Going Back to Work after a Gap Year

what's next for us?

We took a year off to give some space for our biggest dreams. The dreams that are hard to squeeze around a 9-5. We wanted to travel more, renovate, write, adventure, and transition. We weren’t really sure how all of that would look or where it might take us. We wanted family life to look different. Ideally more time with the kids: more fun on the weekends, more adventures, and a schedule that was relaxed and comfortable.

We started planning this 6 months before Mr. Mt handed in his resignation. Nothing has worked out according to plan. In the best possible way. Our plan for what we would do after our year off? Yeah, we have scraped that too.

During this year off, we changed. Our family changed. Our dreams and ambitions changed. So our plans changed.

In Part 3, I did a tell all of our numbers. We have created a solid residual income. We have kept expenses low, especially for such a large family. We have more flexibility. Mr. Mt or I don’t have to rush out and secure at $40,000+ a year job so that the heat bill will be paid next month. We’ve got the heat bill covered.

We get to choose the best option.

We are able to customize the life that’s best for us and for our family. That’s really what this blog is about. Money is just the means, not the end game. If you want to read about how you can stockpile 10 million to hoard it or buy a luxury yacht, you have stumbled into the wrong space.

I want people to be able to pick what’s best for them. Travel when you want to travel. Spend time with your family. Do work that is meaningful to you. Invest in your passions. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Get 8 hours of sleep a night, for goodness sake!

We live in a culture that say’s that is as much of a pipe dream as the 2 million dollar yacht.

What’s Next for us?

We want to create our ideal life. For us that would include being home with our kids 4-7 pm each night. Having a fun adventure on the weekends and church. 3-6 weeks of travel each year. Working  15-30 hours each (30-60 hours between the two of us) doing work that we enjoy and is meaningful to us. Work that has a flexible schedule and mostly location independent. Continuing our volunteer work as mentors. Getting enough sleep, and exercise. Time to maintain and grow friendships. 1-2 date times a week for Mr Mt and I. One weekend away for the two of us each year for dreaming, planning, fun and romance. =)  I tend to live at a pace that carries a certain intensity. Did I mention we have 5 little kids? =) But in our ideal life there is downtime.  I read about a book a week or 50 a year. If we schedule it out to the point where I can’t soak in the tub and read a good business book, we have done something wrong. I don’t want to be overwhelmed with panic and stress if we get sick for a few days. I don’t want a dentist appointment to throw our week into a tizzy, because we can’t squeeze it in.

Work/Income

My goal for 2017 is to grow our income by $2000 a month or $20,000 for the year. That will allow our investments to continue to grow without pulling from them. We can continue to max out our Roth IRA’s. We can allow for our family expenses to grow as our kids grow. It also will be a start for more long term planning for our kids. Our giving can remain steady and increase. It will also help me hit my goal to save $100,000.

 

Casting a Wide Net

Our original plan was Mr. Mt would go back to work full time or part time after the year off. I would keep doing a few hours a week on my blog. Ha. Isn’t that sweet? Back when I thought blogging only took a few hours a week. Ahhh…

The basic maintenance of the blog takes me about 20 hours a week. That is with no special projects, not creating pdf guides, no skype chats; just blogging. After that my plan is to cast a wide net. I have been testing the water a bit. Trying a few things to see if they would fit nicely into our lives.

I’m slowly learning that the shortage isn’t in opportunities to work or contribute, but time. So as we look to grow our income, there needs to be a focus on the value of our time. Making sure we set aside enough time for the kinds of work that are most meaningful to us and help us reach our goals. Without completely taking over our lives.

Blog

First my sweet blog. I don’t expect it to do any heavy lifting, but it’s been a slacker for the hours I pour into it. So I am going to see if it can pull its own weight a bit. $50 a month. Nothing crazy. But she should at least pay for hosting fees and courses.

I have never put up affiliate links. Even for the things I use and constantly hound my family to try. Which is a little silly. If I constantly tell family to try these things, why wouldn’t I at least throw a link in for you? But I wasn’t ready for that step before. You won’t find me hawking random crap. But if I share it with friends in real life, I won’t intentionally avoid it here.

Freelance Writing

I started a freelance job. It quickly grew into writing website content. Which transitioned into creating a content marketing strategy. I love it SO much! I am able to help business and organizations find their voice. Creating copy that tells a compelling story and gives clear direction to the customer. Organizing the content and message so it inspires, while addressing objections. I finally feel like I am using all those writing, marketing and business classes I took in college. So I plan on doing more work for small business and non profits writing content for their websites, blogs and newsletters.

