Why I Quit My $200K Job and Moved to Nashville

Nashville Road Trip 2018-07 Tennessee state line
At the Tennessee state line.
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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.

Lee & Jim October 2007
My Dad passed away in 2012. I wonder what he would say…

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

I’ve been attending FinCon, a personal finance conference, for years. And one of the biggest trends has been the FIRE Movement – which stands for “financial independence, retire early.”

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.

I started running the numbers to see what 10-years could look like for us. I had just paid off my car loan (6 years at 0% interest). Then I began accelerating the payoff of my student loans.

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.

Sunglass Warehouse Lee at Huntington Beach
Every day now almost feels like I’m on vacation.

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!

Lee Huffman work peace im out May 2018
Peace, I’m out!

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).

Stacking Benjamins podcast recording with Joe and Lee in Orlando September 2018
Recording with Joe of Stacking Benjamins at FinCon 18 in Orlando.

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.)

Nashville Road Trip 2018-07 Tennessee state line
At the Tennessee state line.

Why Nashville?

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’ve been writing about some really interesting topics at RewardExpert, ChooseFI, SuperMoney, and JohnnyJet. Take a look and let me know what you think.

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

a man in a suit and tieOverall, 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.


  1. 20 years ago, I moved from Miami to Knoxville for a work opportunity. While there was a bit of culture shock, it’s worked out pretty well overall, as I’m still here. Welcome to Tennessee. Hope you like it here.

    • Thanks, Christian. We couldn’t have picked a better state, city, and neighborhood to move to. The most shocking things so far have been the humidity, the mosquitos, and rain. HAHA We’ll see how we handle the winter, but we’re excited for this new chapter in our lives.

    • Thanks, I’m glad you like it. I hope that it inspires others to re-evaluate what is most important in life and realize that there are other ways to build a great life for your family.

  2. While I know I was super fortunate to get some facetime with you and Anna at Fincon this year to hear about your life transitions first hand, this blog post was great to read through.

    I hear you about planting seeds. It’s one of the most critical things I’ve learned and why I’m working on tending seeds now, before I really need them. It’s all about give, give, give. I buy my friend’s books when they come out, tout their projects, and send business their way whenever they can. Every time I’ve needed help, they were there for me. It’s how I’ve gotten leads, jobs and made more connections. It’s paid off in spades, and it also feels great to support the people I care about.

    Excited to see how Nashville pans out, and know I’m here to support you. I’m weighing my own life transitions at the moment, so I love learning from y’all! 🙂

  3. I really hope some day we get the chance to sit down and discuss this in more detail as I think I need a ten year plan. I have a ten to twelve year goal but have not yet figured out exactly to achieve it and I don’t have half the debt you mentioned. Eating out constantly might be something to nip in the bud right? Just another downside of long working hours, studying and blogging 🤣

    • Hey, Anne, that would be great! Make sure you check out the Radical Personal Finance podcast episode I mentioned. It really got me thinking.

      As far as the food, it’s a mixed bag. Yes, it can be expensive eating out, but it is the marginal cost between eating out and what the food costs at home would be that are the real focus. Beyond that, if eating out can save you time that allows you to make more money (right away with blogging or long-term with studying to advance your career), then it is just a cost of doing business.

      Let’s plan some time to talk.

    • HAHA, thanks! Seriously, people actually do things like that. Google it (link). I’d rather use a coupon at CVS and buy it for $0.50, then take my time to actually earn some real money instead of saving $2.

  4. Im happy for you Lee. I went through a similar experience a few years ago. The path to Financial Independence led me to uproot my life and move to a lower cost of living city. In my case it was Indianapolis. I have been here for 2 years already and I cant even begin to explain to you how much better my life is. The level of stress in all categories vanished and my wife and I couldnt be happier.

    You did the right thing and years from now, you will look back and think how great it was for you to do this move.

