Reader Story: Re-Evaluating the Rat Race

This guest post from Joe is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes.

Over the last year, some of my friends have left their day jobs to become a full-time bloggers. Their stories are inspirational, but their choice isn't for everybody. For instance, I'm still working at my full time job. It's tough to walk away from a good paycheck with great benefits in this economy.

I'm an engineer at a big tech corporation, and my salary is just into six figures. If I quit my full-time job to become self-employed, I would have to take a huge pay cut. Still, the idea is tempting.

Writing on the Wall First, let me share why I will have to leave my high-paying job at some point.

I've worked in this field for over 15 years now, and the thrill is gone. It was a great challenge in the beginning, but my enthusiasm has been tapering off year by year. I find that I don't care about the latest release of the doodad version 5.70 and I doubt customers really care much either.

Lately, the corporate culture is wearing me out as well. I'm in a relatively senior position, and every year the management pushes me to do more and more. Every year, I have to work harder to earn the same pay. Over the past five years, my annual raise has usually just enough to beat back inflation. It's plain to see that the lack of motivation and the constantly increasing expectations will collide in the future.

Blogging for Bucks? Can people really make money blogging? Of course. Look at J.D. here, for example. Crystal, at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, left her job and is making much more money now on her own. There are plenty of successful bloggers who are working for themselves and living a comfortable life.

But the more relevant question is: Can I, a regular Joe, make money blogging? I've been blogging for about a year-and-a-half and fortunately I find that the answer is “ye”s for me too. I don't make a lot of money at this point, but I can earn about $1,000/month online on the average. This is great as side income, but it's no way to earn a living. It's 90% less than I make from my full-time job. And if I quit my day job, I'd lose all my benefits as well. Can I take a 90% pay cut and maintain the same lifestyle?

Fortunately, I've been saving and investing a large portion of my income for many years, and I have a plan to cope with the 90% pay cut.

  • I'm investing in dividend stocks and the yield income is approaching $500/month.
  • I also invested in rental properties and plan to have about $1000/month of rental income.

Combining these two sources of income with my online income should bring in about $2,500/month. This is still a huge 75% pay cut, but $2,500/month is much more doable than $1,000/month.

I'm also exploring other sources of income such as peer-to-peer lending and freelancing. Fortunately, my wife likes her job and will continue to work full time. Her salary combined with $2,500/month would enable me to quit my job and still maintain our lifestyle. I can also jump on her health insurance plan.

Living Below Our Means How is it possible to take such a big pay cut and still maintain the same lifestyle? That's because we've been living below our means for many years now.

We share one car, bring lunch to work, search for free entertainment, and more. The big problem I can see is that I won't be able to add as much to my retirement saving if and when I take this pay cut. I've been maxing out my 401(k) contribution for over 10 years, though, and I'm fine with not contributing for a few years. Once I earn more money again, I could restart contributions to the retirement funds.

The Bottom Line So my answer is yes, I can walk away from a six-figure paycheck. It took a lot of preparations and it wasn't easy, but I'm very confident that I can make it work.

Some people will question my choice, but no job is really secure these days. It's better to be prepared for a big pay cut than to be surprised when it happens. If the HR folks hand me a pink slip tomorrow, it won't be the end of the world.

The original article can be found at Story: Re-Evaluating the Rat Race