A few months ago, Suze Orman (whom I love), was giving advice to a struggling entrepreneur who was short on money, and big on dreams. Her advice: move back home with your parents and save money while you get back on your feet. Her “advice” has been irking me ever since – what if your parents cannot be a safety net? What are your options then? Ditch your dreams or go into debt? And outside of your parents, I see many single (aka – not married, living with a partner, etc.) people seeking the same advice – “I don’t have an extra income to fall back on if things go awry. Who is our safety net?”
It’s an interesting conundrum – and being that I, personally, fit into both categories, it is something that is at the forefront of my mind when making career decisions. Never more so than when I quit my corporate job of stable income to follow my entrepreneurship dreams.
What If You Don’t Have a “Safety” Net?
To be honest, I have leapt so many times, that I am not going to tell you “be sure you have a back-up plan.” But here is what I have learned: it was much less stressful, for the first two months or so, leaving with a plan and a self-created safety net. And it was much easier to stay the course without feeling a desperate need to generate more income. Although I do think I learned how to hustle when I had less than $5,000 in the bank without a job (sorry Dad!).
What Should Your Safety Net Contain?
For each person, the feeling of safety is different – you may want a stable income, or perhaps health insurance, or a consistent roof over your head. For others, safety means being able to creatively explore their destiny. It varies – but here are the things that help me, and the buck stops here.
- Budget, a Real One: You need to know exactly how much money you NEED on a monthly basis. Not how much you are currently spending, although that is a good place to start, but how much you actually need to survive. And remember, there are millions of people who are living on drastically less money than you are. Just saying. What are your essentials – food and shelter, which you cannot live without (electricity, car for some, etc). Once you have that number calculated, you can plan how many months you have before you need to switch gears and you need to stick to that budget – even when your friends are doing cool things or you really want to go shopping, it will hurt your sense of security in the long run.
- A Schedule: Okay, several schedules. But most important – how you are going to tackle each day and breakdown your own work. Make sure that your work expectations are reasonable and realistic on one hand, and also that you don’t slip into a couch potato while being on your own. Knowing what you are going to tackle each day, helps keep you motivated and gives you a sense of accomplishment and worth when others still “don’t get” why you aren’t working a traditional 9-5.
- A Plan and a Timeline: A big part of feeling safe with any leap, is having an idea of what you need to accomplish and what success looks like. You need a PLAN (and yes, I have learned this the hard way). What exactly will you be doing, who will you be working with, how long will it take for you to generate income, how long before you are fully sustainable? Once you have all of that settled, you need to create a timeline. I know, I am personally offended that I wrote that as well, BUT – with being the person responsible (YOU) for all of your well-being, you need to know when it’s time to check-in with yourself and when to start finding a side project that will help you make ends meet. Making stable income is not a dirty word, and sometimes you have to do it to help keep your rent paid. It sucks, but that’s part of life without a safety net.
- One (inexpensive) Vice: I have tried going cold-turkey, and it made me miserable. Make sure you keep one inexpensive vice that you can indulge in and enjoy when you are on your own. For me, it’s being able to hang out at Starbucks with a cup of coffee when I need a change of scenery; one of my friends needs cable to feel “human.” You absolutely must still keep some of your creature comforts in your environment to help energize you and keep you on track.
- Health Insurance: I have had emergency-only health insurance, a self-purchased plan, and COBRA. They are all acceptable, but the level of coverage you choose, should be based on your own personal health needs at the time. When I had less money in the bank, I had an emergency-only plan with a low monthly fee and a higher deductible – but I wouldn’t dream of that plan today (I’m older, what can I say?). As long as you have some peace of mind that if you absolutely needed to be hospitalized or got seriously sick, that you would have some assistance, will help you create your own “net.”
- Debt-free: It’s hard to be debt-free these days – but the closer you are to it when venturing out on your own, the less pressure you will have along the way. Simply knowing that there is a credit card bill looming on the horizon can quickly diminish any sense of security you have, and soon, it will turn into a constant worry (and self-defeating prophecy). Pay down as much debt as possible before taking the leap – and if that’s not possible, have a strict debt threshold that you will not cross for any reason.IN.THE.WORLD.