The main narrative in the financial independence space says work as hard as you can now to achieve financial independence or early retirement as soon as possible. This narrative implies that upon reaching that goal, we will then be free to live our ideal lives.
Some people are trying to push against the narrative. Even some who did retire very early are now telling us to slow down and focus on happiness along the way and that they wish they would have enjoyed the journey more.
While those things are helpful to hear, hindsight is often 20/20.
I know I’d find it much more helpful to hear the stories of people who are making these trade-offs during their journey to financial independence.
I want to hear stories of people who are figuring out what they value, envisioning their ideal lives, and seeing what they can change right now to make their lives better, even if it takes them longer to achieve financial independence.
It seems like most people want to ascribe to another narrative of the financial independence that focuses on happiness, meaning, and alignment with your ideal life along the journey, not just after you’ve achieved your magic number.
There are stories here and there of people making deliberate decisions to improve their lives by deciding to work part-time, quitting side hustles, or not pursuing higher level positions with higher salaries.
These stories seem too few and too far between.
I’ve heard from readers that they are scared to make big life decisions like these. They wish they had enough courage to take a big step and do something different with their lives, but they just can’t get themselves to do it.
These questions swirl around in all of our brains and keep us paralyzed:
- What if it doesn’t work out?
- What if I leave a stable job for something I’d enjoy more but I don’t make enough money or don’t like the company?
- What if I decide to work part-time and it lengthens my timeline to reach FI?
- What if I quit this side hustle and then lose my day job?
We could ask “What if…?” all day long.
Part of me thinks that we just aren’t providing enough examples of these deliberate decisions to improve our lives. We, as bloggers, write a lot of words about how to reduce our timeline to FI and to be more frugal.
We write about reducing spending on food, housing, transportation, social events, travel, etc., and how all of these things will decrease your timeline to FI.
We don’t write as much about trade-offs and the decisions we make to improve our lives.
Why is this?
While I’m not exactly sure, it does seem like the people who are celebrated most are those who reach FIRE the quickest, not those who have the best lives along the way.
Changing the Narrative: Announcing the Slowing Down Interview Series
Financial Independence is not about achieving early retirement as quickly as possible. As Fioneers, it’s about discovering what we value, envisioning our ideal lives, and aligning our lives with that vision along the way.
I recently heard someone say, “I want to make so many small changes along the way so that when I reach my FI number, I’m already living my ideal life. I won’t need to change anything.”
Wow. I’d love to be able to say that.
I’m making it my personal mission to identify and amplify the stories of brave, courageous people who are making unconventional decisions that go against the grain to improve their lives.
Therefore, I’m starting an interview series focused on the stories of people who are making important trade-offs in their lives.
These stories will show people deliberately making decisions that will improve their lives but which also lengthens their FI timeline. (See below if you are interested in being interviewed.)
If we show people examples and possibilities, I believe we will all become more courageous in our own everyday decisions.
How We are Slowing Down (Even More)
If you are a regular reader, you know that earlier this year I made a decision to work part-time. When we originally announced this, we also shared that it wouldn’t have much of an impact on our overall savings rate, and therefore, also not impact our FI timeline.
Corey received a sizeable salary increase at the beginning of 2019, and we were also planning to reduce our expenses in a few areas (eating out, travel, and entertainment). While we had previously hoped to speed up our timeline, we were okay with keeping the timeline the same.
The challenge with this is that we based this assumption on me increasing my work hours to 75% (30 hours/week) from my current 60% (24 hours/week) at the mid-year point. This is looking increasingly unlikely to happen for two reasons: 1) health and 2) our desire to work toward our vision of our ideal life.
While I am doing well and my anxiety is under control, it still feels like a challenge to stay balanced. Right now, I typically work on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and have 4-day weekends. This work schedule is working really well for me unless I need to switch it.
I find that if I need to switch my schedule for vacation, family visits, or other reasons, I’m exhausted for weeks afterward.
If I decided to increase my work hours, I believe that a healthy balance would be challenging to maintain and it could set my mental health back.
Working Toward our Ideal Lives
The other reason is that we want to begin working toward location independence now. We want to try our hand at entrepreneurship on the side and see if we can make money from affiliate programs, courses, coaching, or freelance work or writing.
