Investment strategy

Before You Join ‘The Great Resignation' and Quit Your Job, Here's What You Need to Know

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It may be tempting to say "I quit" as the nation emerges from the Covid pandemic.

You wouldn't be alone. Four million Americans quit their jobs in April, a record high, according to the Labor Department. More than a quarter, or 27%, plan to leave their employer as the pandemic subsides, a survey from Eagle Hill Consulting found.

It's been coined "The Great Resignation."

"We have more time to think about: Do I enjoy what I'm doing? Is there a way I can do something I will get more joy from?" said certified financial planner Diahann Lassus, managing principal at Peapack Private Wealth Management, based in New Providence, New Jersey.

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"That makes perfect sense, given what we have been through," she added. "Life is too short."

People may be unhappy at their jobs or unwilling to return to the office after working from home for more than a year. They were able to ditch their commute, have more freedom and family time, and perhaps save some money.

Of the 38% of Americans who worked from home at some point during the pandemic, 57% said it had a positive impact on their personal finances, a survey from found. Millennials, those ages 25-40, and Gen Zers, those ages 18-24, were most likely to feel that positive effect.

People weren't spending on their commute and may not have been buying lunch or dry cleaning their clothes.

"You end up spending a lot on hidden things," said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate.

"There are a lot of ways people drop money during the day."

Yet just because you saved money and curbed your spending doesn't necessarily mean you can quit your job.

You need a plan — whether it is lining up a new job first, or making sure you are financially secure to withstand some down time between gigs.

Spending matters

The pandemic has lasted enough time to have actually changed people's spending habits, said CFP Sophia Bera, founder of Austin, Texas-based Gen Y Planning.

So try to make them stick.

However, don't assume that because you were able to spend less last year that it will continue, even if you still work from home. Increased spending may sneak up on you.

"We weren't doing anything last year," noted Lassus, a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council.

She suggests looking back at your 2019 spending as a guide when you decide whether you can comfortably quit.

Have savings for an emergency

Don't walk away from your job without another one lined up unless you have an emergency fund that can cover six to 12 months of living expenses.

"If you need money, the last thing you want to do is pull it out of a retirement account and pay all those taxes and potentially penalties to do that," Lassus said.

Health care can cost you

If you land a new job, find out if it provides health insurance and, if so, whether it kicks in right away or if you have to wait for a period of time.

If you don't have a new job to go to, make sure you have some sort of coverage — whether it is through your spouse or the nation's public exchanges. COBRA extends your current health plan for up to 18 months, but you're paying for the entirety of the plan, which can be expensive.

Don't forget about your 401(k)

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People lose track of their 401(k) plans when they change jobs, Lassus said. While you don't have to do anything with it immediately, figure out what your options are and understand them. If it is a small amount, your company may immediately cut you a check.

If you have some time before you plan to leave, try to max it out, if you can, suggests Bera, also a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council. The annual maximum contribution for 2021 is $19,500, plus a $6,500 catch-up contribution if you are age 50 or older.

This way your retirement savings won't fall behind if you are out of work for a while. Putting more money into the plan can give you a sense of how well you can live with a smaller paycheck coming in.

Total up other employer perks

Look at the other perks your employer is providing, such as life insurance, company stock and flexible spending accounts. Will you be giving up stock options that are unvested when you leave? Will you need to buy term life insurance?

"Really figure out how you are utilizing those benefits now and be strategic about your exit," Bera said.

You can negotiate

Don't rule out asking for a work-from-home arrangement with your current employer, even if the company has publicly stated everyone is returning to the office.

"A lot of employers might actually be more willing to take people up on it than you might think, especially if you are a valuable employee," Rossman said.

You can also consider switching to a different team at the same company, Bera said.

"See if you like it better," she said. "If you don't, then you can quit."

"That gives us more time to build up savings, max out company benefits and get on track for retirement."

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