I also signed up for an SEO course to offer a technical SEO audits of sites. If I like it, I will tell you more about it later. 😉 I think it will be a nice complimentary skill set to offer in addition to writing. Starting in January, I plan to start taking on a few clients. I can offer the technical SEO audits and keyword research, in addition to cleaning up a company’s website content, creating a content marketing plans and perhaps helping write or do content edits of their posts. I can offer a tremendous value helping expand a small business’s reach and the conversion rates on their sites.

Because my income goals are so low for 2017, I can work with companies that are the best fit for them and me. I don’t want 100 clients, but a few that I can offer the most value to, and I look forward to chatting with. Having worked in sales for many years, I know there are customers I look forward to calling and some I dread picking up the phone to talk to. In this custom life, I will be focusing on the former. =)

Speaking

I use to speak about 50 times a year. It’s something I still do a occasionally. I don’t want to go back to speaking every week, but it is something I really love. It has an energy that is tough to replicate. When an audience laughs, cries and chats you up after (preferably all three), it’s just magic. I have no intention to launch a large speaking career this year, but I want to reserve more space to be able to say yes to requests. I have carved out space for 4 speaking spots this year. And then already accepted one for December and one for January.

Coaching

I have always loved coaching. I have done free money coaching for years. It’s been a great way to help friends and keep my skills sharp.

This year I will look into offering coaching to a more niche group. It’s hard to transition into early retirement, or take year off and then reenter the job market. Before we did this I searched everywhere for advice, or books. I came up a bit short. I hired financial coaches and CPA’s who had never even heard of this idea. (Not a great investment of money!) None of my family or friends had any useful suggestions (they mostly thought it was strange and unheard of.) I felt like we had to jump into this without much guidance. So I try to distill as much as I can here in 700-2500 word posts. But at the end of the day, sometimes you just need another human to hear your plan and give some useful suggestions. I can only give coaching a few of my work hours and it won’t be a huge income generator. But it’s something I have enjoyed so much in the past, that I want to be able to carve out a few extra hours a month to give people that one on one help and attention. I would love to put together another pdf about setting yourself up to find work after a year off or negotiating time off from your employer. But honestly, the first pdf took me 30+ hours to put together. It might be something I could offer in addition to coaching. There is always more opportunity than time.

 

Mr. Mt

Mr. Mt went back to school full time this fall. So add this up: He was putting in 30 hours a week at school. I was putting in 30-60 hours a week blogging and starting to freelance. We were making sure we took adventures on the weekends. Mentoring teenagers. And trying to finish a bathroom remodel. With 5 little kids.

Too much. Just too much. It’s all great, but too much.

Here is the rub, after Mr. Mt retired from the Army he earned the Post 9 11 GI Bill, which provided 4 years of tuition and a housing stipend. If he doesn’t use it within the next 5 years, he just loses it. Which makes me a little sad. This Spring he signed up for part time classes instead of full time. He might only be able to use of year of his benefit, but at least I won’t feel like it was completely wasted. He is still getting to learn new skills that he loves. Useful skills that we can put to work in our rentals, reno’s and maybe one day building our own home. Our YouTube DYI skills have taken us a long way, but at some point, it’s good to take a class. Hopefully the new part time class schedule will take less than 20 hours a week. We will have to reevaluate come next fall, but at least he will have a few classes under his belt.

He is also considering starting a one day a week side hustle. We really need to take hard look at our schedule before he jumps in. (If you have been adding together the possible work hours up until this point, you will see that the 30-60 hour a week target is already stretched thin!) But it is flexible enough to allow him to take a few kids along. We take our kids with us to work on our rental properties all the time. I love being able to have our kids see us working and earning money on our own terms. The economy is shifting and I want them to see how they have more choices than just waiting and hoping someone will hire you. Plus a lot of our activities are kid centered, so it’s nice to do a few “grown-up” tasks as well.

Travel

Being able to travel is a priority. It takes a full day to just leave Montana, so little weekend trips aren’t enough. We did 6 weeks this summer and that was amazing. 2-4 week trips each year would be awesome. That rules out 95% of jobs right there. 10 vacation days just won’t cut it for us. Maybe the Army spoiled us with 30 vacation days a year, plus holidays off. We don’t want to feel forced to work on weekends or holidays, especially during the school year. That time with my kids is just too important; for them and us. We don’t have any problem working intensely for a few days or weeks, as long as we get to enjoy a nice break after.  60 hours a week, every week is out of the question. Working two 60 hour weeks, so we can take 2 weeks off a travel to the coast is fine by us. So any work we take on needs to be able to accommodate this.

 

We want to custom create our ideal life.

We want to choose the best life for our family. It feels a bit like putting a quilt together. Picking each fabric. Designing the pattern. Then sewing it all up together just how we want it. It might take a few tries to figure it out. But it’s better to rip the seam and resew than put all that work into a flawed design.

