I’m excited to bring you today’s Slow FI interview with someone I can now call a friend, Lisa! In fact, just a week ago, Corey and I were staying in Lisa’s driveway in our campervan on our 3-month, cross-country road trip. Cincinnati for EconoMe was the first big stop on our road trip itinerary, and Lisa was kind enough to offer her driveway as a landing place.
Another reason I’m excited about this interview is that Lisa and I have uncanny similarities. We’ve both worked in nonprofit HR roles. We both experienced mental health crises in 2018 as a result of those roles and needed to figure out career changes.
While our paths there were somewhat different, we both left the HR field and are running our own businesses. Oh, and… we both love RV travel.
Lisa’s transition was more gradual than mine was. She also has helpful insights on what kind of downshifts you can ask from your employer and how to go about doing it.
Let’s get into the interview.
1. Tell me a little bit about you.
Hi, I’m Lisa! I’m a lover of travel, photography, dogs, good food, reading, and intentional living.
I currently live in the Cincinnati area with my husband and our furbaby, Ziggy. I grew up in this area and come from a family who didn’t have a lot of money growing up.
I went to college on scholarships and pursued a degree in Psychology. I’ve always been fascinated with human behavior. In college, I assumed I’d be a therapist or counselor. After I graduated though, I decided at the last minute to get my Master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology–more of business psychology, so to speak.
While I was pursuing my graduate degree, I got a lucky break to work in an entry-level Human Resources position at a nonprofit organization. At the time, my career path seemed crystal clear. Over the next several years I did what I thought I should do, changing positions every 2-3 years to climb the Human Resources career ladder in mostly non-profit organizations.
2. What deliberate decision have you made to slow down and improve your life?
Over the last 4 years, I’ve made significant career changes to support my quality of life.
From 2016 through 2019, I was an HR Director leading a small team. During this time, I experienced a lot of challenges. I was constantly stressed out and had high anxiety.
I assured myself everything I was experiencing was normal and part of working in a director-level position. I tried hard to accept my reality. But, as time progressed, my stress and anxiety only continued to increase. I’d start crying on my way to work. I was having a lot of trouble sleeping. Instead of a break, weekends were just more time to stew over what was coming the next week. I felt like I was drowning and could not stop thinking about work.
In the fall of 2018, I decided that this was no longer a life I wanted to live, no matter the title or compensation. I went to my husband and told him I needed to quit my job by the end of the year, whether I had another job lined up or not. Thankfully, he was 110% supportive.
I dreamed of downshifting to an individual contributor role.
Soon after, one of my mentors emailed me about a local HR consulting role aimed at building more non-profit clients. This was perfect. I immediately sent over my resume and accepted an offer right before Christmas.
For the first couple of years, HR consulting was a great fit for me. I had a ton of autonomy, flexibility, and variety. Plus, even though I was an individual contributor, I was earning more money!
It seemed perfect until it wasn’t…
2020 brought COVID and a lot of internal changes within the firm. Suddenly, business was very slow. My hours varied widely, and I became more disillusioned and frustrated when internal changes weren’t communicated effectively.
Meanwhile, my interest and passion for the work were waning. I had a growing feeling that I didn’t want to do “this” anymore.
A pivotal point came in September 2021, when we discovered our first dog’s health was rapidly declining. This was hard on my husband, and I realized that I’d much rather spend time with him and the dog. So, I made a request to drop to 25 hours/week. My company approved the request, and we were able to make the most of our time with our dog.
Despite my decrease in hours, I still felt like I didn’t want to work in HR anymore. I started having conversations with my husband about how I felt. I knew that I needed to give myself some space to figure out what was next. We agreed I should do whatever I felt I needed to do, even if that included taking a longer break from employment.
Instead of quitting entirely right away, I decided to take a leave of absence in early 2022. I submitted the request to my manager for 60 days of unpaid leave starting in April 2022, and she approved it almost immediately.
Having 2 months off of work was incredible. It created the space for us to take a 4-week trip out west in our RV, which we thought wouldn’t be a reality until after we reached FI. That trip taught us how much we enjoy and appreciate RV living and how much we want to travel for longer periods of time.
