I Changed Careers Last Year. Here's What Happened to My Finances

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  • Career changes can be good for your wallet as well as your mental health.
  • Being able to plan for a brighter financial future is priceless.

Who knew a job change could also be a life change?

After more than a decade working on-site for nonprofit museums, I decided I needed a change last year, and have since started working remotely as a content writer and editor. There has been a lot of news about people like me, a millennial who quit her job in the wake of a pandemic that changed life for nearly everyone on Earth. I haven't seen a lot of coverage about what the financial implications have been for us, though. After a year, I think it's time for some personal finance reflection.

Higher utility bills… but higher productivity

When I made this change, I went from working on-site 100% of the time (except for a few months in the spring and summer of 2020, like many Americans in office jobs) to working remotely 100% of the time. I didn't used to be concerned about keeping my home comfortable for humans all the time. My cats have fur coats, and enough cozy beds and blankets that they can usually be comfortable even if our home is cooler on a cold winter day. Now, I spend more on my utility bills, because I have to keep the temperature comfortable in my living and working space all day every day. Thankfully my home office sees the fewest temperature fluctuations of any room in my home.

However, my productivity has soared since I started working from home. It's always quiet and I can often easily achieve the deeper headspace needed for research, writing, and editing. And because my work is always at hand, it's easy for me to work more (and make more money) than I used to. I love my work, so I see this as a good thing!

Moving less often… and more often

My old career was very location-based, and this was to my personal and financial detriment: if I wanted a new job, I had to move. I've moved 10 times in just the last 10 years. Now, I don't have to worry about being in proximity to my employer anymore. And as a result, I've signed on to stay in my current rental for at least one more year, and I may stay even longer than that.

While I may not be moving house as frequently as I used to, I'm getting to move my body more due to no longer having a commute. I also have more "me time" during the day due to the flexible nature of my work. I love to go for long walks, and I live in a lovely walkable neighborhood. I try to go out for a walk at least once a day (sometimes twice!). I listen to music or a podcast, and it's one of the best things I can do for my physical and mental health.

Yes to technology… no to wardrobe

Thanks to getting a better handle on my finances this year, I'm a much wiser shopper than I used to be, and the things I spend money on have changed. I had not owned a desktop computer in 10 years, but earlier this year, I bought a higher-end one. This computer can handle everything I throw at it, and I got a good deal by buying it refurbished from the manufacturer. It's also led to greater productivity than I ever could have achieved working on a laptop with a small screen, which was all I ever needed as a personal computer before I worked from home.

When I was working in museums, I had to devote a good chunk of my income to funding the wardrobe I needed for work. On any given day, I might have been building exhibit components, teaching student interns, giving a tour, making a public presentation, or even meeting with big-name donors or local government officials. So I always had to look the part. Now I keep things simple, and rely on my existing wardrobe.

Planning for the future… and mourning the past

The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot for a lot of people, and I'm no exception. It was the impetus for me to change careers, and that career change has opened financial doors for me that were locked and sometimes even nailed shut before. I'm hoping to buy a house in a few years, and after I finish paying off my debt, I'll be able to save money to do that. My credit score is the highest it's ever been, and I'm hoping to get it up even higher. I have no retirement savings, and that's another goal I'll be working toward starting next year. I never made enough money not to live paycheck to paycheck, and I'm finally in a place where I can move beyond that stressful lifestyle.

This last year hasn't been all sunshine and roses, and I miss my old work sometimes. But I don't miss never having enough money to plan for the future, and always feeling as if I was dangling over the edge of a financial cliff. Those of us who participated in the "Great Resignation" were all seeking the same things: greater freedom, greater happiness, and greater financial security. I'm happy to report that thus far, I'm succeeding at all three.

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