My husband and I have been voluntarily "retired" from full-time jobs since 2017.
We were 38 when we walked away.
This was a well planned escape. We exited the rat-race after years of strategic thought and intentional money management.
When most people who aren't participants in the F.I.R.E. (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement hear of it, they usually make some comment like "oh, I could never do that", "I would be so bored" or "I enjoy working". These remarks miss the point and are false.
Anyone can do this with discipline. We are never bored. We work continually.
Do you know what debt-free people can do? Anything they want! The main reason most F.I.R.E. folks do what we do is not because we don't want to "work" anymore! We are not lazy. We don't just play shuffleboard and eat early bird dinners (though I won't lie we do like sunset deals). We work everyday on what we want to achieve.
The difference is we work on our own time, for our own purposes and mostly on things we want to work on. We no longer spend 40+ hours a week toiling for someone else's dream because we NEED the money. We are independent. It is our chance to do what we love and work tirelessly at the things that we are passionate about. Of course, we still have the mundane tasks that belong to humanity (cleaning, maintenance, bill-paying, etc.) but sometimes even those become enjoyable in our tranquil, time-rich life.
You probably noticed this site includes endeavors such as butterflying, Enneagram, tiny house living, frugal lifestyle and health. That is because these topics are more interesting to me than any "job" I ever had and I enjoy working on them. I like to write about them. They contribute to my best life. The journey changes as I learn more. Consequently, I like to share what I have discovered.
Your dream life wouldn't look just like ours. But seeing how we did it may inspire you to find your own groove if you haven't already. It is always a journey, not a destination.
So to say we don't "work full-time jobs" is not to say we aren't regularly applying our minds, bodies and hearts to our innovative daily routines. We are.
Work can be defined as any creative mental or physical activity that achieves a result. In that sense, we work tirelessly. We don't have to work for money anymore. We work for the satisfaction of it.
What do humans need to be happy?
This is an important question. People think that more money will make them happy. Yet, we know through research that humans NEED very little to survive and thrive. Many of the things that fulfill us cannot be bought with any amount of money. We know this.
It is when we confuse needs with wants that we start going off course.
Most Americans spend almost every dollar they earn. Many of that is spent on what we would consider wants.
This may shock you. We live abundantly on less than $22,000 a year for essentials (food, shelter, clothing, health care, phones, auto). In a wealthy country like the U.S. people assume this is impossible. Yet, it is exactly because of the wealth and opportunity here that it is very possible. God bless America!
When we create the habit of spending less than we earn, we build a solid foundation for wealth building that will last throughout our lives.
It is not one's income that matters most, it is how they spend (or save) their dollars.
Our current income is comprised of multiple streams that we have acquired over the years doing what makes us happy. We each do a handful of projects. They combine tutoring, writing, butterflying, Airbnb hosting, life-coaching, USAF Reserves, rental properties, online courses, jewelry making and a few other small gigs.
When we combine our passions with our practice of frugality, we end up with a pretty wonderful life. We live simply. We need nothing more. We are full and content.
Most Americans follow the cultural norm of squandering nearly every waking hour to make ends meet or for extra cash.
Not only do they work 40+ hours a week, they also commute, and spend hours prepping for their jobs off of the clock. They have to squeeze personal time, errands and family life into whatever is left. They may have bigger paychecks coming in than we do, but they have little or no time to enjoy it. Except for those few weeks of vacation they may get if they are lucky. They are time-poor.
We can always earn more money but we cannot give ourselves more time. We each have 24 hours in a day with an expiration date approaching.
While we have saved and managed our finances to accommodate our desired lifestyle, the biggest difference between us and most Americans is we are time-rich. One of the primary reasons we have structured our life this way is so we can visit friends and family, spend time together, travel, and pursue our interests freely.
We want to spend our time wisely, not fritter it away on keeping up with the Jones' or watching tv.
Choose your Hard
This alternative lifestyle comes with its own challenges. It is scary to jump ship. It was strange to not have to get up and go to work everyday. It takes discipline to live within our budget. It is awkward when people ask us what we do. It is hard.
But the former way was hard too. It is hard to keep the grind going. It is rough getting up every day with an irritating alarm to go to the same job. The monotony is brutal. It is difficult to fall behind or go into debt. It is not healthy to define ourselves by what we do.
So we choose our hard.