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Going Full Time: The Finances

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:

  1. 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.

    Korra - Finally

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Comments

( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
scarlettina
Aug. 6th, 2015 03:01 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on the mortgage completion--a huge milestone! And a wonderful, scary, fabulous next step.
jimhines
Aug. 6th, 2015 03:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :-)
mindyklasky
Aug. 6th, 2015 03:30 pm (UTC)
Congrats on paying off the mortgage! It sounds as if you've planned this all so brilliantly, you'll be sure to weather the inevitable challenges down the road!
jimhines
Aug. 6th, 2015 03:35 pm (UTC)
"Nothing could possibly go wrong!!!" :-)
deborahblakehps
Aug. 6th, 2015 07:27 pm (UTC)
Oh Jeez. Now you've done it.
attilathepbnun
Aug. 7th, 2015 12:52 am (UTC)
*grabs garden hose, ready to help put out fire*
aitchellsee
Aug. 6th, 2015 03:39 pm (UTC)
Another CONGRATS! on retiring the mortgage. And all the best as you go full-time with The Writing.

Looking forward to lots more Reading ;-)
dawtheminstrel
Aug. 6th, 2015 04:18 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on taking charge of your life like this. May it all work out even better than you hope.
baker_kitty
Aug. 6th, 2015 04:30 pm (UTC)
Congratulations!!!!! Paying off the mortgage is such a huge thing! :)

" 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 laughed. *g* That said, a couple of things (ignore if hlepy): have you considered growing zucchini? Then you'll be one of *those* people - the ones who hang bags of zucchini off their neighbour's doorhandles, and stand out in the street offering free zucchini to all takers. ;)

Another thing that I mention because it's not at all obvious: the farmer's market can actually be a source of cheap food. Most of it is rather expensive, but if you can buy in bulk, it can be *much* cheaper than the store. For example, we buy pork by the half pig - $3.75/lb - and it's seriously the best pork we've ever tasted. Happy pig = tasty pig. Deals typically available on half or whole lambs, half pigs, and half or quarter cows. (cows are BIG!) Might be something to consider, at any rate... :)
wookiemonster
Aug. 6th, 2015 04:44 pm (UTC)
Congrats and good luck!
gelsey
Aug. 6th, 2015 05:00 pm (UTC)

Best wishes in this endeavor! I know you've been wanting it for ages.

starcat_jewel
Aug. 6th, 2015 05:09 pm (UTC)
Paying off the mortgage is awesome. Now just don't forget to budget for paying the property taxes -- while you have a mortgage the escrow takes care of that, but once you own the house it's all on your shoulders.

We paid off the mortgage 15 years ago when Russ' father died, and that's the only reason we've been able to keep the house; the property taxes are much lower than a year's worth of mortgage payments.
jimhines
Aug. 6th, 2015 05:16 pm (UTC)
Yep! Property taxes and homeowners insurance both. We should be getting a refund from our escrow account that I believe will cover those costs for the rest of 2015. But it's one more thing I'll have to budget for, along with those obnoxious quarterly estimated tax payments...
cathschaffstump
Aug. 6th, 2015 06:00 pm (UTC)
This is a super smart way to set yourself up as a full-time writer. super practical too.

I'd follow in your footsteps, except that I'm 50, and I'd lose a lot of retirement income and a buy out which I could get in as little as 5 years. So I get delayed gratification. And home improvement debt. Yay?

BUT I'm very excited for you. I mean, you know I'm a year and a half behind on reads, right? And yet, you manage to cut ahead in line every time...
jimhines
Aug. 6th, 2015 06:48 pm (UTC)
You know, if the state hadn't ditched its pension plan, it would have been a lot harder for me to justify leaving this job. It was rather frustrating, but at the same time, it means I'm left with a lot less incentive to stick around.

And thank you! :-)
cathschaffstump
Aug. 6th, 2015 08:40 pm (UTC)
All I can say is your state sucks. Dude. Cutting your pensions. I can't even...
sinnamongirl
Aug. 6th, 2015 06:45 pm (UTC)
Congratulations!! I so look forward to the day I am debt free. I've got friends who actually tell me that carrying debt is just the American way of life, why struggle? Just put that dinner on a credit card and don't worry... it drives me nuts. It's so exciting to see people getting out of that interest rate trap and being free and clear!
pameladean
Aug. 6th, 2015 07:26 pm (UTC)
All hail the mortgage slayer! That's really stupendous. I feel your anxiety on all the other fronts, but you seem to be being as practical as possible under the circumstances, said circumstances being hilariously summed up by your PUBLISHING DOES NOT CARE FOR YOUR PUNY LOGIC.