  5. I moved from Nashville to LA, What to say, have pros and cons, I like LA better. But I can see your view, Nashville is much cheaper and quieter for family.

    try the area call Franklin, 45 mins away from Nashville, good school and nice area.

    • Where did you move in LA? Every place has their pros and cons. We haven’t been through a winter yet, so we’ll see how we fare. HAHA SoCal is amazing, and we miss our friends and family back there. But the taxes, high home prices, and constant traffic are terrible.

      When we were evaluating places to live, our friends recommended Franklin and Brentwood. We went with another city that’s a little lower priced and closer to the airport. The other day, I ran 3 errands on the way to the airport and still made it from home through security to the gate in 60 minutes. Amazing!

      • I live in downtown Culver City area. Traffic sucks but I get used to now. lol

        try to buy a coupon book ” City Saver Nashville”, I found very useful when I lived down there until 2015.

        Good luck!

        • Hey Matt, thanks for the tip! I’ll look for it. I looked at a position with the NFL Network awhile ago and considered it, but that traffic made it a no-go for me while living in OC. Glad you’re liking LA!

          I’m not sure it is still there, but there’s a bar in Culver City that I went to once. They had taps at the tables so you could pour your own beers without waiting for the server to come back around. They charged by the ounce and would have to approve you for extra ounces every so often so you didn’t get too rowdy or drunk. A great concept that more bars should look into.

  6. From age 40 to age 90 is fifty years were life happens and expensive things can go wrong. Lack of good health insurance will bankrupt the best of savers. I wish you luck but I don’t agree with one aspect of the FIRE movement. I’m 49 years old and will be working part time (for health insurance) in 3 years with a nest egg that is monte carlo simulated to last me 50 years. Not an extreme saver but I saved since age 16 and spent my time learning how to invest intelligently (Thank you Priceline, Apple and Square). I also hate working for the man but gutted it out. Good luck to you.

    • Thanks, Rob. You bring up a good point. Anna and I aren’t deep into the FIRE movement, but the concept of having choices has always appealed to me. My wife works a corporate job, so we have access to benefits through her employer. When I planned to (have the option to) retire in my early 50s, it was so that I could focus on the kids while my wife focused on her career. She’s 6 years younger than me, so she has many years left in her corporate life as she climbs the ladder.

      If I did retire, I would probably do like you are doing. Work someplace fun where I don’t need to worry about the paycheck, but it is something that I care about. It could mean working for a non-profit, being a handyman-type at Home Depot, or a professor at a college. A love having choices.

  7. Congrats Lee! This is a great story. I live in Silicon Valley, so I know what you mean by the expenses in CA. I don’t know when or if I’ll be able to make the move out of CA. When I go on vacation, it’s a nice surprise that most places are cheaper than home. Haha…

    • Thanks! I appreciate the support. OC is expensive, but Silicon Valley is way beyond that. As you continue to travel, one of the places will resonate with you and you’ll know that’s where you belong.

      The most important thing is that you need to prepare in advance. Work to eliminate your debt. Plant those seeds of networking. And, if you can, develop multiple streams of revenue so that you aren’t overly dependent on any one of them.

  8. good explanation of why less is more for you! We were in a similar situation to yours. My wife and I both worked and made 6-figure salaries, which is *extremely* fortunate, and not to be undervalued when discussing the ability to change to a smaller lifestyle. That money was fantastic and gave us the ability to do so much; living a frugal life gave us the ability to build revenue streams and live debt free aside from our mortgage. But we both saw the need to leave the money behind to focus on living. She opened her own business (in her field) 4 years ago and was able to make the same money working less, until she decided to truly “semi-retire” this year. I had a similar experience to you, and left a well-paying banking job. But my network provided me a smaller, less stressful position working with true friends, and also a chance at another high salary + founder’s shares in a start up. Even with that potential windfall, my friends know I am in it for the “short haul” and will semi-retire as well in the next 2 or 3 years.

