Money vs Moral Values (Part 2)

Good morning, friends!

A couple months ago I wrote a post about a friend who had a money/moral dilemma. My friend was leaving his old job for a new one and was trying to figure out how to transition and qualify for a bonus before exiting.

He was deciding between these 2 options:

a) Give a full 2 weeks’ notice at the old job. But, this would mean forfeiting his bonus/commissions for the month prior.

b) Using PTO at his old job, while starting the new job simultaneously, which would allow him to extend his old job and qualify for the bonus. This would mean resigning on the spot after the bonus was confirmed.

It was interesting to see all the comments and opinions from readers. And I was surprised that people were split about 50/50. Half of y’all said relationships are the most important and to leave on the best terms possible, even if it means less money. The other half had an “every person for themselves” attitude and would have done anything to get as much money as possible out of the situation.

Soooo… What actually happened? A little bit of both! Here’s my Q&A with my friend after all the dust settled …

Quitting a Job When Your Bonus Is on the Line

So dude, how did you end up giving notice and making the transition? Tell us what happened!

“I ended up giving a two weeks’ notice, which was one week prior to my start date at my new employer. But, it didn’t matter anyway, because they let me go the very day I put in my notice!

I had every intention of working that first week and had pre-scheduled PTO for the last week. (Full disclosure, this was a gray area in the company policy.  As part of a two weeks’ notice, pre-scheduled PTO can be honored at the manager’s discretion.  That being said, in the same policy, PTO is not to be used to extend employment. So, I’ll let you be the judge of how the policy should be interpreted.) 

Since I’ve been 100% working from home since Covid, I gave my two weeks’ notice verbally over the phone.  The boss was very kind and seemed genuinely sad to see me go but was excited that I would be following my new passion.  He informed me that since I am moving to a “competitor” in the same industry, it would most likely be my last day. He then confirmed with HR, and he was correct.

I worked until about 1:30 pm and then called it a day. I drove to the office the next day to turn in my equipment and give my manager a handshake. Then, it was a wonderful 6 day break until I started at my new employer! My wife was very happy to have the help with the little ones as she’s more or less been a full-time stay-at-home-mom and part-time entrepreneur throughout the pandemic.

Also, they paid me out for my existing PTO, as well as the commissions earned up until I left! We were in a pretty good financial position for the immediate term with ~6 months of reserves, but we are well behind our financial independence goal. This is why I did not want to give any advance notice, especially since the company policy also states that any advance would be treated as a two weeks’ notice. This turned out to be the best call.”

Sucks to hear they made you leave that day. Was it embarrassing or was everyone generally supportive? How did you leave your relationships with the old co-workers?

“Well, given that I was working from home, it was not the slightest bit embarrassing. I sent a few emails to some of my closer colleagues to inform them and received some nice parting notes.  It was officially announced to the entire organization the following day, and I received a few more congratulatory phone calls, which was also enjoyable.  Several folks were quite shocked that I was leaving.  I usually wear my heart on my sleeve and struggle with keeping any secrets, but somehow I managed to keep this one close!  

I actually had the choice to start my new job many months ago, but I chose to stay at the old place a bit longer so that I could be on a panel discussion with senior leaders related to diversity and inclusion.  I was glad I made this choice because it is a topic that’s important to me and I didn’t want to back out on something I had committed to.  I expect to stay in touch with about 3-5 folks as long as possible. I’m thankful to have left on good terms with everyone.”

Great to hear they paid you out some commissions, etc. Do you think this was a “fair” move? (From my understanding they didn’t have to do this, right?)

“Yes, I think that this was more than fair!  I certainly had earned those commissions, but per the policy, I think that they could have refrained from paying me since I didn’t work until the month end.  I had set myself up for the worst case and was not expecting the commissions, so it was a nice surprise when my manager told me that they would be paying them out to me.” 

Looking back, would you have handled anything differently?

“I don’t think so.  If we were on track for even a late retirement (I think we’re looking at 70+ right now), then it might have been nice to have a few more weeks off.  Then again, I have a history of getting antsy after any breaks of more than one full week.  Even on vacation!  So 1 week off was perfect.”

Everyone’s situation and company politics are different. But if there were 2-3 pieces of general advice you could share with someone about to go through a job transition, what would they be? 

“Hmm, great question.  I guess generally speaking one piece of advice might be that the good old golden rule of doing unto others as you would like them to do to you applies! Your actions to others have a funny way of coming back around to you later.

One other question I try to ask myself when making big decisions is: “Will the outcome significantly affect me in five years?”  This one is sometimes easier said than done, and oftentimes easier to consider right after the fact, but it definitely helps me worry a little less about certain decisions. As stressful as job transitions are, in the long run they are just blips in the radar.

