At What Cost Would You Pursue Your Passion?

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Bad news

I was wandering in my dream land at about 10:30 PM when Mr. FAF stormed into the master bedroom.

“I have bad news for you,” he said breathlessly.

For about 5 seconds, I ran different scenarios in my head to see what bad thing could have happened to us.

I was still employed at my job.

He couldn’t have been fired within a day.

If he were, he would have informed me even before he got home from work that day, not at 10:30 PM.

I didn’t hear Baby FAF crying, so he should be ok.

I calmly asked him “What’s the bad news?”

Mr. FAF responded in a concerned tone “My friend got a verbal notice that he would be put on a four-month performance review if he doesn’t improve in 30 days.”

Although the news had little to do with us, I too got concerned.

Mr. FAF and his friend worked at the same company though in different cities.

They interviewed for different companies at almost the same time.

Mr. FAF’s friend started working at the same company 9 weeks before Mr. FAF.

I know they talk to each other often, comparing the workload, the working environment, and future career plans.

This news worried us because Mr. FAF and I had been fearing potential layoffs at our workplaces.

Mr. FAF’s friend got the notice (technically a warning for a potential layoff) that day.

Mr. FAF could be next. I got scared.


In the next 30 minutes, our conversation went something like this:

Me: What’s his background?

Mr. FAF: He was laid off from a startup and freelanced for nine months before getting the current job.

Me: Is his wife working?

Mr. FAF: She was a programmer. When he got the new job, she resigned from hers. She wants to pursue her passion which is baking, but she is currently not unemployed.

Me: Do they have kids?

Mr. FAF: No, but they just bought a new house a couple of months ago right after he started working at the new job.

Me: Is he worried?

Mr. FAF: He’s stressed. They are a one-income family. They have to pay for mortgage and other expenses.


I know Mr. FAF couldn’t fall asleep until late that night. We put ourselves in their situation and considered what we would do if the friend gets laid off in 5 months.

He still has time to find a different job. But will it be as good as the current one? Should he focus all of his energy on improving his performance or spending some time looking for a new job?

I believe he will do everything he can to either maintain his job and/or look for new employment.

Part of me couldn’t stop thinking about his wife. She used to be a programmer and must have earned a decent income. But her heart wasn’t in programming.

She wanted to pursue her dream of working at a bakery and creating beautiful and delicious pastry. That’s indeed a huge career change.

Everyone loves a little sweetness in life.

She must have trusted that her husband would be able to hold on to his well-paid job when deciding to quit hers altogether.

Why not pursue your passion when you have your spouse’s love and support anyway?

But reality seems to have another plan for them.

Now both of them are stressed about being unemployed at the same time.

The financial pressure is real. I later found out that Mr. FAF’s friend sounded distressed on the call.

I feel bad for the husband. He was shouldering most if not all of his family’s financial responsibilities, and now they really weighed on him.

I also feel bad for the wife. She is pursuing something that she loves. Her passion hasn’t generated any income yet. If the husband gets laid off, she might have to either start a job or find some temporary employment to pay the bills.


Mr. FAF and I then started talking about what we would do if both of us get laid off at the same time. Below are the solutions we came up with.

— Mr. FAF will start driving Uber and apply for a new job at the same time.

— My driving skills are kind of sub-par, so I will try to apply for a job at Macy’s or some restaurants near our house while applying for a full-time job.

— Both of us will also try out temp agencies while applying for a new job.

— We will need to tap into our savings to sustain our lives.

That night we also got more determined about doubling our savings. The only way to assuage fear is to have more money under our belt.

We have no control over our employers’ decisions, but we can have control over our finances, and that’s what we want to do.

Lowering expenses, especially Mr. FAF’s Amazon electric purchases and our grocery bills, is also part of the plan. In other words, we got scared, and that motivated us to be more active about planning for the future.

