My husband and I have been planning some big changes for a couple of months now, but we haven’t been able to say anything to most of our friends until everything is finalized and confirmed. It’s an exhilarating and exciting and slightly frightening time, but we’re ready to do this.
So here’s what’s up: For several years now, my husband has talked about giving up his office job and pursuing a career in the trades. He’s always loved fixing things and working with his hands, which he doesn’t get to do much in an office. The thing is, he’s also very good at his office job and, let’s face it, it’s hard to walk away from a healthy salary, benefits, and pension plan for an apprenticeship.
We had always said that he would make the switch once the mortgage was paid, to minimize the financial risk. But since I stopped working full-time more than two years ago, we haven’t been eating away at the mortgage as quickly as before. As summer was winding down this year, my husband started talking more and more about changing careers sooner rather than later.
If we were going to seriously consider this option, we had to get educated. What trade did he want to pursue? (He considered electrician and plumber, and decided on electrician.) What does an apprentice make, anyway? (As it turns out, something very close to minimum wage, at least for the first three months. There are steady increases after that.) How long does it take to become fully licensed (if you go hard, 4.5 to 5 years) and what does a certified electrician make? (As it happens, pretty close to what he’s making now.) What costs and risks are involved? Are there benefits? A retirement plan? Can he find an employer who will sponsor his apprenticeship? Is he sure this is what he wants to do? And on and on.
We talked to each other. We researched. We talked some more. What became clear very quickly was that we could not live on his apprentice salary alone. I would have to go back to work. Preferably full-time with benefits, since he would have none for the first year. I had no problem with that. In fact, I had been kicking around the idea of going back to work already. (After more than two years at home, doing short contracts and some consulting work, I wasn’t doing nearly as much writing as I had hoped.) So we agreed that we were going to go for it. I would start looking for work, and he would look for a company that would take him on.
We were lucky in that we know an electrician who was more than happy to recommend my husband to his company. We would not be where we are today without that help, and we are enormously grateful.
We had one short moment of panic, when the company wanted him to start right away but I hadn’t found a job yet. But it all worked out. We were able to push his start date a bit and, as luck would have it, I found a job: full time, permanent, with benefits and a retirement plan. More than that, it’s with an organization I am thrilled to be a part of, and I can’t wait to get started. I was incredibly lucky. But I also feel like it was meant to be.
And so as the year comes to a close, we’ll be embarking on our next adventure. It may seem crazy to give up his cushy job for a huge pay cut. But the truth is that as much as he loved the company he worked for and the people he worked with, he wasn’t feeling challenged anymore. And he had gone as far as he wanted to go on this particular career track. He had been there more than 15 years; another six years to finish paying off the mortgage became unthinkable.
Since he signed his contract with the electrical company, he’s been like a little kid, full of excitement. He’s been checking his tools, making sure he has all the equipment and clothing he needs. He says he feels like a kid starting a new school year. It’s a fresh start.
We hesitated at first because it’s hard to walk away from the kind of security we had with his job. But that security can also become a trap that stops you from growing and taking chances. We’re taking a chance, but we think we’re doing it as intelligently and carefully as we can. And this chance could really pay off in five years. My spouse will hopefully have a red seal trade, and I’ll have a rewarding job doing work I love. And with a little effort, we’ll have that mortgage paid off, too.
As with the change we made more than two years ago when I quit working full time, it’s a question of deciding what you’re willing to give up to get what you want. We wanted a slower pace of life, more time to spend with each other and our friends, and much, much less stress. To get there, we had to cut our spending. We own one vehicle; we don’t have cable or Netflix or any paid entertainment except the internet; we don’t have the latest smart phones, nor do we own any tablets at all; we don’t travel as much; most importantly: we don’t buy stuff we don’t need.
While this new change will introduce a little more stress into our lives, we’re pretty sure we can handle it because we’re energized by the new challenges we’re taking on, and we know we’re working towards something. It’s a good feeling, to build and shape the life you want. To try new things and take chances and attain your goals.
(This post is part of my Living simply series. Click on the link to read more about our efforts to live with less.)