Springfield News-Sun

5 essential steps to help you afford to make a career change

- By Joseph Hogue Wealth of Geeks

You have this job. It’s been going well for a while now, and it pays the bills. You’re not overjoyed, but you don’t hate it either, so you’ve stayed, grinding away day after day, year after year.

Most of us have been there at one time or another. We all have bills to pay, and we take the first available job with a high enough salary to make ends meet, even if we don’t like that job.

While it’s okay to work the job for a while, you know the grass is greener on the other side, and eventually, you will have to switch careers to avoid going crazy.

The only problem is that you can’t exactly quit because you still need a paycheck to pay the bills that arrive each month, whether you have a job or not.

Avoid consumer debt to throw off job chains

The first step you need to take to afford a career change is to get out of debt, specifical­ly high-interest consumer debt. In 13 states, the average person borrows more than they earn.

Maybe the only reason you remain at your job is that you must make a certain monthly amount to pay the bills. Switching to a different job that pays less means you plunge further into debt.

For every $5 the average American earns, $1 goes to debt payments. If you make $50,000 (the average national household income), $10,000 of your salary immediatel­y goes to debt payments.

By paying off that credit card balance or car loan, your monthly expenses drop, and suddenly you have a disposable income that can be invested or put into a savings account. But, more importantl­y, you can afford to make less money each month and still pay your bills on time.

If you had to take a pay cut and only make $40,000 a year at your new job, you can because you no longer have those pesky monthly loan payments that require you to earn more to make ends meet.

Build an emergency fund for six months of living expenses

Hopefully, you can build an emergency fund while you repay any loans you might have. Most financial advisors and books will tell you to set aside three to six months of basic living expenses in case you get hit with an unexpected bill or lose your job.

Don’t quit your job unless you have an emergency fund. Could you afford not to have a regular income for nine months?

If you remember back to the Great Recession, it took three months for the average person to find a new job with a replaceabl­e income; that is when your new job earns the same salary as your current job. So don’t think about quitting your job until you have at least three months of living expenses saved up. That way, you aren’t forced to spend time working instead of job hunting because you quit your job prematurel­y.

Consider replacemen­t insurance options

Another expense you might overlook is medical benefits. Non-employer health insurance and COBRA coverage can be expensive if you have an insurance gap between jobs. Therefore, you need to factor these costs into your projected monthly budget once you no longer receive medical coverage from your current employer.

Tax credits are currently available for medical plans on the healthcare exchange. You and your family can also be uninsured for two consecutiv­e months before being subject to the Obamacare penalty.

Generate passive income with taxable accounts

Depending on your age, you might already have a sizable investment portfolio. In addition to contributi­ng to your 401(k) or IRA, invest some of your salary in a taxable investment account or P2P account to earn steady passive income even when you might not currently earn a paycheck (active income).

Because you have an emergency fund to tap into first for any unexpected expenses you might encounter as you switch careers, your investment­s can remain untouched. If, for some reason, you need to sell your investment­s to make ends meet, pulling from a non-retirement account means you won’t have to pay up to 30% in penalties and taxes by making an early withdrawal from your 401(k) or IRA.

Maintain your personal and profession­al relationsh­ips

The last tip is to maintain your personal and profession­al relationsh­ips as much as possible. The adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” still rings true.

Hundreds, if not thousands of people, might submit resumes for a single job opening. You never know when you may need to call on a friend or co-worker or when they might need you, so don’t burn any bridges if possible. Nobody can predict the future. In times of personal uncertaint­y, relationsh­ips can be the most valuable thing you possess.

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