Related: How Fearing Lay-off Affects Our Financial Plans


As I am typing this post, I really hope that Mr. FAF’s friend will be able to improve his performance and stay on the job.

I know Mr. FAF really cares about his friend and sees him somewhat as a copy of himself at the company. Seeing his friend being laid off would really scare and upset Mr. FAF.

And most importantly, we want Mr. FAF’s friend and his wife to be able to pay their bills and maintain their lifestyle instead of running into a frantic mode.

As we were worried about them, we realized that we could be next. Nothing can guanratee that Mr. FAF won’t get the same notice from his supervisor one day. The same can happen to me.

This extreme dependence on our 9-5 jobs needs to end as soon as possible.

While FIRE is still along way from now, we will need to plan for the short term and make sure we have enough money to weather any financial storms that come our way.

In the process, exploring different streams of income wouldn’t hurt either.


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16 thoughts on “At What Cost Would You Pursue Your Passion?”

  • Hang in there. First perhaps your friends warning is performance related rather then layoff. Or maybe it’s targeted to specific groups. Add to that severance possibilities and it’s no place to panic.

    As for what to do, start looking for an external possibility is the best answer. As someone whose been through multiple rounds of layoffs but never been laid off myself I’ve learned one thing. It sucks to still be at the company after the layoff almost as much as those without a job. Low morale, longer hours to pickup the slack, etc suck the life out of the organization. So unless what is let go is truly the dead wood or targeted to specific groups of the organization I’d start looking externally at widespread layoff discussions.

    • My husband actually tracked his performance via the internal network, and it does look like he hasn’t been performing that well over the past few months. My husband’s performance is good so far, so somehow fear still creeps into our minds.

      The friend has interviewed at a couple of companies so far but hasn’t gotten any offers. We just hope he will be able to improve his performance and stay at the same company >_<

  • Yeap, that’s how corporate disillusionment begins. At first, things are good and you’re making money. Then corporations start to mess up people’s lives and you realize that they don’t really care about the employees. That’s normal.
    Anyway, don’t be too loyal to your employer and always keep a lookout for better opportunities. It’s good that you are thinking of a plan already. A lot of people are unprepared for a layoff.
    Good luck to the friend. Hope he can turn it around or find a new job.

    • Thank you, Joe! He’s been interviewing but hasn’t gotten any offers so far. I think he and his wife are super stressed out since they’re a one-income family with a brand-new house (and house payment). We’ve wised up and would jump at new opportunity anytime. Loyalty might not be good in many cases as you pointed out.

  • That’s a tough situation. I hope Mr. FAF’s friend improves his performance. And I hope the company doesn’t have unrealistic expectations of its workers. It is unfair to expect continued performance improvement without ensuring a sense of job security. I hope you two don’t have to face this dilemma. But having a back up plan (like you do) gives some peace of mind.

    • Thank you, Dr. McFrugal! Different teams at the company seem to have a different workload and different expectations from the supervisor. I think he’s trying to transfer to another team and get a new job if things don’t improve. We also hope things will work out for him and his family. 🙂

  • While i do understand the fear, i don’t think you need to worry so much. First of all, these things are really common in the corporate world and people always find another job. Always. Sometimes they do so in a couple of months sometimes it takes a little more time but of all my friends who have been laid off, not a single one has been unemployed for more than six months. In fact, some of them have moved on to better roles and salaries. Secondly, you say that what your employers do is not in your control. But in this case atleast it sounds like the issue is with performance. Surely thats under your control? As long as mr.faf does his job well, tries to keep up with new developments, has a good attitude and doesn’t skive off work too often, he will be fine. Trust me. There is no point getting all worried just because something bad might happen to someone else and by osmosis may somehow rub off on you 😊

    • Thank you, Pooja! We do have to remind ourselves not to worry about things that are not under our control all the time. There’s enough stress in life. It’s just scary to see your close friend going through a tough time that could easily happen to you. Mr. FAF’s friend is working on his performance and applying for a new job. Hopefully, it will work out for him.

