After spending nine years in the auto industry, much of that time as a service advisor, I quit my full-time job in that role at an Audi dealership in Sarasota on May 13, 2014, just one day after my 32nd birthday. It was a well-paying job, sending about $60,000 or so per year my way. But I gave it up.
And here we are almost exactly one year later.
Did I inadvertently “retire” at 32 years old?
No. I still work, but I just do a very different kind of work these days. Instead of typing up repair orders, handling appointments, and acting as a liaison between clients and technicians to make sure cars get fixed correctly, I now focus on writing about dividend growth investing, living below your means, and achieving financial independence relatively early in life.
Needless to say, life is infinitely better doing the latter rather than the former.
So what have I been up to over the last year?
The last year has been nothing short of amazing, and it’s really far exceeded my expectations in every manner.
Truth be told, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I only knew that I couldn’t work at the dealership for more than 50 hours per week anymore, worrying about survey scores, endless meetings, and dealing with unhappy clients and technicians alike.
First, there was just the general unhappiness with doing that job in the first place. Which is really what initially led me to looking for a different path… the path to financial independence. While wanting to achieve financial independence isn’t all about hating your job, I wasn’t particularly enamored with the idea of wage slavery. And that’s certainly what it was. I was a slave to the paycheck. There’s no way I march down to that dealership if I’m independently wealthy. And I certainly couldn’t imagine doing it until I was 65 years old. No way!
But it was really all about pursuing a passion.
I knew that I couldn’t continue to manage this blog in the manner that I felt most appropriate while also continuing to work more than 50 hours per week down at the dealership. I was writing 3-4 articles per week here at the blog with freelance writing on the side as well. I had racked up 500 articles at that point in time. And major media interviews in USA Today and Today had sent new readers my way. I responded to every comment and email with gusto.
But there was only so much time in the day and I was getting burned out. It was either the blog or the job.
So I asked myself which one I’d rather be doing in five years: writing or working as a service advisor.
The decision was all to easy.
I Wasn’t Free Yet, But I Also Wasn’t Not Free
I can now look back a year later and say I made a wonderful decision. But it wasn’t that clear cut from the start.
I wasn’t financially independent, and there was some risk there. My Freedom Fund was valued at about $160,000 at the time of leaving my job. A sizable sum, but not enough to live off of. And I was only on pace for approximately $5,200 in dividend income last year.
What was I thinking?
Well, I was thinking that freedom exists on a spectrum. I wasn’t free, sure. But I wasn’t not free, either. I knew that I already had well over six figures in wealth and over $5,000 in annual passive income backing me up. I could jump from the ledge I was on, and maybe I’d fall. But there’d be a net down there (in the form of significant wealth and passive income) waiting to catch me if I did.
But what if I didn’t fall? What if I made it across to the other side, where a better way to make a living awaited? What if I achieved a dream?
Was that not worth the risk? And how much risk was I really taking on?
Or maybe I should ask a different question: Is the biggest risk of all not taking on a new opportunity when the chance to jump is right in front of me?
Is the biggest risk of all the possibility of regret?
So it wasn’t clear how things would turn out from the start. But I believe when you know deep down inside that you’ll do whatever is necessary to succeed, you’ll find success. And success builds upon itself. Success begets success.
What Can Happen When You Have Time To Pursue Your Passions
I’ve since written an additional 160 articles here at Dividend Mantra. I’ve also written countless articles on the freelance side, where I average somewhere around 17 additional articles per month. Hundreds of emails and thousands of comments have been answered by yours truly over the last year, each one of them with as much detail and helpfulness as I can possibly provide.
I’ve also written a best-selling book. The opportunity for additional interviews have come up, which I’ve gladly taken on so as to spread the message of hope. I then recently added a coaching service and have already helped a few clients there. I’m truly more passionate, motivated, and inspired than ever.
And I think what my experience shows is how productive one can be when they’re able to somehow monetize their passion(s). Once you’re freed from the chains of a “job” that exists only to pay bills, your whole perspective changes. You’re unleashed.
Imagine your potential when the projects you take on completely align with your passion(s). Imagine how much you can do in a day when everything you do and touch is out of enthusiasm and excitement.
Another thing I’ve come to realize is that there is so much opportunity out there. And I think that’s true because there’s a vacuum of people willing to take the risks necessary to grab those opportunities. Which really brings me back around to why the path to financial independence is much more than just a destination; the journey itself is incredibly valuable in and of itself not just in the experience it provides, but also in the freedom you’re provided all the way along. I was able to quit a job I didn’t really enjoy so as to take on the opportunity to see what writing full time offered because I had so much freedom from – freedom from endless wants that didn’t really make me happy. And that freedom from gave me freedom to take on the projects that did make me happy.
