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What’s this? Time for another reader case? Yes please!
Hello! I first wanted to say I’ve both read and listened to your book Quit like a Millionaire a few years apart while in different parts of my journey and it’s one of my favorite books.
About me: Married with 1 kid. I’m 31 and my wife is 39. My son is 2
We are both ER nurses in california and make about $200,000 a year depending on how much overtime we’re working from year to year.
Family spending is about 5000-6000 depending on miscellaneous expenses for the month. (2400 being mortgage/taxes/insurance in HCOL area) and 700 coming from utilities and phone bills. My wife is most definitely not AT ALL financially minded. She actually can’t stand finances it’s like watching paint dry to her and doesn’t even know her hourly rate if you were to ask her. She likes to spend on food and on things for my son but isn’t too crazy with spending.
We “own” our house with a mortgage of $464,000 and it’s worth $580,000 after it was just appraised. We own 2 cars out right worth about $33,000 combined and no other consumer debt or student loans.
We have about $20,000 in cash, $82,000 in a taxable brokerage account, $24,000 in Roth IRA accounts, $144,000 in 401k accounts.
It’s always been a dream of mine to travel the world and aside from a 2 week trip to Thailand I have not done any other types of international travel. The subject always comes up and my wife is not necessarily opposed to my big ideas but also not 100% on board as I would be. My wife’s parents retired and have been back in the Philippines in Cebu and are going to be getting a home there. I’d love to be able to go there and have it as a home base and fill our free time with travel. Mostly in south east Asia due to low cost. If I sold my house and one car and belongings I believe we could net another 110k ish.
Option 1: sell our house and 1 car as well as most of our belonging. Work hard and lots of overtime until January and pull the trigger. I think I could save an extra 50-70 grand by then plus the sale of our things I could have an extra 180k on top of what we already have. On the income side I can take a per diem job at work where I can basically due 2 weeks in california and 6 weeks in the Philippines with LCOL considering we will be staying with my wife’s parents and traveling. I would keep my car in the states to commute to work and stay with a friend or get a cheap room in an Airbnb for about $500 when I come home plus have to pay a round trip ticket about $600-700. Between a night shift differential and per diem rate my hourly would be around $118 and i would basically just work as much as I could for 2 weeks while in the states. I’m that time period with overtime and double time pay I could net between 6000-20,000 in a 2 week period. 20,000 being it I worked non stop and the OT was there. 6000 if overtime “drys up” but is unlikely since we are a large ER and always short. This scenario allows me but chunks of travel, while still having an income and actually still being able to contribute and add to my net worth. The cons being I lose my health benefits and I have to fly back to california about 6 times a year and be away from my family a bit to do a stressful job I don’t love.
Option 2: just sell everything and quit. Planning for a January departure. Work hard up until then to add some extra money and take a real semi- retirement for a year or 2. Hopefully not spending more than 80,000 dollars. I could potentially come back to the states, maybe somewhere cool like Alaska in the summer and work a 3 month travel nurse contract with my wife and the 2 of us could maybe save about 30000 on a 3 month contract. Travel the world. Worst case scenario I end up somewhere as a nurse in the states in the same situation I’m in now.
Option 3: play it safe and stick to my job. It’s actually not that bad. It’s a fully benefited job with free health insurance and I only have to work 24 hours a week. I get 4 weeks, soon to be 5 weeks of vacation a year and make $82 an hour. Overtime is endless and I get 1.5x pay and double time pay occasional with overtime. My wife works per diem. Between the 2 of us we only “have” to work 36 hour a week and max out both our 401ks. I usually work extra to add to my taxable account. If I go this route I could have a pretty safe happy life and hit FI in 10-15 years or so when I’m 42-45. I can work extra when I want to to take regular vacations and travel for 2week blocks. I keep working my high stress job.
My problem with option 3 is I tend to obsess about FI and I feel like I often won’t do my minimum hours. I actually often pick up. I can’t help myself because I want to get a point where I don’t need this job. I feel like I have the best income I’ll ever have as a nurse and know it’s a pretty awesome situation to be in with there spouse. So I feel bad for questioning it and taking it for advantage.
