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Paying Off Debt: How I Changed My Career and Life To Make Me Happy

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Have you ever felt stuck in a job just because you have to pay the bills? I have. Have you ever realized how debt influences your life and career choices? I have. Have you ever thought that you would do a different job if you didn’t have to worry about your student loan payments? I have.

After a few years, I got sick and tired of having these thoughts so I decided to make some huge changes in my life in order to take control of my career. This month begins a new chapter in my career. But first, here is the back-story:

We paid off $80,000 of Debt in 18 Months.

Seven years ago when my husband and I got married, we decided the best thing to do was take on lots of debt to keep up with the Jones’. We continued to make large purchasing decisions such as buying brand new cars, traveling abroad, and refusing to really think about our financial future.

Three years ago I happened to be reading another blog that was about getting out of debt. The writer said she followed the advice from Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover and got out of debt. So I checked it out. When you have lots of debt, thinking about getting out of it is very overwhelming! What I liked about this book is he put it all into baby steps, which just made it so easy. With the advice in this book, my husband and I were able to pile away our income, do as much as possible to decrease our expenses and pay off $80,000 of student loan, credit card, and car loan debt in 18 months. (And yes, we did celebrate when we finished.) We still can’t believe it and are so happy that we made the choice to work our butts off early in our lives instead of just putting it off until later.

I am writing this today hoping that I can inspire just one other reader to take a different path for their financial future just like the other blogger who helped me change my life.

So what does that have to do with my career?

Everything. Without debt controlling your life, you can make life and career decisions that really make you happy. You have nothing hanging over your head nor do you have student loan, credit card, and car loan bills piling up to pay. You have savings available for emergencies and you aren’t living paycheck-to-paycheck wondering if you will ever have the life and career you dreamed of. Not having to worry about debt allows your mind to open up so that you can really think about what makes you happy and what you really want to do with your life. That is exactly what happened to me.

My husband and I got out of debt in April 2012. For the last few months, I have been able to really think about what I want to do for work. I have been able to think about what makes me happy and what type of work fits best for my interests, values, and mission in life. I have been able to explore creative work assignments and new career opportunities that I never could have thought about with debt hanging over my head.

So, I decided to take a 50% pay cut.

Yep, that’s right. Last month, I made the bold move of starting a part-time arrangement at work. But, I don’t see this as stepping down. Instead, this arrangement is giving me the opportunity to open up my creative side and apply myself in other places. Since going part-time a few days ago, I have already received another job offer and a teaching opportunity at a university. These things would never have opened if I hadn’t taken the time to evaluate my future career and myself.

I un-trapped myself and other options came flooding in for the other ”part-time’� of my life.

After this experience, I truly believe that your financial decisions and priorities directly affect your career. If you need to pay bills and students loans, you may continue working at a job that you may not enjoy just because you have to pay those bills. Which is fine! But, set a goal to pay off your debt in the next year or two and then move on to something that makes you happier! Get yourself out of the debt that is clouding your professional future and instead find areas that you will succeed at even more because you are passionate about them. There are so many things you can do if you aren’t worried about paying off your debt. You could travel, start a business, or take a 50% pay cut to explore and evaluate your professional future like I did.

You aren’t trapped. Plan your work around your life, not your life around your work. Are you trapped? How can you start taking steps to untrap yourself?

P.S. If you want to know how I was able to go part-time, it’s really simple. I just asked. That’s it and they said yes. So what are you scared of asking for at work? A raise? A promotion? Just ask. What’s the worse that can happen?


Career Path #Debt Finance Lifestyle Career Advice
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Carly Heitlinger
Carly Heitlinger

Wow! This is really incredible I think it's great that you and your husband made the decision to pay off your debt and followed through. Even better is that now you're happier and enjoying your career! Super great!

Thanks for posting! I have been thinking for awhile when I do finally get a job, I am going to pay off my loans & credit card before doing anything else. It has always scared me to think of having debt. I just have my loans & 1 credit card. Definitely looking at Dave Ramsey!

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