You don’t need to become fully financially independent to gain much of the reward. And you can achieve so much more than you ever thought you could once you’re unleashed from whatever it is that’s holding you back. True potential is absolutely beautiful and powerful when it’s allowed to flourish.
Making More Money Versus Doing What Makes You Happy
I’ve heard this debate come up in the financial independence circle before.
There seems to be this dividing line between maximizing income and reaching financial freedom as soon as humany possible – even if that means sacrificing your happiness along the way – or doing what you enjoy, even if that means sacrificing some income and reaching independence later.
First, I’ll say that I don’t think that doing what you enjoy and making enough money to reach freedom fairly quickly are mutually exclusive. And I say that out of firsthand experience. Like I was just discussing above, taking on projects and opportunities you really love – if you really love them – will likely lead to far more reward (monetary and otherwise) than you probably ever thought possible.
You can see this in real life and in real-time, as I’ve documented everything all along.
I made $818 in online income the month prior to quitting my job in the auto industry. Not exactly the kind of income that dreams are made of, and certainly tough to achieve financial independence on. But add that to the ~$433 in monthly dividend income I was on pace to average in 2014 and I’m then already covering a good chunk of my expenses. Not too difficult to go out and make $600 or so to make up the shortfall, especially when you’re the type of person who’s so driven that’s even in that position in the first place.
Fast forward a year later. I just posted my income and expenses for April 2015 and you can see that I earned $3,572 in online income. That’s a 337% improvement in one year. If that doesn’t show what’s possible when you mix great ingredients like hard work, luck, passion, and opportunity, I don’t know what will. What’s even better is that the income isn’t capped. I’m not limited by what an employer thinks I’m worth. I’m bound only by my own imagination and hard work. Moreover, I own my work. Everything I do comes back to me. When I provide value, the world recognizes that. And it recognizes me, not an employer.
Furthermore, how much of a hurry am I in to reach financial independence when I’m doing what I love? How much value is there in being happy all the way to financial independence? Is a dollar always a dollar? I’ve already discussed how an active dollar and a passive dollar isn’t one and the same. But what about a dollar earned doing something you love versus a dollar earned doing something you don’t really enjoy all that much. Are those dollars valued the same? I’d argue they’re not. I’d rather earn 50 cents from the work I do now than a full dollar from the work I used to do.
I’d caution against working at something you don’t enjoy only in hopes that true happiness is awaiting you at the finish line. Especially if you think there’s an opportunity out there to make money at something more enjoyable.
But if the choice is between making the most possible money to reach freedom ASAP versus making less money and potentially being happier all the way along, my choice is always going to be the latter. This journey – and all that I write about – isn’t about the money. It’s about freedom and flexibility. It’s about the time. The money just buys time. If I could somehow value my Freedom Fund in a way that shows the time it’s buying me rather than the value of the investments, I’d probably do that. Actually, that’s pretty much what I do when I update my dividend income every month.
I hope my experience gives you hope, especially if you’re working at a job you don’t totally enjoy. Not only is financial independence attainable on a modest salary and in a relatively short period of time, but it’s also attainable while enjoying the ride all the way along. And I’m out to prove both of those propositions, using my own life as the ultimate case study in real-time.
I once mentioned that I felt like I was on the highway to financial independence, driving at a fast rate of speed but maybe missing the scenery on the way there. And it was stressful driving so fast – I was burning out.
So I chose to take a more delightful, but slower path to freedom, giving up that surefire paycheck for the opportunity to enjoy what I was doing every single day. And I don’t regret it for a day. Not only have I since replaced my old salary at the dealership, but I’m enjoying the ride so much more. I’ve had an opportunity to slow down and enjoy the scenery a bit by focusing on my passions and creating my own non-routine.
And in doing this – in making life how I want it to be – I’ve been able to become far more productive than I ever was before. My focus is elevated to levels I never felt before, which is allowing me to scale heights I never dreamed of. If the journey to financial independence is like climbing a mountain, I’ve never been higher. And I’ve never enjoyed the climb more.
Being in a position to live well below your means and achieve financial independence is incredible all by itself. But I’ve learned how important it is to never pass up an opportunity to enjoy the climb even more. Although I can’t wait to see what the world looks like from the summit of that mountain, I also think the climb should be as enjoyable as possible.
Don’t get me wrong. There have been setbacks along the way, which I’ve documented. But scaling a mountain isn’t a straight path to the top. Moreover, setbacks just allow you to enjoy the new heights that much more.
The destination is admirable. But make sure journey is everything it can be as well. Your future you is already financially independent, waiting for you to reach the top and look out upon the world. But don’t abandon the current you in the process.
Are you further along over the last year then you ever thought you’d be? Is the journey proving out to be far more enjoyable than you ever thought? Where do you stand on the debate of making money versus enjoying the ride?
Thanks for reading.
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