Anyways you guys are definitely the right people to ask for there opinion because I feel like this is right up your alley. I just don’t know what happens if I put off my dreams of travel until my son is older and other life happens. I guess I just want to hit the easy button and life a fi life now but if I were to do that the way I’m going it’s going to take a long time.
Thanks for reading! Keep up the awesome content.
Ok so before we start a few things. First of all, thank you for your service as an ER nurse. We all owe you a massive debt of gratitude for the selfless and critical work that you do.
And secondly, please don’t quit.
I know, I know. We literally wrote a book about quitting your job, so this is very much against my instincts when I say this, but there’s already been a spike in health care staff quitting due to burnout or exhaustion, and I can’t in good conscience advocate for something that would make the staffing shortages worse right now, especially with a new COVID variant having just been discovered. Not to be dramatic, but your country needs you.
That being said, we’re still going to MATH SHIT UP.
I mean, he sent us all these numbers. What are we going to do, NOT math shit up? That would be insane!
Retiring in California
First of all, let’s figure out how long it would take for CaliNurse to hit full FI at his current trajectory. Here are his input numbers. In calculating his net pay, I plugged in his earnings into a tax calculator for California taking into considerations he’s maxing both 401(k)’s (nice work, by the way!)
|Income||$200k gross, $160k net|
|Spending||$6k per month, $72 per year|
|Assets||$20k (cash) + $82k (brokerage) + $24k (Roth) + $144k (401k) = $270k|
Note that in this scenario, we’re assuming he stays right where he is and doesn’t sell the house, so his home value and mortgage aren’t factored into the analysis. Don’t worry, those line items show up in the next section.
Our reader’s annual spending of $72k makes his FI target $72,000 x 25 = $1.8 M. That’s a pretty high bar to hit, so we can expect this will likely take a while.
His annual savings is $160k – $72k = $88k. Ooh! That’s a lucky number for Asian people!
Ahem. ANYHOO, put it all together and we can project that our reader will hit full F.I. in…
So actually, his estimate of 10-15 years in his “Option 3” description is pretty bang on. Good job! Someone knows his way around an aortic valve and Excel!
Retiring in the Philippines
But we also know that CaliNurse doesn’t want to just retire in California. He wants to travel in SE Asia.
First of all, great choice. I love SE Asia. I miss SE Asia. The food, the beaches. And above all else, the value!
We haven’t been to the Philippines yet (though it’s definitely on our list), but the cost of living there is similar to Thailand, and you can easily live a life of sand, sun, and smoky chicken on $30k a year.
That dramatically changes his timelines. He’s indicated that if he were to retire, he’d still take a per diem job and work at least enough shifts to maintain his license, so if we take his worst case number, that would be $6000. That means his portfolio only needs to support annual spending of $30k – $6k = $24k a year, and that would mean an FI target of $24,000 x 25 = $600k. That’s a game changer right there.
AND it means we can sell the house, freeing up even more money. At current market values, he would net $580k x 95% (agent commission) – $464k (mortgage) = $87k.
Now, normally we’d throw this number into the starting balance and rerun our calculations, but remember if CaliNurse sells his house, it would be on the last year, not the first. That $87k can contribute to post-retirement portfolio, but it can’t compound on the way there.
So we’re going to add a column to the above table that tracks his portfolio balance if he were to sell his house that year. Once this combined amount hits his FI target, he’s done, but in the years leading up to his retirement, his house equity won’t grow with the rest of the portfolio.
|Year||Balance||Savings||ROI||Total||Total After Selling House|
Yowza. We’re talking 2, 3 years tops.
God, I love what nomadic travel does to people’s retirement plans…
It Ain’t All About the Numbers
So while his retirement is really not that far away, our reader seems very eager to jump the gun, given that 2 out 3 of his “options” involve selling everything and quitting in, like, a month.
I don’t think that’s a great idea, and not just because of that whole “ER nurse shortage” thing.
These are the lines that gave me pause.
My wife is most definitely not AT ALL financially minded.
She actually can’t stand finances it’s like watching paint dry to her.
…my wife is not necessarily opposed to my big ideas but also not 100% on board as I would be.
