In another 3.5 weeks, I’ll no longer have a full-time day job. It’s taken a long time to reach this point, and one of the biggest concerns I had was financial. I’m giving up a stable, good-paying job with a regular paycheck. While the writing has paid pretty well for the past few years, the income is neither stable nor regular. One month might see a five-figure royalties check, while the income for the next few months is down in the three-digit range. And there’s no guarantee my books will continue to sell.
So I wanted to make sure we were in good enough financial shape for me to make this leap. Here are the things my wife and I were looking at, starting with the REALLY BIG EXCITING NEWS:
- Reducing Debt – So I paid off the mortgage yesterday… Walked into the credit union and did a wire transfer, which is one of the adultiest things I’ve done all month. With that transfer, we are officially debt-free. My wife’s student loans are paid off. Both vehicles are paid off. We don’t carry month-to-month debt on the credit cards.
This is HUGE. We’ve spent years working toward this point. Eliminating the monthly mortgage balances out a good chunk of the lost income from my day job. Not to mention we’ll no longer be accumulating interest that has to be paid off.
A little while back when I was explaining what a mortgage was to my son, I told him we’d paid off a lot of the house, so we owned most of it, but we didn’t own his room yet. So the bank could still come and take his room away. (He’s ten, and I’m one of those dads.) I’m so thrilled that last night I got to come home and tell him we own his room.
- Building a Cushion – Someone once said if you were going to quit the day job and write, it was a good idea to have at least six months’ income saved up. I’m not quite at that point, but I’ve managed to build up a decent cushion, so when my car dies or the water heater goes up like a rocket or the puppy eats the refrigerator, it won’t immediately screw up our lives.
- Cutting Back on Spending – I’ll be taking over a lot of the grocery shopping, and I’m going to be trying to trim our household spending wherever I can. I might turn into one of those Extreme Couponers holding up the line while I sort through my double-coupon deals, until impatient shoppers finally bludgeon me to death with their zucchini. I’m also thinking more about what conventions I can afford to go to, and doing what I can to split hotel and transportation costs and such.
- My Wife Has a Stable, Full-Time Job – This was another huge prerequisite. The primary thing we needed was health insurance and other benefits. Everyone in the family has some sort of chronic health issue, and without insurance, we’d be bankrupt before I could pitch the next book. The ACA opened up some options, but her employer-provided insurance is a much better option. This also means we still have some stable, reliable income for when I’m waiting for Hollywood to write me a million-dollar check for LIBRIOMANCER VS. GOBLIN PRINCESSES: THE MOVIE.
- Checking the Budget vs. the Writing Income – Finally, I’ve been looking at our month-to-month budget to get an idea how much we spend each month, and making sure my wife’s job plus my average writing income for the past few years would cover what we need.
My hope is that once I’m writing more, the writing income will increase as well. Sounds logical, right? Well, that shows what you know. PUBLISHING CARES NOTHING FOR YOUR PUNY “LOGIC!” What this means is I’ll need to keep an eye on things and see how it goes over the next year or two. I’m thinking specifically about things like being able to put more money aside for college for the kids, as well as retirement funds for me and Amy.
I may look into other freelance work to help supplement the fiction. I’ll also be able to expand the range of what I’m writing. Who knows … maybe when I finally write Jig the Goblin in 50 SHADES OF BLUE, that will be the big money-maker that puts both kids through college.
There’s a lot to think about, and a fair amount of anxiety. There’s also a lot of excitement, not to mention the celebration of the mortgage-slaying. Huge thanks to my agent, my publisher, and all of my readers for helping me reach a position where this was a realistic financial option for me and my family.