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Building a life I don’t want to retire from

I started writing online, after a few false starts (restaurant reviews, fiction) in 2011. My niche was personal finance. I found my people, I found my topic, and I wrote about how I got into, and more importantly, how I was going to get out of, a massive pile of debt.

In personal finance, there are a number of sub-categories. I was a debt blogger, but many of my friends were blogging about freelancing, or investing, or… really most of us started by telling our own stories related to money.

J.D. Roth started out telling his stories, but once he found his voice, he started telling the stories of his friends and family, too. He learned about personal finance by writing about it, and now, some 12 years later, he’s one of the better-known names in the personal finance world. His site is Get Rich Slowly, for any of you reading this that don’t know that already.

He’s a personal friend of mine (which sounds like I’m bragging or name dropping, but that’s decidedly not the case — he and I shared an office until he built his own “writing shed” on his property, we meet up with him and Kim for dinner, he comes over to play games, and I’m pretty sure he and Kim will come visit us in sunny Arizona when it’s icky out in Portland), and the other night at dinner, we were talking about one subset of the personal finance movement: the financial independence/retire early (FIRE) movement.

He is talking at one of their conferences, and he was going through some of his talking points.

“Everyone focuses so hard on getting there, but they don’t adequately plan for what they’re going to do once they get there,” he said, though I think I’m abusing quotation marks in this sense, violating some journalistic ethics something or other. Forgive me.

“I’ve thought a lot about financial independence,” I said. “I really like the idea that you can save your way out of a crappy job. That you have some agency in your life, even if you can’t leave your job, travel the world, or whatever the idealized version of location independence means to you.” Freedom through frugality is super appealing, because financial independence means liberty to do things your way instead of being tied to a toxic work situation, with a crappy manager (or worse, an abusive manager) even if you don’t invent the next Insta-snap-book.

I went on. “But I don’t identify with the ‘retire’ part of the equation. The truth is, I like to work.”

Brent and I are not doing life the traditional way.

He stays at home, taking care of Clara, and I work for myself. We’ve made money by buying at the right time and selling at the right time in Portland (which is to say, do not believe any n=1 experiments in real estate because the first rule would be “travel back in time”).

My business is making money, though not the “here’s a picture of me in the driver’s seat of a Lamborghini” kind of money.

“What I am focusing on, what we are focusing on, is building a life we don’t want to retire from.”

J.D. got out his laptop to write that down, which I felt gave me incentive to keep talking. (Obviously, I am an insufferable dining companion.)

“What I mean is, I’m not willing to work 100 hours a week while Clara is small. I’m not interested in doubling down now, so I can take my foot off the gas later. Because I know that later might not come, and my goal is to build a life for my family, which means being an active and present member of my family, so that when the money inevitably comes in, I don’t have to get to know my daughter and husband again.”

That’s assuming, of course, my family would want to be around me, if I let myself become a workaholic.

But my goal is to act the same way I will when the money comes in.

How I’m building a life I don’t want to retire from

Here’s what my ideal day looks like, once I’m making $______ per month:

(Left intentionally blank because I’m not sure about my ideal $____ yet, and I’m willing to bet it’s a moving target)

  • Wake up early, really early, like Chenell does
  • Work block #1, while the rest of the house (and the world) sleeps
  • When they wake up, take a break and be with them, fully
  • Exercise (yoga, going on long walks, playing tennis, being outside when it’s not 120, etc.)
  • Nap?
  • Shower, try to look like a human
  • Read from a business book
  • Work block #2
  • Solid family time — I mean, we’re going to have a POOL, you better believe I want to use it!
  • Dinner/bath/bedtime
  • Board games or TV (why can’t it be both?)

Ideal weeks include:

  • Social time — hey, Ashley, remember when we used to talk on the phone? I can barely remember. But phone calls are coming. Amy, that goes for you too (though I’ll be more aware of calling you after regular business hours). And Aisha. We need to talk more anyway! But social will also be me trying to make friends and/or meeting up with online friends that will soon be local friends and going to meetups and making sure I don’t get lonely or feel too isolated. I am a social being, and thrive by being around other people. So, if you live in Phoenix and you casually mention you want to meet up for coffee I WILL FIND YOU AND FORCE YOU TO HANG OUT WITH ME.
  • Family time — Bethany, you are going to come over multiple times a week and we are going to cook and eat and play play play. It’ll be fun. Bring Damian. Nonie, you too. Aunt Boo, Uncle, and PaPa, we’ll be doing more frequent FaceTime calls and visiting the NW and having you over as frequently as we can.
  • Date time — I want to take advantage of local family by letting them spend quality time with Clara, so I can spend quality time with Brent.
  • Activities that fuel my creativity — I want to find things like the writers workshop I loved so much in Portland. Maybe Toastmasters. Maybe more time with my camera. Maybe a photography class. Maybe something off my radar now that I’ll find interesting.
  • Networking — I suppose meetups and stuff go here. I want to be a part of the scene (whatever that means!) in Chandler in a way I wasn’t in Portland. Portland has a vibrant blogger/online business scene, and I didn’t get to know more than a handful of the people in it. The people I did meet are awesome and are among the people I consider friends, so I want to learn from my mistake and get to know people early.

I’m not there yet, because nowhere in my ideal life includes, “75% of things in moving boxes,” but now’s the time to plan. Then, when I move down, I’ll be ready.

How are you building a life you don’t want to retire from?

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