One of my very early blog posts I wrote was about my experience of cutting down to part time hours while in pursuit of financial independence. The post itself is a bit rough as it was written in literally my first month of blogging, but it’s still one I’m very proud of.
On the path to financial independence and early retirement, we hear again and again about the focus it takes to get there. That growing your income is a huge deal. And that you have to keep pushing and increasing that gap between income and expenses.
While I can get behind that idea to a certain degree – you do have to make a decent income to have a gap to save in the first place – I think the financial independence community often takes this too far. It’s so easy to get focused on continually shortening our timeline to financial independence without taking into account what’s best for our lives.
Once you make enough to cover your expenses comfortably with room to save a little, I would argue that it’s then time to slow down and take stock of what earning that next dollar looks like. Instead of constantly looking to increase income after hitting that comfort stage, that’s the time to make decisions based on current happiness and life fulfillment.
Meaningful Work On The Path To Financial Independence
I could make quite a bit more money now if I increased by hours back to full time. If I did that, I’d likely make more than the 20% pay cut I’ve taken, but I’d also work more than 20% more hours than I do now. And I would lose that flexibility in my schedule that currently allows me time to spend afternoons with my son, regular trips to the gym, evening hours for my commission meetings, and space to write this blog.
I would no doubt hit a fifty percent savings rate and more this year if I upped my hours. But I would lose so much more in return. I quite enjoy my job, and I enjoy it even more knowing I have room for the rest of my life as well. Once you’ve reached “enough” to be reasonably comfortable with your income, there is so much more value to those extra minutes instead of those extra dollars.
And not just free minutes, but minutes where you truly enjoy what you’re doing. Could I have gone down a career path with a greater income possibility? I expect so, but I’m much happier in a career where early retirement isn’t my first goal. Financial independence is a wonderful goal for everyone, but the focus on early retirement can rob us of some great years now.
Slowing Down To FI
I don’t write many guest posts (my last one was for Get Rich Slowly back in December). With my three times a week posting schedule here, finding the time and the bandwidth to write a fourth post is few and far between. And like I need to remind myself often, there is a true cost to saying yes, and I already feel like I squeeze almost as much time out of this blog as I can without giving up something else. And so I guard my yeses very carefully.
However, when Jessica over at The Fioneers floated her new guest post series about “Slowing Down To FI,” I knew I needed to write my piece. I’d been meaning to write an update to that very early blog post about part time work for a while now, but it hadn’t happened yet. So I saw a guest post for her – one with specific prompts to write to – as the perfect avenue to expand my thoughts on the topic.
Intentionally Trading Money For More Time
It’s been two years since I wrote that original post and three and a half years since I cut back my hours at work. In that time, I’ve ruminated on my decision to continue down that path. With each raise, that income gap between my 80% hours and full time grows.
What had originally been a decently large number between part and full time is simply bigger now. And my focus on financial independence and our savings rate has sharpened, so I know more fully what that income boost would do for my family. But I also know what those lost hours would do as well.
I’ve intentionally chosen to pursue a slower path to financial independence. I’ve intentionally chosen to give up many thousands of dollars of income each year along the way. And you know what? I haven’t regretted that decision once. For more on this topic, do head over to my guest post at The Fioneers to read my expanded thoughts about our slowed down path to financial independence and our focus on happiness now instead of just someday.