I love writing for the blog, and I’d love to see if I could spend some of my precious free time continuing to write and build up additional sources of income.
We’re considering taking a semi-retirement approach to FI, meaning that we would only need to have enough passive income to cover part of our expenses (and a full traditional retirement later). Having time to build up additional sources of income on the side (from doing only things we want to do) would help us to know if this is a viable option.
If this did work out, it would enable us to become location independent more quickly.
This Life Experiment is a Risk Worth Taking
This decision is worth making because of the impact that it will have to help me maintain balance in my mental health and to help us work toward our ideal lives. At the same time, it’s risky.
We could end up creating additional sources of income. We could also make ZERO additional money, and I believe we need to plan for this possibility.
If we didn’t make any additional income, it would increase our FI timeline by 6 to 12 months. We have a few different scenarios ranging from conservative to aggressive. Only the most aggressive scenario shows less than 12 months.
Now 1 year might not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things. But when we have a current timeline of 8-10 years, 12 months increases the length by more than 10%.
Regardless, for us, this is the right decision, makes our lives infinitely better now, and enables us to work toward our ideal life.
We Want to Hear From You!
We need more stories of people making deliberate decisions to improve their lives, even if the decisions don’t make perfect financial sense.
I plan to feature a Slowing Down Interview at least once/month on the blog.
Have you decided to:
- Work part-time
- Quit a job without another lined up
- Not to accept a promotion or pursue a higher paying job
- Take a mini-retirement
- Become a single income household
- Quit your side hustle
- Anything else that made your life better that didn’t make financial sense.
Check out the stories we’ve featured already.
Do you want to share your story?
Please reach out to us, let us know you are interested and tell us a little bit about your unconventional decision to improve your life. We’re looking to feature both bloggers and readers.
Personal finance is all about figuring out our own priorities, values, and vision. Sometimes we need to hear about others making unconventional choices before we can have the confidence to make our own.
What kinds of unconventional choices are you most interested in hearing about?
I love this! So excited to follow this series. It’s the exact shift we have been reflecting about these last couple of years. Our plan to FIRE did already include some general ideas of taking “mini-retirements” to spend our last 4 summers before reaching FIRE with the kiddoes when they will be off from school. However, we are now thinking of adding an extra month long mini retirement next year which could add a few months to our plan but just seems so worth it for our mental health and to spend extra time with our family now instead of in 6 years.
This is great! Yes, I’m definitely planning to speak with people who’ve taken mini-retirements because that’s a concept I’m interested in as well. It can be hard to take the leap. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Okay, I love this so, so much! You don’t need me to tell you how I feel about this path versus all out to FI in the shortest time frame possible 😉
That narrative shift has to help those reading along that don’t have a situation to reach FI in their 30s-50s, but maybe can make changes to live a better life now. Not reaching FIRE at an early age – or ever – isn’t a failure of a life. Not living to the fullest that’s within your power is another thing altogether.
Thanks, Angela! Completely agreed – it’s okay for things to take longer, but I want us to help people live their fullest lives along the way! 🙂
I’m looking forward to this interview series!
I’ve intentionally stepped down into a role of lower importance twice in my career. The first time I used the excuse of pregnancy with baby #3 and told upper management that when I returned from my unpaid maternity leave I didn’t want to be a lead anymore. I quite honestly didn’t see how I could juggle the demands of the job I was doing with the pumping schedule a new baby required. They gave me no pushback but I did struggle internally with the loss of prestige upon my return.
The 2nd time was at the start of this year. I was in a high-visibility position that I had grown to despise. I worked late evenings and weekends. I couldn’t sleep. I had periods of depression where all I could do was go to work and spend any time at home simply lying in bed My 10 year old said “You’ve been sick a lot Mom”. =( Again, I got very little pushback from management, they knew I was in a high-turnover position and wanted to keep me somewhere versus risk the chance of losing me entirely.
In both instances I was very lucky to have no loss in pay. I did lose out on future income growth opportunity, but I would have gladly taken a large paycut to have my life back!
There’ve also been numerous times that I have turned down roles of increased responsibility, stress, (and power!).