Whoa whoa whoa. Pump the brakes there, buck-o. Now, I’m not a relationship expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I have been married for 11 years, and from one married guy to another, if you were to tell your wife who, again, hates talking about finances, that you plan to quit your job, sell your house, and move overseas because your spreadsheets and some blogger told you to, that’s a recipe for divorce and/or murder.
You have to get your wife on board with the idea of quitting your job and moving overseas. And you can’t do it based on a 2 week vacation to Thailand.
Setting up a home base in a new country is very different from taking a vacation there. The weather’s different. The food is different. The language is different. You have no idea whether your family will even like living there.
Fortunately, the solution to this problem is a fun one: You need to travel there more.
And not as a tourist where you’re staying at a hotel by the airport. Actually spend time there living as a local. Use a service like AirBnb or a home swapping one like Home Exchange to live in an actual apartment or house that you’d be comfortable living in long term. Buy groceries and learn to cook local food. Check out the neighbourhoods and schools for your kid.
If you make this move, it will be a pretty big change for everyone involved, and you are going to need your wife’s full support if it’s going to work, and that means spending increasing amounts of time there until she either falls in love with it, or decides she hates it. Either way, you have to respect her answer because again, you need both partners to turn their keys if you want to launch this particular missile.
That one went in a direction I wasn’t expecting. It started off with spreadsheets, and then became a relationship advice column, but you know what? Half the fun of each reader case comes from the fact that you don’t know where the article will go until you’re done writing it.
What do you think CaliNurse should do? Let’s hear it in the comments below!
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36 thoughts on “Reader Case: ER nurse Wants To Escape”
My number one comment to this case is that the author should do a reality check and make sure that he isn’t just fantasizing the life of financial independence.
Something about the way he wrote out the scenarios gives me the sense that he has created this as a sort of pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
I did the same, and when I quit my job and became fi, I found that my mental state and psychology were not all that different.
Yes I didn’t go back to work! But please be aware that FI or perpetual travel don’t really inherently bring happiness or joy or a sense of ultimate achievement. You have to find those things in other parts of life.
I got that same impression you did. FI may be great, but it’s not magic.
Can we all just take a moment to reflect that two nurses’ gross pay is $200k? That’s a hell of a lot more than it would be here in the UK except for the most senior grades.
From what I can tell, this is both common in and unique to CA, unless you are a travel nurse. For instance, based on my personal experience, in FL or OH, a staff nurse makes around $50-60k before taxes without overtime or shift differentials. My husband makes more in a factory (with no education requirements) than I would have made as a nurse on day shift in any of the bigger hospital systems in Ohio (unless I had decades of experience, but this tops off pretty early as well).
Only because they live in California, which is the highest COL area in the US . I’m a nurse and I make 68k in Charlotte, NC. I have 23 years experience in critical care
That’s in California. My guess would be that they work at Kaiser since their health insurance is paid too. The majority of the country does not pay like that and Kaiser is the only hospital that I know of that pays their employees’ health insurance. The pay is not good in the Midwest or in the south. Starting pay (new grad) is less than 50,000 and max (20+ yrs experience) is less than 75,000 in a lot of places for a registered nurse. The pay is very different from California in most of the country.
What I’m curious about is raising a child in SE Asia. Sometimes I dream about FIRE’ing in SE Asia, but I always think I’d like to send my child to an international school, which pretty much seems costly (not sure about the Philippines). I heard the most reasonable place for international schools for kids is Vietnam.
Reader Case Studies are the best – so inspiring! Sorry in advance for the All Caps…it seemed appropriate, everything is over the top these days 😉 !
1. You need to dream TOGETHER WITH YOUR WIFE. There, I said it. You two are MORE together, and your joint co-dream will be BETTER if you both weigh in. Taking her with you for the many long decades of life on Your Dream is not ideal, and maybe not even possible. Time to Man Up, Dude. Talk with your wife.
2. You two have an excellent income. and you very much deserve it (esp in Cali, $200K isn’t as much in some ways…). Do you plan on more kids? I can say the spreadsheet might look okay, but I would really suggest you both make hay while the sun shines. Money socked away gives you the magic of CHOICES, FREEDOM, and OPPORTUNITY.
