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I quit my career to live off my savings but lost everything in a financial crisis. I'm struggling to get back on my feet.

J.D. Harlock   

I quit my career to live off my savings but lost everything in a financial crisis. I'm struggling to get back on my feet.
  • In 2020, I quit my career in accounting and decided to focus on my real dream: writing.
  • I planned on living off my life savings, but I lost it all in Lebanon's financial crisis.

The year 2020 was supposed to be when I could finally take it easy and focus on myself. Years of odd jobs — which I started in my teens — had taken their toll on my health. I decided to leave my career in accounting behind and finally take a crack at my lifelong dream of being a writer.

By the time I was 23, I had $20,000 saved — thanks to tutoring and accounting — so I knew I could take some time to chase my dreams in Lebanon, where my family is from. I wasn't too concerned about my finances because my mother tucked away my substantial earnings in a local bank in Lebanon. We lived off the interest of our combined life savings.

But Lebanon's banking system collapsed — the World Bank called it a Ponzi scheme — and the country entered a financial crisis. As soon as the headlines broke, access to our accounts was restricted. It became a mess of confusion. We only knew that the Lebanese pound was in freefall, and businesses were closing left and right.

My savings were lost forever — just as I was making headway as a writer.

I didn't have a reentry plan

In late 2020, it became clear that our money was just digits on a screen, and the Lebanese government didn't have a plan to deal with the crisis. I knew I had to return to work but didn't know how. I hadn't planned for this.

Figuring out how to return to the workforce was the real struggle. Call it youthful naivety, but I didn't have a reentry plan in case I needed to return to work. I was prepared to do office work, but the job market in Lebanon was dead. I had to expand my job search to the US; thankfully, I'm also an American citizen.

But I struggled to find a job Stateside, too. My main issue was that I had a few gap years in my work history because of the break I took. I had to touch up my résumé so that hobbies, side projects, and activities were now valuable experiences to an employer, but it didn't help much.

The Lebanese financial crisis continued long after the COVID-19 pandemic. The only way to make ends meet was to crawl into the gig economy.

I'm now burning myself out

I don't have enough cash on hand to relocate to the States, so I have to subsist on odd jobs mixed with commissions from magazines, newspapers, and journals. But it's been a nightmare.

Working freelance is just a relentless hamster wheel. Not knowing where and when I'll find my next gig is demoralizing. I have to constantly search for more opportunities while trying to finish what I already have on my plate as fast as possible.

Being my own boss is also difficult. You can't help but be tough on yourself for fear of losing productivity. Initially, I figured it would be a temporary arrangement until I could use my freelance work as a launchpad for better things, but career development in freelancing is relatively linear compared to the old-fashioned corporate ladder.

Burnout has been a problem I've had to power through so many times that the long-term psychological effects have been debilitating. I must push myself to keep up, but I can only do it for so long.

Since losing my savings, I've been freelancing for five years. I know I can't carry on like this forever, but I have an exit plan in place this time. I'm pursuing a doctorate to access stable work outside a corporate setting. I still have years ahead of me and have all but given up hopes of trying to make it as a writer, considering how slim the opportunities are now compared to only a couple of years ago.

Still, I hold on to the hope that through the same hard work and perseverance that allowed me to shore up my savings in the first place, I can find my way back to financial stability.

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