A change of career and a new life in a laid-back beach town sounds enticing to contemplate, doesn’t it? You’d have more time for family, reading, and other passionate pursuits. But dropping out of the rat race requires nerve, a solid financial plan, and an emotional strategy. The more planning you do, the less likely the shock of change will derail your state of mind, says clinical psychologist and small business consultant Mario Alonso, PhD, author of Family Business Survival. Here are his 10 tips for smoothing any big transition.
Change often brings financial stress. Review your finances. Do you have a solid emergency fund of six to nine months’ living expenses? Including your 401K and IRAs but not other assets, your nest egg at age 50 should be more than double your current salary.
Before any move, take a vacation to introduce your family to the area, read up on its history, and call the chamber of commerce. Learning about the local resources — accountant, handyman — provides a sense of security and comfort.
Constant, honest communication with your wife and children is critical. Discuss and anticipate points of friction before you depart, and know what helps each of you cope. Write down your expectations and time lines: Goals serve to organize and focus you, as well as energize and excite you.
Reviewing the week, not each minute, is a good approach. In an isolated environment, every statement, gesture, and conversation is amplified. Be kind to yourselves: It’s a big move and it will take time to adjust. Deal with troubling emotions by talking them out with others.
Select only the projects that excite you or that you have a personal stake in. You will find greater satisfaction and probably do higher-quality work. Seek out projects that allow you to leverage your experience, whether it’s through consulting or in a mentoring role.
Settling in a new place allows you to reinvent yourself, whether in the context of family (becoming a more-connected husband and father), fitness (striving for a new 10K personal best or losing 20 pounds), or culture (mastering a hobby such as photography or rereading Moby Dick.)
Women tend to be better at making new friends than guys are, but we can learn from them how to be better listeners. Immerse yourself in the community by joining local associations. Put yourself in situations where you’re likely to meet like-minded people. You’ll find you’re more attentive and conversation will flow.
With the Internet and smart phones, it’s easy to stay in touch with friends and family. Starting your own blog can also provide emotional medicine and give you a structured way to document your experience. This will maintain important friendships, be fun, and help you preserve your memories.
Treat yourselves to special weekend getaways. Prevent stress buildup with healthy eating, regular sleep, and joint activities such as walking, listening to music, and massages.
You don’t need a major event to welcome your new life and friends, but it can be a fun way to establish your arrival and embrace the community. Mainly, you need to be friendly and interested in others, whether in a large group or one on one.