Money is a tool, not a goal. For the last 5 years or so it has felt a lot like a goal, so when the goal was achieved, it took a while to figure out the next step. Mr W has made significant changes over the last year in moving from a full time office job to starting a small business and being able to choose his own hours. Now it is my turn.
It’s official. As of 1st May I am changing my contract and embarking on a very different work/life balance from that which has been normal for the last 10 years or so.
I have given a lot of thought to what should come next, what is ‘enough’ for me, but have come to the conclusion that trying something different is far more important than getting it right first time. I don’t hate my job, but I do hate that I don’t have enough time for all the other things I want to do; 25 days annual leave just doesn’t go that far. On the other hand, what I get out of work is more than just a salary. I enjoy the collaboration, the satisfaction of working through complex problems and solving them as a team, of being a part of something. I find coaching others and seeing them succeed very rewarding. I think I would miss this if I just stopped. I think even if there weren’t elements of a full time office job that I enjoyed, just stopping would be too much of a shock to the system after so long. What I really need is my current job with a huge holiday allowance……
At the end of last year, I approached my boss about reducing my working hours by 50%. Instead of dropping to 2-3 days a week, I wanted to do something a little less conventional and work 26 weeks of the year, in blocks of at least one week. I also wanted to be able to take 4 consecutive weeks off at least once a year. They were surprised, but receptive, and after some discussion and painting a picture of how it could work, and even offer a great development opportunity for someone else, we agreed. I liked the idea of making the transition in the spring as the days get longer and warm up, and this also gave me the time to complete the recruitment activity that would be necessary to allow it to happen.
So, if we have the passive income to retire fully, why have we decided to continue working at all? There are two main reasons, and a few other benefits. If I am honest, the two main reasons are driven by fear, but that doesn’t make them any less real. Firstly, I don’t want to lose the sense of purpose associated with work. It may well be I can replace this with other projects and activities outside of paid work, but it will be much easier to slow down gradually, than go back to where I was if I stop altogether and don’t like it. Secondly, the shift in gear from accumulation to decumulation will be a big shock to the system psychologically. My logical brain knows the numbers add up, and it is far more likely that I will run out of life than run out of money, but I also know that it will be very hard to start spending that which it has taken years to build. Maintaining an income that will cover most of our outgoings, but not allow any significant further investment, seems like a good transition step. I think that understanding your monkey mind, and what your own personal response to a situation is likely to be, is as important as having the sums right when it comes to embarking on any significant life change.
Whilst an endless holiday sounds great, I watched Mr W struggle to adjust over the last year, and I like the idea of ramping down gradually. What makes a holiday so great is that it is a holiday from something. With nothing but holiday, I suspect it won’t quite be the same. I don’t know if this new balance will be ‘enough’, but I do believe it is a good start. Different enough to force a significant change of lifestyle, but hopefully retaining most of the ‘good bits’ of my job. I might decide that 26 weeks of the year is still not enough to fit in everything I want to do, or I might maintain this balance for years. I don’t know what will come next, but I am looking forward to finding out.
There are other benefits to having a steady income which covers most of our expenses, like the ability to leave the freedom fund to grow a little (a psychological comfort blanket), or not panicking
if when there is a market crash. By maintaining an income, we will also have the option of being able to take out credit should we want to, say to finance a property development project. and simply having an occupation to list when filling in forms!
Maybe this is a cop out, or maybe it is a sensible transition strategy. I am not entirely sure, but it feels right.