    In my experience, some people start making very good money and decide that their best course of action is ever-more income. I applaud those who can healthily pursue that course. For us, like you, changing what was of highest importance to quality of life was the right option. Hopefully as a low level “travel hacker” I’ll run into you at a seminar or just in a wonderful locale somewhere and we can toast our good fortunes. 🙂

    • That would be great. I’d love to share a drink and learn more about your story. Like you said, having a big income helps and that is not to be overlooked. More importantly, we didn’t succumb to “keeping up with the Jones” by buying expensive cars and living a lavish lifestyle. Instead, we remained frugal even as income grew, focused extra money towards paying off debt and investing for our future.

      Travel hacking has helped us enjoy life without overspending. We wouldn’t have had all of the wonderful experiences traveling if it weren’t for the miles and points.

      Good luck on your path to complete retirement. I’m glad that your frugalness allowed you to leave your corporate job and take the risk with the startup. For people that aren’t planning to retire, paying off your debt and keeping your expenses low allows you to pursue opportunities that may not pay well initially, but could end up with a huge payday later on.

      Hope to meet up with you soon.

  9. “I went from being a hero to a zero”

    If this didn’t happen to you, would you have still left your 200K job and moved when you did?

    • Probably not right away. But, I did have a 10-year plan to have the option to quit without worrying about paying the bills. Even though I’m progressive and see my wife as an equal, there’s still something inside me that feels the need to be the one to take care of the family (ie: make sure the bills are paid).

      As I mentioned in the post, the long hours and stress of the job and commute were getting to me. Back spasms, chest pains, eye twitches, and horrible sleep were far too common for someone in good health in their early 40s. I went out on medical leave for a few weeks before I quit. Luckily, the heart Dr said there was nothing physically wrong with me. The Doctors were convinced it was the stress. That diagnosis helped convince me to make the move.

      In talking with my friends who have made similar moves away from corporate jobs, they’ve said that as you get closer to your goal, your mindset shifts and you’re less tolerant of irritants at work, etc. There’s a reason why they call it an “FU Fund“.

      The pursuit of a big paycheck has many people putting up with things they normally wouldn’t. As the big paycheck becomes less impactful in your life (aka debt paid off), your desire to accept that behavior diminishes.

  10. We’re slowly building our streams of income, but of course they’re not as steady as having the W-2.
    You’re right that no job lasts forever though, and we must always be prepared.

    We’re planning where we’re staying for FinCon next year. Thinking of using our ‘free’ nights from our cards, or just staying in an AirBnB. Not in a rush though, 11 more months!

    • Keep building that income and planting those seeds. Sometimes, the best opportunity comes from where you least expected it.

      Looking forward to seeing you at FinCon 2019 in DC. Plenty of time to decide where to stay. Focus on building your revenue so that the “where to stay” decision becomes less of a worry.

    • Thank you, Jason. I’m glad that my story resonated with you. It’s been a great ride these last few months with Anna and the kiddos. Looking forward to spending more time with them while I’m still “cool”. Teenage angst is just around the corner. HAHA

  11. Congrats Lee! I am so happy that your ten year plan was in place. I can attest that with that plan you are much more free in many ways to take control of your future and not be used and abused by a company. As you know I also had that ten year plan in place and pulled the trigger four years ago. I enjoy my bi-coastal life and traveling around the world. Learning the points game from you has continued to supplement my travel expenses. I will continue to look forward to your blogs.
    Best of luck to you, Anna and the kids.

    • Thank you, Marti. It was a pleasure getting to know you while we worked together, and I’m glad that we’ve stayed in touch. You have such a great situation with your home by the lake in Vermont and a place to see your son in LA. Miles and points can make the world a better place by making travel more affordable. It’s awesome that it is working so well for you.

