Apr 05, 2016 12:53 PM EDT

Shifting Careers: The Secrets To A Successful Midlife Career Change

Did you ever wake up one morning and decided that it was time for a change? Some people have.

Maybe you have been collecting mounds of stress for the past decade and have decided to move on to a different path. For Steven Clark, he did just that. He woke up one morning and decided he no longer wanted to be a software engineer. He had been in the profession for twenty years. According to MarketWatch, he got sick of office politics that he just went up and quit cold turkey.

"The opportunity to craft and create has never been better," explains Maggie Mistal, a life and career coach in New York City. But that doesn't mean it's easy. For those in their 40s and 50s, they need to continue building retirement accounts. They also have other obligations to do which is why transitioning to a different career is a rocky road. But there are some pointers that can help.

Here are the secrets to a successful midlife career change:

1. Make a financial cushion

For Steven Clark, his decision was impulsive but he had a safety net. He had a six digit substantial savings cushion that he lived on while he prepared for his financial planner exam. At the same time, he and his wife slashed expenses and cut some services like cable TV. A combination of savings and frugality can be key to career changes, according to Mistal. "The most successful career changers aren't the ones who are worried about paying the bills when they're doing it," she said. When Clark opened his practice in 2014, he knew that he has a long list of expenses to make (furniture and dues) and his wages will not return until a few years later. His transition required a big investment of time and money but through all that, he still has not touched his retirement funds because he has financially planned it all.

2. Use higher education deliberately

Margaret Lee wanted to be an investment banker for a long time but after she became a mother, she found it difficult to support her clients. Her employer, Morgan Stanley tried to find her a new role in the company. "I tried to find something in the banking world that could accommodate being an involved parent, and I couldn't," said Lee, of New York City. Later on, she left to become a volunteer at her kid's nursery school. While there, she found out that the school did not have the right access to technology and communication. She set out to fix that by learning coding at the age of 40. She was older than her classmates, "It was definitely a bit of a culture shock for me," Lee said. "I hadn't been around millennials before." Soon, she had the programming skills to head aParently - a parent-to-parent communications and collaboration platform. She still puts in long hours running the startup, but says there's a key difference between now and her days in investment banking: She can work around her needs, rather than her clients'.

3. Work your network

A burnt out 40 year old lawyer named John Marino encountered so much stress that his health became an issue. "My blood sugar was off the charts," said Marino. His transition started when he started exercising and eating better. He became more involved in his kids' sports teams and became drawn to the idea of helping adults with their careers and relationships. Through one of his kid's friend's moms, he was able to network with a professional executive coach. He then was able to create a coaching practice. Experts advocate a gradual approach, which helps potential career switchers test the waters of a new venture with the safety net of a paycheck and benefits, when possible. Two years later, he started doing it full-time.

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