few peculiar things about sundays:

  • we’re more likely to fight or have a pointless argument on a sunday than on any other day of the week
  • we don’t get nearly as excited to ski or climb or otherwise get outdoors on sundays as we do on saturdays
  • we usually keep our saturday breakfast snappy, but stretch out sunday breakfast as long as we possibly can, as though we can stop time from marching forward if we don’t leave the breakfast table
  • we shuffle around like maudlin zombies after about 6 pm on an average sunday, depressed at the thought that the weekend is over

it’s true: we feel the sunday blues in a big way. and we know why: not only do we just not love having to work every day, we know that we’re in especially high pressure, stressful, occasionally soul-sucking jobs. but actually realizing how pervasive and powerful the sunday blues are for us was a big wake-up call that we needed to change something.

our general life philosophy is: if you don’t like something, or something is holding you down, change it. if friends came to us and said, “ugh, we just dread every new week and collapse into every weekend, because work is so demanding,” we’d say, “get new jobs! redefine yourselves! find work that lifts you up instead of pulling you down!” and yet here we are, not following our own advice.

but we didn’t just default into these golden handcuffs of ours, and we don’t stay in our jobs because we lack imagination. our choice to stay put in unsustainable jobs is a clear-eyed decision we’ve made, based on considering all of our options and deciding what’s most important to us.

how we got here

we’re oddities in our generation for sticking around in our jobs for a long time, since within a year or so out of college. of course when we started our jobs, at much lower levels, they weren’t as high pressure — or as high paying. the pressure and the money went together with subsequent promotions over the years, and we’ve both just about maxed out on titles.

the fields we’re in are related to one another, and the redeeming factor in all of this is that our fields both generally contribute good to the world rather than evil. (we’re not hedge fund managers or ambulance chasers.) but, as we learned, contributing good doesn’t necessarily mean “sustainable work hours” or “manageable deadlines.” part of that is because we have clients, and client work is almost always demanding, often unreasonably so. there’s also the double layer of drama with client work — dealing with your own organization’s drama, and taking on your clients’ drama. add to all of that the fiscal pressure and staff management that comes with senior management, the pressure to constantly bring in new business, the intensive work travel schedule we have to maintain, and the unending barrage of deadlines that only seem to accelerate with each passing year. (and the never-ending cost-cutting measures that come down from on high when you’re part of a megacorp.)

weighing our options

if we find our work situations so challenging, why don’t we just quit already and shut up about it? believe me, we’ve thought about it, many times. and even though our living in a small town in the mountains would make it tougher to find new jobs, we wouldn’t let that stop us if we were committed to trying a different path.

beyond quitting, we’ve thought about a lot of different options:

  • going part-time at the same jobs
  • freelancing in our fields
  • starting our own company
  • changing industries
  • retraining for entirely different career paths

but every time we discuss it, we always come down to the same thing:

the fastest exit

more than quality of life right now, more than enough sleep at night and time to exercise, more than time with friends and family on weekends, we want to get to early retirement as fast as we possibly can. we don’t have mba’s or jd’s or any other degrees that would let us jump into jobs that pay more than we earn right now (in fact, for an english major and a communications major who both maxed out at undergrad, we already think we’re over-earning our degrees). if we got an emba at this point, to find a higher paying job, that would both take longer and cost more. if we found jobs that gave us better life-work balance, we’d earn less, and again, that would put our exit date farther off in the future. same goes for going part-time or starting our own company: lower earnings = more time required.

embracing the golden handcuffs

staying put in our careers for a few more years is not all bad. there are quite a few benefits, actually:

it’s good for our risk-aversion. even mr. onl, who is the more aggressive investor of the two of us, loves the certainty of knowing the minimum that he’ll earn each year, and loves knowing that we’ll still keep our early retirement plans on track even if he doesn’t bring in as much new business as he’d like to.

seniority equals more job security. while we’re nearing a point where we both might consider volunteering for a buy-out package if layoffs ever came around, we like knowing that we won’t ever be on the chopping block in a “last in, first out” situation since we’ve each been with our companies for more than a decade. (of course, we could be on the chopping block because we’re higher earners than more junior staff, but there’s no helping that.)

we know the politics. being in jobs a long time means we know the politics and the unwritten rules, even though we both telecommute. this frees us up from having to read the tea leaves or guess about what certain words or signals mean, so we can focus on more important things like actually doing our work or writing this blog.

