“I really want to quit my job, but I just can’t afford it.”
“If it were only me, maybe I would take the risk, but I can’t subject my children to that kind of uncertainty.”
“What would I do about health insurance? I really need the benefits right now.”
“I don’t have enough money in savings yet.”
The world may revolve around love, but I’d be lying if I said that money wasn’t important.
Money is important. Money is how we can objectively trade value for value without resorting to bartering.
Mo’ money may mean mo’ problems, but most of us would rather have more of it than less of it, and I imagine that anyone reading this knows what it’s like to not have enough for what you want to do.
You’ve got bills to pay, mouths to feed, people to medicate, addictions to feed (I’m talking about cheese of course), and countless other little necessities that somehow add up to more than you’re worth. At the end of the month you’re left wondering where the hell it all went. (Ever done your taxes and think about what you have to show for tens of thousands of dollars?)
So when some jackass like me comes around telling you to quit your job and follow your heart, you want to drop everything you’re doing and punch me in the face with the force of all the practicalities weighing down on you.
I know the feeling.
I’m not a financial expert. I can barely figure out how much change I’m supposed to get back when I pay for something, let alone manage a portfolio of finances.
However, I do know what it’s like to be a regular person with little to no money.
I know what it’s like to want for more. I know what it’s like to quit a well-paying job with no prospects, a poorly formulated plan, and not enough in savings.
I also know what it’s like to be alright, regardless of all the forces against me, regardless of the odds. I know what it takes to make it happen.
Like always, it’s the obstacles in our mind that are the most challenging to overcome. In my experience, these are the only real financial obstacles standing between you and the pursuit of living. Everything else you can figure out easily as long as your head is in the right place.
Adjusting Your Standards
So much of what determines where you place your priorities depends on what you value. Whatever you value will be what’s most important to you, and that’s where you’ll put most of your attention.
What would happen if you made happiness and/or fulfillment your highest value? How would your life change if your priority was always on your mental and emotional well-being? How would your decisions change? What would you start doing? What would you stop doing?
This is fundamental. It’s also really hard to do.
It mostly has to do with creating a habit and sticking to it. Over time, you will start to automatically make decisions based on your new set of priorities.
The best way to describe this mindset change is when someone has a near death experience, or when someone finds out they’re terminally ill, and all of a sudden the things they thought were so important before feel empty and meaningless.
What really changed? Nothing changed. Only their attitude towards life changed and that’s everything.
Why is it that some people are perfectly happy living in a hut on a beach, homeschooling 12 children while others would be miserable in anything less than 400 air-conditioned square feet per person? They have two different standards. You can get whatever you want by raising or lowering yours by changing what you value most in life.
You can get to this place by putting your happiness and well-being before everything. Put it before ambition, before money, before what others will think, even before the desires of your family and friends.
Burn Baby Burn
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. If you want to do something then do it. Don’t go half in. Don’t keep one foot in the door just in case. That implies you have doubts about what you’re doing. Even if you don’t think so, your subconscious might feel differently.
Burn the boats. Don’t give yourself an easy way to turn back. I’m not saying to burn bridges or tank your life. Simply give all your attention and belief to what you’re trying to accomplish. If that means making money without a formal job, then don’t quit just to look for other jobs while you’re working. Don’t start a side project without the serious intention to quit eventually and make it happen.
This goes for anything of course. Even if you don’t want to quit and you just want a promotion or you want to marry that beautiful girl you’ve loved since you were 12. Be all in and believe in what you’re doing.
I truly think that ‘believing’ works. Not so much because it has some kind of magical properties we mortals can’t understand, but because if you believe, you’re going to do something about it.
Burn baby, burn.
Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
I never give you anything less than the raw truth. You’re going to worry. Although worrying does zero good. It negatively affects everything in life, but you’re not going to help worrying a bit at first.
In the beginning you’re naturally going to be scared. You’ll question the sanity of your decision. It’s possible that you’ll have some kind of breakdown at some point where the full magnitude of what you did finally hits you.
All of that is normal. Get comfortable with feeling these uncomfortable feelings. Keep pushing through. They will pass.
The Happier You Are, The Less You Need
Something happens when you finally begin to do what you really want to do. I don’t know what it is but, suddenly, you’re able to live nearly the exact same lifestyle you lived before, but for a fraction of the cost. It’s almost magical.
The fact of the matter is that the happier you are, the less you need to buy things that will make you happy. I always had a hard time putting this into words, but David from Raptitude explains it beautifully in his post called “Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed.” Here’s a quote that resonates with me.
“We buy stuff to cheer ourselves up, to keep up with the Joneses, to fulfill our childhood vision of what our adulthood would be like, to broadcast our status to the world… While I was abroad I wouldn’t have thought twice about spending the day wandering through a national park or reading my book on the beach for a few hours. Now that kind of stuff feels like it’s out of the question. Doing either one would take most” of one of my precious weekend days!
Even if you feel like you’re already living under your means, I bet if I cut 30% off your income and gave you 30% more time to do what you loved, you would be just fine.
Now that we’ve gotten the important stuff out of the way, I’ll tell you how I deal with the more tangible obstacles that are on your mind. Let me remind you that this is only how I have dealt with them. They also apply only to people who live in the United States.
Health Insurance Benefits
So much of the population thinks that without an employer, it’s close to impossible to get health coverage. They also believe that going with an employer is always cheaper.
