If you have at least one kid, you know that your time is limited. Your day is full of requests from sippy cups to “take me to the park” or “can you drive me to my friend’s house” if your kids are older; we are actually just breaking through that one.
Now, with four kids life can really feel upside down at times. Very quickly you learn that even using the bathroom for a few minutes is a privilege. A moment that allows you to think and straighten your thoughts quickly fades into breaking up the next fight or accommodate everybody’s requests.
In the midst of all the commotion you might find yourself isolated from your spouse even when she or he is just a couple of feet away. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time to talk and when you do you may be so freaking tired that it might simply not happen.
But how about if when your conversation finally happens you realize that your spouse is living the FIRE dream? Quite settled in FIRE-ville trying to find purpose in life, pondering what is important for her and talking about causes that are meaningful to her?
Here is the best: She doesn’t even blog or reads about finances. She has never visited the Mr. Money Mustache corner or listened to any podcast! Your money or Your Life means nothing to her!
It seems like my wife is living the FIREd life
It’s summer 2019 and this is our third summer sending our oldest kids off to camp. Actually we drive to drop them off. This year trying to be economical and sticking to the budget we decided we could keep two kids with the grandparents as we took the trip 5.5 hours away, drop them off, turn around and get back for a total of eleven hours in the car. We thought it would be a good time for us to talk and catch up with no kids in the mix.
We started the trip talking about random things, such as, of course, the kids, but quickly the conversation turned into our retirement plans.
If you have read some of my other posts you know that I am planning on retiring in 2029. You can read My Blueprint and find out the details.
On my end, I really don’t want to stop working but I do want to work for myself. I want to free myself from the shackles of working for money. I want to not have to worry about pissing off my boss because the scores are X and not Z. Or because Jimmy is reading 105 words per minute instead of 106; therefore, he is not college and career ready.
My wife though, is a different story. She gave up her dreams of teaching as soon as we had or first child. She had just completed her master’s program through UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago), had a full-time teaching position and after a month of dealing with daycare issues we decided we couldn’t do it anymore. Leaving our baby in the hands of someone who was doing what we were meant to do as parents in exchange of money didn’t make sense anymore. And so we went from having two professional salaries of about 36K each, to just that; thirty six thousand dollars. We were barely having enough to cover our mortgage and basic expenses. No more money to eat out and frivolous spending. We were getting clothes donations for our baby through a nonprofit organization. We were tight.
My wife didn’t work anymore out of the house. Our second kid was born and it wasn’t even a question. She wanted to have that special time of being there for them and we simply made it work. We went from two cars to one, to cut expenses in transportation, made our own bread, granola, did some canning, lots of DIYs were on me, and the bottom line was: it worked out! We even survived 2008.
Now our kids are older, but we also have two more, with the youngest being almost KG age. This may be a turning point for my wife to decide if she wants to go back to work or continue staying home. We both agree that just because the kids are all in school doesn’t mean that there is no need for anybody being home and regroup or plan the logistics of the day.
Regardless, our current situation and opportunity to talk during our trip opened up a window to think about possibilities. My first thought was, would she want to go back to the school system and be a teacher? She immediately confirmed what I thought with a quick “NO.” What came after that was what really surprised me. In her first few sentences she made clear that she wanted to work on something where she could help others and didn’t have to have a boss breathing down her neck. She said she wanted to work for a cause that she really believed in.
I found all the things she said fascinating because after doing so much reading and pondering about FIRE, these are very valid points that are important to find purpose and consequently bring happiness in life. She wasn’t even considering a job per se where she could earn an income. She was even thinking about some volunteering time working with kids at a hospital in our area.
My big Aha! Moment
As the conversation continued, I let her know how cool it was that she had the freedom to think about work in those terms. Money in the form of salary was not a concern, she wanted to do something she believed in, something she found purposeful, with flexibility, and she wants to help others.
I told her immediately “you are making me feel what it must be like to be FIREd. That is the FIRE mentality!”
After our conversation there was a pause in me to digest all this, and almost to rejoice the moment.
Granted, financially speaking we are not there yet. We still need my paycheck. BUT we are making all the needed changes and putting in all the work to make things happen in 2029.
In retrospect, as I read other people’s stories and learn more about finances, I can see how trying to FIRE may be frustrating. We want things to happen quick. Sometimes we make changes and they don’t seem to make any difference or may not be as significant as we wish. But changes in our behavior as consumers and in our relationship with money do make a difference.
In our case, thanks to small changes we have gone from receiving clothes donations for our first child to being potentially 10 years away from retirement.
Which also brings me back to one of my favorite quotes:
“journey of a thousand miles starts with one step”Lao Tzu
Along with all this reflection is the mindful practice of being grateful for what we (You and I) have.
I could find things I can complain about and feel sorry for my self because I am not FIREd yet, or I am not traveling the world like many people in the FIRE community. However, I choose to see my glass half full.
When I think about work, sure I would love to live an endless summer adventure and be fully retired. But when I think about our current situation I couldn’t think of a better scenario. My wife has never had to work and she has been able to spend one of the most precious times of her life with our kids. She is under no stress of putting up with a prick as a boss threatening to fire her and jeopardize her family financial stability. She is happy. And our kids love having mom home.
On my end, I am the bread winner but I get to spend the summers with my kids and all other holidays. When they are in school , I am in school too. I work until 3:30 PM; sometimes 4:00. My commute is ten minutes.
Out of the 52 weeks of the year, I work about 39 of them. 185 days a year. In other words, I can kind of consider myself part-time retired. I work half of the year.
I could certainly leverage my way into more real estate to make things happen quicker by investing more but this may also open the flood-gates to a world of stress. I really do not think the trade off is worth it.
I am saying all this not with the intention of bragging or setting up my life as a reference to others. I try not to compare my life to others. That’s the worst we can do.
Rather I invite you to reflect and always search for the silver lining in your life.
I would love to hear what’s your ideal work situation once you reach financial independence? How long will your path be to reach your number? And please share some of those silver linings in your life as you pursue FIRE.