retention bonuses. this one is purely financial. i get an escalating retention bonus every year that i stick around, always paid mid-year, so it’s off-cycle with year-end bonuses. if i switched jobs, i’d lose this extra compensation.

comfort. i know that’s an odd word choice to describe careers that are high-pressure, but it’s true: it’s much more comfortable to stay put than it is to move to other jobs. we like virtually all of our colleagues, we like most of our clients, and there’s less of a learning curve when we know all of the departments and administrative functions like the back of our hand. it doesn’t exactly make the jobs easy, but it makes them easier.

our exit date is just over two years away at this point, and though each year seems to get tougher, we feel confident at this point that we can muscle it out through force of will alone, if necessary. wish us luck!

anybody else embracing the golden handcuffs? how do you weigh the craving for life-work balance against the desire for an exit asap? would you make a different choice from ours, or do you prioritize speed like we do? we always love hearing from you!

Want to find out who we are TWO WEEKS before we share it here?! Sign up!

Anon-in-snow

Subscribe to get our bimonthly newsletter with tons of top secret info we'll never share here on the blog. Plus get the big reveal two whole weeks early!

No spam or slimy sales pitches ever. Unsubscribe any time -- no worries! Powered by ConvertKit

72 thoughts on “Our Golden Handcuffs // Sticking It Out in Stressful Jobs Until We Retire

  1. What you describe is basically where we are right now. I’m pretty much capped as far as salary goes, and I would love to try something new, but switching fields within my profession would actually lose us money, as the sect I’m in is the higher paying but less fulfilling one. I’ve decided to stick it out and just keep my nose to the grindstone for a few more years, tolerating my draining soul for 8 hours a day and keeping my eye on the prize. I’m coming up on 5 weeks paid vacation next year, and like you, don’t want to give up my seniority and comfort of what to expect.
    Thanks for bringing attention to the fact that it’s ok and sometimes a better choice to stay where we are and just ‘get ‘r done’ so to speak. :-)

    1. You can definitely relate to our situation! Sounds like you’re in exactly the same boat. And yes — it’s okay to accept a less-than-ideal situation if it’s a means to an end! I’m convinced there’s no perfect work, so there will always be negatives — it’s just about choosing the negatives you can live with.

  2. Oh man, we embrace these golden handcuffs like you wouldn’t believe (actually on second thought, I think you would believe it!). While my wife generally likes her job, I take practically no satisfaction out of mine and have considered some of the same paths as you as possible alternatives to what I do now, but with our truncated early retirement goals, there’s no way that any of them would be anywhere near worth the effort at this point.

    I probably wouldn’t start a business because, while I’ve tried this before, I just don’t have the heart of an entrepreneur. For me, it would be a change of career path to something that I thoroughly enjoy more.

    But you know what?

    I’ve also come to the realization that it’s not specifically IT work that I hate. It’s having a job in general. I’m just not very comfortable in this environment, and I know that even if I were to switch careers to something different, I’d probably wind up disliking that as well because of the “job” part of it.

    So basically, if I’m going to dislike what I do – and there is evidence to suggest that it doesn’t matter what I do – then I might as well make as much money as I possibly can as to not screw up our retirement plans. Another year or so and we should be good to go, then I can put all this IT crap behind me.

    Anything that would extend my career further into the future is an option for us at the moment. :)

    1. I think we would believe it. :-) And we’re like you — we just don’t like having jobs. So same deal for us on the entrepreneurship idea. Love how you put it — if you’re going to dislike what you do, then you might as well do what gets you to retirement fastest. Couldn’t agree more!

  3. Haha, Sundays come with an asterisk, I love it! So true.

    Thanks for your honesty in this post. I can relate to hearing the common wisdom of, “If you don’t like where you are, do something about it!” and feeling frustrated because it’s actually pretty difficult to follow that advice. As someone for whom early retirement will probably never be an option (heck, I’ll be psyched if *retirement* ends up being an option), the way I think about this may be a little different from the way you think about it: I do spend a lot of time pondering the choices I may have in terms of switching jobs, switching fields, etc. Especially since when I finish my PhD next month I will definitely have to make some type of major change!