This series of choices has been an elucidating personal growth journey for me. In my early life I was extremely ambitious and cared a lot about other’s opinions. It’s been hard to push aside the external validation that comes with such roles. A very unexpected side effect (and I would love to know if this has happened to anyone else!) is that once I stopped trying to climb the ladder, the ladder became much easier to climb. For example, if I think that an idea proposed by someone more important than myself doesn’t make sense I will say so in clear terms. I speak much more frankly than I would have ever dared when I wanted to rise in the ranks. If I don’t understand something, I’ll ask that question that might make me look stupid. I’ve been surprised to find that the less I try to impress others the more their estimation of me seems to rise. Go figure.
Thanks for sharing your story! This is so interesting. I would tend to agree – when you stop trying so hard, opportunities tend to appear.
I’d love to learn more about your story and why you decided to make these decisions.
A couple posts you might enjoy of mine include: Why I Accepted a Part-Time Job and Overcoming Severe Anxiety.
I will look forward to hearing more!
Thanks for sharing my story, and your own! Slowing down the journey and living that ideal life in the present is definitely not mainstream in the FI community, but I feel like it will resonate with so many people!
Excited to see the series in action and read about what others are doing out there!
Thank you so much for the comment! I was definitely inspired by your story as well. I’m excited to hear all of the stories people will share over the next few months!
We’re definitely in the “life’s too short” corner. For sanity’s sake I left my last full-time staff position in April 2015. My husband quit his airline job at the same time and we spent six months living out of our minivan and traveling the country- hiking and camping and going to MLB games.
I started travel nursing that winter, and my husband got another job with the same company as before, and we both go home every fall to help his folks harvest for 6-8 weeks. I work 13-week nursing contracts, and my husband has been incredibly fortunate to have the flexibility in his non-contracted position to be able to work when I do, and very sporadically when I don’t.
I have staff nurse friends who are bringing in $100k by themselves (our highest has been $82k combined), but we love the extended time off and of course the ability to travel the world on someone else’s dime.
We could crush it for a few years and reach FI so much faster, but with baby #1 due in a couple of weeks, we’re stopping even more to smell the roses. Babies don’t keep, y’all.
Thanks for sharing! It sounds like you have a really fascinating life. I’m going to put you on my list of potential interviewees if that’s okay. It sounds like people are also interested in the decisions that people make when they have kids, so this could be a really interesting interview!
I’ll look forward to connecting with you soon!
Great idea for a series. I will be reading with interest as this is the decision I am going through myself.
I am thinking of pulling the plug on full time work late 2020 to concentrate on my side job. I will only be at about 15 x expenses at that point so scary, but exciting.
I look forward to doing so and I would love to be a part of the series when that day comes.
That sounds awesome! What do you do for your side job? Is it something you think will be able to pay some of your expenses?
I’ll be excited to hear how it goes!
Thanks. I’ve started a financial advice business and i’m hoping that it will at least cover my expenses (halfway there now), allowing my savings to grow untouched for a while
That’s fantastic! I’ll look forward to hearing more.
Brilliant Post. I love the way you have articulated your philosophy on achieving FIRE gradually so the day that you get there, you are already living your desired lifestyle.
It’s exactly what I’m striving for too. Looking forward to following you and reading more!
Thank you, Robin! I am really excited to get to identify and amplify these stories!
Although we did not quit a job (we currently are a one full time income household while Ethan, my fiancé, is in school), we decided to slow down our FI race because well, life is too sweet to pass up. Yes we have debt, but at this point in our lives, when it is just him and I, this is our time to adventure, to explore. Someone close to us received a life changing diagnosis and it really changed the way we view things. Yes, we want to get rid of our debt and we are continuing to work hard to do so, but nothing else is as important as making memories together right now through activities such as traveling and exploring. Although it doesn’t make FI sense, once we decide to start a family and after Ethan has started working full time, we plan for one person to stay home or work part time to focus on our children. Yes it will slow us down, but raising a family and being there for them is what is most important to us. Thank you for highlighting this. Sometimes you feel unsuccessful as a FI blogger who hasn’t reached FI yet and probably won’t for a long time. Yes I don’t have a success story, but I want our life to be a success story. We don’t want to lose focus of what truly matters.
