We aren’t close to financial independence (~10-15 years out), but living well within our means has already significantly impacted our lives. When our son was born, my plan was to work very part time until he was 6 months old, and then go back to my full time career that I loved.
When I did ramp up to full time though, I found our lives were frantic and stressful while we adjusted to life with a new child. There weren’t enough hours in the day to get the basics done, and self care was a thing of the past.
Monday through Friday was a blur, and the weekends were for catch-up on the chores and errands we didn’t have time for during the week.
working From Home with a baby
In order to wait on daycare until our son was a year old, I worked from home part time. This meant it took me at least 10-12 hours to get a full workday in. I would open my computer for naps and do what I could while he was awake, but found myself working on the computer every night for hours after he went to bed. In short, I was trying to do it all and making myself miserable in the process.
After months of living this way, I knew I had to make a change if I could. I cared about my job and was doing important work, so staying at home wasn’t really my goal. But neither was staying in the constant whirlwind that was my life.
Financial Independence Means Freedom Even Before You Get There
Enter in the goal of financial independence. While we are still a lot of years out from “never having to work again,” we were doing well on living below our means and putting money away into savings. Before my son turned a year old, we had paid off the medical bills from our son’s birth. We had no other outstanding debt beyond our mortgage.
I looked hard at our monthly expenses, and I realized that we could live on just my husband’s income if we needed to, though we would have to pare down our lifestyle to do it.
Because we could financially live on just my husband’s income, I felt comfortable bringing up the conversation about cutting back my hours. I knew that, while I really wanted to continue my career, if the answer was no, I could not work for a while until I found a way that I could fewer hours elsewhere.
Slowing Down My Career On My Way To Financial Independence
A big piece of going part time was that I was willing to give up some of my responsibilities and step off the “fast track” of my career – something I didn’t ever expect to want to do until I had my son. I was so used to putting in 45-50+ hour weeks that I had a hard time believing I would want to do something else, but after running myself down to the bone and feeling completely overwhelmed with a baby, I realized that something would have to give.
I expected to miss working full time and be frustrated that others would be taking over some of “my” job duties, but I knew it had to happen. Now that I’ve been part time for a year and a half, however, I realize that was something I should never have worried about.
Part Time Work Means More Happiness Now
While becoming a mother pushed me to part time work, I’ve found that I would have been much happier doing so regardless. I don’t see myself ramping back up to full time, even when my son is in school.
There will be school drop off / pick up, school field trips, and whole summers that I don’t want to miss out on while he is still little. And when he’s older, I still have plenty of other activities that I will want to do just for me.
Life is just better when work doesn’t consume your whole day – who would have ever guessed 😉
What My Work Hours Actually Look Like Now
I was able to take an hours/pay cut to 80%, which means that I still have full benefits (healthcare!), and I work M-F so taking vacation days is simple as well. Since I’m still in the office every day, my coworkers know I’m accessible and there is less resentment if they have a question, because I’m around to answer it during part of every day.
Though I do wonder sometimes if it might be better to work just 3 long days instead, I know I really do have the best of both worlds. More time with my son but also a career that I love most of the time.
While it may have been a large pay cut, our past and current financial choices made it so we could make the change and not have to worry about paying the mortgage (and paid off student loans / no consumer debt).
Financial independence gives you the freedom to choose if and how you work for money, but the road to financial independence still gives you options to choose how you earn that money.
Living For Now, And For Later
I now get to spend my mornings and afternoons with my son, and I have time for the housework and errands that used to be delegated to the weekends. Now we get to go on weekend adventures instead of playing catchup from the hectic week.
Life has gotten SO much better for it now, even without full financial independence, all because we had options and weren’t completely reliant on my paycheck. It might not be total financial independence yet, but it definitely felt similar to make that change.
What could you do NOW to live more like you will once you’re financially independent?
58 thoughts on “Live Like You’re Financially Independent (Even When You’re Not)”
“Monday through Friday was a blur, and the weekends were for catch-up on chores and errands we didn’t have time for during the week.” You just described my life.
Right now, the plan is to work for the next five years, and then retire. My other option is to work part time and work longer. I keep oscillating between the two. Both are bad 😉
Well you know which option I chose 😊 I also like my job though, so that definitely played into my answer. But regardless, we go out of town at least once a month, partially because I have time to get errands done during the week, so I think I’d probably choose that answer regardless. That, and the kiddo is only this young once.
I might do it one day. But now that I made this plan of 2000 days (slightly over 5 years), my husband won’t let me. He hates not following plans.
Ha – I drive my husband NUTS with my constant plan changes!
🙂 I do too
For me a plan is just a plan.
I guess it’s all about priorities and it is refreshing to see how candidly you talk about the way they change with time and life stage.
I am currently working in one of those 40-50 hour jobs with another 10 hours in commute every week. Being in the DINKs stage, it doesn’t hurt that much. But, I am working on evolving an alternate career (of financial planning) simultaneously to be able to create a consistent income stream with flexible hours by the time a full-time crazy job really starts pinching.
Especially if you DO plan on having kids someday, getting that crazy income producing time out of the way while you are DINKS makes a lot of sense.
that ice cream looks yum… i didn’t understand… did you take an 80% paycut or a 20% paycut?
ok only one more post…your internal links are working… i keep getting sucked in when i should be sleeping 🙂
20% pay cut. I work 32 hours a week, or 80% time.
I’m a big fan of making your work fit your life (even if you’re saving to FIRE). I left the 9-5 almost ten years ago and have never looked back. I probably work as many hours, but I decide what, when and where. (The only problem is motivating myself to work more – to save more – when I don’t actually *need* to this month!)
It’s definitely a balance between saving enough for the future but also making sure your life doesn’t suck in the present.
“pre-FI still gives you options to choose how you earn that money ” yes🙌! Good on you for making the change when it matters for your family. This has been on my mind lately as I regretted not having more time off with the kids this summer. I’ve been looking into taking some unpaid leave next year, although the plan was to wait until they start school in 2 years to have summers off with them, but hey plans can change! Like you mentioned in a comment above, they’re only this young once!
And plans are meant to change – the whole point of saving is so that you’re ready to make the change when the opportunity arises 🙂
i’d like to hear your opinion on if you think this impacts your possibility for promotion and merit salary increases. That is one of my fears with requesting part time, my salary is partially based on bonuses and I think being less than full-time what impact that. I also think it would stagnate your salary because they feel like they’re already giving you this great benefit of working part time. Do you have any comments on that?
Oh, I am definitely stagnating my salary to a degree by going to 80% time. 100% time would be more like 110-120% of the pay, so I’m aware of what I’m giving up. Still worth it to me.
I wish I had your courage when my son was a baby or toddler. My employer refused to let me work part-time. When I unexpectadely reached FI in my mid-thirties I almost didn’t leave my day job. Experiencing my son’s early school moments pulled me into early retirement. It was the best decision ever. I wish more parents had the opportunity to spend time with their children in their early years.
Yes – that and I wish people could figure out the beauty of working less before a child even comes into the picture! Because life balance is good for all of us.