What is the rat race and why do people want to leave it?
The rat race is a phrase that refers to a self-defeating pursuit of wealth where people get so caught up in trying to keep up with the Joneses that they never stop to enjoy what they have. It is also used more generally to describe a person’s work situation in which there is continuous energy put in for a reward that will never be achieved.
Feeling like you are wasting away in your 9-5 job, living for the weekend, and never making any progress to feeling like you have control over your life? Welcome to the rat race. Check out the 5 questions below to ask yourself if you’re leaving the rat race for the simple life.
Why do you want to leave the rat race for the simple life? [The Why]
So, you’re ready to leave the rat race for the simple life? The first step is figuring out why. This may seem fairly obvious but it’s important to understand why exactly you are looking for a change in life path or you’ll forever be bouncing around trying to figure out why you aren’t happy.
Many people want to leave the rat race because they feel they have nothing to lose. This often times happens when people have been stuck in the same job for a long time and can’t seem to get ahead no matter what they do. Their 9-5 job hasn’t been bringing them happiness so they look elsewhere.
Some even consider leaving the rat race as a sign of success. If someone is capable, competent, and willing to give up the security of a traditional job it can be a sign of someone who has achieved financial independence.
Why do you want to leave the rat race? It may be that you are unhappy with your current job in which case you should examine if perhaps your job is the sole problem and you’d be happy with a different traditional job. You may find that you want to do things on your time, so that you have time to spend with your friends and family in which case leaving the rat race for the simpler life may be right for you.
Figure out what matters to you to design the life you want [The What]
What does life after quitting the rat race look like? That depends on what you want it to look like. A lot of people who are looking for more time prefer the minimalist lifestyle, while others may want to travel or get into an entirely different line of work.
What do you want out of life? What things bring you joy and fulfillment? These are important questions if you’re trying to leave the rat race behind.
Common reasons to leave your traditional job:
- They want to spend more time with your family which means you want work that is flexible around your hours.
- They want to travel the world. This could include finding a job that allows you to always be on the go.
- They want to create something for themselves and work towards their own success. This could fall in line with starting your own business.
- They want to retreat into nature and be away from what’s happening in the city. This can mean that you want to find work that is not requiring too much contact with other people or that they want to build a homestead where they can grow their own food and live off of the land.
- They want to live a simpler life overall and reduce the amount of debt they have to pay off.
Once you figure out why you want a change then you can focus on how you are going to achieve it.
Come up with a plan to leave the rat race [The How]
Figuring out what drives you in life is part one of the equation but figuring out how you can live out this life is the second part.
You first need to take a look at your finances to get a health check on where you are at.
Step 1: Assess your finances
The first step to figuring out how you can quit your traditional job is to figure out where your finances are at. How much debt do you have? How much money do you spend every month? How much cash flow is coming into your life? These are all questions that need to be answered before you can get a clear picture of how you’re spending your money.
If you have a lot of debt then you will either need to be able to continue to pay down that debt with whatever line of work you get or you may need to continue working your traditional job longer while you save to pay it down.
Step 2: Create a budget that works for your new life
Perhaps leaving the rat race means having an income that’s less than what you’re used to. If that’s the case you will want to set up a budget that covers your base needs under your new income. If you spend more than you plan to bring in take a look at how you can reduce expenses or bring in additional income. It’s all a balance.
Related: Budgeting Tips for Beginners
Step 3: Figure out where your income will come from
Maybe you plan to leave your traditional job for a job that allows you to work solely from home without much of a pay cut. Or perhaps you want to create your own freelance business that allows you to take on work as it fits your schedule. There are plenty of side hustles that you can use to bring in money or even use to start your own business including stating an Etsy store, blogging, and posting ads online.
Figure out what type of work is best for your new life and how the estimated income fits into your budget.
Step 4: Have a back up plan
In the event that your new life doesn’t pan out like you planned, make sure you have a back up plan. This can include having a nest egg put aside for emergencies should you hit an unexpected expense or hiccup along the road. Most experts recommend having 3-6 months of your expenses set aside.
Can you go back to a traditional job if you hit a snag? Make sure you’re assessing all of your options when considering leaving the rat race.
Determine what timing works for you [The When]
After assessing your finances, you may find that you are able to go ahead and make the leap out of your traditional job. If you find that you are financially comfortable after doing all of your homework then you can begin the process of leaving. There’s no “perfect time” because everyone’s situation is different so understanding where you are at financially is crucial.
If you have a lot of debt to pay off or you are struggling to save every month, then the timing should be based on when you will be comfortable financially to support yourself without a traditional income. That may mean continuing with your current job until your net worth has reached a certain number or it could mean working until you’ve paid off that debt or saved up 3 to 6 months of your monthly expenses.
The important part is understanding what your goal is and what you need to do to achieve it. From there you can better plan out how long it will take to get there.
What location makes the most sense for your next journey? [The Where]
The final piece of information you’ll need to think about is where your next journey should take place. For example, if you plan to travel the world you will want to stay in an area such as North America or Europe where it’s easy for you to get around and your money will go further.
If your future plans focus on starting a business then you will need to consider where that business would be best placed geographically. Would it benefit from a particular type of client or region?
Similarly, if you current live in a high cost of living area like San Francisco and you plan to quit your traditional job, it may make sense to move somewhere with a lower cost of living until you have saved up enough to move on.
Having a clear idea of where this new life will take place can be the final piece that helps you put everything together.
Conclusion: Are you ready to leave the rat race for a simpler life?
Leaving the rat race may not be for everyone but after asking yourself these five crucial questions, you can figure out if it’s right for you. Living the life you want is all about drilling down to what matters and coming up with a plan on how you can execute it.