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Quitting a job is never easy. It’s even harder when you’ve been there for more than a decade and are making really good money. But, sometimes it is time to move on. Here is the story of why I quit my $200,000 a year job, moved to Nashville, and started freelance writing full time. Although my situation is different than yours, the lessons I learned along the way could prove valuable to you when its time to leave your current job.
Working in Finance for a Bank
Before everything changed, I was working for a regional bank based in Los Angeles. My finance job was focused on budgeting, forecasting, strategy, and financial analysis.
It was a good job, but the long hours, high stress, and 3-hour round trip commute took a toll on my physical and mental health. Regular back spasms, constant eye twitches, and restless nights were the norm. If I hadn’t already shaved my head, I’m pretty sure I would have lost plenty of hair.
A co-worker in the same position as me had a mini-stroke during a particularly stressful time of the year. It could have been anything, but we’re both convinced it was the stress that caused it.
But, I was getting paid really well, so nobody wanted to hear me complain.
The 10-Year Plan
My wife and I enjoy nice things, but we’re both pretty frugal by nature. We like the idea of retiring early, but we didn’t want to go overboard with FIRE. You know the types… they do things like make their own toothpaste, cancel cable TV, and share one car in the family. Kudos to them for making those sacrifices. That isn’t us.
One of the podcasts I listen to is Radical Personal Finance. In one episode, Joshua Sheats talks about having a 10-year plan that really resonated with me. Ten years seems like the perfect time horizon. It’s not too short that the path is impossible. Yet, it also isn’t so long that it seems like that day will never come.
Soon, I had paid off my car loan, student loans, two rental property mortgages, and Anna’s car loan. We were rockin’ and rollin’! As soon as one balance was paid off, we snowballed the payment towards the next debt on our list.
My 10-year plan focused on paying off all of our debt while continuing to invest in my retirement and investment accounts. If everything worked out well, I would have reached financial independence by age 52.
Of course, paying off debt is easier when you have a big salary and nice bonuses each year. But living in California can be really expensive. The median home price in Orange County is $720,000. State income taxes are some of the highest in the nation. And daycare, private school, and after-school care for our two kids was almost $3,000 per month. No matter how much you make, it can go pretty quickly in the OC.
Once our debts were paid off, would I have kept working? I’m not sure. But it sure would be nice to have the option.
Planting seeds through networking
If there’s anything you should have learned during the Great Recession is that there’s no such thing as job security. Even if you are the best employee, companies can fail. Entire departments are shuttered or outsourced. Or you could simply fall out of favor with your boss.
I remember very vividly hearing Wing Lam, founder of Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, give sage advice at a young professionals conference. He said that you need to plan the seeds of networking years before you harvest them. This was some of the best career advice I’ve ever received.
Attending FinCon has been more of a vacation than a working conference for me the last few years. I had a good job and my blog was more of a hobby than anything. Although there have been excellent presentations and valuable information, I primarily attended to hang out and meet like-minded people.
When it came time to leave my job, these friendships were critical in helping me launch my full-time career as a freelance writer. Because I was already their friend, they were comfortable putting their name on the line when referring me. They’re all great people, but if I had just met them and was asking for advice, referrals, and feedback, they wouldn’t have been as valuable of a resource.
Building multiple streams of income
Aside from running my BaldThoughts.com blog since 2012, I’ve been building other passive income streams. Having multiple streams of income diversifies your risk and protects you in case of job loss or when you lose a big client.
I bought my first rental properties in 2006 and have been fortunate enough to pay both of them off in the last couple of years. I didn’t stop there. With a partner, I’ve continued to find rental properties to invest in year after year. We now own a handful of rental properties that are positive cash flow and help pay the bills.
Ok, I wish that I was a baller and could afford to sink $25,000 or more into each one of these rental properties. That’s not how we do it. Instead, we use a little-known strategy that allows us to use the same money over and over to keep buying distressed properties, rehab them, find a tenant, then refinance to pull our cash back out. It is a total game-changer!
When it’s time to go
There’s a saying that is very appropriate to my situation. “Man plans and God laughs.”
I had my 10-year plan. Debts were being knocked off one-by-one. And I was slowly growing my blog and building passive income with my rental properties.
My career was moving along great. During annual reviews, I always received above average or better reviews. Whenever a problem arose, my boss usually tapped me as a “fixer.”
