Last July my wife and I left great paying jobs and a comfortable, spacious condo in Salt Lake City for Star Valley, Wyoming where we currently earn about one quarter of my previous income. I've often thought, as have some of my peers, "Why would I DO something like this?"
"Farewell" to a great city...and "howdy" to some great country!
To simply say we moved to Star Valley to start Hale Financial Solutions and live in a small, cozy community wouldn’t present the entire scope of the decision and what a big leap it was. Nor would it satisfy the concerns of well-intending friends who thought I had truly lost my mind.
Here’s the rest of the WHY, and perhaps more interestingly, HOW it was doable financially, in case there's a "Star Valley" you'd like to escape to.
WHY WE MADE THE MOVE
Our primary motivation in moving to Star Valley centered on the vision we established together as a family.
Closeness to Family
Kellie was born and raised in Star Valley. She had a wonderful childhood here, and much of her family is still living in the area--parents, grandmother, some cousins, aunts and uncles. We’ve always appreciated the deep relationships we’ve had with our family members, and we wanted these to continue in closer proximity.
Great Schools and Educators
Wyoming invests a significant amount of money per capita in its education system. Teachers here are paid top-notch salaries--whether it be Math or Biology. This keeps teachers here longer and I believe provides children a more enriching education experience. The teachers I’ve met have truly refined their craft, partly because they’ve been able to spend the time doing so through generous wages.
The Simple Life
Small towns have a simpleness that is appealing in many ways. One movie theater with two screens, a handful of restaurants, and Mom and Pop stores on every corner. The faces you see are often the same faces from day to day, creating meaningful bonds and community connections.
HOW WE DID IT
But there’s something you need to remember about packing up and moving to a small town:
Wild animals can appear in the middle of the road at ANY time!
Wait. That’s not it. If you’re deciding to move to a small town, you’ve gotta have a game plan (there we go). Jobs are not nearly as abundant as they are in cities. You can move to Salt Lake City and secure a job without a ton of effort, but we knew that in moving to Star Valley, we had to plan for our own success.
Have a Plan in Place
Kellie and I are both a bit skittish when it comes to risk. Our decision to move to Star Valley and start Hale Financial Solutions was not made during a family council meeting one night around the dinner table (though family councils are a really good idea).
We spent hours of conversation over the course of a couple years thinking about how it could work. When we left for Star Valley, we not only had a Plan A, but Plans B, C, and D as well. By the way, 7 months in we’re still working on Plan A and gaining traction (phew).
Not Financially Independent, but Financially Secure
Kellie and I are by no means rich (whatever that means) nor financially independent, but we’re financially secure. We’ve been able to leave high wage jobs for low wages and still be okay. To put this in context, in Salt Lake City I was earning around $86,000 per year. In Star Valley we are earning a combined $28,000 per year while HFS gets up and running. We saw only one way to make that work--an established habit of living beneath our income. Fortunately this is a practice we've been living since our marriage.
(Editor's Note: In no way am I suggesting that $28,000 a year (about $2,400/month) is a salary to be looked down upon. I'm simply contrasting the disparity between the two amounts.)
We still have the same expenses of most other people: rent, utilities, and groceries. We even still make Roth IRA contributions. But we also have expenses that most families don’t, like needing to do in-vitro fertilization to grow our family (planning to start another round later this year). Plan A would and will be a failure without some real diligence.
And of course, our aim is that Hale Financial Solutions will not just be a better, more fulfilling career experience, but a career that will also provide sufficient income for our financial goals.
WHY THIS MAY MATTER TO YOU
While there are plenty of people out there who love their job and the place they live, I've met some who are desperate for a change. They yearn to move home to that small town, or take a career risk (even though they’re not in their 20’s) and leave a job they don’t like, or follow some other dream.
The problem is they’ve gotten themselves in a financial hole they can’t dig out of. They often make a great wage, but their lifestyle has quickly caught up with their income and now they don’t see a way out.
Perhaps this post will shine a ray of hope on that little private dream you’ve had for your family which you’ve kept tucked away for so long.
Big changes to your lifestyle don’t have to feel like hurling yourself into a pool of hungry sharks. Start making a deliberate plan of what your “Star Valley” looks like. Talk with your spouse constantly about it. Form a Plan A, and then a Plan B and C. Once the vision starts to materialize, take an honest look at your finances and ask yourself what changes will need to happen in order to make your plan come to life.