I’ve debated on whether I wanted to publish this post or not. I’m an admitted cynic, er, realist, and I tend to live in the “something [will/might/could] go wrong” camp. (Now go back and read that part again with an Eeyore voice, please. That’s how I said it in my head. Thanks for indulging me, kind reader).
But I’ve decided to be optimistic and post it anyway, as premature as it [might/will/could] be.
If you’ve been keeping up lately, five months ago we purchased our first laundromat as an investment towards our goals of early retirement. We were originally going to wait for the ink to dry on the first one before diving into a second one, but…
Back in March of 2014, I wrote about the story of Sam*. [If you haven’t read it, I’ve provided a link. You should take a moment to read it and come back so you have some context. It still gives me goosebumps.]
As those who have read the story know, when my husband was hired at his company, he took Sam’s old job. At the time of that writing, I used Sam’s story to illustrate why we should live with our priorities in check. That if you want to spend the better part of your lifetime living on your terms, and less in a cubicle, then make the financial lifestyle changes necessary to reach those goals more quickly.
I implored all of us to not be the next Sam.
Do as I Say, Not as I Do…
But in a strange twist of life imitating art, my husband is now Sam. Both literally and figuratively. After nearly three years of going in to work at 3am, for 55 hour workweeks, and dealing with toxic upper management, he is a shell of his former self.
But let me back up for a moment. At first, this job was a blessing. He tripled his prior income, and this is when we realized our early retirement plans were really possible. We danced in the family room when we found out he got the job. (Well, technically I danced, while he did more of a manly high-five type thing.)
He would come home from work and we’d talk about the victories and the frustrations of his day. Laughter came easily. There was optimism in his voice and a little pep in his step.
The Stress Fractures Begin
Less than a year in, the job began to get to him. He called me one particularly difficult morning and told me he wanted to put a sticky note on his computer monitor with the words “My Job is the Key to My Independence”. He said he needed to remind himself why he put up with his job every day.
At the time, I thought he was kidding. I soon received this photo.
The Current Reality
How are things now? Well, the victories we once rejoiced in are few and far between, and the frustrations are consistent and ever-present. It saddens me. I’ve been putting on my supportive face, trying to remind him “just a few more years, dear”, but even I was no longer believing my false optimism. He now comes home from work, falls asleep on the couch, wakes up long enough to catch a favorite TV show and eat some dinner, and then he’s off to bed to start the cycle all over again.
This isn’t a life. For either one of us. I miss cool evenings in the hammock together, his quick sense of humor, the witty conversation, late nights watching movies, family outings during the week. Those things still occur once in a while, but not often enough.
Practicing What We Preach
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, July 14th. Randy and I are at our kitchen table. I tell him I’m worried about him. I insist that he needs to choose one of two options: Either quit his job to focus on the laundromat full-time, or find a new job. But we quickly realize that the laundromat won’t replace all of his income, and jumping through the hoops of finding a new job (which may be just as toxic) isn’t appealing to him either.
We didn’t want to jeopardize our savings efforts, but there’s a point when quality of life must take priority over all other goals. I’ve always said that if you live and spend with your priorities in order, you’ll be happier than you’ve ever been. I agree with a little sacrifice in order to reach our goals, but it doesn’t mean either one of us should have to be miserable in the meantime.
It was time to practice what I preach. My husband needs to quit his job.
But convincing Randy to quit without replacing his full income was not an easy task. He didn’t want his actions to impact our early retirement timeline. (He can be quite stubborn, and freely admits this fact.)
The answer? We needed a second laundromat.
The Odds Are Good, But the Goods Are Odd
That evening, Randy said goodnight and headed to bed.
I immediately made my way outside to the hammock with my laptop, and swayed back and forth as I looked at local laundromat listings. But inside I felt hopeless. What are the odds that another store would be available right now? Pretty good, actually. There are always a handful of laundromats for sale at any given time. But that wasn’t the real question.
What are the odds that another store would be available and meet our criteria? Not so good.
But as I browsed, I noticed that the broker who arranged our first laundromat purchase had a few listings for sale in our price range. I emailed him about our admittedly crazy plan to buy a second laundromat already.
He wrote me back within the hour, sent the non-disclosure agreements for a couple of listings. By the next afternoon, we were driving out to take a look at the laundromat we’re now under contract for.
In the time since, we’ve met with the seller to go over his financial records (does this feel like déjà vu for anyone else?) and he gave us official approval for the seller financing (we submitted a credit report and financial statement to him to show our creditworthiness).
Assuming this all goes as planned, and we are owners of a second laundromat, Randy will quit his job.
Are We Crazy?
Yes. A little.
This step we’re taking is bold. Randy leaving his job is a bit scary. But it could be worse. Because we adjusted our lifestyle long ago so that we’re living on less than 50% of what we make, Randy could quit tomorrow without any laundromats and we could still live on my income alone, completely comfortably. (Yet one more reason why living well below your means is a good idea. The loss of a job doesn’t mean disaster.)
So while we’re taking a leap of faith, it’s an educated, well-padded leap.
But this is only my perspective. I was interested in what my husband thinks about all of this, so I asked him, Q and A interview style.
I’ll post his answers next time (soon!), and let him tell you his side of things, as well as the single event that took him from “I can last a few more years at this job” to “I can’t last another day”…