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A woman who quit her job earning over $200,000 a year explains why she's happier earning less than a quarter as much

Sonia Thompson headshotCourtesy of Sonia ThompsonSonia Thompson.

In 2012, Sonia Thompson had it all.

Working in marketing for Johnson & Johnson, she was earning over $200,000 a year, living alone in a three-bedroom townhouse outside of Philadelphia. Things were good.

“I had this job that I loved — for a while — I had a house, I had all the things people say you should have,” she remembers. “I felt like I was living the American dream.”

Things were good … but not great.

“I was in my early 30s and I had this feeling that there had to be more,” Thompson recalls. “It was great when I was acquiring the things, holding this high-powered job, but there was an emptiness there. I thought there had to be more than these physical things and this money. There has to be more to life than getting a mortgage and going to work every day to pay it off.”

Her revelation wasn’t exactly unexpected. In the first of her nine years working for the health care company, she had realised that the corporate life wasn’t for her. One day, she knew, she would want to strike out on her own. As her salary rose over the years, she didn’t inflate her lifestyle along with it, instead choosing to put her spare cash into savings for some day down the road.

“Someday” came when she returned from a two-week trip to South Africa in early 2012. It was the longest trip she’d taken in nine years working for her employer, and coincided with the completion of a manuscript for her book, “Delight Inside: Build Your Dream Business That Keeps Customers Coming Back for More.” Once she received an annual bonus of about $30,000 a month later, she had two years of living expenses saved and was ready to branch out on her own.

Thompson left her six-figure job and sold her 1,600-square-foot home with the idea of building a consulting business around the frameworks outlined in her book.

“Because I had that two-year cushion of savings, I didn’t feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to make money right now,'” Thompson says. “I had to learn about the type of business I wanted, and I could think strategically instead of taking whatever I could get. That buffer was able to give me what I needed.”

She began doing one-on-one consulting work with clients she found through her network, which turned into the business she runs today: TRY Business School. Now, she offers both individual coaching packages ranging from $199 for a single session to a six-month program for $500 a month, as well as a series of courses that range in price from $147 to $497 and a free summit.

Sonia Thompson Machu PicchuCourtesy of Sonia ThompsonThompson at Machu Picchu on her first trip to South America.

However, she’s taking it slow. Right now, her company’s annual revenue is about $36,000 a year, a sum that pales in comparison to her corporate compensation, but has allowed her to build the lifestyle she truly wants to live: half the year in her hometown of Tampa, Florida, and half the year in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a city that captured her heart when she visited in 2014.

“It’s more than enough to live very comfortably here in Buenos Aires,” Thompson says. “There isn’t the pressure to make so much. I very much intend to make more in the future, but in the meantime there’s not a lot of pressure.”

When asked to describe how her life compares to her high-earning corporate reality only a few years ago, Thompson says it’s “peaceful.”

“I feel like I lived in a constant state of stress. I was always responding to what my bosses needed. But now I’m able to work from anywhere, which is why I choose to be here in Buenos Aires — and if I don’t like it, I can change it. I feel much more in control of my life and my destiny.”

In fact, she remembers, before she left her job in 2012, a colleague told her, “You’re doing what I wish I had the courage to do.”

“I remember that last six months, there were people I knew were unhappy in their jobs but felt stuck. They just didn’t want to leave the ‘safety’ of their jobs,” she reflects. “I would tell anyone who is feeling that way that there is so much more to experience and enjoy in life. You’re only getting a tiny slice of it. Maybe you’ll decide the corporate life is for you, but once you decide to explore and see what is possible, you can live the life of your dreams — and probably cheaper than you think you could.”

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