Anyone who read my last blogs while we were in Greece realized that I was in the process of re-evaluating my life. Call it a mid-life crisis (and turning 50 in 2010 did put a lot in perspective for me), a questioning of choices I've made along the way or even a selfish need to make sense of the person I am right now. Regardless, I've not been happy with my choice of career in the last few years and I've agonized over and over again about whether I had the guts to change my life. To leave comfort and familiarity, people I love to work with and clients dear to my heart, and to start over at an age when most people are happy to keep going and start thinking about retirement.
In mid December, I finally made a decision. After 17 years in the financial services industry, I am leaving to go work for the federal government's public service sector. I am leaving a career that provided considerable vacation flexibility (which, if you have ever read this blog, is pretty high of my list of priorities), paid fairly well, and where I developed close relationships with many of the people I worked with. I'm going to a job where my time will be monitored, where I will have no seniority, where I will be handling incoming calls all day from people who need help and answers, and where I will be just one of many cogs in a government wheel.
Why in the world would I ever make this change? Why would I even consider it? Why is it a decision that has consumed me almost every day for the last 3 years? When I look at what I've just written above, I'm asking myself these questions. But in my heart, I know the answers ~ I've lost faith in the industry, I'm tired of the stress of the volatile markets of the past 10 years, and I'm not happy working in such an male-dominated environment.
I almost quit 3 years ago but fear of change and the unknown kept me going. There have been many days since then that I wished I had had the courage to go, to make a new start in a place that didn't make me feel less valued because I wasn't a man. But I didn't. I stayed and worked hard, trying to do everything that was expected of me, learning new skills and concepts, adapting to changes in how we managed our business, taking on more responsibilities and challenges when one of our team members left. I wrote our investment newsletters, kept our research up to date, ensured our portfolios were designed and implemented as per my IAs' choices, processed all the trading, and kept in constant contact with our clients, answering their many questions about the markets and their portfolios.
I dealt with the clients on a daily basis, answered all their questions, calmed all their fears, and kept their portfolios properly allocated. I processed millions of dollars in trades a year, sometimes in very short time periods. The stress and responsibility of this weighed heavily on me, causing me many sleepless nights.
Why was it so hard for me to make the change? Well, there was lots that was really good about where I worked:
The women I had the privilege of working with are dedicated to their jobs, work extremely hard to ensure the clients are well taken care of, have integrity, kindness, generosity and the highest values and work ethics possible. We have shared our lives, we have laughed and cried, we have each other's backs, we believe in and encourage each other and we love each other. Without them, I would never have lasted as long as I did. They were the reason I went into the office every day and the strength that sustained me. I love them and will miss them more than they know.
I was humbled by the trust our clients had in me, in my IAs, and in our industry. I got to know many of them on a personal basis. We talked about family, vacations, health, politics and the many other things that are important in life besides money. Many of these wonderful people had health issues this year and some lost their fights. Seeing people in the prime of their lives pass away made me realize more and more that life is short and that it's even shorter when you are doing something you don't enjoy and you don't believe in.
In an industry driven by fees, my IAs tried to be as honest and transparent to their clients as they could be. They did not hide behind trailer fees and commissions, but ensured clients knew what they were paying. This sounds simple, but it's a very rare feature in our industry and one of the reasons I've grown to dislike it so much. I was proud to work for people who believed in being honest with their clients about how much and how they got paid.
It's really the industry I've left behind, not the people I worked with or the clients I had the privilege of serving. It's the hardest decision I've ever made and one that tore me up inside for months before I finally gave my notice. I think most of my colleagues understood and were really not that surprised when I told them. I was touched by their generosity and willingness to wish me well, especially my fellow team member, who will feel my departure the most since she will have to pick up a lot of my workload. I will never forget her encouragement and her hugs when I managed to tell her. It really meant the world to me.
So on December 28, 2012 I left work with both a heavy heart knowing I will miss these people tremendously but also with anticipation and a little giddiness at the future awaiting me. I'm looking forward to starting a new chapter of my life, one that will hopefully ease my stress and feelings of not having accomplished much in my professional live (my personal life is all I could have ever hoped for, married to my best friend for over 30 years, 2 healthy children and 2 beautiful, healthy, sweet, intelligent and loving grandsons).
Den and I hopped on a plane early morning December 29 and spent the week at a quiet little resort in Cuba, taking the time to relax after the stress and unknown of the previous months. We lay on the beach or by the pool, letting the sun work its magic rejuvenating power, read a little, napped a little, eat and drank to our hearts' content and just had a week of nothingness. The perfect segue way between old and new. On Monday, I started my new job. I'm scared and excited at the same time, but I'm finally going forward.
So here's to 2013 ~ it's up to me to make it mine!