(Money Magazine) -- When Gary Buslik graduated from college with a degree in English, his parents were concerned about how he'd earn a decent living. "It worried them to hear me quoting Shakespeare," he jokes.
Their fears were misplaced: Buslik went on to start an alarm company in Chicago that would eventually grow to $6 million in annual sales and earn him $500,000 a year. But he wasn't happy. "My passion was literature, not alarm systems," he says.
So when Buslik turned 50, in 1997, he sold his business (for several million bucks) in order to pursue that passion. With a recommendation from a pal who was an assistant dean, he got into the English Ph.D. program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In return for his work as a TA, the school waived his tuition.
Buslik graduated in 2007 and now teaches there part-time while writing books on the side. He makes just $13,500 a year, but "I've never regretted my decision," he says. "I'm content to be sending Shakespeare lovers into the world."
How he did it
1. By taking the first good offer.
In putting his company up for sale, he didn't wait around for the best price. "I could've held out for more money," Buslik says, "but I wanted to get on with my plans."
2. By investing conservatively.
Expecting slim future wages, Buslik paid off his mortgage and put much of his savings in ultra-safe I bonds, which are indexed to inflation.
3. By drawing down cautiously.
A divorce cut into his nest egg, but Buslik figures his savings will last him if he's careful. "I'm not a flashy guy," he says, noting that he still drives a 1986 Mercedes.
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