Making a big career change is always scary, particularly when taking your finances into account. Financial concerns usually top the list of things that keep people up at night. Taking the following measures will help you feel more confident throughout the process while minimizing stress and anxiety—emotions that can lead to impulsive, poor decisions.
1. Research student assistance programs. If your new career path requires formal education, the costs can add up quickly. You might also want (or need) to take a break from work to focus on school for a period of time, which only compounds the financial hardship. Thankfully, there are a wide variety of assistance options offered by the government, including low-interest loans, scholarships, work-study programs and grants.
The only trick is that you have to do your part. You have to research the options for which you are eligible, go through the somewhat tedious application process and meet rigorous standards, and follow the rules once you're in the program. If you don't meet the requirements along the way, your funds can be revoked. Still, it's always worth a shot. Learn more about federal student aid programs by visiting http://studentaid.ed.gov/.
2. Reduce expenses. Do you really need the premium cable package and a Netflix subscription? Does eating at your favorite restaurant really have to be a weekly event? The more overhead you have in your life, the harder it is to meet your regular financial obligations. Shrink your monthly expenses now and remember that every dollar counts. They add up quickly, whether they're going out the door or landing in your savings account.
3. Have a safety net in place. Most experts agree that you should keep a six-month supply of living expenses in savings just in case the unexpected happens. It usually takes some time for most people to save this amount, so if you haven't started, do so NOW.
A well-planned career transition will minimize your time spent out of work. But plans don't always pan out. It's possible that you may end up using your entire safety net during the transition so save as much as you can now. The more you have available, the more comfortable you'll feel. Make sure you also have a credit card on hand for emergency situations, but don't rely on it for your daily living or you could end up dealing with that debt for years.
Take every possible measure to avoid doing things like dipping into your retirement account. The tax penalties make this an incredibly inefficient option.
Still, sometimes a short-term "loss" is worth it for a long-term "gain." But only you can do that calculation.
4. Get support from your family. Talk to your loved ones and let them know why you're making this career change. Tell them why it's important and ask for their emotional support. While no one wants to feel like a charity case, there may come a time when you'll need to also ask for financial support. This can be a very delicate situation, but, if handled correctly on both sides, it can also be very comforting. If your family has the ability and desire to help out, you may want to lean on them for a short time.
Establish the "ground rules" up front (like when the money will be paid back) and show your gratitude, but don't let it damage your self-esteem. Decide for yourself how you feel about taking financial aid from your family and be OK with it, whatever your decision.
5. Create a plan and work it. What exactly does your career transition look like? Map out the ideal scenario and determine how the funds you've saved will be spent. Then, consider alternative scenarios. What if things go awry? What if it takes longer than you think? What if something unexpected happens?
Follow a budget and stay aware of your financial status as you move forward. There's no excuse for ignorance regarding your cash flow situation. Yes, it can be stressful, especially when things are in transition. But ignoring the problems doesn't make them go away. Track what comes in and what goes out, and always keep your eye on what's ahead.
The unpredictable nature of career transitions and life in general can make planning feel impossible. But think through the process carefully; plan for the worst and hope for the best. Typically, the outcome will land somewhere in the middle.
6. Prepare for tough times. When going through a career transition, tough times are almost guaranteed. The process can be emotional and mentally draining, as well as financially worrisome.
You may find yourself out of work for a period of time. You may have to take a lower salary than you're used to. You may encounter some unexpected financial implications.
What is this worth to you? Are you willing to sacrifice some of the luxuries you've been accustomed to in the past in exchange for the chance at finding career fulfillment? Are you willing to risk the life you know for the life you could have? Make a conscious calculation and determine whether the rewards outweigh the risks. If not, stay where you are.
If it's a risk you're willing to take, follow these steps to minimize financial headaches.
Chrissy Scivicque, the founder of EatYourCareer.com, believes work can be a nourishing life experience. As a career coach, corporate trainer, and public speaker, she helps professionals of all levels unlock their true potential and discover long-lasting career fulfillment.