This is a post I had not planned on writing for a couple of years. But on April 10, 2018, I entered a new chapter of my life. One of adventure, creativity, and uncertainty. Short and simple – I was fired! Canned. Sacked. Kicked to the curb. Sixteen-plus years of a highly successful career came to a close. And you know what? This may be the best thing that ever happened to me!
Every person has a breaking point. The thing is, we don’t know what that breaking point is until we reach it. I arrived at that destination a few weeks ago. I won’t dwell on the details. Let’s just say the stress of an all-consuming job had begun to take a huge toll on my health and happiness. Now that I look back, three things really stand out for me.
My workload had always been intense, but had become unmanageable in the last six months. I couldn’t see an end in sight as promises of additional project staff never materialized. Lunches were hurried affairs behind my office desk. Walks and work breaks became rare occurrences. By the time I got home, I was too exhausted to prepare dinner. Excursions to the local 7-Eleven became more frequent, and you know they don’t specialize in health foods! And the weekends were increasingly consumed by the task of preparing for the week ahead – laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning, yard work. What had happened to my personal life? In what mythical land did a balanced life exist? How could I maintain my health at this pace?
The words of a colleague and friend struck home. We had not had a personal conversation in months. She said, “Every time I come into your office I know I can’t have a real conversation with you. You’re always looking over my shoulder at the clock.” And she was right! I spent my day working as fast as I could and conversation had become an annoyance! Who was this person who couldn’t spare five minutes for a social conversation? The clock was dictating my life.
Perhaps it’s not coincidental that I lost my job in the middle of the Million Dollar Challenge! I’d spent the last month squeezing this Challenge into my life and had been inspired by the 15 bloggers who contributed to a Q&A. Each blogger had taken a different road to freedom from debt and consumerism. And the recommended books – especially Your Money or Your Life – began to resonate with me in a very deep way. I had been saving for the day when I could say “adios” to the job, but I had a couple of years to go on that front. But was it really worth sabotaging my health and happiness for even one more week? So while my exit was abrupt, it was time to go.
I have spent the last decade-plus reading about and admiring the younger folk who have FIRE’d (Financially Independent, Retiring Early). Well, it’s time to toss a new concept into the mix, S-FIRE, in which the “S” stands for “semi.” I need to produce some income over the next five years before I am truly financially independent. But I don’t need a lot. The biggest burden will be health insurance. My house and car are paid off. I carry no debt. And I’m pretty frugal.
I’ve been crunching numbers the last few days. The good news is that I have been living off of less than half of my paycheck for years. I’m a single mom without the benefit (or headache) of a spouse who could provide income or insurance. So I’ve always known my destiny was in my own hands. The chart shows how I spent my salary, after taxes.
What happens now? That’s a great question and I don’t have all the answers. Several friends have recommended chilling out for a few weeks, and I think I’ll take that advice. I can now spend more time on The Five Journeys and develop strategies to build readership and income. I have some rocking chairs to paint, wood to turn and carve, a body to transform, and books to read. And I’m going to explore side hustles as I move forward. I’m adjusting!
I know I’m not alone in the quest for a more meaningful and balanced life. So I’m going to document my adventures and travails in a new series, Freedom in Your Fifties. I’ve spent some time contemplating how much information, especially financial information, to disclose. Friends, I’m going to be an open book – I hope you’ll take it easy on the critiques. The series is going to be a playbook on how to create a new chapter in your 40s or 50s. I’m up for this! I hope you’ll come along for the ride.
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.