"My poor planning stole my retirement"

This is an article in the Wall Street Journal about small-business owners who are having to defer retirement "because" of the recession.

Since self-published writers are, in essence, small-business owners, I would like you to read that. And then read it again.

And then read my blog post about why you shouldn't lock yourself into best-case expectations.

Of course I feel bad for these people--I also feel bad for the people who died on the Terra Nova expedition--but when people do things like start a business with the expectation that they will be able to sell it at a certain price at the exact time they wish to retire (which they also magically know in advance), I also feel like they should have had the phrase, "Man plans; God laughs" explained to them at some formative point in their lives.

I loved being my own boss--it was worth the price to me. But there was, indeed, a price. I did not have a predictable income. How unpredictable was my income? Well, there was a certain fat month and a certain lean year where I made pretty much the same amount of money.

I was able to swing that sort of thing because when that fat month came along, I did not assume it would be repeated. I always set my financial life up on the assumption that disaster was about to strike.

I did not buy a dream house. I did not saddle myself with an attractive deadbeat. I did not assume that I "needed" a costly [whatever]. I did not buy expensive doodads or take expensive trips "because I'm worth it." It was more important to me to be able to sleep nights.

Since I am naturally risk adverse, it was a real adjustment for me (hence the sleepless nights) to shift from having a salary to freelancing. It also took a much higher level of financial organization. If you're on salary, every week or every two weeks a specific, predictable amount of money just shows up.

That's very nice. It's really easy to get used to that.

When you have your own business, THAT IS GONE. You have no safety net. No one owes you anything. Your work can dry up for absolutely no reason whatsoever. And your life may change--that lean year was not the fault of my clients, it was the fault of my own life circumstances that prevented me from doing paid work.

Your book sales are going to fluctuate. Your genre may have its day, and then, suddenly, its day is over. You may not be able to crank out books at the rate you used to. You may be the flavor of the week, but that just means that next week, the flavor will change.

Don't assume the fat months will last. Protect your core