Before the pandemic, many professionals believed working remotely would help them find more balance. They craved increased autonomy, believing it would help provide renewed zest for their professions and lives.
Then came the pandemic and the realities of remote work. For some people, it wasn’t as glamorous as it sounded. They’re hardly alone. In fact, many professionals are now quitting their stable — but stressful — jobs in favor of pursuing other opportunities, self-employment, starting businesses, or even early retirement and travel. If you’re among them, consider three things before making your next move.
1. See if you can get more money or a promotion at your current job
Manhattan-based career therapist Bryn Johnson has worked with mid-career professionals for well over a decade, and has seen an increased interest in people looking to use the pandemic as a launching pad into something new.
For some of Johnson’s clients, this begins with revamping the way they are packaging themselves internally at work. Instead of rage-quitting a job, they’re looking to leverage the changes they made during the pandemic to secure better opportunities at work.
What pivots did you make during the pandemic that are worthy of a promotion, more compensation, or a different job? If dramatic changes were required for your job, it may be something you can leverage. One of Johnson’s clients had to produce live TV from his home. He was accustomed to a full studio, and is now producing on his own. He thrived with the added challenge, and has used it to his advantage to negotiate for more compensation and a promotion.
The action you take doesn’t have to be monumental. Small steps add up, and a $5,000 to $10,000 raise can equate to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career. Personal finance guru Ramit Sethi offers a helpful guide to boosting your salary.
2. Assess your current benefits
It’s equally important to review the benefits you currently enjoy with your employer and evaluate what is necessary, nice to have, and not as valuable to your household.
Have you vested in your company’s retirement benefits and stock options? How much wealth can you reasonably accumulate? What do you pay for health insurance, and what is the quality of the plan? How much vacation and sick time do you have, want, and value? Does the plan offer any portability of insurance benefits? What do the benefits, or lack thereof, say about the viability of the company?
In other words, what perks could you be leaving on the table, and when does it make sense to do so? These are all questions to consider, as they will also help you formulate a negotiation strategy if you’re exploring career options. Most companies’ human resource departments can readily provide you with a breakdown of your total compensation package. Be sure to reference this when you assess what’s important to you and what it would cost to replace.
3. Measure twice, cut once
Prior to making a move, it’s wise to think through your specific scenario to see what strategic moves you could make. For example, if you are contemplating leaving your job, it may be wise to accelerate your deferred compensation in order to exercise some of your stock options and stay within a certain tax bracket. Or you may decide to save more cash to leave corporate America and strike out on your own, forgoing a high-income year. Perhaps Roth conversions are something you should look into. If you own your home, maybe you need to establish a line of credit prior to your next move, just in case.
Whatever your situation, there are often several things to think through to determine what is best for your household financially. It’s always wise to get professional help, as there may be significant tax ramifications or strategic moves that are best to make while a W-2 employee.
With a little work and planning, the pandemic may turn out to be a launching pad into something much greater than you imagined.
Anika Hedstrom, MBA, CFP, co-founded Uplevel Wealth, a boutique wealth management firm serving women and professional families.