  12. Great post, Lee.

    I have developed a similar plan, but i’ve decided to try to make a go of it and STAY in LA (both my wife’s family and my family are in LA, so while we’d like to live elsewhere much more comfortably, we’d miss our families way too much). But i personally have started to buckle down on unnecessary spending (getting my wife to get on board has been a different story lol) I’m close to paying off my school loans, and my car note (and my mother’s car note i’m paying for) will be finished in May. After that, i plan to snowball the payments for other debt like you have (primarily wedding debt). While we are currently in a nice *luxury* apartment in DTLA, once our lease is up we plan to move to a cheaper, older apartment a bit away from the city to save $600-1000 a month.

    I anticipate a slight downturn in the housing market in LA (signs are already very apparent), so hopefully we can snap up a reasonably price home within the next few years, before the next surge in the housing market comes.

    • I hear you, being near family is incredibly important. It was tough on me during the last few months of my Dad’s life when he was in NC and I was in LA. At least I got to spend a few days with him before he passed.

      Kudos to you for focusing on your expenses and paying off the debt. Making little temporary sacrifices like living in a cheaper apartment can help tackle the debt and prepare yourself to buy the house you want.

      I agree. The housing market is ripe for a turn. With interest rates rising, low affordability will get even worse. Prices have to come down in the absence of rising incomes to offset the cost of housing. It will be even worse when the next recession hits. I’m glad we cashed out our equity and made the move before that happened. Nashville won’t be immune to the pain, but I think it will weather the storm pretty well based on its economy’s focus on healthcare (a necessity) and music (an affordable luxury).

      Good luck with everything.

  13. All the best to you but I wouldn’t have chosen Nashville. Nashville is on every list of the violent, drug infested, and crime ridden cities in the US. There’s a reason why the cost of living is low there. Try Iowa and Nebraska. Same low cost of living but with excellent schools and low crime.

    • Hey Donald, thanks for sharing that. Good suggestions on other places for readers to consider.

      I hadn’t seen any of those reports about the crime. As within any big city, if you’re in the Downtown area, there’s a greater chance of being around bad things. We’re in a suburb outside of Nashville. And our police are pretty strict. I literally set cruise control when I drive around town because they will get you.

  14. Hello, similar experience here but we moved to wonderful St Lucia in the Caribbeans. Properties are dirt cheap right now. What was 1,5 mln a few years ago is now 0,7. It is just a matter of time to recover. Of course not a place where I’d want to grow kids because schools are to average, but a perfect place for virtual nomads. Feel free to ask via mail if curious.

    • Thanks for the insights about St Lucia. My buddy Tyler has been there and he loved it. Yeah, with young children, I want them to have the structure of American schools. As appealing as international living may be, I wouldn’t do that until they graduated high school.

  15. Great article Lee! I read it and all of the comments posted and your responses.

    For a long time I absolutely hated my job. This went on for about 30 years. I could not wait to quit and leave my profession. Then a strange thing happened: #1 I achieved mastery in my field and now really enjoy it. #2 I learned to put my personal happiness ahead of work. I do what I want, when I want, which has lead me to live the lifestyle that I imagined I would be living once I retired.
    So now I am doing the things I wanted to do when I am retired even though I am not retired. I wake up when I want to and work when I want to. I still work long hours, but it is all optional. Having the freedom to do what I want, when I want, is so liberating that I don’t see the point of retiring anymore. Full disclosure: I make a very high income, so I am not slaving away for a modest income. I also have achieved FI, so I am not dependant on making money to cover my expenses.

    • Thanks, Jake! What a bummer that it took 30 years for you to find your passion, but I’m glad that it happened for you. Better late than never!

      That is so awesome that you’re able to do the “retirement” fun now, even while you’re working. So many people hold off until retirement, then that day never comes because of health or money. What good is having a pile of money when you’re old and cannot do the things you want to do because you gave up your body and soul for a job that didn’t appreciate you?

      Kudos to you for being such a great example to everyone that reads this. Have a great weekend.