    The other thing that comes to mind is trying to find ways to be in the present situation and, if possible, try to figure out what I can learn from it. This is more an aspiration of mine than something I’m doing on a regular basis, but I suspect that there’s a lot to be learned from taking a moment to say, “yeah, it’s Monday morning, and I hate that I have to go to work right now” and just sitting with that feeling and contemplating it, and trying to see what I can learn about myself through that. This is basically a meditation practice that I’m paraphrasing from Pema Chodron’s writings — I don’t know if you know Pema Chodron at all, but she’s an American Buddhist nun who tries to make Buddhist principles accessible to non-Buddhists and regular people. I’ve gotten a ton out of her writing. She talks a lot about how life is by nature uncomfortable, and that the best way of dealing with that is not to try to escape it, but to be fully aware of it.

    1. We think of ourselves as proof that you can move financial mountains quickly if you focus, and when you’re focused, momentum builds much faster than you think it can. Only a decade ago, we were in debt, had zero savings, owned no property, etc. And now we have no consumer debt, are close to paying off our home, have a rental property and significant savings — and we’re two years away from retiring. I say all that only to say that you shouldn’t resign yourself to a late retirement. That fact that you’re bringing mindfulness to your finances puts you on a very different path from most people — and I’m optimistic for your financial future! I love Pema Chodron, and quote from the Wisdom of No Escape more than I should. :-) And we’re pretty much embracing that notion — accepting that there’s no perfect job, and willingly doing unhealthily stressful work in exchange for the future freedom it’s buying us. But I completely admire that you look to learn from those stressful moments!

      1. Thanks for the encouragement. :) It’s true: things could move faster than I expect.
        Also, I’m so excited that you are a fellow Pema Chodron fan! It really would not be an exaggeration to say that her books changed my life.

  4. My husband is embracing the handcuffs while I stay at home with the kids for a few years (for which I’m super grateful.) BTW–the pointless arguments on Sunday is so true–many of my friends allude to this, and we’ve experience it for sure.

    1. I wonder what percentage of people have the pointless Sunday fights — I bet it’s high! And we totally get embracing the handcuffs — it sounds like a good balance for you guys. Maxing your income while also having you home with the kids seems like the perfect recipe.

  5. Sounds like a means to an end. If you exit was further out it might make sense to look at other options, but with being close and know the ins and outs of these jobs it sounds like it is just best to stick it out. Maybe just try and lighten up Sundays some how. :)

  6. I used to view my golden handcuffs as shackles because they were just fueling an over indulgent lifestyle that wasn’t even making me happy. I realized a few years ago that my purpose in life was to help other people with their money and as such it meant giving up the golden handcuffs. I know that by doing that it has set me further back on my financial freedom goals, but right now, helping other people get financially free is more important than my own freedom. If that changes, I know I can become a slave to the man again if I have to.

    1. Trading sooner financial freedom for greater career fulfillment sounds like the right choice for you! We decided that our freedom was our top priority and are willing to trade our life force for that, but we are also envious of people who find work that they love and find fulfilling — like you! :-)

  7. Hubby and I were in the same position four years ago. No matter how I looked at it, I just couldn’t justify the downside of either of us leaving our positions in order to start over elsewhere. Even negotiating additional vacation time and/or bonuses wouldn’t be enough to make up for being the new hire at different companies. Seniority, while it was no guarantee of job security, was at least some insulation against company downsizing. While our management jobs were very stressful with cell phone and email interaction potentially 24/7, and weekends were typically interrupted with work related issues for both of us, we would most likely have been looking at pay cuts for both of us and a longer commute for me if we were to make a change. In the end, it always came down to the same thing: as long as you are trading your time for a paycheck there will most likely be a level of dissatisfaction associated with that exchange. Trading one set of problems (the ones we were aware of) for another set of problems (unknown to us) just didn’t pencil out, and taking less money to do so wasn’t justifiable. In the end we both left earlier than our original plans for multiple reasons, but I can honestly say I’d rather embrace an increased level of frugality in retirement than trade even one more of my precious days left on earth to make money for anyone else. It’s a lesson we now work hard to instill in our own children: be as frugal as you can while you’re young and in good health so you can spend the least amount of time possible earning money for someone else. Had we embraced frugality years ago we would have had a lot more to show for those six figure incomes, and a lot more time and health to enjoy the fruits of our labors.