The first assumption is totally wrong, and the second isn’t always true. Group rates for companies take in data about the collective health of employees, and if you are relatively healthy, you could be paying more for your unhealthy coworkers. I’ve also seen rates to be less when you have multiple children. It definitely varies, but I can definitely say you don’t need an employer to give you health coverage.
Getting health insurance is a lot like getting car insurance. Shop for rates, talk to people, compare coverage and then buy. I’ve only been denied once and I’ve done a lot of shopping.
The other side to this issue is the way we treat our bodies.
Health insurance has become such an automatic knee-jerk necessity for us because we’re all chronically ill. We eat processed ‘foods’ and ingest animals pumped full of antibiotics while sitting on the couch for days on end. We’re malnourished.
Treat your body well and you probably won’t need insurance. Pay for your own annual checkup. It’s really not that expensive.
Also, there are free clinics all over the USA you can go to if you really think you need to see a doctor. Doctors are not gods and hospitals aren’t perfect. Use nutrition and exercise to manage your health. Stop depending on doctors to fix what you’ve broken.
I never use to take care of my body, therefore I ended up in the hospital a lot. Which means I always had a lot of hospital bills. I used to be self-destructive and avoidant when it came to problems, so I usually ignored them hoping they would go away.
To this day I don’t answer my phone because I’m sure it’s going to be a debt collector and I just don’t want to deal with it.
That’s not how to handle debt.
The fact is, hospitals are more than willing to work with you. The first thing you need to do is make sure your insurance (if you have any) is paying everything they’re responsible for. I’ve run into situations where an insurance company tried to pull something over on me and I had to threaten them with a lawyer. Three days later the bill was $100 and not $1000.
Then, if you still can’t pay it, talk to the hospital and negotiate a payment plan, or a reduced amount for payment in full. This works for credit cards as well. If you give them the option of some money instead of no money, they’re going to take it.
I’ve negotiated payments as low as $25/mo. Having another monthly bill isn’t ideal, but at least your credit score isn’t affected.
Now, if you still can’t pay it you can either take out a loan (I don’t recommend this), or simply tell them you can’t pay and if they can’t work with you then they can do as they please. You’ll have to figure out how important your credit score is compared to how much money is being asked of you. Your credit score is important in a lot of situations, but having bad credit for a few years beats having a miserable life for 30 years.
Having bad credit means putting down larger deposits, not being able to take out loans, and not being trusted in financial situations in general, but I can guarantee (personal experience here!) that you can get along just fine. You’ll get your deposits back and you’ll have less debt because you can’t take out loans.
Just weigh your options against what’s important to you and then decide. Don’t reduce yourself to a life of misery because you feel like you have no choice.
My extreme financial irresponsibility has given me an extraordinary amount of experience with all kinds of debt in general; credit cards and loans are no exception.
Credit cards are awesome if you can pay them off before interest sets in. If you can’t, credit cards are the worse thing ever. If you do happen to get into credit card debt, you can negotiate a lower monthly payment in exchange for not stiffing them. Unfortunately, unlike hospital bills, which are a fixed amount, credit card bills just get bigger and bigger the longer it takes you to pay it off. When it comes to focusing on where to put your money, I’d put it on the credit cards right after shelter, food, and water.
The only exception is if you’ve decided to declare bankruptcy. That’s literally the worse thing that can happen to you. What would happen if you declared bankruptcy? They’d take away everything you have and you basically start from scratch with a few exemptions. Well, comparing that to my misery in my previous job, that’s not too bad. In fact, I would have rather done that than lose my ovary (see the Life Lover’s Guide for more details).
Student loans are tricky because they never go away, even if you do file bankrupcy. I have over $100K in student loans. That’s a lot. Only a small percentage of people have that much and I’m sad to say that, again, I am among the unique few.
Payments are usually around $1,000/mo, but because of my financial hardship, they let me defer most of them. They will also work with you based on your income and they’ll help you get the lowest monthly payment possible for you.
How much do you really need in savings?
When I parted ways with my employer, I had a little more than three months of living expenses saved up. When that ran out Lucas and I would have to start making some difficult decisions.
Talk about a hard deadline. This was one of them. But that means I never slacked off. I got shit done. I learned, I connected, I absorbed and I made sure that when that three month mark came around we would not be forced to go back into jobs we hate or sell the house.
I know others who saved up 6 months or a years worth before taking the leap. Still others held their job the entire time they grew their side business so there would be no gap in income. Unfortunately, that doesn’t light enough fire under my ass. I had to do it with less.
I don’t know how much money you need. That really depends on you and I don’t think anyone can tell you the exact dollar amount you’ll need. If you do burn the boats it doesn’t matter how much time you give yourself. You’ll make it if you’re that determined not to go back to where you came from.
That’s what humans do. When pressed against a wall we adapt and we survive so we can live a better life. The higher the stakes, the more likely we are to grow. So don’t be afraid if you don’t yet see the way to the other side – you won’t be able to prevent yourself from making it.
I don’t have direct experience with this, but I do know what’s possible. Rachel and Greg Denning are a great example of what’s possible. I’ll be publishing a podcast shortly of an interview I did with them about how they and their five children live all over the world.
The Bottom Line
I don’t know about every financial obstacle in the world. I also don’t know about every single financial consequence, so don’t take this as official advice about finances. Take it more as guidelines and how to merge your mindset change with the practicalities of living.
Bottom Line: It’s possible to live a life on your terms despite financial difficulties if you decide that living any other way is intolerable for you.
Either make the decision to live your life, or live and die the way you are.