In just five weeks, on my 38th birthday, I will walk away from a job paying close to six figures to start a mini-retirement that could last as long as a year.
Wow, is that a scary and exhilarating sentence to type.
I am ready for some change, friends.
Regular readers know I’ve been struggling with my current IT administration gig. It’s not that I totally hate the job or the people or anything like that. The people are great. The organization is great. I have a boss I believe acts with integrity and is trying hard to make a big difference.
I just don’t feel connected to the work or the results. I feel stagnant, uninspired, and unchallenged. I feel complacent. On top of that, my daily commute clocks in a little under three hours, leaving little time to really recharge before it’s time to go to sleep and do it all over again.
I’m forcing myself out of that situation to propel myself into a better one – I just don’t know what that will look like.
Over the past year or so, as I’ve gotten more into this amazing personal finance community and the personal development space, some themes have really struck me.
The first is that money doesn’t buy happiness. That’s a well-worn cliché, but the FIRE community actually asks you to really look inside yourself and ask what makes you happy, and then you’ll know how much money you need to support that life. (Yes, if you’re living in poverty money goes a long way toward buying happiness. That’s a different situation than where I’m coming from.)
I’ve been on the financial independence path with the knowledge that I don’t know what I would do if I were FI tomorrow. There’s nothing wrong with making good decisions that enable you to make better ones in the future. But I can’t indefinitely punt on finding out what I want to pursue with my energy and time.
The second is that we are all in control of the direction our lives take. If we aren’t happy with the current direction, it is up to us to take action to change it.
Are you crazy?
So why not just change jobs? Why take a mini-retirement?
Because right now I don’t totally know what would make me get up in the morning excited to work. I suspect I’m suffering from burnout. I don’t feel like there’s enough space in the rhythm of my life to really explore the important questions. I have some ideas I’d like to explore.
I should say right here that I don’t want this to be looked at as complaining. I am incredibly grateful for all that I have and all the opportunity and comfort I have enjoyed. It is precisely because I am so blessed that I have the ability to not only acknowledge my shortcomings, but also to take rare action to address them.
When you hang around the personal finance community you realize the importance of intention. These people look at everything they do through the lens of time. By making smart decisions with our money, we buy back our time. By making smart decisions with our time, we lead a higher quality of life. Squander your money and you may get short-term pleasure, but you’re unlikely to find happiness.
I need space and time to make a quality, intentional decision about the direction of my life for the next little while. This mini-retirement affords me both. My current 12-hour day – from the time I get up to get ready for work to the time I get back home – does not.
This also could seriously delay my FIRE dreams. But what’s the price you put on trying to find what makes you happier day in and day out? And who’s to say this move won’t eventually lead me to an even better financial position anyway?
Incredible support and an opportunity fund
I am not financially independent. My wife and I are making great strides toward that, but it isn’t in the immediate future.
She enjoys her job and will continue working, which takes care of all the insurance issues and provides stability for our finances. We purposely live well below our means. Our expenses are engineered so that if one of us lost our job it would not send us into panic. Her side of our financial picture won’t change much.
On my end, instead of collecting a paycheck, I’ll be drawing down an opportunity fund I’ve been squirreling away money into for a possible rental house. I’ve run the numbers, and if I stay within my very reasonable budget, I have enough runway to go 12 months before I have to think about changing my spending or dipping into a different pot of money.
I don’t really expect to go a full year at this point, but that gives me a ton of freedom to do this right and get out of it what I want to in order to make these next years amazing. You read it all the time in personal finance blogs, and it’s true: The more you save, the more options you have available to you.
I could never pull this off if we inflated our lifestyle over the years to match our incomes. It also helps that we’ve had college and daycare expenses over the past several years to help keep that spending in check.
What am I going to do?
I will continue to write on I Dream of FIRE. In fact, I hope to actually be able to spend real time on it and dig into some ideas that just require more focus than I have been able to muster. That’s exciting. I would like to get away from sitting down at 8:30 p.m. to figure out what I’m going to publish at 6 a.m. I hope you’ll notice the increase in quality come May.
I will read books, listen to more podcasts, and really settle down with big questions for awhile.
I’ll find places to volunteer in the community.
I’ll walk my daughter to and from school, and in the summer I’ll take care of her instead of paying for summer care.
We have several family trips lined up, and I might find more reasons to travel.
I’ll be open to opportunities I might not have been able to take if I were still working all day.
I’ll try new things to see what interests me.
I’ll work on being present instead of thinking about the next thing on my calendar.
Mostly, I’ll be intentional and strive to live into each day rather than live through it.
I have taken the mini-retirement course that Jillian at Montana Money Adventures offers. I speak regularly with Chris at Keep Thrifty, who is in the middle of his own mini-retirement. I am in a mastermind with the Dad Edge Alliance group that can help inspire me and hold me accountable at the same time.
The only time I’ve been unemployed in 22 years is when I took my last semester of college off from the newspaper. I haven’t had more than three consecutive weeks off in 16 years. This is going to feel weird. It’s going to be uncomfortable for awhile. But I’m really excited to see the person I am and the lessons I learn at the end of this experience.
I hope you’ll come back and see how I’m doing along the way.
Have you ever taken time off from working, whether for a mini-retirement or to be a stay-at-home parent? What advice can you give me? What was the hardest part? Tell me in the comments and I’ll be eternally grateful!