Thanks for sharing. I’m so sorry to hear about the diagnosis. Those are the kinds of things that really can change the way we view things. Honestly, what’s the point of racing to FI, if you know you can live a great life along the way and reach it eventually. It’s not a race. It sounds like you guys are really keeping everything in balance. I’ll look forward to hearing more. I’m definitely an advocate for part-time work! I think more people could consider it!
I haven’t slowed down per se, but I choose not to side hustle. I have chronic fatigue, and I choose to use my energies on things like going out with friends and focus on my blog rather than using up what I do have trying to make another few hundred a month. Yeah, that money would be great, but so it the freedom to do what I want without having to sacrifice my time with friends or the work on my blog. Anyway, not something that fits into your interview series, but certainly in the same vein of keeping things slower to better enjoy life.
I completely understand this, and I do actually think this is an example of slowing down. You have just done it proactively. I can empathize; with my anxiety, I also have pretty intense fatigue also, so I’m focusing now on my day job and this blog and not much extra side hustling. I prefer to not be busy!
Thanks for sharing!
Everyone goes about their journey towards FIRE differently, but some take frugal to a whole new level in their pursuit to reach FIRE quicker.
I’ve intentionally taken a balanced approach in chasing FIRE. We could increase our income significantly if I took a promotion, or if both of us took up lucrative contract or expat work, but that would take us away from home more often (and away from our very young child). It will shave off a few years off achieving FIRE – but the time we spend with our child is so worth it. Kids are only young once, after all.
Thanks for sharing! I agree that balance is incredibly important. It seems like the folks who get down to bare bones end up being unhappy and going back to work anyways.
I’m really excited about this interview series! I love how much intentional thought you put into pursuing a meaningful life. This past year I started working closer to home (a $4,000 pay cut), stopped teaching guitar lessons (a $12,000 pay cut), had a child, and I’m considering having a second! All of these move me further from FI obviously (but I’m OK with it). My anxiety is under control with these choices.
You are getting A LOT of responses, so obviously you have filled an awesome niche with this idea. Congrats and can’t wait!
Thank you! I’m excited too! It sounds like you’ve made a lot of intentional decisions to improve the quality of your life. I’d love to interview you if that’s something you’d be interested in. I’ll plan to reach out to you over the next few weeks!
Hey, I’ve heard of your blog and been meaning to check it out! I LOVE this post:) You’ve articulated what my husband and I believe, as we are not willing to sacrifice our present just to reach an early retirement timeline. Cutting back on work hours, restructuring our careers in order to spend more time together as a family, trying new careers in order to be more fulfilled in that arena…We’re even moving back to a house we loved (that didn’t sell) and totally changing our work by leaving public education. It’s exciting (and scary)! I’ll definitely be tuning in for this series!
That’s wonderful to hear. Your story sounds really interesting. I have a bunch of people interested in participating in the interview series, but I’d be happy to add you to the list, if you are interested!
Love your upfront honesty! It takes gut to prioritise your mental health over earning money. I can relate too – I took a mini-retirement a few years ago. Now I work in my salaried job part-time so I can devote more time to freelancing, travelling and blogging. So far, this hasn’t made the best immediate financial sense. However, it might pay off in the long run.
Wishing you all the best with your semi-retirement approach! Your prioritising of working towards your ideal life is very inspirational.
Thanks for your comment. It definitely sounds like we have taken similar paths. I just followed you over on Twitter, so that I can stay up to date with your journey as well.
I wish you the best!
My wife switched to part time (5 to 3 days) so she can lower her stress and have more quality time with our young kids. It was the best decision we made for her sanity, our marriage and for our kids. It helped me out too since she can run errands for us during the week and I can focus on my full time job. We feel more balance in our lives….before it was all go-go-go time. We were tired and burnt out. We only had extended quality time with our kids on weekend. During the weekdays, everyone was on a super frantic schedule. None of us were happy at that pace.
This is great to hear. Me choosing to work part-time definitely helps out my family too. Now, I get to spend quality time on the weekends rather than everyone always needing to take care of chores.