  16. Great article Lee! After accumulating all my work experience in one field, it’s hard to move on to something else. You have lots of guts and more importantly good planning to make it work. I look forward to your articles and hopefully I’ll be able to make that leap. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks, Kenny. I hear you about being concentrated in your experience. However, being a finance guy, your skills translate to almost any industry. Keep working your plan and planting your seeds. I look forward to the day when you tell me that you’ve reached your goals.

  17. Curious why you were living so far away from your job if you were making that much money and the schools were so poor in your part of OC (??) Or why did you feel you had to go to private schools in OC but not in TN?

    • When Anna and I got married, we were living in North Hollywood (basically LA). We decided we wanted to raise our children in OC where many of my friends, who are an extension of my family, lived. The schools are better in OC and homes in good areas are less expensive.

      The original plan was to have our kids go to public school because the schools are much better than LA. We quickly realized that the traffic affected our timing of when we needed to leave for work and when we could get home vs. the hours offered by public school and daycare. We were “those parents” that dropped our kids off at daycare/private school as soon as the doors opened at 6:30am and picked up our kids literally minutes before they closed at 6:30pm.

      We were late picking them up plenty of times due to traffic and work meetings. In 2017, we had over $1,000 in late fee charges for not picking them up before they closed at 6:30pm. But, it was a “cost of doing business” for moving forward in our careers. How crappy does that sound, right?

      Now that we’re in TN, I have complete flexibility in my schedule so I can easily pick them up and drop them off. I’ve blocked off time in the day where I spend time with the kids and make sure they are learning beyond what is taught in school. I didn’t have that luxury before.

      In the months before I left my job in CA, I would wake up at 4am, get ready, do a little blog work, and leave the house by 5:30am to catch the 6am train. I would be in the office a little after 7am. Anna would drop off the kids at school (Timmy) and daycare (Scarlett). I’d work until 4:30pm to get on the 5:00pm train home so I could grab the kids before each of their schools closed at 6:30pm. My commute to LA was only 35 miles and it was still 90 minutes each way. Anna’s commute to South OC was 20 miles and about an hour each way. In LA, your commute can be 5-10 miles and it could still take an hour or more depending on where you lived and the time of the day you were driving.

      We’d get home by 7pm start dinner, make sure homework was done, and get ready for the next day. Anna would get home from work sometime between 7 and 8pm. Kids would be in bed by 9pm. And I would get in bed between 9 and 10pm. If I still had office work to do, I would log in either when Anna got home or after the kids went to sleep, then I could be working until midnight or later to get everything finished, while knowing that I had to wake up at 4am the next day to start all over again.

      Honestly, it sucked. We would spend maybe 2 hours a day with our kids during the week. That’s not the life we envisioned for our family. But, we put up with up for a long time while chasing the bucks and the next promotion. I justified it to myself that it was worth it because I was providing for a good financial life for my family.

    • At first, we were looking at cities that appealed to us. We quickly realized that Seattle’s cost of living had risen quite a bit. Seattle is now closer to OC prices with all of that Microsoft and Amazon money being spent by their employees.

  18. For the past two years, I’ve worked at a demoralizing unethical company (my actions and my job scope is clean, however). At 37, I’ve saved up about $2M in net assets (no debt, actually). With an annual expense of less than $50K a year, the money should last me for the rest of my life barring any major health events. What is hard to give up is when I consider I bring in $500K in net income a year, I keep pushing myself to work for “just one more year” since each additional year, however miserable, depressing and negative for my mental and physical health it may be, means another 10+ years of living expenses extended / covered. I lament the time lost since I’m not getting any younger, though. I hope one day I can make the courageous step like you did. I’ll dig around some of the FIRE resources you mentioned and please do share more with us on this topic.

    • With a nest egg like that, would you be able to cut your work hours back with reduction in pay and be happier? All that money is no good if you drop dead from the stress.

      The last 5 years of my job left me burned out and unhappy and I jumped on an early retirement buyout. I’m not sorry. Now I work for them part time on a contract basis.

