“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
Well, I did it. I gave notice to my employer. 60 more days, and I am leaving my job.
This is not going to be a “I left my cubicle job, finally” post. You have probably read enough of those. This is different.
I have been fortunate in my life that I have pursued work I am passionate about. It has always been in the field of music and education, and I am lucky to have had the opportunity to continue with it while many around me have not.
I have gone from to performer, to teacher, to administrator, all the while moving up the salary scale. At one point, I began making a salary that I never dreamed I would make. After all, I used to make $18,000 a year after college and I was totally happy!
A little over a year ago, I surveyed my situation and realized that lifestyle inflation had hit me hard. I justified it by saying to myself that I was in a field I loved, not trapped in a cubicle, so it was okay to have debt. After all, I would work forever, I told myself.
Nevertheless, I had had enough. I went on a mission to viciously pay off debt and get rid of the “stuff” in my life. One year later, I began having new thoughts pop up:
“Am I doing work I love 100% of the time?”
“Even though I like my work a lot, am I trapped in it because of my debt?”
“Am I settling?”
“Can I stick with this job for 10+ more years?”
After one year of massive debt payoff, I decided that I would try and stick with my job but attempt extreme early retirement. After doing the math, I figured that I could pay off all of my debt plus my mortgage and retire at the age of 46 (I’m 39 now).
After a year-and-a-half, I changed my my mind. I asked myself, “why I would choose to “sweat out” a job I even remotely disliked for future retirement”? That is not, and has never been, the way I operate. I decided to split the difference and prepare to take a 6-12 month “mini-retirement” instead.
It was a pretty cool challenge; I needed to “beef up” my side income pursuits while at the same time scaling down expenses. After all was said and done, it was still going to be scary…I was ditching a 6-figure income, plus pension and benefits.
Here’s what I did to prepare for the “mini-retirement”:
1. I got out of debt and saved an emergency fund. These two financial moves were enormous for me. I wasn’t going to quit my day job without getting out of debt first, and without an adequate emergency fund. None of this would have been possible without this move. I have a family to worry about. I have almost eliminated my debt and saved a decent emergency fund, though it’s not as large as I’d like.
2. Increased my side hustle income. My “side hustles” are teaching trombone at a couple of universities and privately…hardly a “hustle”, since I adore the work and wish it could be full time. I have worked to recruit new students, and I’ve also taken my new-found skills as an administrator to promote myself as an asset to institutions as a teacher trainer, or whatever!
3. Find health insurance. This one was huge! It is also a necessity since I have a wife and two kids. I found an organization that could use me as a consultant (music education) and I asked to be paid just in health benefits. They said yes! Again, I drew upon skills I have learned over the years and found an organization in need of those skills. Ask yourself: what type of skills do you have that are marketable? Are they honed? If so, great! If not, sharpen the saw a bit by taking a few more classes, either online or at a local school. The payoff is huge.
4. Pare down my expenses to the bones. I have discussed this in many posts. By creating a budget, I was able to monitor and track expenses carefully with my wife. Two years later, we have hundreds less per month in expenses!
5. Get rid of stuff. We got rid of so much crap we didn’t need, and we continue to ditch our stuff. It’s not necessary, and when I figured that less stuff = more freedom, it was easy to get rid of it all. If “stuff” is holding you back from finding work you love…ditch it!
What Happens Next?
My last day is the end of June, and then I go off to run my camp. After that…who knows?
Not that much will change with this blog at least. I plan to continue to focus on putting out the best content I can.
I will be leaving myself open for job opportunities that align only with my passions. I can afford to do this for one year, for sure.
Financially, if nothing changes, I will be just fine. If anything changes, I anticipate it changing for the better…and if so, I will have an even better year than I imagined! But if it changes for the worse, I will always be able to find another day job.
It’s going to be scary and fun being self-employed…failure and success are dependent completely on me.
It all comes back to the debt and the “stuff”. By getting rid of this mountain of unnecessary garbage, I have opened up “space” in my life for other (non-material) things: Time with my kids, work I enjoy, or just free time to enjoy living. Scary, at times, yes … but extremely liberating!