    1. Your situation sounds identical to ours, when you were working. And I love your statement: “as long as you are trading your time for a paycheck there will most likely be a level of dissatisfaction associated with that exchange.” 100 percent true. So you have to pick your poison, and decide which terms you can live with, and which you can’t. For us, given where we are, we’re willing to put up with a fair amount to get the biggest paycheck. But like you, we’re willing to live super frugally to exit the work game ASAP!

  8. I try not to feel the Sunday/ Friday feelings. I don’t want to Thank God its Friday or Ugh my way through Sunday. But I find myself doing it more and more. I don’t hate my job, but I sure enjoy the freedom of Saturday.

    I think you’ve got a good balance of carrots and sticks getting you to your FIRE date. With a retention bonus, do you plan to hint at leaving closer to the end to see if they’ll throw any extra money your way to keep you around?

    1. “Ugh my way through Sunday.” I think I’m going to use that phrase from now on! :-) And so true — carrots and sticks. It’s Monday, so I’m feeling the stick today. Re: the bonus stuff, we’re still debating when to give notice, but most likely will give notice at the very end of 2017, after we get our year-end bonuses, so may in truth work a tiny bit into 2018. Mr SSC and others have convinced us not to give notice any earlier, since our companies could stiff us on the bonuses we’ve earned if we do.

  9. Ah, yes, the Sunday asterisk. It reminds me of backpacking with my granddad. Most Sundays we’d spend hiking. Even in the rain or snow, it didn’t matter and summers, we’d take a 1-2 week backpacking trip, and some shorter 3-4 day trips. Every single time, he’d always remark how he could forget about work the whole entire trip, but the last night in the woods, or the car ride home from a sunday hike, he’d start thinking about what was planned for work that week. Every trip I’d hear, “Man, I’m already thinking about work, and we’re still here in the woods for 1 more night.” He hated it, but didn’t know how to turn it off.

    I have similar thoughts, especially on vacations. Part of me smiles thinking about the similarities, then the other part focuses on staying in the present and trying to push that out of my head.

    I too find that staying the course currently is the fastest exit or entry into our new lifestyle.
    I have to be here through summer 2017 to get one of my accounts fully vested, and it’s not pro-rated, so I’ll definitely be here until then. I also have retention bonuses that come out mid-year, and even though I’ll be walking away from a decent amount of money still sitting there, I’ll wait until after the payout for that.

    Currently, I still really like my company, people I work with, and my job, so it’s a good situation, even though more jobs are getting cut all around. I can’t complain really and am just fortunate I’m in this situation.

    1. That’s so interesting your grandpa taught you about the Sunday blues way back — I only ever remember my grandfather being retired, and living the good retired life! :-) (I wonder if that was influential for me, actually.) Your vesting situation is for sure all the reason you need to stay put — don’t pass up that money! It’s such a gift that you enjoy your work and your colleagues — it’s wonderful that you recognize that!

  10. My husband’s “golden handcuffs” are the benefits and time off that keep him from earning more! But we absolutely are embracing them for as long as possible. Our kids change this for us. I think we would probably both work in super high paying, stressful jobs for two years if we knew that after that we would never have to work again. But because we don’t want this decision to negatively impact our family life now, it’s worth it for us to maintain and keep trucking slowly there. Life’s pretty good for us now. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. :)

    1. I know we’ve talked about this before, but it’s so different when you have kids to think about. We would undoubtedly make a different choice too, and might actually use all of our vacation time, for example! I think your approach sounds perfect for you guys, and there’s no reason to change that! You getting to work from home and your husband having a sweet gig both count for a lot.

  11. You make some good points about Sunday, I remember being like that too when I wasn’t self-employed and it almost magically went away when I quit. BUT, it has been replaced with different hidden stressors, like when things get frustrating with my business then it has a tendency to manifest itself in less obvious ways. I kn ow this was about golden handcuffs but it’s really made me think about how our work tends to impact us in other non-obvious ways.

    1. Jim — So true. This is something we think about often, because we know that our work takes a toll on every part of our lives. That’s part of why we’re in such a hurry to quit! It’s super interesting to know that you traded the Sunday blues for the self-employed blues — just goes to show that work always affects us one way or another.

  12. I think a lot of us looking to retire early are in the same boat as you guys (I know we are). You’ll likely be retiring before we do, but regardless, that light at the end of the tunnel is making the journey seem exponential!