As I mentally prepared to return to work at the end of May, I wasn’t fully committed to returning. The time off had been amazing but I didn’t feel reenergized to return to HR consulting as I had hoped. Through discussions with the company, I agreed to return on an “as-needed” basis, working no more than 10 hours per week.
Several months later, I realized that my heart was no longer in it. I needed to listen to myself. I had tried everything – a break, working less, pursuing other interests, etc.
But, it was time to quit. At the moment it seemed a sudden decision. But, let’s be honest. This had been building for years.
3. How have these larger career shifts in the last year impacted your quality of life?
Over the summer months, my quality of life was quite good. During this time, I worked up to 10 hours per week. I do think it’s important to note that my job still took up more than ten hours of my mental space. Still, I was able to dedicate time more appropriately to the parts of my life I valued most.
I spent a lot of time training our puppy, and I continued therapy. I slept better and was able to incorporate more regular movement into my days. I also took the leap to buy the domain for FI Venturers. For years, I had considered creating a blog to share our adventures. It seemed like a great time to test it out.
Since quitting my job, my quality of life has been amazing. I have as close to full autonomy and freedom as I can get, without being FI. I am empowered to decide what I want my life to be and how I show up. I decide where my focus goes, how I spend my time, who I connect with, and what’s important. I get to make decisions based on my needs and the needs of my loved ones without the influence of a company.
Being fully dependent on myself feels empowering. If I don’t write the blog post, I won’t get traction. If I don’t reach out proactively to open doors, I will have fewer opportunities. If I don’t try new types of work, I won’t generate income. I’m fully in charge of my success or failure. While some may find this overwhelming, I feel refreshed.
Now, I have an abundance of time, a resource that previously felt scarce. I previously felt like there was never enough time to meet deadlines, spend time with friends and family, immerse ourselves in locations where we travel, meal prep and do other chores, etc. Now, things can take as long as they take. That has resulted in a much more relaxed state of mind.
4. In your opinion, what things in your life contribute most to your happiness and contentment?
The complete autonomy I have now is the greatest contributor to my happiness and contentment. Working for myself is freeing, and it’s okay if it also feels scary, at times.
Through the last year, I’ve come to realize a lot of conflicting things can be true about our circumstances. I can be scared to release a big part of my identity (my career), and I can be unbelievably excited and hopeful to begin anew. I can beat myself up for not knowing what’s next and still trust myself enough to know I will figure it out. I can know I made the right decision for myself by quitting and, sometimes, feel guilty because that decision negatively impacts our progress toward FI.
Being able to hold conflicting feelings and beliefs at once allows me to be at peace with my decisions.
5. How did making these career shifts impact your financial goals or timelines?
My decisions to downshift and eventually quit have impacted our progress toward FI. We aren’t saving nearly as much. My husband has a great full-time job, but it is stressful and demanding.
Fortunately, we can easily live off of his income. Even though I know I made the right decision, I still sometimes feel like I am letting my husband down by not pulling my weight toward our FI goal.
During this time, I’m working to create income from our blog, consulting work, and new opportunities I haven’t discovered yet. I’m looking into passive income streams that would allow my husband to downshift sooner.
6. How did your pursuit of FI help or hinder your decision to make career shifts?
Ultimately our pursuit of FI empowered me to make the changes I’ve made in my career, including quitting. It’s a great feeling to know you can have options (despite earning less) because you have enough money saved.
Have you ever heard the phrases, “Sometimes you need to slow down to go fast,” or, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint?”
I’m hopeful my decision to listen to myself and slow down pays off by helping us continue strong in our journey to FI and, most importantly, live our best life along the way.
On the other hand, our aggressive pursuit of FI also made the decisions tough, because we wanted to stay on track with our original timeline.
When I start doubting these decisions, I remind myself that money is not the end goal. Money is the tool that is helping us, right now, achieve what we want in life.
Because of our pursuit of FI, we get to pursue other interests. We are taking more frequent and longer trips in our RV, connecting more with the FI community, and prioritizing travel with family while they are still here with us and able to travel.
