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.

Happiness is walks with this guy

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.

I always enjoy a walk or run through these woods

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.

34 thoughts on “Trading Money For More Time Before Reaching Financial Independence

  1. You found the right balance so why change it? Great job.
    If I have a choice between working in a great job for 32 hours/week or early retirement, I’d probably choose working. It’s all about finding happiness for yourself and your family. You’ve done it.

    1. I wonder how many people would continue working / downshift earlier if part time was an option. I’m hopeful that we will continue the trend of that being more possible.

  2. Your path seems to be the right one, only we can decide what is best for ourselves. You appear to love your job, the balance of work/life they have allowed you and with that can continue down a path you are happy with. The FI world has a general template but it is up to each of us to customize it around our lives as the ultimate goal isn’t money but realistically is health of body and mind rooted in a more mindful space.

    1. I love the idea of FI as a general template – it’s there to help us shape our best lives possible.

  3. you’re making the right choice. these years are pure gold. if something came up and made having more money an urgent matter you could probably put your foot on the accelerator and make that happen at that time. i remember having a gravy train r+d job in my late 20’s and living in a fantastic city. that would have been a good place to stay but the wanderlust got me and i moved to nola for a couple of years. i don’t regret it but those kind of jobs are hard to come by. if only my savings rate back then was more than 0%. doh!

    1. So many what ifs in life – but I try and just look forward versus kicking myself for what’s already happened. Try being the key word 🙂

  4. Part-time work is a great balance for parents of young kids. You get to be available more when the kid needs you (so many doctor appointments), and also get the mental scratch you need from working. My husband went part-time when our daughter was 2.5 and our only regret is that he didn’t do it from the get-go.

    1. It makes SUCH a huge difference. Yeah my only change would have been to stop ramping up when I hit 80% time after maternity leave in the first place 😉

  5. Love that you’ve found a great way to have more time with your family and work enjoyment. I’m hoping that teaching will give me a similar balance since I’ll have summers and afternoons with my boys. Slow and steady wins the race.

  6. Balance is a struggle for most of us chasing FI. I find balance with my seasonal Emergecy Room job to work more during our rainy season and work far less during our fabulours PNW summers. I think the more I realize that FI is a journey not a race, I find myself unwilling to trade today’s happiness for tomorrow’s.
    I have set a goal to slowly increase my savings rate only by “banking” future raises, not by cutting current expenses.

    There are so many paths to the same destination. In this regard there is no wrong way.

    1. I love the banking future raises bit as a way to slowly up the savings rate versus cutting every last discretionary item.

  7. Balance is different for every one. Sounds like you’ve found a balance that works for you and your family right now. Who knows, that balance may change in a few years and that is totally OK.

    There are no “right” way to FI. We all take our own path there. 🙂

    1. That’s very true – what works now didn’t work five years ago and might not work five years from now. That’s the whole point of being in control of your finances- you get to choose.

  8. I have recently done something very similar, going to full time freelancing in order to have a better balance in my life and pursue some of the things that bring me joy and non-monetary satisfaction.
    It is still a little scary, but being able to wake up (almost) every morning around 8 am has made a world of difference.

  9. I absolutely love this! This is one of the things that I struggle with in trying to come to terms with FI for myself. I want to live a slow, intentional life now. Now in some hypothetical future that may never arrive. So much emphasis in the PF community is working as hard as possible to save as much as possible, as quickly as possible. But what is that at the expense of? I think Penny has also written a post along these lines and I also loved that one. This sentiment is also why I really enjoyed Tanja’s book. It’s not one pace fits all.

    1. And so many times you hear the common thread from those who have made the leap to full early retirement that if they were to do it again they’d likely step back sooner and not push so hard.

  10. I’m glad somebody else has written this. David Stein from the Money for the Rest of Us Podcast spoke about having financial wealth and time wealth. Sometimes it’s good to think of being part-time as having wealth in terms of time. That way, I don’t feel so bad that my income isn’t as good as it should be if I was working full time. I like having the time to do the things that I love doing–not many people have the ability to do so and it makes me think that I’m living a pretty good life.

    1. I’d say I’m living a pretty darn good life as well. Twice as much money and half as much time and I’d be considerably less happy.

  11. Great post Angela. As you know I scaled back to part time and it’s one of the bets things I’ve ever done.

    “the focus on early retirement can rob us of some great years now.” That statement says it all. While part of me feels ‘front-loading’ your career and working hard while you’re young to get that huge head start is very valuable, you have to balance it with the fact that there are tons of things that are best done when you’re really young.

    1. Yep. Though I definitely I did some front loading myself before I had my son. That time and energy then definitely made it so it was a lot more feasible for me to cut my hours then. It’s definitely a balance.

  12. I love this. I am considering a career change to go from higher ed advising to school counseling in elementary/high school so that I have more hours with my kids in the afternoons/evenings and summers. It would just cost money to get the masters, which is a bit stressful considering my husband is starting an expensive masters program next month. We’ll see, but as my kids get out of the baby stage and into the fun little human stage (haha), I just really want to be with them even more. I’m ok not retiring early, all that extra time is no good to me once they’re out of the house

    1. The kid stage is SO much more fun than the baby one haha. This would be even more school than you’re doing now?

      1. Woof, yes. I couldn’t start for a while, so it’s just thinking for now. Pros and Cons to both. I feel like I’m having a career quarter life crisis haha

  13. Managing your time to find the right balance is something we all want to figure out and it sounds like you found it. Of course it may change over time but as long as you’re aware of it and make the proper changes you will be okay.

    1. Yep, and that’s where space with your money comes in – for the flexibility for when life changes.

  14. My husband had this going for about 3 years until his company closed. It made our lives so much easier, even though his new job pays a lot more money. We’re not so close to FI, but I’m hoping I can pull off something just like this!

    1. Fingers crossed! It would be SO hard to go back once you get a taste of that.

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