It was December, right around bonus time when I realized I wouldn’t be sailing off into the sunset at this job, so I began preparing to leave. When I first started two years ago, a lot of things were promised. I was excited about the new opportunity. There was so much to learn and I was eager to expand my knowledge in a field I loved. I saw myself growing with the company and the possibilities seemed endless.
It didn’t take long for my rose-colored glasses to get kicked off my face. As the inner workings of the company were peeled back the true nature of this corporate beast were revealed, it was a horrific sight. Things would never be fair as they pertained to me, at this— tightly-held family-run business. And it has made working here an emotional hellhole.
I knew that the power this job had over me was purely financial and I needed to take that power back. I was allowing the misery of the place to seep into other areas of my life. I stopped going to the gym and I was shopping cathartically. And when Sunday nights roll around, I was getting a knot in my stomach dreading Monday morning. I needed to do something.
Not knowing exactly where to start I took to reading everything I could on personal finances. I developed a plan and used every spare minute to put my plan into action.
Here is my 5-Step Freedom Action Plan:
- Chop Up My Debt
I had been procrastinating with paying off my debt. I was in the habit of nibbling at my credit card debt, throwing the bare minimum on my cards because I could afford to do that. I am making decent money and I get paid every single week, so I’m never behind. But I realized that I was just being complacent (and irresponsible). The uncertainty at my job has created a sense of urgency. Since December, my goal was to eliminate all of my debt. Today, three of my four credit cards have a zero balance. My one card left has a balance of $11,900 and an interest rate of 8.74%. I plan to have this one completely paid off by the end of the year.
- Make My Credit Cards Work for Me
After paying off three in full, I now have access to that balance. While I don’t plan to open any new credit card accounts (because it would negatively impact my credit), I am making sure the credit cards I have are the best for me. I called each to see if they could increase my credit limit without incurring an inquiry. Two of them did. That gives me a better income-to-debt profile and it actually boosted my credit score. The credit card companies were also offering 0% interest for 18 months, which could come in handy as I make my next move.
- Dramatically Increase Savings and Investments Automatically
I decided that I didn’t need to have $400 just sitting in my checking account to play with every week. I decided to make things a little uncomfortable. I wanted to create an environment of scarcity. I wanted to train myself to get by on less—much less. I raised all automatic deductions across the board. This would allow me to not only meet but exceed all saving and investing goals. I left myself $50 a week to cover gas and lunch until my next weekly pay check. I’ve become so obsessed, that I find myself trying to save some of the $50 I have budgeted.
- Have An Emergency Fund
In addition to the emergency fund that is growing nicely because of the forced hardship I placed on myself, I decided that I wanted to have one month of salary in my Bank of America savings account. So, I rolled back the amount I was applying to my final credit card bill and decided to apply the extra to my savings account instead. You must always pay yourself first. I know that with one month of my salary in my BOA savings account I won’t need to touch my emergency fund if something unexpected were to happen.
- Streamline My Banking
I had about three different bank accounts for different things. Some even had fees. I decided to close the accounts that weren’t working. Keep my foundational bank (I’ve been with BOA for 15 years and I have a pretty good relationship with them). I decided to open an SEP IRA with Betterment. So now I have two accounts—one to handle my income and savings and one to handle my investments and retirement. I realized that if I were going to increase my independent contractor income and eventually leave my corporate job, I would still need to save for retirement and simultaneously lower my tax bill.
It is now April, and I can’t believe how far I’ve come financially. Things still suck at my job but I hardly notice now. I’m too busy tweaking my action plan these days. I have managed to fully implement four steps of my five-step plan. The only step that I’m working to finish is one month of my salary in my BOA savings account. I’m about $500 short of that goal but gaining every week.
Implementing this plan was hard at first because I lacked discipline and focus. I didn’t really turn the corner until I raised the amount of my automatic deductions. Eventually, the progress was enough to motivate me.
I now have an insatiable appetite for all books and blogs on personal finance. I no longer search for great restaurants to eat lunch, I now look for a quiet free place to read about money and finance.
Even more important than my fatter wallet was the epiphany that I had taken my power back without even realizing it. The threat of a financial tailspin because of uncertainty at my job no longer looms over me. I have the energy to work on my side hustle when get home from my job and I’m even motivated to get back into the gym.
Are you at a job because you feel financially insecure? What are you doing to get back your power?