On April 10, 2018, I was fired after 16+ years of career-building and dedicating my work to justice issues. It was an abrupt ending, but one I do not regret. The combination of a toxic work environment and incredible disappointment with the pace of reform had led me toward burn-out; the time was ripe to part ways. So after three months, how am I doing?
The biggest shock of being fired is the end of regular paychecks. Initially, I was afraid I would have to resort to ramen noodles and peanut butter sandwiches, but then reality struck. I calculated my net worth at the time I was fired and felt a whole lot better right off the bat. Decades of saving and investing and living below my means had finally paid off.
As I hit the three-month mark, I was a bit reluctant to update my net worth. After all, I had brought in just about $200 in income since I lost the job. So the numbers can’t be very good, can they? Well, my net worth actually increased by over $32,000 in these three months (from $1,143,202 to $1,175,345). How is that possible?
Now there’s one big financial change I’ve made since being fired. I had been a rather aggressive investor in my retirement portfolio. But I transferred all my funds out of the company-sponsored plan, which had high fees, to Vanguard. And when the money moved into Vanguard, it was placed in a money market fund earning a low rate of interest. For now, I’m playing it conservative with the retirement funds. I can’t afford to take a hit like I did in 2008-2009 and I’m concerned about the impact of Trump, tariffs, the mushrooming national debt, the widening income disparity, and the overpriced market. So I’ll sit on the sidelines for awhile, gradually stepping my toes back in during buying opportunities. While I can’t predict the future, I’m okay with protecting my assets for the time being.
I have not been sitting around for three months. In fact, I created an LLC and my main priority is to create and launch the Early Exit Academy. It didn’t take me long to give up the title of “semi-retired” for “entrepreneur.” Here’s a list of the key things I’m doing to build my business.
Yesterday a friend and former colleague asked me about returning to my old sphere of expertise. The thought held little appeal. Creating the Academy is challenging, a bit scary, and totally wonderful! I believe I can make a powerful and positive impact on people’s lives by teaching them how to become financially free and create a more rewarding life. I am enjoying the work and I am passionate about the results it can bring. There’s no going back for me.
I am a certified Virginia master naturalist and while I was working, my ability to volunteer was limited. Last fall I had taken on the responsibility of bringing a bat monitoring project to my local chapter. It turns out that the United States is pretty far behind in developing monitoring protocols and getting citizen scientists involved, so the project involves a lot of research. And it sputtered given my schedule and the obligations of my co-lead. Now we’ve gone bat-wild in launching the project! I’ve helped train 23 volunteers on the software and protocol and we have 7 bat squads documenting the bat population in the region. Enthusiasm is high and we are already beginning to collect some valuable data. Not only am I helping the conservation of our environment, the project gives me a much-needed social outlet.
I used to spend every weekend doing the laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, and preparing food for the week. Well, now there are no weekends! I work on my course most days and I run errands during the week. And since my daughter moved out, it’s just me and the cats. And you know what, cats don’t care if the house is clean or not.
I had planned on being so much healthier – walking, biking, swimming, hiking, kayaking, and even running again. And eating healthy fresh foods. But I have lost all interest in preparing meals so all too often, I run out for a bite to eat. Yet I recognize the pattern. Thankfully, it’s temporary. I call it being in “dissertation mode.” I wake up early, full of ideas that I just have to get down on paper. I crank out some really excellent material in the morning and just don’t want to take a break. By the time I get to a good stopping point, I’m famished and ready to get out of the house.
Recently I’ve been working on time management issues, especially recognizing the malaise that occurs in late afternoons. I have to work on bringing back my healthy lifestyle. Yet I also realize that it may not happen for awhile. So for now, I’ll settle for small steps that will improve my overall health.
I certainly haven’t walked a straight line from the shock of being fired to elation. Instead, I experienced several stages before coming to terms with my new reality. But now, I am excited by every single sunrise. A new day in which I can set my own schedule and use time based on my priorities. I’ve turned into a genuinely happy person. I walk around with a smile on my face and I’ve become more patient with people. Some days, I feel as if I almost have to apologize for my happiness “high.” I never imagined I could feel this way.
If you haven’t already guessed it, I have big goals for the next three months. Honestly, my primary goals are centered on the Early Exit Academy. By October 10, I’d love to have the course launched. That might be a bit too idealistic, especially since I’ll be dependent on contractors to help me put the final pieces together. But you can bet that the entire course content will be completed by that date. And it will be exceptional, engaging, and enlightening!
Dr. Brenda is a sociologist, educator, blogger, motivator, and financial coach. In addition to blogging at The Five Journeys, she writes 30-day challenges at BetterLifeChallenges.com. Her passion is guiding people on their journey to financial freedom through coaching at DrBrendaMoneyCoach and online courses at EarlyExitAcademy.com.