  • I’m sorry but I don’t buy that corporations use performance improvement plans as precursors to general layoffs. I’ve participated in two general layoffs for two Fortune 500 companies, and was the guy who face to face terminated each employee on the second of those. I just told the affected employees that we were cutting a percentage of the jobs and their’s was one of them. There was no pretense involved in pretending they were disciplinary based. I can’t imagine a corporation doing that because it is totally unnecessary, a company that wants to do a RIF (reduction in force) is free in this country to do this any time they want. There is no reason to drum up imaginary reasons to cut people. Managers as a rule are compassionate people and they go out of their way to make terminations “no fault” if at all possible. I would say if a performance improvement plan has been put in place then it is likely your friend has not been doing a job that was satisfactory to his immediate supervisor. That doesn’t mean your friend has been a poor worker but it probably means his boss doesn’t think he is worth keeping around.

    • I think you’re totally correct in this case. Mr. FAF’s friend hasn’t been performing well, and it shows in his activity record on the internal network. We just didn’t know what was going on before since the friend always said he had to stay at work until late at night.:(

  • For those not in tech perhaps it’s confusing. So the notice is performance improvement and he can delay it for 2+ years if he switches managers. It’s actually very hard to get fired as a programmer because they need to give you several chances to improve.

    If work doesn’t improve or the party doesn’t make efforts to improve then the inevitable will happen but otherwise it’s OK. Most people find new jobs right when they get performance notice. That happened to a lot of my husband’s coworkers. They just said F*** This! And left Amazon. They found a job at Microsoft or Oracle or something similar fairly quick afterwards.

    • He’s interviewed at a couple of companies so far, but nothing has worked out. I think he’s still at the company but not sure if his performance has improved. It was a verbal warning, so I think he has some time to figure things out.

  • Wow, that’s tricky and so stressful for your husband’s friend!

    I suppose in this instance of doubling your savings, it’s much better safe than sorry. But, take courage in the fact that your family has open discussions about this and has an “emergency plan” in place — you’re already a step ahead of so many people. Here’s hoping you never have to use it!

    • Thank you, MissFunctional Money! Sometimes fear is the biggest motivator for action, and it’s particularly true for us in this case. 🙂

  • I’ve never heard of such tactics being used either. It’s been very straight up if you were going to be fired, even with the Chinese companies I’ve associated with.

    I do believe choices have to be fully considered. Most importantly, preparing for situations you had written.

    For example, what if the wife doesn’t actually enjoy the real working hours of operating a bakery. Why not start in the weekends as a side business first? I know people who run successful Chinese bakeries, but you have to wake up very early and it’s extremely labour intensive. I would say dropping a good position as a programmer before clearly realising the dream was a bit rash.

    Personally I gave up decent money in pharmacy, as well as having the opportunity to work in China for very good money with good career progression to start medicine. However, I could only confidently make such a brash decision because I have a good cash flow and reserves, 3 income streams, 1 house paid off, no dependables, nor putting any financial strain on my immediate family. Even I still work for my Chinese friends on the side; with such a late start “working for real”, I’m lucky I have a fair few milestones checked already.

    Everyone should follow their passions, but only if they can adequately deal with all the consequences.

    • “Everyone should follow their passions, but only if they can adequately deal with all the consequences.”

      I couldn’t agree with you more. I have series of passions I’ve wanted to pursue and have pursued. But at the end of the day, I will need to worry about paying my own bills with or without Mr. FAF.

      I think it’s great you had a great financial system in place before you made such a big decision about your career. I don’t want to be judgy about anyone’s decision, but it just seems risky to me to give up a good source of income before you build up an alternative. I don’t know if the wife wants to bake professionally or even start a bakery. At the moment, she’s just doing it for fun. But I did hear that it’s very labor intensive and stressful running a bakery (as with any other businesses I guess). And both the friend and his wife are supper stressed out about his job situation right now.

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