I’ve had a number of folks ask me about my experiences in transitioning from a career day job to working as a full-time author, so I thought I’d give you some of my impressions here, for what they may be worth. I’m breaking this up into four parts and this, of course, is part 1.
Now, keep in mind that I’m speaking from the perspective of a self-published author who’s now supporting his family entirely on those royalties. So some things may apply more or less to you, depending on your situation (e.g., you have a second income, etc.).
As a quick recap, I was a career government employee working for the National Security Agency (NSA) for twenty-five years, and was a GG-15 (the highest grade on the regular pay scale) when I decided to leap into writing full-time after SEASON OF THE HARVEST was published in February 2011. That was literally the turning point for me, because sales of that book took off and took my previously published books with it. The money that I made during the summer of 2011 from my book royalties convinced me that I’d be an idiot not to pursue it full-time, and so I resigned from NSA in mid-August.
Six months have passed since then, which actually comes as a bit of a shock: it seems like I just left work yesterday! Anyway, here are some impressions I’d like to pass on in hopes they may help someone else down the line who’s at the threshold of taking this particular leap of faith.
Health Insurance Coverage
You probably weren’t expecting this, were you? The reason I wanted to talk about this is that it was a huge issue for us in transitioning from a federal plan to a “regular” health plan, because it’s something I don’t believe people should be without (the FUBAR’d health care system notwithstanding), but depending on your situation, this is a potential show-stopper for becoming self-employed.
At NSA, I was covered by one of the federal government plans (the same as our friendly neighborhood congress-persons have). We paid about $400 a month for family coverage, while Uncle Sam (through your generous tax donations) paid another $800, for a total of right around $1200 a month for a state Blue Cross HMO. We had copays of $20 or so for office visits and whatever the formulary cost was for prescriptions (which were generally very cheap), and that was it – no deductible, no coinsurance. It didn’t matter if we went to the doc for a sniffle or if I needed a brain transplant, and there were all sorts of other bells and whistles. In short, for $400 a month and a few twenties now and again, our family didn’t have to worry at all about health care coverage. Best of all, the providers couldn’t drop us, screw us over on preexisting conditions (if we’d had any) or jack up our rates. They can’t do that for people covered under a federal plan. Sweet.
When my wife and I started seriously looking at me leaving NSA, I had to research alternative health care plans, the kind that “regular people” not working for the fed have. Holy crap. All I can say is that anyone who says we don’t need massive health care reform in this country is certifiably insane. I’m not making a political statement, just stating a fact.
After weeding through all the bazillion different plan options, which on the surface give the impression of offering choice, but compared to what I was used to only differed in the degree to which I was going to get screwed, I finally settled on one that had a premium of $600 a month and had a $2700 per person ($5400 family) annual deductible and no coinsurance. Just to compare those two, our federal plan cost us maybe a total of $5,000 a year for everything. Just the premium on the new plan is over $7000, and we could get stiffed over $12,000 if we had enough to eat up the family deductible. Yummy.
Of course, the insurance company didn’t want to cover me for 10 months for something they deemed was a preexisting condition, even though it hadn’t been an issue for over two years. So I had to sign a waiver for that, stating that the insurer wasn’t responsible for anything related to that condition for 10 months. Anything for that had to come out of my own pocket. Nice. Then, of course, they can later on “reevaluate” our coverage and raise our rates, etc. Welcome to the Matrix.
So, health care is a huge potential cost that you may or may not already have in your financial calculus. If you have a serious condition, you simply may not be able to afford insurance on your own.
Next up: Keep The Faith, But Don’t Count On Next Month’s Income…