3. As far as getting the wife on board – do not show spreadsheets and numbers talking about amounts of dollars as her eyes glaze over. Instead, find out what she dreams about – what would be joyous for her? travel or not? a peaceful home? everybody has something that they’re into – maybe security for your kid(s) or the family in a larger sense, maybe it’s getting more of her time back…Get to know her better by asking open-ended questions and then not talking (easy to say hard to do!) – what would she do with her time? what does her perfect day look like? is her work more of a vocation, where she’ll do it because it is rewarding vs for economics?
I think the kid is a big obstacle. Will his wife be happy with raising the kid abroad?
She isn’t really on board with the plan so that’s the first thing he needs to work on.
IMO, try to become less obsessive with FI. A better option would be to take a sabbatical and see how it goes.
I’m going to join the dogpile of Very Good Advice – if your wife is not onboard, you’re in for a world of hurt. Honestly, it sounds like you’re burnt out (or rapidly approaching it), and I do not blame you one bit. There is nothing wrong with anything you have laid out here – but keep these factors in mind:
Your wife may not want to live that close to her parents.
Your in-laws may not be interested in being your “home base” in the Phillipines.
Your wife may want access to amenities that come with living in the United States, either for herself, your child or both.
Your wife may like her job and have a good amount of her identity and/or social network tied up in it and may not want to leave.
Ultimately, this is not about money. Money is a tool to get you where you want to go. The question you need to ask your wife is, “Honey, are you happy doing what we’re doing? Because I’m not.”
But, as others have pointed out, beware. Becoming FI will not solve your problems. It’ll only give you more space to deal with them.
The Philippines is a very different place. Corruption is rampant there and being a “rich” American could expose the family to risks that living in the US does not. There is no way to know what living there will be like with a child unless you try that for an extended period. Plus any worldwide travel plans appear to have just been axed by the new variant hysteria.
I agree with Steveark, as much as I love SE Asia and have also dreamed of one day leaving it all behind and becoming an expat, now is not the time to pack up and move to a developing country that has a 33% vaccination rate while new variants are emerging every few months. Because you are an ER nurse I’m sure you’ve seen the effects of a strained medical system due to Covid, in even a wealthy country like the US. I would not take that chance in a country like the Phillipines. We may not even be halfway through this pandemic. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but I believe the developing world is in bad shape and will sadly continue to be for many years.
I was once restless and burnt out too (not as a nurse but in the corporate world), and I thank my lucky stars every day that I didn’t give into my emotions in my early 30s and pack up and move to SE Asia. I would have ended up with much less money and fewer options in the long run, especially now that we’re in a global pandemic. I’m glad I still have a corporate gig with benefits and a much more comfortable nest egg as I near my 40s.
My advice for anyone feeling super burnt out is to take a vacation as soon as you can. Go sit on a beach closer to home (Mexico, Caribbean if you’re from NA), play in the waves, drink some beer. Keep working towards FI because money still does create opportunity and will still serve you down the road, no matter what path you choose. You may find in a few years that you’re grateful to have more financial security.
I agree with taking a vacation. He sounds like ready to go in January while his wife is not. A vacation will buy them some time to think things through. It may be enough for him to realize he already is living a good life (24-hour work week). Counting your blessings always does good for your well being.
I really dislike the guilt placed on healthcare workers who want to retire early. Especially on a blog that advocates for FIRE. If there are healthcare worker shortages, that’s a sign of deeper issues. These are super demanding jobs, so of course there will be a desire to retire early.
I can almost guarantee that most health professionals already feel a stigma/guilt over wanting to retire early. We don’t need to add to it.
I second this. The tone of the first portion was a bit tone deaf and patronizing, and frankly, not what I expected from this blog. It is not his responsibility to shoulder the burden of our broken healthcare system.
I completely agree with your statement. As a nurse, I felt angry at the implication that everyone else is okay to save and leave the rat race… however, because the conditions of working as a nurse are not great right now and everyone else is leaving (thereby making it even worse), I owe it to someone else – someone who may also not be following precautions to keep themselves or others safe – to sacrifice my preferences, my quality of life, and my time to keep working.
I 100% agree. Health care workers are people too. If we’re so burnt out that people are leaving the profession in record numbers, maybe the correct answer is to look at why this is and advocating for better working conditions.