    Since you already have a game plan that results in you quitting those jobs so near in the future, it would make leaving a questionable decision.

    I have a little longer than that at my job, but on the flip side, I was able to mold my daily routine into something much less stressful. The problem with it now is I’ve lost interest. You’ve commented before on a post I made about the possibility of something much bigger happening at my job in the near future. I’ll definitely listen and think about what they say if/when that happens, but I don’t think I can stick around regardless.

    Keep your eye on the prize guys – you’re almost done!! ;)

    — Jim

    1. We definitely know we’re not alone in this crowd! And yeah, sticking around is a no-brainer for us at this point. On your end, losing interest is a big negative, but we always think in terms of ends of the spectrum: you can have a job that’s boring but low-stress, or a job that’s exciting but beats you down. Both have positives and negatives, and which you choose is a question of which negative feels worse to you. If losing interest is a deal-breaker for you, then moving on might very well make the most sense.

  13. well, I am in a slightly different situation – I have a low stress yet extremely boring job I dislike. But, it pays well and the lack of stress in addition to flex hours make it pretty impossible to leave right now. There are just too many upsides to leaving to find something I enjoy more. I’m trying to stick it out until I just can quit completely. I have kids though, so my timeline is quite a bit longer than 2 yrs . . .

    1. Hi Stephanie — Lack of stress and good pay can cover a lot of sins! I can see how a boring job would be tough to keep doing, but at least you know you’re not sacrificing your health to the stress gods — and I would think with kids, boring and low stress is better than high stress!

  14. Now that we’re past the “ides” of November, I can’t wait until your number ticker goes down to 2.0.

    I never thought of golden handcuffs as a good thing–I’ll think more on that as I read your readers’ comments.

    1. Thanks for cheering us on! We love that ticker. :-) We wouldn’t say that golden handcuffs are good per se, but there are always trade-offs, and in our case, they are a great means to an end, which makes them worthwhile!

  15. I believe that Sunday with an asterisk is on reason that I’ve never broached the topic of part time work with my current employer. Although I think they would accomodate, I would probably not stop thinking about work very often. When you’ve got a challenging problem to solve, even if you think you would rather go for a hike, your brain won’t mentally stop trying to solve the problem. At least my brain won’t.

    1. Totally! That’s a big part of why we’re not interested in any scenario other than total freedom. Even if we only work one day a week, we’ll still have our heads in the work, and we want to get out of that mindset A. S. A. P. Sounds like you’re in the same boat!

  16. DH jumped ship and is now making more money at a job he loves…

    But he was able to do that because we saved up not enough money for early retirement, but enough money to take some time off after quitting while he searched for another job.

    1. That’s awesome! So cool that that worked out well for you guys, and he’s happy at work. It’s all about priorities, and it sounds like you’ve found a situation that matches yours. :-)

  17. Firstly, your honesty and self-reflection continues to inspire me. Thanks for continuing to turn out amazing posts.

    Secondly, TWO YEARS IS SO SHORT! I totally agree with your plan of sticking to it and busting it out. I think it’s the best approach for all aspects of life once you determine that your goal is the ultimate priority.

    Slightly different, but I considered dropping out of college SO many times. For a variety of reasons, I was unhappy (although like you, there were still a lot of things I enjoyed) I thought about going part-time, taking a break, switching to an online school, etc. But in the end, sticking it out for two years and getting a degree from UCLA was the best decision I ever made for my overall life goals and aspirations.

    Also, once it’s done, it’s something that no one can ever take away from you. And that’s the same with early retirement. It will be yours for life and that’s a beautiful, inspiring thing. Two years is going to FLY by. I have a feeling that when you look back on this post, you’ll be like “Wow, that felt like yesterday.” You’ve got this!

    1. Thanks, Taylor. Knowing that we can inspire anyone even a little bit is just about the best thing you could say — you made my day. :-) The funny thing is how much putting a timeline on our retirement has slowed things down, but I’m sure we will look back, as you said, and think it flew by. You’re so right that sticking with things always pays off — when do you ever regret finishing something? Um, never. (It’s like working out — you may not be stoked to go do it, but afterward, you never ever regret it.) Good for you for sticking it out and getting your UCLA diploma. (Woot to the UC grads!)