One other thing to keep in mind is that to a large organization, a worker bee is very easily replaced.  On the other hand, even in a large city and in a large industry, individual relationships matter. I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up working with some of my colleagues again at another company down the road. People don’t care how you leave the company, they remember how you treat them personally.”

And lastly, just because I’m a nerd, I gotta know how your new company‘s 401(k) plan compares to the old place? 😂😂

“My old employer matched dollar for dollar up to 7.5%, but I didn’t get any of that match because they have a 3 year all-or-nothing cliff vesting schedule.  My new employer starts matching only after 12 months of service, and they match dollar for dollar up to 7%.  If I am remembering correctly, the company contributions are then vested at 20% per year and fully vested after five years. 

I have also been told to expect profit sharing contributions at 10% of compensation every year! Also, my new employer offers better health insurance with much cheaper deductibles. This is WAYYY BETTER than the old place!!!

All in all, I am extremely happy with my decision to switch employers.  I’m hopeful that this could be my last employer.  I know everyone says that, but I truly believe in the mission, culture, and business model of the firm.  I even have an opportunity to speak on a panel discussion next month about my experience being an adoptee!  I was adopted as an infant.”

Money Doesn’t Need to Drive Your Life Decisions

So there you have it. He put in his 2 weeks’ notice but got terminated that day. The company paid him out fairly, and he left on good terms. A win all around, I think.

The main reason I wanted to circle back and share my friend’s afterthoughts is to reaffirm my belief that money doesn’t have to be the main priority when making big life decisions. It’s a factor, for sure, but the money part isn’t what’s remembered later in life. It becomes less and less important as you continue on the FIRE journey.

My friend talks about the awesome week he had off to help his wife at home, honoring his commitments with senior leaders, and maintaining relationships with old co-workers. These were the takeaways and things he’ll remember.

Any of you guys going through a money vs. moral dilemma currently? (I think if you’re already questioning the ethics of a particular decision, it’s probably not aligned with your core values in the first place.)

Have a great week,


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  1. KY math June 28, 2021 at 7:25 AM

    Thanks for the update! He definitely chose the right path.

    1. Joel June 28, 2021 at 7:51 PM

      Yep, pretty well played!

  2. Sonja June 28, 2021 at 8:44 AM

    I had this dilemma a few years ago. I advised my new employer regarding the bonus and pushed back my start date. After the bonus I then gave 3 weeks notice. All were satisfied, including me. Since the bonus was based on the prior years performance I did not feel any guilt. And being upfront with all parties and providing ample notice allowed me to maintain my relationship with my prior employer and go into the new employer fully focused.

    1. Joel June 28, 2021 at 7:50 PM

      That really sounds like a win/win/win Sonja. Nice!

  3. David @ Filled With Money June 28, 2021 at 10:21 PM

    Wow, very well played and glad that it all worked out!

    I am always on the lookout and love reading stories about people leaving their jobs and what happens to their compensation afterwards. It’s not fair that executives get so much money paid out when they leave the company if the lower rung employees don’t get anything.

    Great story.

    1. Joel June 29, 2021 at 12:09 AM

      From my understanding a lot of executives have contracts in place with set terms and lengths. So if you leave mid-term (or get asked to leave), sometimes there are exit packages. I think most regular employees are employed ‘at will’. So there’s no negotiated exit payment when they get hired, or when they leave.

      That being said, when the pandemic hit, a number of my friends here in LA got made redundant and were given pretty decent settlements they weren’t expecting. It was nice to see companies doing what they could to offer longer term employees compensation for the troubles of termination.

  4. Nona July 4, 2021 at 6:25 AM

    I never returned back to work for my current employer after the birth of my 3rd child…I m still officially employed by them and I could even get A job back, after 6,5 years of not working a single day. (Dont ask, I work in Europe).
    At the time I had a pretty important key function in the company, but I had to choose for my family (there were some health related problems).
    So I left my employer without a follow up from one day to another.
    I still feel bad for them sometimes.
    I might finally resign this year because we have been FI as a family of 5 for a while now
    (I havent gotten a penny from my employer in the past six years and I wont get any money when I resign, and I m totally ok with that)

    1. Joel July 6, 2021 at 1:05 AM

      Hey Nona, what an interesting situation! I guess if there’s a chance they can hire someone else when you resign, you could be opening up the position to another lucky person out there. I mean, if you don’t need it, then why not resign? But it’s very cool that you have the position to go back to if you ever want to work agian.