Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Grind

My wife and I are both feeling sick of the full-time employment lifestyle.

My wife recently applied for, and subsequently was hired for, a different position within her company.  The new role includes a modest salary increase, but the biggest perk is that it should require about half of the travel that her current role does.

My wife was thrilled to get the new job, and was all smiles after hearing the news.  But after further reflection she told me that what she really wants to do is move into a lifestyle where she can work part-time, discretionary assignments.  I told her I feel the same way, and have felt that way for a number of years.

Our plan since paying off the mortgage in 2011 has been to maximize our saving and investing for the next few years so that we can stop working at some point in the not-too-distant future.  But as logical as this plan looks on paper and sounds in conversation, the implementation of the plan in real life is pretty dull.  By comparison, paying off the mortgage was exciting.  Really.  Paying off the mortgage was like planning and executing an attack on the Death Star.  Saving and investing is like rebuilding the Death Star.

At a glance we are doing very well financially.  We have no debts, and own our house free and clear.  We have over $500K in savings and investments, of which $100K is at our full and immediate disposal (that is, not tied up in retirement accounts).  We also have no children or other dependents to worry about supporting -- and no plans to add any in the future.

However, to get where we really want to be will require us to continue working full-time for another five to ten years.  This sounds like drudgery to me.  My wife tells me that at any point during her workday she can always think of a million other things she would rather be doing, and I completely agree.

We've attempted to come up with a different way to achieve the same end goal, but so far we haven't managed any better ideas.  We could of course change our goals by downsizing quite a bit (selling our house and living very differently than we would ultimately like), but that doesn't seem like the right long-term choice.  That would be sacrificing our ultimate dream in exchange for some temporary relief from the day-to-day grind.  We could also move to part-time work now, but that would require spending more years in the workforce, and the nature of part-time work is more ephemeral as well -- employers seem to look to cut part-time workers first, so it might be tough to count on that for a decade or more.

For now we continue to wage internal battles with ourselves, wherein our logical sides (which tell us to stay the course) face off against our more emotional/impulsive sides (which want us to abruptly leave work and embark on a six-month journey by foot).  So far the logical side is winning out -- but with each passing day, the temptation to leave it all behind grows.


  1. Executioner,

    I hear you about the tedious nature of marching down the path to financial independence.

    For me, it was great fun at first. I cut my bills in half, started to aggressively seek additional income avenues at work and educated myself about investing.

    Now, it's just a month-by-month march.

    I also face the internal battle of sensible long-term planning vs. short-term satisfaction. I know that I could quit the full-time hamster wheel hell and work part-time right now if I wanted. I would only need to make about ~$800/mo in active employment to "get by". By getting by on part-time income isn't what I planned, and like you had mentioned - part-time employment tends to be more transitory.

    On the other hand, if I do reach full financial Independence in my mid or late 30's, does it not seem unrealistic that I would probably work part-time anyway just to stay connected to society and make a little extra money to boot? So, if I'm going to work part-time anyway...why don't I just get to it right now and continue to save (much smaller amounts) every month?

    This is something I've been struggling with lately. My sensible side reminds me how I went from $7k to over $100k in less than 3 years and I have to keep it up. The emotional side reminds me life is short and let's spend more time at the beach! :)

    Best wishes!

    1. Good point about working part-time anyway once FI is achieved. I'm not sure whether I'd want to do this or not. I think it's more realistic that we'd make it about 90% to FI, at which point I'd work part-time the remainder of the way to help hasten the transition to more freedom.

    2. DM and The Executioner,

      I'm struggling with these same issues. I'm balancing serious progress each month with the feeling that life is too short and that I am not happy in this current situation.

      What wins, the long term right thing to do, or the fact that I want to start living my best life, NOW..? It's a hard thing to figure out, so I keep on plugging away at it, like both of you.

    3. Kraig, if you get any further inspiration, feel free to share!

  2. Nearly all of this post sounds like something I might have written in exasperation many days. Sometimes I don't think I have the patience and the fortitude to get through these 5-10 year plans, but not finding any other reasonable alternative, I keep slogging through, inch by inch. As you say, it is a very difficult internal battle.