7. Were there things in your life you adapted so you could continue to work toward your goals?
My husband and I discovered the FIRE movement in 2018, around the time when I quit my Director role. We had always been fairly conservative with our spending and saved more than average. However, we still fell victim to telling ourselves “we earned it” in certain areas.
As I transitioned into my consulting role, we made a ton of lifestyle changes to aggressively pursue FI. Living more intentionally and being more purposeful with our spending aligned with our values. As a result, the changes we made simply felt “right,” instead of like a chore or deprivation.
Since quitting my job last year, we haven’t needed to make aggressive changes. But, we have been more cognizant of expenses. For example, I’ve extended the time between haircuts to cut down on costs.
We’ve accepted that our FI path has slowed down a bit, and that is okay.
8. Why and when do you think someone might consider “downshifting?”
Downshifting can be for anyone who needs more space in their day-to-day lives. There are endless reasons why you may want or need more space in your days.
- To take care of your mental health
- To pursue a side hustle
- To spend more time with children
- To care for a sick family member
- To care for aging parents, or
- Just because you want to!
I encourage you to listen when your body tells you, “I need more space.”
I strongly believe to invite new opportunities into your life, you must make space for those opportunities! I am not an expert in manifesting, but I have seen this play out time and again throughout my life. This doesn’t make it less scary at the time. But, downshifting has helped me create the space I needed to get through tough situations and learn to trust I will figure things out.
10. What advice do you have for someone considering a similar decision?
Review your financial situation to ensure your financial safety net is in place. Talk openly with those in your family who will be impacted by the decision and discuss what you are trying to achieve. Doing so will help eliminate some unnecessary fears or doubts you may have.
You also don’t need to quit your job all at once. Start small. Try requesting to decrease your hours at work for a defined period of time. If that goes well, great! Your experiment went well, and you learned what worked for you! Then, you can make a case to work reduced hours indefinitely.
As someone who has worked in HR for many years, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open with your employer. They may not approve every request. But, keeping the lines of communication open provides opportunities to negotiate. Maybe your request doesn’t get approved, but the company makes a concession that moves you closer to what you want or need–that’s still a win!
If this isn’t available at your current employer, you could downshift to a different employer or position that offers the hours, balance, and benefits you want.
Making a move like this takes effort, but everything worthwhile in life takes effort.
Thank you so much, Lisa, for sharing your story with us! You shared so many valuable things in this interview.
Lisa shares a great example of a gradual approach to making career changes. Maybe you couldn’t imagine quitting the job you are in right now. It might feel really scary. But, what if you decreased your hours? Then, what if you took a sabbatical to see what life was like without work? And, when you went back, what if you decreased them even more? Taking a gradual approach is akin to experimentation. Taking small steps can allow you to gain confidence to take the bigger steps later.
I also really appreciated Lisa’s honesty in this interview. I can absolutely identify with the feelings of guilt and feeling like I wasn’t pulling my weight financially in my relationship. Choosing to not contribute 50-50 toward the finances of our relationship was really hard for me when I needed to work part-time (for my mental health) and when I eventually quit my job to focus on my business.
For us, it was helpful to have open conversations about this. I remember having a conversation with Corey about it, and he was incredibly supportive. He said, “Even if you aren’t contributing 50-50 to the finances right now, you are contributing way more than 50% to building the life we want in the future. That’s just as valuable.”
Because we made this choice for me to focus less on contributing financially for a period of time, we are now in a position where Corey can scale back from work and take a sabbatical this year.
It’s important, as Lisa said, to remember that money isn’t the goal. It’s simply a tool that can help us reach our goals. If we forget that, it’s easier to get off track.
The last thing I want to dig in on here was Lisa’s statement, “I strongly believe to invite new opportunities into your life, you must make space for those opportunities!” I am certainly not an expert on manifesting either. I believe that we make things happen in our lives through our actions (which are often informed by our mindsets and beliefs). One of the actions that we can take is to create space in our lives. One of my mantras is, “Hands that are already full can’t receive.” When we make space, new opportunities may arise, or maybe we simply notice the ones that were there all along.
I hope this interview is a reminder for you to make space for what you want in life.
If you’d like to continue following Lisa’s story, you can find her in the following places: