How Much Severance Pay Would You Need To Leave Your Job?

Nice Pool Overlooking Ocean

The evolution of the internet has made it unnecessary for anybody to work a 9-to-5 day job if they don’t want to.  I venture to guess that if you are reading this site, you sometimes daydream, like I sometimes daydream about one day quitting your job and being your own boss from anywhere in the world.

It’s very tough to decide when exactly is the right time to take that leap of faith.  I have a soft target of “retiring” if and when I ever start a family or if I stop enjoying my day job down the road.  I still go back and forth constantly about when is the best time to have kids but am starting to come around to the idea a little more lately in thinking more about my age and how fast time is going by now.  Doctors recommend having a baby before 35, which only continues to get closer for me whether I like it or not.  Even though I enjoy my day job I don’t think I’ll feel guilty walking away to take care of my family if that time comes.

As my friend Sam recommends, never quit, get laid off instead.  Part of the reasoning is that if you get laid off, you can usually collect severance, get extended healthcare coverage, and are eligible to apply for unemployment benefits which run a maximum of  $1,600-$2,100 a month across various states.

The average severance package comes in all shapes and sizes as I wrote about in an earlier post.  What I’d like to find out from all of you is how much severance pay would it take for you to leave your job with no backup.

SECRET SEVERANCE PACKAGES

The reason why there is no definitive answer on what the average severance package is has to do with severance pay being fully discretionary to all of us “at will” employees who are not part of a union.  I was talking to my friend over lunch the other day and she revealed she’s in the middle of negotiating a severance package equal to about one year of her base pay.

It’s a solid severance package, especially since she can start a new job immediately after her termination date is over, and still keep all of her of severance pay!  She said to me, “Sydney, if the rest of my colleagues were offered this severance package, I bet at least 30% of them would leave!  As for the other 70% not leaving, 30% probably wouldn’t due to debt and family obligations, 20% probably wouldn’t because they don’t have enough confidence in themselves to find another job, and perhaps the other 20% because they truly love their jobs and feel fairly compensated.”

I nodded emphatically in agreement because I would probably leave if my firm much sooner than later if I knew I could nail down that type of opportunity!

WHAT IS YOUR BARE MINIMUM?

Some of you have quit your jobs to travel the world with absolutely no severance package.  Hence, zero severance is your bare minimum! Perhaps it’s because you’ve saved up enough, or you didn’t like the work environment at your old company.  Whatever the case may be, quitting your job is gutsy.  For the rest of you, how many weeks or months in salary would it take for you to leave your job with nothing lined up?

If the screws started to turn on me to leave, I think I’d happily accept a minimum of 6 months severance pay.  Just don’t tell anybody!  :) With 6 months, I’d be able to relax and travel for 3 months and do what I want.  I’d probably spend the other 3 months searching for new jobs in different fields or put it towards savings if I felt I was ready to go from being a part time entrepreneur to full time.

Personal Story: I was able to negotiate a severance package equal to six years of living expenses. Learn how to negotiate a great severance for yourself in my new book How to Engineer Your Layoff! Never quit, always get laid off so you can collect a severance, health care insurance, deferred compensation, unused vacation days, and be eligible for unemployment. If for whatever reason you do not find the book helpful, you can have a full refund.

How To Make Money Quitting Your Job


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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Financial Samurai April 3, 2012 at 5:47 am

I think my absolute bare minimum would be 6 months of base salary for every 5 years worked. It would feel wrong if one didn’t get close to a year after dedicating 10 years of their life at one firm.

To quit after 10 years and get nothing would be a travesty! Then again, it all depends on what else is lined up in the future.

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Sydney April 3, 2012 at 7:58 am

That’d be sweet if you could get that kind of deal. I don’t think I have a shot at that much ay my company but who knows, right? :)

Yeah, if I had another job in the wings I wouldn’t feel bad if I just quit without getting any severance but at that point I’d be fearless to try since I’d have a job lined up. The trick would probably be not mentioning to the current employer I had a contract out there for a new job, otherwise why would they bother paying me, but maybe that would be in conflict with their separation agreement language. Dunno, will have to wait and see!

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Financial Samurai April 3, 2012 at 9:28 am

Yes, you never know if you don’t ask. Always ask!

I can help coach on on that transition to a new employer, and getting a severance from your old one when the time comes. It’s worth tens of thousands of dollars… maybe even six figures!

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Rachel April 3, 2012 at 7:58 am

I’m not ready to be unemployed again so it would have to be a lot unless I already had something else lined up again. Being unemployed was far too stressful the last time. I’m thinking at least 6 months, and I’d have to be able to collect unemployment while I was getting it.

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Sydney April 6, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I really enjoyed reading your guest post on financialsamurai.com talking about your unemployment experience. I would have been stressed out too trying to job search at the same time as so many of your former colleagues who had similar work experience and qualifications. I’m so glad you made it through all that and were able to find a new job!

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krantcents April 3, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Money in itself would not persuade me! I need to be 100% vested in my pension. What that means is the formula is age plus years of service must equal 80. If they would adjust that formula I would consider retiring.

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Financial Samurai April 3, 2012 at 5:12 pm

How many more years to the rule of 80 you got Larry?

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eemusings April 3, 2012 at 6:23 pm

My old job had a set severance payout (can’t remember what’s in my current contract).

There’s no money in my field so it won’t be much, but if I was to lose my job I would take the opportunity to travel nonetheless. Travelling to me is one of my big goals, and if I suddenly found myself with the time to do it, I’d leap. Even if I had to go into a little bit of debt (eg, less than my savings, but I would prefer to keep liquidity for it).

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Sydney April 6, 2012 at 7:21 pm

I hear ya on loving to travel! I can’t understand how some people never use their vacation days at work. I’d buy extra vacation days if I could lol. I’d love to travel for a month or two if I left my job, especially if I could get a nice severance package.

I wouldn’t feel too guilty spending money while not working if I had severance pay, but I’m sure I’d try to save more money than normal and stay at places cheaper and less nice than I do now.

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joe @ Retire By 40 April 6, 2012 at 10:37 am

My bare minimum is 2 months severance pay, but that’s because I’ll probably quit at some point even with no severance. I’ll work on it, but I think it’s harder than Sam thinks to get severance. The company is profit driven, why should they give you a severance pay? Ideally, I would like to get 6 months, but I’ll sign the paper for 2 months.

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Sydney April 6, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I imagine it varies by industry, corporate culture, and the size of the company, but I think a lot of people just never even bother to try or even bother to think about these things before they step forward and quit. Being at a company for a long time definitely has its advantages here, especially if the employee has a wealth of company specific knowledge that can be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations.

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DeniseGabbard@WriteandGetPaid April 9, 2012 at 1:07 am

Interesting post—and some of the responses as well. I have seen lots of good people lose their jobs through no fault of their own, and really get screwed, to put it bluntly.
My husband worked over 14 years for a company that was over 100 years old, but was seized by creditors (a bank that received bailout funds—how about that for a kick in the ass?) and my sister lost her 20 year job at Whirlpool when they decided they could make washing machines cheaper in Mexico. Neither of them ever got a nickel in severance pay.
I guess my point is that if you have a shot at getting severance pay, you should definitely make every effort to do just that.

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Invest It Wisely April 13, 2012 at 8:18 pm

As you guys know, I disagree with the mantra “get laid off instead”, but I’m also biased because my company was going downhill and the alternative was stagnation, wait to get laid off with NO severance cause the company went bankrupt (and this is a possibility right now), or quit to work at another company. ;)

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Financial Samurai April 14, 2012 at 8:02 am

There’s a great way to get laid off…. it just has to be taught. I will be doing some teaching in the near future!

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101 Centavos April 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm

My severance is in line with industry guidelines, about 6 months as of now … but only if I get laid off. Nada if I quit on my own. Now, if I got an offer of a year salary or more to just go away, I might be inclined to listen…

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Sydney April 15, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Six months is good and definitely worth fighting for if you ever get to the point where you want to do something else. If I got a year salary offer to go away I think I’d jump ship too!

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