I wonder about the $200k/yr gross income for both of them. He said he makes $82 an hour so if he works three twelve hour shifts a week that is $153,504 a year plus just one OT shift a month at 1.5x is an additional $17,712 so a total of $171,216 or two OT shifts a month $188,928. Maybe he meant $200k each???? He said they regularly pick up OT shifts.
Don’t let Wanderer guilt you about wanting to quit your healthcare job because “your country needs you”. Do what’s best for your mental health. (Wanderer doesn’t even pay taxes in his country for goodness sake; completely legally, no judgment, but please. Doesn’t his country need him? It’s cruel for him to be judging/guilting you like that.)
As others have said, Do your in-laws want you using them as a home base? Have you asked them about this? Does your wife want to live with her parents? Raise a child in SE Asia? Are you sure you want to? I was in the Philippines for a month and wouldn’t feel comfortable deciding to move to the area based on my experience in that amount of time with the extra considerations of a child. You need to spend some time there.
Virtually your entire message was all about you. But you’re married and you have a child now so it’s no longer just about you. Speak to your wife. If you want your family to stay together, then work with your wife to create dreams and goals for your entire family.
I’ll tell you what, I did and was exactly like you…obsessed with FIRE until I finally reached it in 2018 and moved to Bali, which I had spend a 15-day vacation once. After the first month living there my wife and I were ready to pack and move back to Brazil.
The culture and language are totally different, traffic is insane, narrow streets packed with motorcycles, no friends, and the worst for me was the local food. Even though everything was affordable and we cooked a lot at home, it wasn’t the same as having a brazilian steak with beer among friends. Besides, being so far away from family and friends…we realized it wasn’t really meant for us.
We moved back and now, when the pandemic subsides, we’ll be doing shorter stays in Europe and South America for a about month in each country.
All that to say, try it out longer, preferably for a month or two before moving permanently. Also, California lifestyle, except for cheaper gas lol, is not something you can find anywhere else in the world so your wife must be onboard or I agree with MR, divorce is quite possible.
If your dream is to travel the world, then you should do that! I also recommend doing longer travel. I have done a home exchange to the Netherlands. It’s great to have a home base, and to be able to exchange a car and have access to a full kitchen and meet the neighbors, etc. And it’s super cheap, because you’re not paying for hotels. Also, this is a great time to introduce your kid to travel too. I’ve been to over 40 countries, and my 12 year old son has been to 11 so far.
I was an ER nurse. Keyword: WAS. Please don’t let anyone guilt you into doing anything you wouldn’t do otherwise. Just like we put on our oxygen mask first in a plane emergency, your needs have to come first. And yes you need to take your family’s needs into account too, unless you’re ok with potentially going down a path where you’re all in split households. But traveling for work also requires that, divorce isn’t the only way people end up in split households.
No one understands ER nursing unless they’ve actually done it. So no one has the right to tell you when you should or shouldn’t walk away from it. I could have been a travel nurse making close to $100/hr but everyone has different thresholds of what they can tolerate. My current peace of mind since I left the ER has no price.
If you can stomach still going to work, then I commend you. I understand the desire for FIRE, but I’m not sure uprooting your entire life right away is the best way to go. I’ve traveled to third world countries and had the time of my life, but eventually homesickness hit me, longing for first world comforts, like the sense of safety, and accessible clean water. Minuscule things you take for granted. There are beautiful, exquisite places to visit on this earth but that doesn’t always mean it’s the place to call home. It’s one thing you’re living on your own, it’s another thing if you plan on taking your family.
No one can give you advice because no one else knows what will fully make you happy. Does happiness mean having a new address, or multiple addresses? Does happiness mean cutting hours at work, going on an extended leave, finding a new workplace, or an entirely different field altogether? Does happiness mean more time spent with family, or time alone, time with coworkers and clients, or with friends? What’s the golden ratio for all that? That’s another type of math to consider.
The math of time is equally if not more important than the math of money. We can work to make more money, or figure out how to live off less money, but we cannot add more time to our mortality. We don’t even know how much time we have left to begin with. Start from there.
Best of luck.
I’ve read the other comments so far and can’t disagree with most of them.