  19. Interesting story but the one flaw that seems weird is that I’d be willing to bet the average public school in 949 Orange County is much better than the average school in Nashville. So realistically, that should have been a huge expense swing in the other direction since your kids should have been in OC public schools.

    • Yes and no. The high school next to our new home is rated in the top 10% of all high schools in the nation. The other schools are also really good. Admittedly, they are not as good as the private school our kids were going to. But that’s where me not working a traditional job comes in. I have more time to spend with the kids and fill in those gaps. I’m losing income that way because I could be earning money from clients, but that’s part of the new balance. Working enough to pay the bills and still accelerate mortgage payoff, etc. but spending more time with the kids to build a stronger parental connection instead of leaving them with daycare and after-school care until 6:30pm every night.

      We were living in Anaheim Hills, which is the 714 area of OC (North OC). The public schools in Anaheim Hills were not ranked as high as many of the South OC public schools (like Irvine and Ladera Ranch). The public schools were good, but not top-rated.

  20. Yes – California to Florida, plus I was able to retire at age 55 and now I travel about 95% of the time. This was best decision I have ever made – except it sort of kills me to see that the California condo I sold in 2016 is already selling for $100,000 more. Still, when I think about it, I have gained so much more than that.

    • Yeah, it can be tough when you see your old home continue to rise in value. I still have some alerts for old neighborhood and some smaller homes are now selling for as much as ours. We just have to focus on the equity we were able to cash out and how good we have it in our new homes. Especially when Florida and Tennessee have no state income taxes!

  21. Great to meet you and your blog, Lee. We too got out of the OC, (Laguna Beach) for acreage on the water here in West Sound/Seattle. I too am looking to leave a similar salary and 13+ years tenure – but looking for the same elsewhere. Reason: we actually spend more up here. Wait, what’s wrong with this picture. It’s a lot to maintain acreage with a well and propane, a lot of trees and of course my hubby’s retirement, (new man tools to take care of this place, shopping, golf, hobby toys etc). We haven’t had a car payment in years, which is great. The only debt is the mortgage. But I have to say we went from an avg annual spend of $140K in Laguna with 5′ of land around the 2K, 3 story house, to 200K avg spend over the last 4 years with 5.3 acres and a 3.2K well built, low maintenance home. So confused! Must not be doing something right? I applaud you for everything you’ve done/doing. Congrats!

    • Thanks, Sheila. Yeah, you have to be careful and do some research about what your new lifestyle will cost before you make the move. We considered moving to Seattle, but the homes are so expensive up there now that it wouldn’t have been a cost-saver for us.

      Congrats to you for paying off all of your debt except for the mortgage. That’s an accomplishment. Good luck with your pending move. I hope you find something that suits you and makes you happy.

  22. Nice post. I am from Nashville and moving back from Northern Cali to there in December. We had a lot.of the same reasons but wildfires, traffic, taxes and home prices are what are driving me out of Cali. Plus my job will afford a better quality of lifr.

    We should grab a coffee in January. Our son is your youngest age so it will be nice to meet you on that front too.

    • Great to meet you. I look forward to meeting you when you move back! It will be fun to have the kiddos play together. December is right around the corner. Best of luck with the move, and see you soon.

  23. Hello! I just discovered you in The Sunday Best from Physician on FIRE. Thanks for sharing your story. Similar story here – just moved from DC to AL a few months ago to escape the congestion, traffic, high cost of living, and 3+ hours in a car each day. Moving is harder than one imagines with lots of bumps on the way (VA house still sitting on the market 6 months later). Eyes on the long term goal and deal with the short term hiccups because nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Again, thanks for sharing! Best of luck!

    • Hi Lindsay, great to meet you. Thanks for reading and the support. Best of luck with selling your home quickly! Rising interest rates are making homes less affordable and hurting the housing market. It will be over soon, so you can focus 100% on your new life in Alabama. How did you pick Alabama? Are you near the coast, Hunstville, or someplace else?

