So you’re ready to quit your job. You’ve already diligently planned your future as an entrepreneur or in some other independent endeavor. And you’ve plotted what you believe are adequate finances to support your move. The facts of life, however, are these: no matter how thoroughly you’ve planned and prepared, emergencies can and will happen. What’s the realistic amount of living expenses you should accumulate before quitting your job to pursue a dream?
Prepare an emergency fund
Before you hand in your resignation, financial advisors say being on the safe side dictates having at least 12 months worth of living expenses in a liquid savings account. And you can’t realistically figure out how big of a safety net to accumulate if you don’t have a clear idea of your monthly spending.
You need to calculate your average monthly spending over the past 12 to 24 months to properly judge the range of spending. Then you can use the average of your three highest spending months and multiply it 12 to 24 times. This will give you a handle on what you really need to set aside.
Also price any necessities — such as an umbrella insurance policy and life insurance if you have dependents — you may not have been spending on.
But, even prior to completing any saving strategies before quitting a job, you can and should begin to get a feel for the move you hope to make.
Specific financial strategies for your transition
Some of the best saving strategies before quitting a job should continue after your transition, and they often involve tax savings.
Max out tax-advantaged retirement accounts, including a 401(a), a 403(b) — both are types of defined-contribution plans offered by employers — and a Health Savings Account. Max out all of these accounts each year, and get a 5 percent match on the 401(a). Also max out a Roth IRA, and anything that’s left over, after expenses, should go into a taxable investment account.
As far as a portfolio strategy goes, many prefer passive investing — putting money into investments like mutual funds or ETFs that track an index, rather than trying to actively trade and time the market. Studies have shown that, over the long term, passive investing beats out active investing. Invest the majority of funds in diversified index funds.
A good allocation consists of 75 percent U.S. stocks, 10 percent international stocks, 10 percent real estate investment trusts, and 5 percent cash. Transition into bonds as you get older for less risk exposure.
You may need to access your retirement money, so plan to build a Roth IRA conversion ladder. IRS rules allow you to roll over 401(k)s, traditional IRAs and 403(b) accounts into a Roth IRA and withdraw those conversions five years later, penalty free. To build a consistent income stream, plan to roll over amounts from retirement accounts equal to annual expenses every year.
The most important strategy is to live simply
The ability to walk away from a job isn’t based solely on securing a year’s income. In fact, adapting to a low expense lifestyle is perhaps the most important of all saving strategies before quitting a job.
How well you adapt to being frugal depends on your values. For some, owning a loft in the trendy district of town, driving a new Tesla, and carrying the latest iPhone are crucial. So, how long it takes for values to change can vary, but when you can get as much joy out of not spending money as you did buying new toys, you’ll know you’ve made it.
Money also may buy convenience, but more importantly, it compensates for lack of skill. If we have a problem, many of us just call an “expert” because we never learned how to solve it ourselves. Many can’t even imagine doing things for themselves. This can change, too.
Suppose your toilet fails to flush. A frugal person would simply learn how to fix the problem him-or-herself. So, fixing a toilet, knitting a sock, maintaining a bicycle, basic home improvement projects aren’t rocket science. They can be learned by anyone who can read and follow instructions. It just takes some time and effort to learn such skills.
It may be too expensive to take the family to France for a month. But, it could be entirely feasible to move to France and stay there for many months if you don’t need a job, or need to support a home and lifestyle in the states.
Expensive private schools may not be affordable, but if you don’t need a job you’d have 12 hours a day to help your kids with their homework.
The moral is there’s always a limit to what money can buy, but by dedicating your time and effort, that limit can usually be surpassed.
Things to think about as you gradually transition
Get your feet wet. Study and hang out with entrepreneurs, freedom teachers, and movement makers and see if it makes you hungry for more.
Feel your freedom. As your emergency fund begins to grow at the bank, you should feel freer at work. You can be bolder with your decision making, take more risks, and say more about what you really think.
Find your voice. Experience freedom by getting others to join you in addressing issues at the office. Listen to the griping then offer an idea to solve it and ask others to join you.
Try it out. Freedom means you get to work where you want and when you want. Try working from a home office a few times and see how you like it.
Work at it. If your dream is a business different from your current job, get your hands-on experience started and make money doing it. Your current paycheck can help you hire a coach or buy online learning tools.
Get a client. You don’t have to leave your present job to get your first client. You just have to be willing to help someone and negotiate a fair rate and value.
Whatever plan you choose to take before quitting your job, be sure you are responsible and realistic about securing your financial situation.