Everything was going according to plan. But then, all of a sudden, I went from being a hero to a zero. I won’t go into specifics, but I’ll just say that it was made clear to me that it was time to leave.
If you want to hear more of the story, I was recently on the Stacking Benjamins Podcast talking about how to leave your job – Kicking the 9-5 To The Curb (with Lee Huffman).
Let’s move to Nashville
Ok, now it was time to figure out what to do next. My wife and I had always wondered about living somewhere outside Southern California. As we travel, we evaluate the cities we visit to gauge whether or not we could see ourselves living there.
I told Anna that I could pretty easily find another corporate finance gig in LA or Orange County. But, our kids are young and we always lament how they’re growing up so fast. They’re already 7 and 3 years old. Where has the time gone?
Oh, that’s right. We’ve been spending all of our time at the office and on the freeways commuting to work.
If we didn’t do something different, the kids would be 17 and 13 in the blink of an eye. We would have missed their childhood while chasing the next raise or promotion.
At that moment, we decided to sell our home and buy a house in Nashville. I would freelance write full time to be around the kids more. And this would free Anna of many of the shared parenting duties so she could focus on building her career. (She’s an excellent role model for our kids as a mother that can balance work, family, and fun.)
When evaluating prospective places to live, we wanted the following:
- Strong economy
- Lower cost of living
- Welcoming community
- Nice weather
- Good airport
The cities that fit this bill were Seattle, Portland, Denver, Dallas, Austin, and Nashville. As we dove deeper into the options, it really boiled down to Austin and Nashville. Nashville won out because it was closer to our families in North Carolina and Georgia. We can easily drive there for weekend visits, which is important because we want our kids to grow up spending time with their family.
Controlling your expenses
Ok, the only way this move would work is if we controlled our expenses. As I mentioned earlier, Anna and I are pretty frugal by nature already. When I paid off my auto loan, instead of jumping back into another auto loan, I started savings the monthly payments and will ride this car into the ground. A fancy new car would be awesome, but working from home and spending more time with the family is even better.
Moving to Nashville helped tremendously in cutting our expenses:
- There are no state income taxes.
- We sold our home in California and bought one for half the price in Tennessee.
- The Tennessee Valley Authority produces cheap electricity for the state.
- Car registration is only $65 per year.
- Auto insurance dropped from $950 to $550 every six months.
- Gas prices are $1 to $1.50 cheaper per gallon compared to California.
The big reductions in spending also included eliminating private school and daycare for the kids and the difference in the old vs. new mortgage payments. I lost a lot of income with the move, but we’ve come close to offsetting the lost income by reducing our expenses quite substantially with a move out of high-tax and high-cost California.
The way forward
As we get settled into our new home, things are going really well. It’s a great feeling being able to spend more time with the kids… even when they get on my nerves with their sibling rivalry. I love being able to support Anna and her career. And we only have a few more boxes to unpack.
I recently launched the We Travel There podcast. It’s a 30-minute show where I interview local experts from around the world to uncover the best things to do in their city from a local’s point of view. Some of the most popular episodes have been Nashville, Austin, Vancouver, and Hong Kong. It is on all of the major podcast platforms. We have some amazing cities coming up, so subscribe and join us when we travel there.
I’ll continue to diversify my income by selling eCourses and eBooks. A couple of courses I’ve been working on will teach people how to use travel rewards and build their credit. And the eBook ideas that have been floating in my head will finally get the attention they deserve.
The Bald Thoughts
Overall, I’m still a little sad how things transpired. I enjoyed my work and the money was great. I wasn’t ready to leave when I did, but no job lasts forever.
We miss our friends and family back in California and think about them on a regular basis. Airline miles and hotel points will make visiting them affordable. In the meantime, Facetime and Skype work wonders.
Even after all of that, we are much better off here in Nashville. Our home is beautiful (and 30% bigger). The neighborhood is amazing, and we’ve made some awesome friends. Both kids are adjusting well to life in “the South” and neither have said y’all (yet).
This move wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t been on the path to financial independence and networked before I needed to. I encourage you to develop your debt payoff plan to eliminate debt and create opportunities for yourself. Start building your network now. Attend industry conferences, network via LinkedIn, and never eat alone.
Have you ever thought about leaving your job and moving someplace else? If you made the move, how did it turn out for you? What would you have done differently? Please share your story in the comment section below.