The #1 thing I recommend for anybody who aspires to retire early is to negotiate a severance. If you are planning on quitting anyway, there is no downside.
Every time I hear of someone quitting their job, I’m happy for them. But at the same time, I also liken it to a baby panda dying in the woods. Leaving so much potential money on the table is a travesty because of ignorance, fear of confrontation, or not knowing your worth. I want to change this.
I’m pleased to announce the 3rd edition of How To Engineer Your Layoff is now live! The book first went into production in 2012 after I engineered my own layoff from the finance world at age 34. Negotiating a severance package was my #1 enabler for retiring early.
Over the past six months, my wife and I have been diligently editing, updating, and adding to the book after our little one goes to bed. We’ve taken in all the feedback readers have provided since the 2nd edition was released in 2017 and made the book even better.
Here’s a summary of what’s new:
1) The third edition expands the ebook from 150 to over 180 pages. We’ve added three new chapters bringing the ebook’s total to 20 chapters. In addition, we’ve added a useful worksheet and checklist to go through to help guide you step-by-step through the severance negotiation process.
2) Thanks to continuous feedback from readers, we’ve been able to add new real-life case studies in the third edition to demonstrate just how beneficial it can be to negotiate a severance.
3) The third edition also brings in recent data, revised facts and figures, new charts and graphics, and an expanded featured posts section to help you learn more. We’ve also added helpful information on employment news, unemployment resources, market trends, and more.
To help celebrate the launch of the third edition, one of our readers, Mark, wanted to share his story of how negotiating a severance changed his family’s life for the better. His is a case study for working parents who want to be stay at home parents.
I’ve also created a $10 discount code “saveten” for anybody interested.
A Severance Negotiation Success Story
Sam’s book, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye, is a must buy for anybody looking to negotiate a severance, retire early, or simply do something else with their life. In our case, it was for my wife to spend more time with our two kids.
My name is Mark and I am pretty much you’re average American. I am married with two kids and a house in the suburbs. My wife, Mary, is level headed, calm and non-confrontational.
While that works for our marriage as we rarely get into meaningful disagreements, I believe those qualities hurt her compensation at work.
Throughout the eight-year tenure at her current company, I have often had to push her to speak up and advocate for herself. After all, if you won’t stand up for yourself, you cannot expect others to.
While it has taken some gentle coaxing and sometimes a little pressure, each time she has taken my advice to speak up for herself, it has paid off.
This is a story of encouraging everyone to alway speak up and ask for what you want.
Always Ask For What You Want
Situation #1: Asking for a raise after completing a rotation program
Mary began working at Company X, which is publicly traded, about eight years ago. She was in the company’s rotation program. The rotation program is comprised of three separate one-year stints in different departments of the Finance Division.
While in the program, Mary received excellent reviews at all three of her positions and upon completion, she was placed in a highly visible department with high expectations and a significant workload.
When discussing her new role, I was adamant that she needed to be compensated properly, and based on her excellent reviews, she had the leverage and performance to justify a significant salary increase.
After a few conversations, Mary agreed to speak up and scheduled a meeting with her boss. In the meeting Mary asked for a salary commensurate with her new position and not just the token annual increase that comes with her review. She was able to point to her work experience and the commendation she had received from her prior bosses.
Result: Mary received 90% of the increase she asked for and in her annual review, also began to receive equity options in the Company on a rolling, three-year vesting schedule.
Situation #2: Going From Full-time to Part-time
In December of 2015, we had our first child. After taking a twelve-week maternity leave, Mary returned to work. As stated, her job was demanding with ten to twelve hour days being commonplace.
My job, as an energy trader also had long days, irregular hours as well as weekend work, not to mention a heinous commute. Despite these factors, we tried both working full time for a couple of months.
The result was a horrible quality of life. We had no time for leisure or for each other. Further, there was high stress on my mother as the baby’s primary babysitter and caretaker.
Convinced we could no longer go on like this, I told Mary that she should meet with her boss and tell him that she either needed to immediately transition to part-time employment or she had to quit. Initially, Mary was skeptical. Not only did no one in her group work part-time, but most people also worked 50+ hours a week.
However, my argument was that we really had nothing to lose by her requesting this change, as the current situation was unsustainable. Again, after taking some time to consider my suggestion, Mary met with her boss and explained that it was part-time or bust.
Result: After a week to consider her request as “they have never done this before,” Mary was granted a part-time position and started working 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM, five days a week. It changed everyone’s lives for the better, especially my daughter’s who could now spend more time with her mother and now Mary has been a part-time worker for almost 2.5 years.
Additionally, while Mary’s salary was cut in half, it was almost like found money as we were ready to forego her entire paycheck. This found money was only supplemented through more equity vesting, options granted, 401k matches and service time accrued.
Situation #3: Receiving A Severance & All Her Equity
Mary got pregnant with our second child in February of 2018. We had always planned for her to stop working, at least for a while, when our second child was born. We felt like this would make the most sense for us as the cost of daycare becomes very expensive when you get to two kids, especially as Mary was now only working part-time anyway.
Like many of you, I have been an avid reader of Financial Samurai for years now. I knew that Sam was an expert in negotiating a severance and ‘engineering a layoff.’ I read all the articles he posted on this topic and showed them to my wife, encouraging her to try and do the same.
She said I was crazy, yadda, yadda, yadda and that her situation was completely different. Well that all changed when her company was acquired during the summer of 2018. With such a large acquisition there was certain to be layoffs, especially in a support function like my wife’s.
As she began to read the tea leaves at work as more information about the transaction was signaled, disseminated and gossiped about on a daily basis, I took it upon myself to contact Sam.
After engaging Sam as a consultant, he and I spoke and went through the entire situation (as well as everything else in my ‘financial life’). Sam was able to give me some good advice, such as expertise on things like WARN Act pay and protected classes.
But most importantly, Sam knew how to stage the discussions Mary was to have with her boss to optimize her benefits. Mary more or less stuck to the plan he outlined and we are very happy with the outcome.
Result: Mary not only received WARN Act pay and the vesting of ALL her equity options ($40,000 value), she also received a severance of 15 weeks worth of pay! In fact, Mary was actually able to procure a letter from the HR department stating that she would get severance, including for those years, on a pro-rated scale, in which she worked part-time.
We are over the moon, and this result is by far better than what we had hoped for. Before reading How To Engineer Your Layoff, we thought there was little-to-no chance she’d be able to get any of her equity options, let alone a severance worth 15 weeks of pay on top of three months of WARN Act pay.
The overall severance package was worth over $85,000. If we had not bought Sam’s book, my wife would have just quit.
Always Negotiate Your Freedom
The bottom line is that purchasing Sam’s book was money well spent, literally times a thousand. Not only did I learn a lot and get great guidance, but it forced my wife to be proactive as I could say to her, “Mary, I spent good money on getting this advice. You have to talk to your boss before you go out on maternity.”
Engaging Sam was kind of my version of speaking up and advocating for myself. Like all the situations described earlier, I am happy with the results and it reinforces the idea that no one is a better champion for yourself than you.
As Sam says, “never quit, get laid off instead.” How To Engineer Your Layoff is a must read for anybody looking to leave their job with a nice financial runway. The first five years of a kid’s life goes quick. It’s great to make the most of these years.
Readers, why do people fear speaking up for what they think they deserve at work? If you are willing to quit work, why wouldn’t you at least try to negotiate a severance? Don’t forget to use the temporary “saveten” code for $10 off if you plan to buy the book.