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.
- Discovering Your Ideal Life Through Full-Time Travel with Wanderlust Wendy
- When to Quit Your Side Hustle with Josh Overmyer
- Coast to Financial Independence Through Semi-Retirement with Michelle from Frugality and Freedom
- Balancing Work and Family with Part-Time Employment with Mr. GovWorker from Government Worker FI
- Trading Money for Time on the Path to Financial Independence with Angela from Tread Lightly Retire Early
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?