Reflections on 2018

I know I’m doing this backwards. You’re supposed to reflect and then resolve, not the other way around. 

But ya know what? I don’t care. 2018 was such a whirlwind for me – it’s hard to look at it directly, to be honest.

2018 started as many other years had for us. We were both working in the public sector, both had good pensions, we had paid off our student loan debt the year before, and were doing pretty well. I was under considerable stress at work and was dreaming of working less. But that wasn’t in the cards, because every time I asked to take time off or adjust my work schedule, I was emphatically told that I “couldn’t be spared”. After months (probably years) of this, increasing dissatisfaction with my job, and a general sense of wanting more time and space to think and do other things, I quit. 

Okay, it wasn’t that straightforward, and I wasn’t that unprepared. I’d been running numbers for years about what financial independence would look like. I knew it was something that I wanted, but wasn’t quite sure how to achieve it, and what it would change for me. That last question is still something that I’m thinking about today! 

By running those numbers, I started to realize that we made a lot more money than we needed. Sure, we still had a mortgage to pay and our retirement savings weren’t really where they should be, but we brought in lots of money and were really comfortable. So I started doing some math on what we really needed to live on. And those numbers were surprising. Bare bones, our monthly requirements (including mortgage) were way lower than I thought they were. Ultimately, I realized that we could pretty much keep our lifestyle the same if I made $1400 a month. (This of course counts on my partner keeping his job, which he absolutely intends to do…at least as far as I know!) 

Which led me to my next realization. It’s actually hard for me to make that little. Most people wanted me to work for them full time making significantly more than that. It was a bit of a weird realization. There isn’t really much in the way of part-time work in my field, and people are resistant to the idea of it. So I had to shelve the idea of part-time work and instead look for a different solution. 

I had always had a dream about being my own boss. Certainly, over the course of my career, I’d had some really wonderful bosses. They made me WAY better at my job, but they always moved on – probably because they were really talented managers. Most of my bosses, however, did little to contribute to my workplace well-being, development, or production. Instead, they were drags on the system. They added no value.

So I cobbled together some contacts, sent out a note suggesting that I was open to new opportunities, and waited. Sure enough, within about two weeks, one of my friends approached me saying that a company he knew was looking for someone with my skills. Within a few days I’d had an interview, had negotiated part-time work, and was signing a contract. A few days after that, I gave notice at my job. 

By early April, I was a self-employed consultant with what I call an “anchor” client – my main client who provides the foundation of my salary. Within week or two, another client got in touch, again through a friend, and we signed a long-term contract (indefinite, actually). I was up and running!

I spent the first four months of my consulting business using any non-billable time to set up my website, get business cards ordered, get my lawyer and accountant in place, and just get the general admin of the business sorted. I also used some of that non-billable time to pursue some personal projects tangentially related to the consulting work I was doing (still ongoing!). 

By late summer, I was actively applying for new contracts that were more in line with where I wanted to be, and by early fall, had landed one and had interest from several other parties that I think will come to fruition in 2019.

I know it sounds like a really easy transition, but it was tough and I had to put a lot of work in. There was a lot of self care that went into the transition and I ran the numbers A LOT and did a lot of worrying about money. 

Financially speaking, running my own business has been a relatively straightforward transition. I make less money now but I also work way less (or at least on my own time and hours) and I can scale up my revenue if I want to make a big purchase, or if interesting work comes along. I’m still working a bit more than I’d like to be, but I try to just take what comes that’s interesting and pays well. Oh – and I hired a research assistant to help with some of the work. That was a huge step for me. 

Owning my own business also gives me interesting flexibility to leave money in the business and invest it in order to continue paying myself a salary long after I stop taking contracts. It’s all part of the financial independence plan. 

So, here’s the snapshot. When I left my government job, I took the transfer value of my pension and invested it. I estimate that it will grow and eventually become the bulk of my retirement / FI savings. It’s in registered retirement savings plans and tax free savings accounts at the moment. I hope to eventually transition those investments to ethical investments (hence the blog), but not quickly as I still have much to learn. Our net worth is roughly the same as where it was this time last year because I took a bit of a bath on taxes (but should get a good chunk of that back). 

Overall, it was a great decision. I now work excellent hours, work as little or as much as I want, have plenty of time to do little things around the house during my work day, go for walks or be in the garden if the weather is nice, and am generally more interested in being social in the evenings. I’ve also made more time for yoga and meditation, and I would also say that I eat more healthily and drink a little less. There’s still work to do to get to where I’d like to be optimally, but those are all subjects for another day.

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