P.
deborahblakehps
Aug. 6th, 2015 07:31 pm (UTC)
I helped pay off Jim's mortgage! How cool is that? (I suppose you expect me to KEEP buying books now, is that it?)

Seriously, congratulations. That's huge. I just redid my mortgage (changing it into a large home equity line instead, so I also now have to pay insurance and taxes directly) so that I could pay it off in 10 years (when I'm 65) instead of 17. Even that felt like a big deal, so I can't imagine how you feel now that you actually own your son's room.

I know you're going to rock this, dude. You're almost like a grown up.
elialshadowpine
Aug. 6th, 2015 08:40 pm (UTC)
Okay, thank you for the mental image of a puppy eating a refrigerator. That's going to be stuck in my head all day. :P

YAY for paying off the mortgage! That's HUGE. Also, I have to say, it makes me feel a bit better to hear you say things like "the adultiest thing I've done"... because damn, I'm 30, and I still wonder, "Who the hell decided I could be an adult?" Sometimes I wonder if this is a variant on Imposter Syndrome, because even though I was responsible for most of the "adulting" in my previous ten year relationship (aside from working; disability is such that writing/freelancing is about what I can do, and even then, there are snags with my mental health; it did not help that my exes kept the environment so stressy and chaotic that every time I found my balance, something happened to knock me off), like making sure meals got planned, groceries got bought, handled the finances, etc... I still don't quite feel like "an adult". So, um, apologies if this is awkward, but reading that made me feel a lot more relieved to know that it's not just people my age or younger dealing with that particular feeling.

Regarding groceries and less spending... I don't tend to follow a lot of the extreme couponing stuff because that takes up waaaay too much spoons, but there's a recipe blog called Budget Bytes (not including link because LJ classifies links as spam, but if you google it, you'll find it). A lot of their recipes are really delicious, easy to cook, and cheap as fuck.

But YAY! Congrats! I'm so happy for you. :D
juniperus
Aug. 6th, 2015 08:59 pm (UTC)
Congratulations, Jim the MortgageSlayer!!! (And Mperks, man. Srsly.)
rowyn
Aug. 6th, 2015 09:22 pm (UTC)

Amusingly, my own current plan for my writing income is "save half for taxes and use the other half to pay down my mortgage". :D Now I know it must be a good plan!

brithistorian
Aug. 7th, 2015 03:20 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on being able to make this transition! It sounds both wonderful and terrifying, and I hope it works out for you.
sueo2
Aug. 7th, 2015 03:35 pm (UTC)
Congrats on not just paying off the mortgage (a major milestone) but to the overall debt reduction strategies. Not only is this a good plan for your situation, but all of us who hope to retire one day should follow your example and think about the future in such a proactive way.

Keep writing. I will keep buying. Good luck and many blessings.
6_penny
Aug. 7th, 2015 09:12 pm (UTC)
Am saving up to buy 50 Shades of Blue; the graphic novel.
dogzilla30
Aug. 8th, 2015 06:28 pm (UTC)
I'm so proud of you! I know this has been a goal you've been working towards for several years. You've kept that in sight and made it. Not only that but you've done it taking into consideration the hiccups that may cause stress on the pocketbook. Bravo!
sunlit_music
Aug. 8th, 2015 07:59 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on paying off the mortgage and slaying debt, that is a huge step!! :D

That's wonderful news! Hope you enjoy becoming a full time writer. :)

Fifty Shades of Blue and Princesses versus Goblins: The Movie - hahaha! XD Those comments made me smile, so thank you for that. :)
live_momma
Aug. 9th, 2015 01:38 am (UTC)
You did tell the boy that now that you and his mom own his room outright YOU can come and take his room whenever, right?

Also, congratulations! I know how good it felt to pay off the car. Paying off the house would be even better!
ironed_orchid
Aug. 9th, 2015 02:30 am (UTC)
Congrats on paying off the mortgage, that's massive.
filkferengi
Aug. 11th, 2015 03:19 am (UTC)
Colossal kudos on paying off the mortgage & your other budgetary deeds!

I love how y'all've planned & prepared & are now able to enjoy the fruits of your labors. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.
notalwaysweak
Aug. 11th, 2015 03:38 am (UTC)
So thrilled for you!
cissa
Aug. 16th, 2015 05:36 am (UTC)
If I had kids heading to college age, I would seriously look at sending them to Germany or Finland or something. Both educational and lots cheaper than USA colleges, which now look like they are a sucker's bet based on the cost/debt paid, and the paltry benefits.
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )

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