We are creating just the right mix of family time, adventure, meaningful work, travel, personal growth, community involvement, volunteering, and rest. Maybe that sounds like a millennials pipe dream. Maybe it is. 😉 But I’ll take it!

Check out part 1 (questions and doubt), part 2 (lessons learned) and part 3 (the numbers). How we got here isn’t all that impressive. If we could do it, I would say it’s within reach of most folks who don’t care about having 10 million in the bank or a luxury yacht. Classic cars are fine. =) (Apparently you only have to give up cable TV to afford one of those.)

I’m excited to see what 2017 brings our way. 2016 was a game changer for us. I hope these 4 parts have given a flesh and blood example to the how-to lists and posts. Every situation is so different, and people’s ideal mix, goals and values will be different. Maybe in a few years we will be offered the perfect 9-5 and will jump back in. The point isn’t having everything 100% figured out and nailed down. The point is being able to choose. To have the flexibility to grow, change and shift directions as it best suites your needs in each season of life. For 2 years I worked a job I hated. Never again. And that is a beautiful thing.

 

Conversation:

Have you thought about what would be the “ideal” for this season in life? How do you see the economy shifting to benefit alternative work situations? If you could choose your ideal work, how many hours would you want to give to that?

 

 

 

 

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28 thoughts on “Going Back to Work after a Gap Year

  1. I love how you are custom crafting an ideal life for your family and refusing to accept the status quo. Your story is motivational. You are doing a difficult thing, but you are making it seem doable and achievable to your readers. Great job.

  2. Thanks for all of the details about your journey – it is very similar to where we are headed after getting rid of the debt. We also want to craft an awesome quilt (our constantly-shifting kaleidoscope) with some income-earning activities, balanced with family time, travel, and volunteering. Life is just too busy when you have to work a full-time job. I love what you said about the tub and reading a book – seems like heaven to me right now. But soon, soon . . . in the meantime, we will continue to learn from your experiences.

    • It will be great when you guys get to that point, especially with those new babies on the way! Having little kids creates a really different dynamic. There is a certain “fullness” to life that is hard to explain. =) When our kids are older or out of the house, I think things will shift again. Right now working 5am-9am on a Saturday is perfect for me, but 10-4 on a Saturday is the worst. Finding the right work with a flexible schedule is key. My kids go to bed at 7 pm, so working till 6:30 pm steals almost all my time with them. But anytime after 7 pm I am wide open again. =)

  3. I love the a la carte version of work. I’d also love something I can work long and hard at when I’m available, preferably from home, and also flexible enough to be able to take days or weeks off whenever I want.
    I’m so excited to read along with you on your journey.

    • I feel really lucky to be able to piece together all the things I love. After this year, I might start to narrow things down. Find the ones that are the most enjoyable, flexible and profitable. But I’m setting the bar low for 2017 to test the water a bit. If I had to make 60k the first year, it would be a lot of pressure. And all the things I love, but are less profitable, would have to be cut. We shall see how it goes. =)

  4. Hi Ms. Mt.

    I love the way you’re approaching this. It’s so easy to get in a rut with a job and not really put any thought into if it’s something you like… and then BAM!… 5 or 10 or 20 years has passed.

    I too have found that blogging takes more of my time than I might have expected. For me, letting go of the perfection side of things helps some with that. I could tinker with one post forever if I let myself, but I try to just write things and put them out whether or not they are perfect. Practice has helped me too a little. You might just find that making the second PDF goes faster than the first.

    -Kyla

    • I agree. Life is so fleeting, that I really don’t want to waste a single year. I think the writing part is getting a bit faster. I have a system that is working better. I also find that it’s easier to write longer posts. When I started 7 months ago, the posts fell in that 500-700 word count. But now I can put down 1500-2000 in a sitting without walking away tired. This post was 2500. After a few more years of this, I might even take on a full size book. 😉

    • I’ve never quilted, but I have a few friends who do. The whole thing fascinates me. From hoarding mountains of fabric scraps, the time/love/thoughtfulness that goes into each piece, and then creating something functional but also exceptionally beautiful. I love the intensity and passion people bring to the hobby. I think it is a great analogy for living intentionally.

  5. “Money is just the means, not the end game.”

    If you learned nothing else from you sabbatical, it was worth it! Sounds like you have a lot of truly great options!

