Hey everyone! Today I have a very special one for you. Chris from KeepThrifty.com recently left his job after 13 years to take a mini-retirement. Here's why (and how) he's doing it. Can you imagine taking a step out of the rat race to take life in? Enjoy! ~M$M
For the last 13 years, I worked with amazing people developing medical devices for a market-leading company. With a six-figure salary, my wife and I were on-track to be completely debt-free by 2020. At the end of June, I took a hard right, parting ways with my employer and giving up the cushy life to spend a year blogging instead.
Am I crazy? Maybe, but I think we should all consider being at least a little bit crazy.
The Entrepreneurial Itch
Let’s rewind a bit to get some context.
In 2004, I was finishing my undergraduate degree in engineering and landed an interview for an internship at a local medical device company.
I still remember my interview like it was yesterday. The hiring manager asked me where I wanted to be in 5-10 years and I gave an honest answer:
“I want to be running my own business.”
In hindsight, telling a potential boss that your plan in 5-10 years is to “not be working at this company” might not have been the wisest move.
Luckily, the hiring manager thought I showed ambition, so I got an offer and started working a few months later.
By the end of my internship, I had come to love the people I worked with and the products we produced. I was due to graduate soon and knew I wanted to stay in Madison to be near my future wife while she finished up school.
So, I boldly went to the general manager and insisted he’d be foolish to miss the opportunity to hire me full-time. You don’t get what you don’t ask for, right? I was hired into a full-time engineering position, developing life-supporting devices for the operating room.
Over the next 5 years, I hustled and developed my leadership abilities, eventually getting promoted to a management role.
In my team’s manager orientation meeting, my employees asked what career I was aspiring for. Once again, I gave an overly honest answer:
“I want to run my own business.”
Amazingly, my employees didn’t flee. If anything, I think they found the honesty refreshing. They knew I was going to give them straight answers.
As my career grew, so did my family – I got married, we had our first child, and just under two years later, my wife gave birth to twins.
My career continued to blossom with expanded responsibility and the pay to match. But as I passed the 10-year mark at my job, two big things were nagging at me.
- My kids were growing up. Fast. I didn’t have much time with them and I wanted to soak up these moments while I could.
- I still hadn’t pursued my dream of running my own business and I was entering my mid-30’s.
Creating a Hustle Hobby
While I felt immense passion for the products we developed, there was an underlying itch that needed to be scratched – the itch to create something I could own end-to-end.
So, I carved out a few nights every week after the kids were in bed to hustle. I started writing code for an app and launched a blog – Keep Thrifty.
It started as a fun hobby but grew into something much bigger. I loved writing articles and code, connecting with others in the personal finance community, and helping inspire my readers to make space for their dreams.
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I loved the variety. In a dozen hours a week, I could give myself a dozen job titles – writer, developer, designer, marketer, and more. As time went on, I knew I wanted to take things a step further.
In parallel with all of this, my wife and I had decided to sell our house and downsize to an apartment. Because we had been aggressively prepaying our mortgage, the proceeds from selling our house had provided us with a sizable stash of cash.
Opportunity knocked, so we opened the door.
The idea of a mini-retirement was born: taking a year off of work to spend more time with my wife and kids and make a serious time investment in taking my blog and app to the next level.
So this spring, around my 13-year work anniversary, I pulled the trigger and met with my manager to discuss my departure. A short while later, I got my notice with a scheduled end date of June 30th.
Our Biggest Experiment Yet
For the last several years, my wife and I have taken an “experiment-based” approach to our life, testing out different ways of living to see what works best for us.
We’ve downsized to one car, donated most of our possessions, sold our house to move into a small apartment, and have even chosen to get rid of our beds – sleeping on the floor.
Each of these changes started as an experiment – trying out something new in a completely reversible way to see if it worked for us.
Before we sold our car, we kept it parked in the garage for three months and pretended it didn’t exist. Before we downsized our living situation, we closed off rooms and pretended they weren’t there. Before we sold our beds, we rolled out our sleeping bag and tried sleeping on the floor for a few months.
This mini-retirement is just one more experiment for us – a really big one.
Dreams For My Mini-Retirement
We think having the opportunity to walk our kids to and from school every morning can strengthen our bond as a family. We think having coffee together every morning can strengthen our marriage. We think writing, coding, and marketing for Keep Thrifty can provide me with a whole new level of learning and satisfaction.
We also think we can figure out how to make enough income to keep this going even after the year is up.
Any of these could be wrong, but we won’t know until we try. As we try, we’ll learn what a better life can look like for us. By the end of 12 months, we’ll be able to craft a life that brings our family more fulfillment and joy.
Who knows where we’ll be at next June? I may be starting to search for jobs or I may be writing income reports like Bobby showing you how to make the leap from full-time employee to full-time entrepreneur.
In the meantime, I’m going to live every day between now and then to the fullest – walking my kids to and from school every day, drinking coffee every morning with my wife, and putting my heart and soul into Keep Thrifty.
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My wife and I have spent countless hours over the last few years discussing and developing our dreams. We’ve also worked hard to hone our financial discipline to help make those dreams a reality. As a result, we found ourselves in a position this year to do something a little bit crazy and we’re excited to see where it takes us from here.
Develop your dreams, develop your financial discipline, and have the courage to do something a little bit crazy. You’ll never know where it can take you until you try.
Chris writes at Keep Thrifty about mini-retirements, minimalism, money, marriage, and even some things that don’t start with the letter M. To learn more about mini-retirements and get a free copy of Chris’s “5 Steps to Mini-Retirement” cheat sheet, head on over to Keep Thrifty and subscribe to his weekly newsletter.