Recently I found myself in a position that many have to face at some point or another throughout their life, unemployed. Employment tends to be a huge part of our lives, taking up our time from summer jobs as teenagers and throughout most of our adult lives until retirement somewhere towards the end. It is such a huge part of our lives that most of us tend to define ourselves and others by the work that we do. How many of us, the first time meeting someone, ask what they do for a living? Being unemployed brings a lot of social stigma, people feeling sorry for you, worrying how you’re going to make it while unemployed.
As a follower of Mr. Money Mustache (MMM) and a long time YNABer I came prepared for unemployment. I saw it as a great opportunity to free myself from the 9-5 drudgery that tended to be more like 9-7 whenever there was something that I wanted to do in the evening like socializing with others.
While I’ve been out of work I also got myself accepted to the Self Employment Assistance (SEA) program in Oregon. It is a program which has been running for the past 21 years that helps those who may be hard to get employed again to become the employer, either as a sole proprietor or a new startup, turning your weekly five job search activities and employer contacts into 40+ hours of sweat equity. Essentially I no longer have to look for employment but rather am required to spend full time starting a business while continuing to receive the same unemployment benefit I would be receiving otherwise.
To help me succeed I have turned to some reading which I was first introduced to on MMM’s blog, Tim Ferris’s “The 4 Hour Work Week”. Having set the goal for early retirement shortly after finding MMM I know that it can be done, that life doesn’t have to be mostly defined by our employment, and that the ultimate goal of productivity and efficiency is not to produce more, but to be effective in what you do so you are then free to do what you really want to do. For some that may be more work, but what kind of work? MMM went from writing software in high tech to building houses and writing blogs. Tim Ferris went from a boring office job and cold calling to automating a supplement store online and then filling his time with adventure and projects he chooses.
The common theme is to work out a cash flow that funds the lifestyle you want. With MMM that may include getting rid of all the junk in your life that isn’t needed, the $100 dinner for two, weekly trips to the cinema, daily hour long commutes. With Tim Ferris it was focusing on what you really wanted, finding how much it would cost you monthly, and getting a cash flow to cover it, no matter how much that amount might be.
I stand here now in a position where I am not quite automated in my cash flow, though thanks to my discipline in budgeting and beginning mastery of MMM concepts, have expenditures that fit into my current cash flow of weekly unemployment.
The challenge I have chosen to accept with the SEA program is to spend the next 5 months weening myself off unemployment as I target at least $4000 a month in income to cover taxes and lifestyle. That number is based off my budget, which is fairly lean, that comes to $2800 per month. This includes health care from healthcare.gov marketplace, the mortgage on my house, and all other expenses, including yearly insurance payments broken up into monthly installments, groceries, utilities, and of course, food.
Expect more articles to follow as I begin to follow my dreams.