  24. Congrats on deciding what was most important in life and then going for it. I’ve been considering a move to east TN myself, but I have to deal with a major cleanup and liquidation of my farm assets first.

    Mosquitoes don’t bother me but the risk of tick bites does. I live in Florida, near Orlando, so mosquitoes are part of daily life here. We get some ticks but not the Lyme disease type.

    I haven’t been through all seasons in TN so I don’t personally know how the weather compares to central FL but a friend moved from here to east TN about 10 years ago and loves it there… so it’s got to be better than here. I mean, our winters are great but the other 6-7 months of the year suck, especially from June through October. It’s just starting to turn nice here (some days).

    I went FIRE at age 58, but have gone back to part time work at my old employer just because it was handed to me and the money never hurts. I work from home now and on my own schedule. It’s good you have health insurance under your wife’s employer because Obamacare is no good for anyone who is not living near poverty level. Also their premiums go way up as you age. Affordable, it isn’t. It’s the largest monthly bill I have by far and that’s with a $6,000 deductible.

    • Thanks, Lynne. It wasn’t as easy of a decision as it should have been. You build up your career by putting in so much time and effort, it becomes a part of who you are. And when you leave that part behind, there’s a little bit of hole that needs to be filled. Luckily, I have my family that I gladly redirected that time and effort towards.

      The weather does take some getting used to. But we’re completely spoiled in Southern California. I regularly wore shorts and flip flops in January there.

      There’s nothing wrong about going back to work. Sometimes you just need a break and some time for yourself. That’s so great that you can work from home and on a schedule that suits you. So many people don’t have that choice.

      Health insurance is always a concern. It’s one thing if it is just you, but when you’re married or have kids, you need to make sure that your loved ones are protected. If Anna didn’t have health insurance at work, I’m sure we would figure something out, even if it meant working part-time someplace just to earn the benefits.

      Good luck with your move! I hope it goes well for you. I’m looking forward to exploring the state more. The colors of the changing leaves are so pretty this time of year!

  25. What a wonderful and inspiring article! Thank you so much for sharing. I came across this article since I am also considering the big move and have been dreaming of kicking the 9-5 to the curb as you say. For the last year I have been developing an exit strategy, creating more (passive) streams of income but I just need to “pull the trigger”. It is extremely difficult and scary to make a major life change like this but I know it will be worth it in the long run and I know for certain it will be better for my health and mental sanity! Thanks again 🙂

    • Thank you for the kind words, Sadie. Congrats on developing your strategy to make your goals happen! It was difficult to leave behind all of my friends and the only part of the country that I’ve ever lived. And, it has been quite the transition from corporate life to the freelance life. For all of its challenges, I’m much happier now and love our new home. I still miss my friends back in CA but we’ve so many new friends where we live now. I’m glad that we made the move. Best of luck to you in your move! Please write back and let me know how it goes.

  26. Wow, brother! Love your story, how you turned lemons into lemonade and made the pivot to a life with more time with your kids while they’re young. I listened your interview on Stacking Benjamins and the Cincinatti episode of your podcast. Such a cool concept to get an audio intro to a city from a local before visiting there! Keep up the great work and congrats on all your success blazing your own trail!

    • Thanks, Jeff. It’s been a wonderful three years. There have been plenty of struggles with the adjustment to full-time freelancing, COVID, virtual school, and everything else, but it has all been worth it. Glad that you like the podcast, as well. I’ve really enjoyed meeting so many awesome people from around the world and learning their best tips. Have a great week.

  27. […] Every year, personal finance fans submit nominations for their favorites from a variety of content creation categories. The best of these nominees are chosen as finalists, and the winners are announced at an awards show. Typically, The Plutus Awards coincide with FinCon, one of the communities that inspired me to leave the corporate world and start freelancing full-time. […]


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