Chelsea from Mama Fish Saves had a dream to be able to work from home, pursuing her passion of spreading financial literacy, and having the location independence to buy a small homestead. Sounds awesome! Here’s how Chelsea and her husband changed course with a mini-retirement and are making this dream a reality!
Days Spent In The Office
My work took up most of my time. I was an investment manager at a hedge fund, working long hours (often 60+ hours). This left me with less than 30 minutes each day during the week to see my young son.
My husband was, and is, an amazing stay-at-home dad, which did provide me some comfort that our son was getting lots of quality parent time. But I missed him like crazy and struggled with feeling like my job didn’t serve a greater purpose.
About a year before pursuing my dream to work from home, I started a family finance blog. That tacked on an additional 20-30 hours of work a week. Luckily, that was all completed while my little guy was sleeping.
Then I became pregnant with our second son and faced some major back issues. I would go through multi-day periods where I couldn’t stand upright and spent the second half of my pregnancy only allowed to sit or stand in 15 minute increments. Because I was pregnant, they couldn’t do imaging or provide medication.
The pressure to continue to sit at a desk and operate at the highest level at work brought all my struggles with the purpose of my career to the forefront. We were also hyper aware of my difficulties with postpartum depression after having to return to work once my first son was born. We weren’t keen to go through that again.
We had saved 50%-70% of our pretax income since I started working post college. With all that savings and the extra push to pursue a different life, we started to strategize how we could make a change.
How We Decided To Make A Change
My husband and I have modest taste. We didn’t buy expensive cars, we bought a house at less than half the value we were approved for, and stuck to lower cost hobbies like hiking and gardening. I also made a strong income and used YNAB (You Need A Budget) to budget every dollar I made since college. This helped us to consistently save 50%-70% of my pre-tax income.
I discovered the early retirement movement a little over a year ago. With my income and our lifestyle, I realized we were rapidly approaching full financial independence. I could have stayed in my career 4 or 5 more years, until I was 32 or 33, and have been retired! This was awesome, but I love working and am far too high-energy to ever do the full on early retirement game. What I really wanted was the opportunity to spend more time with my young kids and to do work that fulfilled a purpose and helped the community.
The stress of my current career environment and wanting to live by our values pushed us to make a change now instead of in 4 or 5 years. We took a closer look at our budget to see where we could cut and what things would look like if I left post maternity leave.
Our math determined that my last bonus (in investment management, this is over two-thirds of your annual pay) and pay through maternity leave would give us enough assets to live on for 2 years, including healthcare costs. I could take a two year mini-retirement, focusing on my kids and working to build my blog and freelance business into a full time income.
Our retirement savings would stay on autopilot. If my new venture never provided enough to continue to contribute to that account, we would still be able to early retire around the age of 45 if we desired.
My Worst Case Scenario
The biggest challenge in pursuing this dream was swallowing the risk we were taking. We would go from this massive income cushion to zero cash flow. The blog was, and is still, in the red and I had never done any freelance writing before.
We were able to push through because of the opportunity the risk offered. And we also knew we had a safety net. If it worked, I would have been home with my boys through their earliest ages and would have developed a business in line with my passion.
If I fell flat on my face (worst case scenario), we weren’t leaning on our retirement assets for this business development period anyway. I maintain a large network in the investing world and my husband has his Masters in Engineering & Construction project management as well as a large ship captain’s license. Either of us could get back to work quickly.
Our Mini Retirement Life
I left my job in December 2017 and my son was born January 16, 2018. His brother turned 2 in February 2018. Our lives are a bit intense and I am still transitioning from the rigid world of an old school hedge fund environment to completely controlling my own schedule. Sometimes it is pretty daunting!
What I’m most surprised about is the number of opportunities presented to you when you no longer have a traditional job. In the last 5 months I have become a regular contributor to Forbes, was accepted into a completely free MBA program, and created the #WomenRockMoney movement that provides a community for women to advance their financial literacy and learn from each other.
We also sold our home outside of Boston and will be renting a home for the next two years closer to my mom in Connecticut. (And two doors down from one of my husband’s best friends!)
As we move through this mini-retirement, my next goal is make our dream of buying a small homestead a reality. We believe the food system in this country is broken in a way that is hurting our health, creating large amounts of waste, and greatly damaging the environment. A homestead will allow us to live by our values and give us the chance to spend more time outside and connected to our food sources, intimately understanding what we are putting into our bodies.
Our hope is to pay cash for our homestead. We have already started researching potential locations across Connecticut, Vermont, and upstate New York and will be saving up! Selling our house outside of Boston put us at around 60% of our goal and we are working hard to add to that dream! In creating our mini-retirement financial plan, I assumed no income from my blog or freelance writing. As such, 50% of whatever we make will be added to funds for after our 24 months, and 50% will be put towards the homestead goal.
A Note For Anyone Considering Entrepreneurship
Believe in yourself and trust your cushion. Even though we still have over a year and a half for me to develop my business, I have moments of panic that we are going to go broke.
The transition to entrepreneurship is real and scary. Moments of panic are normal. Prepare for this and make sure you are okay moving forward before you dive in.
Thank you to Chelsea for sharing her story! I can’t wait to hear how the mini-retirement progresses and the homestead dream develops!
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