    1. So have you finally reached the other side, or are you still stuck in a 5-10 year plan yourself?

    2. Still stuck. I'm now in the middle of a 3 year plan. Having gone through two 5 year plans, it was starting to feel too much like the old Soviet agriculture plans from the 50's and 60's. :-) I needed something a little shorter and more focused.

    3. Well crud, I was hoping you'd have some message of success and optimism to share.

  3. Executioner, As you know, your other blog, "death to the mortgage" was so enjoyable that it inspired me to start my Pay Off My Rentals blog. However, this Death to the full-time job is just as exciting in reverse.

    As an added degree of inspiration and something to give you milestones along the path, you might consider outlining a basic "retirement" budget broken down by monthly expense and then show what your dividend income is progressively matching as you build that income. Of course, that means you're sharing more private information with the world, but as you add dollars to dividend growth stocks, you increase your average monthly income, and thus find yourselves that much closer to FI.

    Just something to consider, but that way instead of looking at the touchdown 99 yards away, you can concentrate on the "first downs" along the way. It may take some of the boredom out of the equation. Just a thought. Keep up the good work. It's really cool that your wife is taking an interest and is on board. Shared goals are the best goals in marriage.

    1. Not a bad idea. I may do some comparison between saving/income and average expenses from time to keep things in perspective.

  4. I really hope that you and your wife figure out a way to "kill" your full-time jobs sooner than later. You seem to have the right mindset to get there, and without kids it's actually possible. I look forward to following your progress and rooting for you both along the way!

  5. Just thinking off the top of my head here...

    Drudgery uses up (wastes) a lot of good energy and can make you feel less successful than you really are. Could you divert some of that energy before it gets burnt up towards creating the life you are looking forward to now?

    I'm thinking along the lines of time off without pay (if that is possible) to take more moderate length hiking trips. What about using some of your savings to buy the "perfect" piece of land and take time to build (or work on and use as cottage) the house you want over a period of 5 - 7 years?

    I used to work with the wife of a couple who did just that. They were only able to afford to do things piece by piece and the project kept them focused and seeing something solid manifest before their eyes gave them momentum. They also had some serious skills by the time the project was over. And have since raised their 4 kids in it.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions. I like the idea of having milestones along the way, like others suggested above. Though I'm not sure what form they would take.

      We'd rather not buy virgin land to build on. I'd much rather find a property that already has a structure, utilities, etc which we can then further improve if we want. There are way too many houses in the world already. No need to put yet another hole into the ground.

  6. hey mate, i really enjoyed reading over your Death To Mort blog. I am also on the mortgage killing mission, slowly but surely. I have some big targets.

    I was wondering, now that you feel stuck, why not seek alternative methods? You know there are a lot of very cheap places to live like a king in the world, right? Asia, South America, many parts of Europe...sure some of them are not exactly palatable but I'm sure you'd have fun finding the better places.

    Perhaps now with your liabilities so low, you should both take a 2 month mini-retirement, and go on a soul searching mission. You never know what you'll find.

    Have you read the four hour work week?

    all the best

    1. I like your outside-the-box thinking.

      Given our current employment situation, a 2-month break would be difficult to procure. We'd likely have trouble finding our way back into our current jobs if we took that much time away. So we'd need to be prepared to break for much longer than 2 months if we decided to have an extended time off. This is why we feel the most logical course is to work hard up to the point that we are prepared to stop working entirely.

      I have read quite a bit on retirement to other locations, but right now my heart tells me that my home is here in NH. Of course that is subject to change at any point in the future.

      I have not read the 4 Hour Workweek but have read quite a few reviews. I may pick it up at some point.

  7. The grass is always greener my friend. Look at it this way either you spend the next 5 to 10 years trudging to FI or u spend the next 25 to 30 years working for the MAN! In my dream of FI i always see myself with 3 computer screens in a home office watching the market all day and maybe even doing some short sales in a margin account kinda like a rich man going to the Craps table in vegas