June of 2014 was a dark time for me. Two years earlier, in May of 2012, I gave up my full-time job so I could begin a new venture, owning and operating two small businesses. I had a plan for feeding myself and paying my bills without interruption while I worked to get each business going and grow them to the point where they supported themselves, and me.
Fast forward to June of 2014. Neither business was flowing cash positive, I spent down about 30% of my retirement savings to make ends meet and to feed the businesses, and I amassed a significant amount of high interest credit card debt, to the tune of $25K or more. I was severely underwater on my mortgage (I bought my house right before the housing market crash of 2008). I had no obvious way to get out of the financial hole I was in.
I had a choice: I could file for bankruptcy and try to get out of (many, not all) of my financial obligations, or I could buckle down, get a job again, and make a plan to slowly get out of debt. I chose the latter. This was my path toward redemption.
Fast forward again to today. I’ve been working at Mayo Clinic since December of 2014. My currently salary matches what I was earning in 2010. I sold my house, and Janet and I relocated to Rochester. And as of today, I paid off the last of that credit card debt that had accumulated to crushing levels by 2014.
It’s a big deal for me. I had to let go of my dream of establishing myself as an independent consultant and entrepreneur, and discipline myself to live below my means and pay down my debt. But I’m here now, and a significant dark cloud in my life has lifted.
I’ve got more work to do, of course. I have to pay down a major student loan I took out on my son’s behalf, and I may not ever completely replace the retirement savings I burned through during 2012-2104. But, I’ve set my sights on retirement at age 64, about eight years from now. I’ve allowed myself to re-kindle my dream of having a side business, but I’m taking a much more measured and calculated route to success. Fox and Swan Arts satisfies my entrepreneurial desires, and I am not burdened with having to support myself solely on its income. I can operate it because I want to, and it brings me joy. And, in eight years, it should be a mature enough entity to provide a small side income and give me something to do in my retirement.
I respect my friends who operate their own businesses and who have made them sustainable. I also respect those who tried and failed, or who are trying now and struggling. My message: stay with it if it brings you happiness, and know when to pause, pivot, and pursue a new course.
My life goals are more modest now than they were five years ago. Wealth is not one of them, but staying out of financial hardship is. More importantly, fostering and developing new friendships is a goal, and promoting Janet’s and my own creativity is, too. These things I can do. Here I will succeed. In these ways I will make my mark.