CaliNurse suffers from scatterbrain FOMO. He wants what others have. He wants it now. Did I mention like, right now! Lol
CaliNurse, you haven’t convinced your wife and as a result, you haven’t considered option 4 which is divorce and a separation of matrimonial assets. I don’t know you or your personal circumstances however if I put myself in your wife’s shoes and read what you wrote above, you’d be treading on very thin ice. I assume you’d walk away with 50% of assets minus cost of selling like realtor fees, etc. So, on that basis, how realistic is your plan?
Also, you talk about working like a dog, doing non-stop overtime. That’s not sustainable. Or healthy. And stupid. Feels like you’re the cause of your own unhappiness. You might want to think about that too.
Something else to think about. Others. If you were single and childless, by all means, do whatever you like. That isn’t your circumstance. I’d be more considerate of your wife and child. Your in-laws too. They’re not commodities that are to be used and disposed of. There’s a very selfish tone to your writeup. There’s a lot of “me, myself, and I”. You’re a unit of three. On the other hand, it might just be a certain degree of immaturity.
I believe he would make $6000/2 week period worst case. He said he would be flying back 6 times per year (to keep the minimum hours for per diem). That makes his take home $36,000/yr as a per diem.
Doing this would alleviate a lot of the burnout, cover his cost of living in SEA, let them try out the lifestyle and see if it suits them, keep his foot in the door if the family decides they don’t like being outside the US, and hold on to the house while trying out international travel. Seems like a really good option.
I’m a nurse as well, and have been doing the travel RN thing for a few years. If he goes that route they could stop by for 13 weeks (generally) in different areas across the US. Take home pay would cover their expenses with one contract. That would also give him a well needed break to help alleviate burnout, as well as all of the above (with the exception of keeping a foot in the door at the facility he is at currently). Another really good option.
Overall, sounds like burnout. A 2-3 month break would likely leave him somewhat bored and ready for some work. It did for me when I took 2 months off last year. Plan to take some extended time off perhaps next year if travelling restrictions ease, and pay rates drop. Otherwise, will probably just take more vacations.
A lot of good options, he could even keep his current job as it sounds pretty flexible and not too bad. When staffing ratios get sorted, and he takes some vacation that might be the route. Definitely a good time to start dipping the toe in and taking time to travel to new places.
What about the math of renting out your house?
That might contribute above the cost of paying mortgage, insurance, and rates, and that way if you go on an extended overseas adventure, you still have a home base to come back to.
And when your mortgage is paid off, Californian rent could mean quite a lot if you’re in a lower cost country.
It also may help with your wife – so you feel like you’re not burning bridges by selling up everything and moving away.
This man seems to be the subject of an interview at another financial blogger today:-) In which he is not anonymous. I hope he is aware of the overlap.
Link please 🙂
Dangerous!! very dangerous!
First off, I love this blog! I am wondering why we don’t consider inflation…both in his projected expenses (he spends 72K year now and in 12 years that will be xxx amount) and perhaps in his home equity value. I know it’s alot of assumptions to be made but seems like 72K now ain’t what it’s gonna be a decade in the future…?
The tone of the first portion was a bit tone deaf and patronizing, and frankly, not what I expected from this blog. It is not his responsibility to shoulder the burden of our broken healthcare system.
I don’t think they have any idea the level of lockdown that is currently in Philippines.
There’s a reason why alot of Filipinos immigrate to Canada! Our services/systems are more stable. Sure it appears to be cheaper there, but most likely the systems, including health care is not the same as North America. Of course, Canada is different from U.S. in this area. (Hey, we have a shortage of nurses…)
I hired a Filipino woman who had a college degree and taught math in college there. She told me at convocation when they graduated, the faculty were encouraging grads. to go overseas!! Talk about brain drain.
From Canadian born daughter of immigrant Chinese parents from mainland China.
Happy wife, happy life!
I can’t believe you didn’t mention one obvious choice! Take a 1 year mini-retirement. They can rent out their house and live in the Philippines (or a SEA location of their choice). That is not long enough to lose his career path but after that they can re-assess the future plans with lower risk.
I agree with taking a vacation. He sounds like ready to go in January while his wife is not. A vacation will buy them some time to think things through. It may be enough for him to realize he already is living a good life (24-hour work week). Counting your blessings always does good for your well being.
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