There are days we’d all like to quit our jobs. Even as a freelance writer working from home, I have days when I wish I could just bail on a large project or drop a client altogether. However, just because I’m frustrated one day, it doesn’t mean that I should just up and quit. And you probably shouldn’t either — especially if you want to maintain your benefits for as long as possible and avoid going completely broke.

Why You Should Think Twice About Burning Bridges

If you are going to quit a job, it is a good idea to do so in a professional manner that doesn’t burn bridges. While Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who quit by dramatically exiting via the emergency slide, might be seen as a sort of crass folk hero, he certainly didn’t go about things in a smart way for his finances. He just got lucky that his antics were flamboyant enough to garner a huge amount of attention. There’s no guarantee that such behavior would work for you. (And there are arguments that, in spite of rumors of reality TV offers, it didn’t work so well for Slater, who went to jail.)

Instead of quitting abruptly, you should make sure to plan ahead, and try to avoid burning bridges. Give your employer at least two weeks’ notice, and maintain good relations with your co-workers. If there are projects you have been working on, be sure to wrap them up, or at least get them solidly on the path toward completion. Networking is a big part of maintaining a good career, and if your former boss and co-workers all have unpleasant things to say about you, you are less likely to be hired elsewhere. Additionally, two or three jobs down the road, you may be glad that of the network you nurtured from your first job.

Getting Your Financial House in Order

You should also quit in an orderly manner that makes sense for your finances. Unless you have a job already lined up, or stash of money already saved up, you might need to wait until your emergency fund can handle the lack of a paycheck. This is especially true in today’s job market. If you don’t have an offer elsewhere, just quitting can be financial suicide if you don’t have other plans in place. This is true whether you are looking for a new job, or whether you are quitting to start your own business. Build up your cash reserves before leaving your current employment situation, and look for ways to cut expenses. You should also consider paying down some of your debt.

Another consideration is what happens to your benefits. Your health insurance plan is probably the most valuable benefit you have at work. This means that you will need to plan ahead to make sure you are adequately covered. Few things are as devastating as having a medical emergency when you don’t have a job or health coverage. COBRA is available, but it is important to note that you will be paying your employer’s share of the premium as well as your own. This can be quite expensive. You might be better off looking for health insurance online and considering a Health Savings Account to go with a less expensive, high deductible plan.

If you have a flex spending plan, you will need to use up the money before your last day — or lose it in many cases. You can still be reimbursed after you quit, but the spending needs to take place before you end your job. Look up the qualified expenses, and then stock up on covered products.

Finally, know what to do with your retirement plan. You might need to roll over your account, but you should probably wait until you have a new plan at a new job (or open something as a self-employed person). You can also roll your plan into an IRA. Realize that, even though you can leave your retirement plan where it’s at, you can no longer contribute to it. But you shouldn’t cash out your plan, since will result in penalties and tax liabilities.

In the end, quitting is about more than just leaving. You want to make sure that you are ready to go, and that you are smart about the whole process. It will cost you much less in the long run.



Miranda is freelance journalist. She specializes in topics related to money, especially personal finance, small business, and investing. You can read more of my writing at Planting Money Seeds.