  18. Oh man embracing the golden handcuffs…it’s true. Which kudos to you both for being the “oddities” and sticking with one employer! Honestly, I wish I could say the same but due to certain circumstances & growth I’ve had to make some employer changes along the way already. I think regardless of the stresses of work I try to combat it with the knowledge that I am fortunate to have a position. Fortunate to have a degree. Fortunate to experience a career (which based off all of your writings, I know how grateful & fortunate you both are too)! The golden handcuffs provide opportunities to spend time with my family & build my path to financial independence. Having the thought in my mind that this isn’t forever, but temporary allows me to live more purposeful outside the office. Regardless of the challenges, there are so many skills to learn, people to collaborate with & growth to discover. A workplace is a type of environment that can’t quite be emulated anywhere else (due to all its quirks, policies, people, politics). Just shy of two years, you both have got this! :)

    1. As usual, Alyssa, your perspective an positive attitude are so inspiring. What a great reminder you’ve given us to view these stressful work times as a time to learn, collaborate and grow.. :-) And you’re so right of course — that as much as we complain, we’re still super lucky and grateful to have our jobs and careers!

  19. I can relate completely with your decision. We need my income to pay off our debt and achieve financial semi-independence. I plan to do some work after that point and could switch to less stressful work/less hours right now, but we would never be able to pay off our debt or enjoy the amount of freedom we are seeking in the future. It’s a trade off. I will work like crazy for now, so I won’t have to endure decades of depressing Sundays.

    1. Everything is a trade-off, right? You guys get our situation, since you’re making the same choice. “Decades of depressing Sundays” — what a thought! So glad that you and we are ditching out of that plan! :-)

  20. I never articulated it as well as you, but I definitely lived with the golden handcuffs for a number of years in order to hit the RE. One of my learnings however, as my RE came 2 years earlier than expected with a serious separation package (even senior people can be nicely asked to depart), is use the time you have left to seriously plan life after. Since I thought I had 2 more years, the plan on what comes next was in such infancy it was practically nonexistent. I had things I wanted to do, but the plans were too vague. And I didn’t realize how much of myself was linked into those handcuffs – my daily routines, lots of connections, a big part of my identity. And then, one of our biggest plans needed re-adjustment within 3 months of retirement as “life happens”. 15 months later, I have a much better sense of our plans, as well as some great tools to revise and adjust in the future, as I expect life to still throw us some curve balls.

    1. That is GREAT advice — thank you, Pat! I think we probably have the opposite problem — too much planning for the future (because that is so much more fun!), and not enough focus on today. :-) And we’d be totally okay with getting the appropriate severance package. At this point, it wouldn’t sink our plan — it would actually speed us up. Thanks!

  21. I wrote a similar post a while back about my Golden Handcuffs. I’m still quite a ways out from FI, so I’m embracing them for the time being. I’m in a location (NYC) where I really couldn’t move anywhere to make more money, and I’ve positioned myself in my job where I work for people I like and they respect my personal time (to an extent). It’s taken me a while to get to this position, so I don’t want to throw away the flexibility I have and ample PTO time. My next “scheme” is to get them to let me work remotely so that I can do some geographical arbitrage while getting paid NYC wages… Wish me luck, because I’m going to need it :)

    If I were you guys I’d definitely stick it out since you’re so close!

    1. So true — you’re maxed out in terms of location earnings potential! We’ll definitely wish you good luck in pulling the location scheme, since that’s what we pulled. :-) We got to take our city jobs with us to the mountains, and we’re thankful for that every day!

  22. I would tend to agree that golden handcuffs, stock options are good ones, really do their job very well. You would have the choice to let go, but because of all this comfort you have think about it twice. In the ‘megacorp’ I also work with, politics and networking are key so after many years, I feel like I’ve invested so much already that I wouldn’t want to start from scratch somewhere else.
    Money-wise, it is clear that I am getting close to the max and at this point, it has been a gamble on my current network to ensure that I can keep going up. The day my sponsors start leaving, I will have to think about leaving as well.
    I can see a maximum of 6 more years in that company until no more positions would be available up the ladder. In that position, I could possibly make 2-3 times my current salary so that keeps me going.
    At least when you have golden handcuffs, they know that when you decide to leave, you have really thought about it.
    2 more years to go, you’re almost there!

