I had an amazing and disturbing thought the other day. First, I must give you some background.
Work, work and work
As long as I can remember, I’ve always worked and worked hard. Before I was 14, I mowed lawns, shoveled driveways, delivered papers and various other hustles. As soon as I turned 14, I started at my first real job. All through high-school, I kept various part-time jobs. Over breaks, I’d get work through temp agencies or find seasonal jobs.
Same thing at college. I worked in the computer lab during school. On breaks, it was back to the temp agency. Some of the jobs were horrible.
I started my first real job even before I even finished my computer classes. I was studying mainframe programming and it was right before the year 2000, so demand for my new skills was crazy. Back then, if HR thought that a raccoon could write a line of code to help with the Y2K issue, I’m sure they would have been hired with a fat sign-on bonus. Actual raccoon code:
if (TrashCanOpen == true)
No time off
I’m 41 now and looking back, the time I’ve spend working has been ridiculous. I’ve changed jobs a couple times, but I never took time off in between. I’ve never taken a sabbatical. In the past 27 years, it disturbs me to think that I’ve never had more than one week off from work at a time. Sometimes, I’d arrange my time off around a holiday like Labor Day to get an extra day, but really, that’s it. How sad and pathetic.
Perhaps this is why FI/quitting work is so appealing to me. I’ll finally be able to unwind. It’s hard to decompress after just a week. I could use a month. Or six. At the same time, FI scares me a bit because the idea of time off with no work obligation is such a foreign concept. How sad and pathetic.
Of course, the hard work was important. I am close to FI now because I worked my ass off and earned raises. When I thought I was worth more than I was getting paid, I demanded more money. I was never turned down. But still, an extra couple of weeks off here and there would not have impeded my progress.
At what sacrifice?
Many of us work way too hard. Some of my friends are directors and VPs making more than $250,000/year, but at what expense? They put in their dues that consisted of many, many 80+ hour workweeks. No thanks. I don’t need an Audi or a 5000 square foot home. I don’t need to vacation at exotic resorts with spas. I’d like to have a life outside of work so that my kids know who I am. But I want even more than that. I’d like to explore the world. I’d like to spend months in a place. Can’t do this with a job.
Of course, our new, demanding lifestyles are the direct result of The American Dream that has spun out of control. My grandparents’ American Dream was a 1200 square foot home, GM car and driving vacations to the next state over, Wisconsin. Fast forward 50 years and we’re more prosperous than ever. We make more money, but have expanded our lifestyles accordingly.
I propose something to you:
Make the money of a modern family, but live the American Dream of 50 years ago.
Be happy with a smaller home and a modest car that you keep for at least a decade. Surround yourself with people who don’t care about your stuff. Think long and hard about your life and priorities now. Once you’re 60 or 80, it will be too late.
Some random tips off the top of my head:
- House: Housing can be tricky. I find that avoiding newer cookie cutter subdivisions and sticking to older parts of town works best. Pay careful attention to what kind of cars are parked in the driveway. Now, there are good people everywhere including in those new homes, but I’ve lived in a lot of places and find it easier to live in an older ‘hood.
- Friends: This is by far, the hardest part for me. We’ve met some great people in our neighborhood, but none of them are similar to us when it comes to money. Money is a huge part of life, directly and indirectly. Some friends on our street have invited us to rent a $3,500/week ski condo with them right next to the lift. No thanks. Why don’t we get the cheap condo a little bit farther out and take the 5 minute bus ride? Nope, can’t have that. Check out this post I wrote for the Frugalwoods for some tips.
- Priorities: Think really, really hard about what matters to you. A nice car would be fun. So would a McMansion. However, those things bind you. They destroy your time by making you work for them. They leave you without options. Do you own them or do they own you? Hard to tell. After some careful introspection, I believe that most folks would come to the same conclusion as I have; being able to live life on your own terms trumps just about anything else, despite what the Lexus commercial tries to sell you. And if you still want that nice car, you can have it; just wait until you’ve taken care of everything else.
This was supposed to be a short, light-hearted post were I showed you some pretty pictures. I didn’t want to get all serious with a vacation coming up. Sometimes, the words just get away from me. Thanks for sticking around.
I’m on the verge of five day straight days off. I know, I know, same old story. I’m really looking forward to those five days though. What has my life come to when you get really excited about five lousy days off including a holiday weekend when I would have had 3 days off anyway? Pathetic!
However I have some fun things lined up. This (Thursday) afternoon, I’m going to test drive an electric Zero motorcycle (more on my obsession with electric propulsion later). After that, I’m headed to Denver to meet up with my friend who goes by the name Denver E on this blog. We’ll cook out and drink some fine microbrews. On Friday and Saturday, I’ll be getting caught up on some personal projects and enjoying the 4th of July festivities with the neighbors. On Sunday, I head to Omaha for a small family reunion. Fun. But again, five lousy days.
500 days or 5000 days off sounds a lot better than 5 days
How awesome would it be to hike the backcountry of Yosemite for a couple weeks?
How great would it be to live by the ocean for a month, doing nothing but walking the beach in the morning and reading all afternoon?
How great would it be to explore Colorado for a month without a care in the world?
However, it’s the little day-to-day things that really matter most:
This is what I want.
Freedom is what FI means to me.
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