This reader story is from a longtime GRS reader Sumitha, who blogs at afineparent.com. Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income. Want to submit your own reader story? Here's how.
I said goodbye to a promising career with a six-figure salary last month. I have dreamed about this moment for over two years. Still, when it was time, I spent several days wrestling with acute anxiety and insomnia. This has, by far, been one of the hardest things I've done in my life.
Get Rich Slowly reader stories about quitting (here, here, here and here) provided me with immense insight into making a life-changing decision like this. The hundreds of comments on those articles gave me different perspectives to ponder. Together, they helped me work things out for myself. I want to give back, in some sense, by sharing my story.
My husband and I came to the U.S. for higher education, and when we graduated, we joined tech companies as software engineers. Our jobs paid well, and as financially sensible DINKs, we paid off our loans quickly, started saving diligently and bought a home with 20 percent down payment.
Life was good — for a while, anyway. Then the 2008 financial crisis hit. I was expecting a baby at the time, and the worry that I would lose my job while I was pregnant drove me to work long hours all the way to my due date. I left on my maternity leave praying I would still have a job when I got back.
I did, but the stress of working in an uncertain environment on a high-profile project while raising a baby started to take its toll. Things hit rock bottom around my daughter's second birthday. For the first time, I remember thinking I really want to quit. I didn't know what I would do after I quit — I just didn't want to go on like this for the next 20 to 30 years.
Then, I pulled myself back together and carried on.
The breaking point
A few months after that, however, my husband had a major health issue. It was the kind where you sit nervously outside an emergency room and question everything — from the quality of your life, to the kind of work you do, to the kind of person you've become, all the way to the existence of God.
It was the last straw on the camel's back. When the storm passed, I realized I had a choice — pull myself back together (again!) and continue like before, or treat this as a defining moment and build a new life.
I chose the latter.
Part of the change was to move out of the high-stress tech job. It took me around two years from then to finally be ready — financially and emotionally. Here's what I did:
First step: mortgage
From the time the layoff rumors had started we had been saving money like squirrels on steroids. Also, right from the beginning, we had been paying off the mortgage at an accelerated pace. So the first big change was to finish off that mortgage.
Second step: savings
My first “plan” was to keep working and save diligently until we had enough. But, both my husband and I are financial paranoids, and one fine day, it dawned on me : We'd never have enough. So I set a rule for myself: when I had enough savings to pay myself a salary that covers my average monthly expenses plus a small buffer, for the period of a year, preferably two, I would quit. These savings were after the 401(k), emergency fund, HSA, and vacations. I knew it would take me at least a couple of years to get there.
After my husband's emergency room episode, I went through a period of intense introspection. I didn't like what I saw. Somewhere along the way, I had let the stress of my life turn me into an impatient and snappy cynic. And the person who got the brunt of it was my little 2-year-old daughter.
I wanted to do something about it, but change was proving hard. One day in a desperate attempt, I indulged myself by buying over half dozen self-help and parenting books.
Those books changed my life.
I'd heard a million times that being a parent is the most fulfilling thing in the world, but for the first time, I started experiencing it. It felt like magic.
That's when the light bulb went on.
There must be a million parents out there just like me, struggling with who they have become and the impact it has on the way they raise their kids. These folks want to become better people and better parents but don't know how or where to start. There are people like me who make a resolution to change but give up as the demands of everyday life interrupt.
What if I could be the catalyst for change? What if I could build a blog that challenges people to improve the people we are, and in turn, improve the kind of parents we can become, and thereby the kind of people our kids will grow up to be? What if I brought together the best advice from different fields and helped them apply it to everyday parenting challenges?
I don't remember the last time I was as excited. I went out and bought afineparent.com, and spent every free minute dreaming, planning and fantasizing.
Planning for success
Anybody can start a blog, but turning it into an honest livelihood — that takes a bit of planning and work. I could potentially figure it out by myself, but considering there are so many proven experts out there, why reinvent the wheel?
I joined an intensive coaching program by Jon Morrow, someone who is as well known for his keen marketing savvy as his exceptional writing style. With this choice, I spent most of my “learning” budget, but gained a mentor who's been in the trenches and knows the terrain well. I'm hoping that will improve my odds of success just like having a mentor did back in the corporate world.
Besides, plunking down a chunk of change does wonders to your commitment.
Will I succeed? Financially — I don't know. I sure hope so.
Otherwise, to some extent, I think I already have. I've broken the status quo and started on the course of a positive change for myself, for my family, and hopefully for a bunch of people around the world that I am yet to meet.