If you had me told six years ago that I'd be out of the rat race before turning 30, I probably would have laughed at you. I was $40,000 in student loan debt and had just started a band directing career that would easily have me clocking 60-80 hours per week.
Truth be told, I probably wouldn't have even thought I was actually in the race at all.
I really enjoyed teaching music at the time and had basically set out on the career that I thought I would be spending the rest of my life in. The rat race seemed like it was for people that had jobs like the people in Office Space.
I was teaching music. I was free…right? (No.)
Before we go on, let's talk about what the rat race really is
There are a lot of people that define the rat race as having to work for money, or being stuck in the corporate ladder.
In my opinion, it's about the lack of options.
When I had my student loans, I literally had to keep my teaching job to keep the wheels turning. I didn't have any other discernable skills than teaching band, so getting another job would have probably been a losing battle.
THAT is the rat race to me. Not having the ability to make a significant change in your life because you have to have a job that pays a very specific amount.
There's nothing wrong with climbing the corporate ladder or banging out TPS reports in your cubicle if the pursuit of getting to the top makes you happy.
But if you're doing it because you have to and aren't happy, it may be time to drastically change your approach.
What is life on the other side like?
Slower. Waaaay slower. Also (and more importantly) happier.
Don't get me wrong, I work way more than I probably should. The key is that I enjoy it so much that it's hard to stop myself, which in my opinion is a pretty awesome problem to have.
But all of that really hard work is basically optional at this point. It wouldn't be that hard to set up a good chunk of my business to run on auto-pilot and still make more money than I was bringing in as a teacher before. It would certainly be enough to survive, even without my wife's salary.
If you're wondering why I haven't gone ahead and already done that…it's pretty simple. I want to make a lot of money and have some nice stuff.
Even with the hard work, working for myself from a computer still has some wonderful perks:
Now I get to actually enjoy coffee and breakfast instead of drinking/eating it on the car ride to work.
Instead of popping some nonsense in the microwave for lunch, I actually get to think about what I want to eat.
Also (and most importantly), I get to see my wife for about 7 hours more a day than I used to. When we have kids, I'll be able to walk them to school every day and actually see them grow up.
But there's a little bit of a catch. I did this all in about two years with a very obscure business model. It literally took me quitting my job and scaring the crap out of myself to build what I'm building now.
It might take you more time than it did for me with more traditional methods (aka anything other than blogging haha). Nothing wrong with that.
Is it possible for you to exit the rat race too?
Maybe, but I'm certainly not going to sit here and pretend that everyone will just for the sake of getting clicks or shares. It doesn't matter how many books are written about doing it or financial independence/early retirement websites are started. Most people just won't get there.
I'd love to tell you that you could start a blog like I did and instantly make all of your dreams come true (that would help me make way more affiliate income from blog sales, but it's just not how it works).
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people won't even try anything, and a lot of people have scenarios in life where it would be essentially impossible to begin with.
That's why you should literally be ashamed of yourself if you're unhappy with the direction of your life and also in a position of actually being able to make it better, but aren't trying because it would take too much effort or sacrifice.
And yes…I know that the above paragraph is a little harsh, but that's how strongly I feel about this. Sorry.
Here are some ways you can get closer to the exit sign:
Pay off your high-interest debt
Student loans, credit cards, personal loans, car loans, whatever. If you are sitting on any debt that's much more than 4%, you should be doing everything you can to get rid of it and free up more of your cash.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you have to pay off all of your debt in order to be doing it right. If you have low-interest debt and want to invest your extra capital in the market instead of paying it off, go right ahead.
The math is on your side homie.
But the only reason that I was able to bail from my teaching career was the fact that my 6%+ student loans were paid off. It gave me the courage to try something else (aka start this site and my marketing business), and also just made the barrier for how much money I had to earn every month lower.
Create another income stream
Looking back, I wish this was something that I had done when I was still teaching. If you work the typical 9-5 job, there is so much opportunity out there right now to bring in some kind of side hustle income.
Again, it's about giving yourself options.
Your side hustle could be something as simple as mowing yards for all I care. It really doesn't matter, just as long as it's something that could potentially be sustainable for you if you needed it to be.
Just…don't tell yourself that you don't have time. I've talked to thousands of people over the past 2-3 years, and the ones that really want to find more time in the day to make some extra cash typically end up doing it.
If you're more interested in the passive income side of things, you definitely need to bookmark this post and go back to it as many times as possible.
Reduce your expenses
In the last year or two, I've definitely let my lifestyle inflate as I've made more money. But don't get it twisted – I know how to be cheaper than dirt.
It's a skill you don't forget, and I'd jump back on that raggedy bicycle in a second if I wasn't happy with the direction of my life or business.
Most people think of frugality as a lifestyle, but I think of it as a tool that you can use as needed. Some people like to use it a lot, and some people have no idea what it even looks like.
If you feel like you're trapped, it's time to start hacking away at every expense you possibly can until the number you need to live is significantly lower than your income.
- I Deserve a New Car, Right? Wrong.
- 9 Ways to Find More Money in Your Monthly Budget
- 19 Great Ways to Save Money
- How to Get Rid of Your Car Payment: The Ultimate Guide
- Should You Refinance Your Student Loans?
Invest invest invest
Even though I've exited the rat race from a job perspective, I want to make sure that I never have to go back. Earlier this year, my wife and I decided to start investing her entire salary into index funds, and I'll be pouring in money from my business as well.
After paying off my student loans quickly and then building a business that allowed me to side-step a normal job, I'd like to start pursuing FIRE (which is why you've seen so many FIRE posts on the site lately). 🙂
I don't think I'd actually retire early because I like what I do so much, but why not at least put myself in the position to do it if needed?
If you don't really know what FIRE is (Financially Independent Retired Early), definitely check these sites out ASAP:
OR just see the entire list of FIRE blogs here (you're welcome).
Ultimately…you need to continually create options for yourself
If anything, I just wanted to give you a kick in the butt to get moving if you haven't already. Life is way too short to spend another second not pursuing a better version of it. After being a cog in the rat race and then stepping away from it, I can GUARANTEE that it's massively worth whatever you have to do to leave.