    And oh, yeah, a book a week?? In my dreams. I think I owe you a book report, don’t I? 😉

    • I’ve always read a lot. 15 years ago I averaged about 20-25 books a year, but in the last 10 years, right around 50. I have literally read hundreds of books, about 3 of those fiction. I read across an oddly wide array of topics. Thank goodness for the library, or my home would be drowning in books. I still buy about 20 a year, but I have gotten better about giving them away, or taking them to the used book store. We get 10% of the cover price back, and I have $80 of credit there. Do that math. =) I think a lot of mom’s stop reading grown up books (we are so busy reading goodnight moon!), but even with 5 littles I still squeeze it into the cracks in my life. It’s like the sand, that fills in around the big rocks. And don’t worry, I have no expectation of others being so prompt in their reading! 😉

      • You never cease to amaze me. 5 kids, and 50 books a year. Truly amazing, and good for you! I seem to spend too much time online, need to shut it off and curl up with a good book (taking “Younger Next Year” on a plane with me next week, hope to make a dent, typically takes me a month to get through a book!)

  6. Love it. This is exactly what financial independence is about for us: the flexibility to design our lives to be the way we want them. As you’ve made apparent, it’s not about never doing any work again — just being more intentional with the work we choose and how we balance all parts of our lives.

    • I like being able to choose the work I am most excited about even if it doesn’t pay well (or at all!) I doubt I will make any money doing public speaking this year, but I love it so much that I still want to make sure I have some space for it in my life. After you two finish your gap, I’m excited to see what kinds of things you put together. =)

  7. This sounds so full of potential and opportunity…and so easy to overfill. It’s a constant battle isn’t it? I find the more passionate I am, the fuller my days can become. Sometimes that’s wonderful. Sometimes it’s not.

    • Yes! It’s the main reason we aren’t doing a traditional “early retirement.” There is just too much work we are excited about. We could probably squeeze by on our passive income, but I would rather build things I am excited about. The challenge will be keeping a limit of our ‘work’ hours because we have picked things we are really passionate about. Mr. Mt jokes that I am the gas pedal and he is the brake pedal. =) Finding that ideal mix is always a work in progress. But I’m thrilled that we get to pick it based on what’s best for us, instead of what will pay the bills. =)

  8. I love how you are creating the right work/life balance for you and your family. I think it’s all too easy to get sucked into the rigors of work and neglect our families. I applaud you and your decisions to align your values with what you think is best for your family. I look forward to hearing all about your awesome 2017 next year.

    • My family might not be my only achievement, but they will always be my greatest. In 10, 20, or 50 years, that is all that will really matter. It was a big part of us taking a full year off. And if we needed another year off, we would do that too. =)

  9. I love how detailed your plan is! I feel like I am detailed about my financial goals and very intentional about my finances, but I think I have a lot of room for improvement in the life aspect. I’m making a goal to picture my ideal custom life, as you refer to it, and set goals for 2017 to get me at least a few steps closer!

    • Once you decide what exactly is the target, it will make so many choices clear. That one step really helps the other pieces fall into line. We have to constantly guard our time to make sure it goes where we want it to. I think budgeting time is even harder than budgeting money! And it’s a much more finite resource. =)

  10. I think with your positive attitude, that everything is going to work out just fine for you guys in 2017. I’m impressed with the variety of opportunities that you have already identified. The world will return to you what you invest into it and you guys are oozing goodness in spades.

    • The nice thing is we don’t really have to earn any money in 2017. We could easily cover another year without the extra income. But these are all things we really want to do anyways, and the extra money will help us hit some goals faster. It’s a great spot to be in. =)

  11. Great to read a story that has similar ambitions as we. Having only 2 kids, I can imagine a little bit what 5 must be like.
    We are not FI yet, we are not yet ready for a GAP year. My wife works 4 days per week and make sure on Wednesday, the kids can have the activities they want and must do (learning to swim is the must we impose on them – one down, one to go)

    Travel is a high priority for us. We started dreaming this weekend of our Croatia road trip in the summer, with kids. We will make it happen. next to that, we love to ski. This kind of travel requires quite a lot of money. Almost double of what our travel used to cost before.

    And we ant to be there for the kids when they need us. So, our job needs to allow for flex and home work (and yes, I also work weekends when needed to compensate). We should not hate our jobs and see ourselves in the job 10 years down the road.

    And then, when the kids go to university, we should be FIRE and be abel to travel 6 months per year and support their studies the other 6 months while earning money…

    Our dream in a nutshell

  12. Keep dreaming, and executing the steps to take you to that dream! That’s what separates the dreamers from the people living their dreams. The livers can systematically see the stairway they need to build to take them to their dreams, and then they go about building it. KEEP BUILDING AND DONT LET FEAR HOLD YOU BACK.

    • Exactly. I feel like we can build the life that is the perfect fit for us and our kids. We have done most of the heavy lifting already. Now it’s time for the fun stuff. =) Putting all those finishing touches on it.