    1. You sound exactly like me just a few years ago — I’d put in the time and was invested in the company, and still had a few more levels upward to go. I’m now about as far up that ladder as I think I can get, which makes it mentally easier to contemplate leaving, since I will know that I gave my career the old college try, and didn’t just give up at a more junior level because I didn’t feel like trying hard enough. I like to think I’ll be proud of that when I look back, but who knows. ;-)

  23. Golden handcuffs can hold you back from making a move forward, or they can stimulate you to stick around until your point of exit. In the ONL case, they are the drivers to keep you going for 2 more years and then you will be free. This is a well thought approach.
    Still, I am curious: what if you quit now and take a really relaxing local job? That is one of the plans that goes through my head for the next job move.

    In my case, my golden handcuffs kept me in a job longer than expected. It took some time to find silver handcuffs that could replace the golden ones. It brought me my current job that allows me to work with product more in line with my passion. And still, silver handcuffs are not bad. Based on stats, I can’t complain compared to the Belgian average handcuffs :-)
    The fact that I now discovered FIRE, means that I prefer to be really comfortable in my job, allowing me to combine it with a good life balance. My horizon is till about 15 years, so, it better be 15 years worth living. In the mean time, I polish my silver handcuffs…

    1. You make a great point. Unfortunately, where we live, there don’t appear to be many silver handcuffs available. (No golden ones either — we work at a distance from jobs across the country.) The closest option appears to be bronze handcuffs, which would slow down our FIRE plans far too much, and is therefore not an option we’re willing to go with. But I can see a lot of wisdom in switching to a silver handcuff position! Keep polishing ’em…

  24. My current job doesn’t pay anywhere near enough for me to embrace golden handcuffs, but I did have a job in grad school that paid very well. The job was the most difficult one I’ve ever had, but it was well worth it to stick with it during grad school – most of my tuition was reimbursed and I was able to save several thousand dollars (which paid for my wedding). If the job had paid less, I probably would’ve quit pretty quickly.

    1. Wow — that sounds like a pretty great gig to get in grad school! It’s called “work” for a reason, right? If it was pure fun, we’d do it for free, so it makes sense that a harder job would pay more, and it’s up to each of us to decide what ratio of work to pay we’re willing to settle for. :-)

  25. Golden Handcuffs are so difficult for my friends/family to understand. I’ve also only been at one employer, which I started at while getting an undergrad degree from a lower tier state school. I’ve worked hard, built internal equity, and now earn more than I could have ever earned. That’s really tough to walk away from into early retirement….

  26. Interested to know if things have changed as you are closer to achieving your exit strategy and just in general have become more mindful of how your attitude would/does change on a Sunday. I found that I prefer not having an stimulating social Sunday since once I start working Monday morning, I have to be “on” and super energetic… I can hang out and socialize with people I already know where the interactions or conversations seem to flow freely but prefer to steer clear of an event where I have to work more at it. That could me just conserving my energy to stave off burnout.

    1. No, we still get just as grumpy on Sundays! Haha. We’re more likely now to notice it as Sunday blues, but knowing we’re close to the end doesn’t change a thing. I find social Sundays good, actually, because they get my mind off the blues, whereas social Saturdays just make me think about how much time I’m taking away from the things I have to do. I fully expect all of this stuff to change once we’re done with work — will be interesting!

  27. This post is great – I’m in the same exact boat right now. I’ve been working at a startup for the past 4 years. Right now, I’ve got about 200k in unvested equity at this company. If I were to leave, that equity goes “poof”. The problem for me is that every year, they always throw more company stock at me which always takes 4 years to vest. So I’ll literally always have about 200k in unvested stock that I would be walking away from. The best case scenario for me is if the company sells . . . in that instance, all my stock vests immediately and I can go bye bye. I feel pretty blessed to be in my situation but I also feel pretty trapped most of the time.

    1. Hi David — Should we name that phenomenon the “golden hamster wheel”? Because you’re on it! ;-) And yeah, I feel your pain. Maybe not to a $200K level, but that is the whole game, keeping you feeling like you have to stick around. It’s up to you to make sure you know what your “enough” is, and to remind yourself that anything beyond that is irrelevant. But it’s definitely hard to walk away from big money like that! Good luck!

Comments are where the magic happens! Let's chat!