Ask LH: How Can I Change Jobs And Keep Paying My Mortgage?

Ask LH: How Can I Change Jobs And Keep Paying My Mortgage?

Dear Lifehacker, How can I go about getting a new job when I have a mortgage? It’s a very fine line, matching income to expenditure! I want a job that I enjoy (more than I do my current one, at least) but switching careers would probably mean a pay cut which would make meeting the mortgage repayments impossible. How would you go about finding a new career without getting five roommates or relying on lady-luck? Thanks, Job Switcher

Mortgage picture from Shutterstock

Dear JS,

JS – I hear you. About three years ago, I decided to bail out of working full-time, for a reliable employer where there was little risk to job security, a decent pay packet and several perks. But I knew the time had come and I chose a path with with potentially less money and security.

My first step was to look at all of our family expenses. That meant the mortgage, utilities, Internet, mobile phones, health insurance — nothing was ignored.

It turned out that there are lots of savings out there if you just look and ask. For example, over the last decade or so, we’d borrowed some money for some household renovations and a car. By going to the bank and looking at our mortgage and other borrowings, we were able to reduce our minimum monthly payments by over $200 per month.

Another option is to negotiate with your bank about going on an interest-only mortgage. Although you won’t be actually reducing the principle of your loan, you’ll able to stay in your house without defaulting because of missed payments.

Although banks often have a reputation for being very hard-nosed and difficult to deal with, our experience with the local branch manager and loans officers has been the opposite. It’s better business for the bank to retain you as a customer and they do have some flexibility when it comes to helping out.

A friend of ours decided to do a complete career shift from IT technician to teacher. That meant taking two years off work to go back to university full-time. He was able to renegotiate his mortgage into a line-of-credit arrangement so he could live off the equity while he was studying. Once he was back in the workforce, he was able to, within a couple of years, double his old salary and make up for the lost payments on the mortgage.

With power, gas and telephones, most Australians have a choice with their service providers. Look at your bills and then get some competitive quotes from other providers. Many offer discounts for on time or automatic payments. You might be able to squeeze $5 per month from each of those bills in addition to potentially cheaper services.

With your Internet connection, ISPs change their offers regularly but not all of them are good at letting existing customers know about new and better deals. Take a look at Broadband choice [Whirlpool] to see what’s around. But before you make a change, go back to your incumbent ISP and see if they can do better. Many have special deals that aren’t publicised but are offered to customers that are about to defect.

In my case, I reviewed the home phone service and Internet and was able to save about $20 per month across both by shifting to a bundle that better suited our actual usage.

Once you’ve dealt with your expenses, it’s time to look at income. Does a career change have to mean a reduction in income?

In some cases it may but that’s not a given. Many jobs have transferable skills. For example, if you’ve got experience in supervising other staff and managing budgets then you can take those to almost any role. Look for careers where you can transfer your existing skills.

If possible, you might look to developing a second income stream by contracting out your services after hours or by picking up a part time job. This might only be a short term solution until your main income picks up but it’s worth considering.

What does the Lifehacker family say? Are there some other tricks and tips?

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • I could use some tips too. I handed in my resignation on Monday. In four weeks I’ll be out of the full-time corporate workplace. I collect 10 weeks of accrued leave in a lump sum payout, which will give me some breathing space while I change gears.

    I’ve already got a solid music teaching job working for a shop. I’ve been teaching for 2-3 hours a night for two nights a week. Now I’ll be working five days a week of four hours a day, which will give me a reasonable part-time pay.

    I’ve got other skills which I think I can market as a contractor. Maybe I could do some website design and maintenance for small businesses, etc. I run a pretty tidy Linux server at home and understand most web technologies, so there is also a chance of some small network design and admin work.

    What are some of the best ways of putting yourself out there without getting in over your head?

    • Depends why you left your current job, I guess. The market is quite good right now in the information tech sector in general, but if you’ve decided that’s not what you want to do – then personally i’d say plan to not be working for at least 6 months. If you end up getting a job sooner, fantastic – but the feeling of taking that time is so important in my opinion.

      And you can always rest assured that even if you leave your job voluntarily, you can still claim Centrelink after a couple of months – though if you can have some cash in your pocket, you will actually be able to leave your house which is always good.

      • I’m leaving on good terms with my employer. I still like IT, but I just can’t do the corporate head f##k any more. I’ve been doing it for 15 years now, and I’m feeling burnt out.

        So, I have a secure part-time job to pay the bills. I’d like to get into contracting as a one man show for ideally, short term jobs. How can I put myself out there as a contractor? A website is important, but what else?

        • For what it’s worth – I’ve been in businesses before that were a complete stressfest every day over pointless things, but my current/new job is amazing while still being in IT. Maybe worthwhile shopping around to find something decent if it was the company not the job you hated.

          I was an independant contractor (consultant/freelancer) for a long time, and there is some serious money to be made while still keeping it casual. The most I ever accomplished to earn was about $150 an hour at age 17-18) by doing some.. Tricky licencing.

          It’s a dangerous industry though, nobody actually knows what they want or how much its realistically going to cost, and a lot of times you will end up spending potentially hours discussing a project with a potential client only to have them post it on get a freelancer and done badly in the third world for half the price using your advice.

          There’s also a lot of varied skills involved – the most common clash in this area people preconcieve is that you can’t be a programmer AND a designer.. I think this is largely bullshit, as with anything both are skills and both can be practiced and learned.

          Good luck out there anyway, it’s a lot of fun – from my experience at least just remember to not let yourself become isolated from other people – it’s very easy to do with working from home every day, and even if you stay social/productive for the first few months, most people eventually go into intraverted sloth mode and end up playing far more video games than intended heh.

          • For me, microbreaks are the best way to stay productive, especially on long 10-12 hour days, where i’m eating lunch while working even its a good way to stay relaxed

  • Thanks @michael_debyl. That’s very encouraging.

    My soon-to-be-old job has taken my mojo. I’ve really isolated myself lately, and I’ve been playing too much video games. All I do is eat, sleep, work, game, and read. I figure a life change will really encourage me to put myself out there. Time to meet people and do stuff again.

    Working at the music shop has been really good. When I was on a part-time contract for twelve months as a semi-sabbatical, I was engaged with people, and I was really enjoying life. I was teaching music three nights a week, teaching ukulele at a primary school, and performing in pubs on the weekend. I was living the dream. That was three years ago.

  • Honestly, save up as much as you can (if you currently can) before you jump ship. There’s no financial security like having cold hard cash available at short term notice.
    Good luck with the switch 🙂

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