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Changing careers

Chris Farrell Jul 27, 2009

Question: I spoke to Chris about 6 years ago. My dad had died in March of 2001 and left me and my brothers and sister a little money. Chris’s advice was to divide it into 3 amounts: cash, mutual funds, and equities.

Well, I’m sad to say that my mom died this past February. She had sold the farmland late last year, and so she’s left us that, and next year we’ll get the rest of dad’s money. Which is, it turns out, quite a bit.

I want to write full-time, but I don’t want to squander my mom and dad’s legacy. Their memory is dear to me. I want to write their and my story. Can you recommend how I should proceed? Note: I’ll be 42 years old this October. David, Birmingham, AL

Answer: I’m sorry for your loss, and understand the care you want to exercise before taking your next step. There are many issues to consider before making the kind of shift you’re contemplating. Lots of people these days are intrigued by the idea of changing careers. They want to do something that makes a difference. They want to do something that offers more meaning to their lives. Like you, they have a dream. It’s wonderful. It’s also the case that careful research and planning can increase the odds of success.

That’s where a financial plan comes in. Of course, how much freedom and flexibility you have largely depends on how much money you’re inheriting. That said, here are some classic techniques to consider when making the shift. Many people find it’s smart to work part-time and tap into savings (in your case inheritance) to make up for any shortfall. Another time-honored tactic is to give yourself a set period of time–perhaps 6 months to one year–to pursue your dream and pay yourself a “salary” from savings. That is what you live on, and no more.

In some cases, employers will entertain proposals for a longer period of time away from the office through a mix of vacation, furlough and sabbatical.

It’s a good idea to give yourself a target date to evaluate whether this is working. It could be anywhere from 3 months to a year. An evaluation date will help prevent you from running through the inheritance.

A key question is what will you do for health insurance coverage during this period of time? You don’t want to be without it, and many people find this is the main stumbling block to get over in devising a career change.
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So, my bottom line is use this time to play with the numbers, explore your job options and come up with a practical plan. You should also get practical money advice by networking with other writers in your community. Most veterans are more than willing to share their insights and experience. Good luck.

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