When employment becomes optional

We have reached the point in our FI journey that my small part-time income is optional. This initially excited me quite a bit, to the point I began fantasizing about quitting and having weekends off for the first time in 8.5 years. So, I turned in my notice, right?

Not quite.

It’s when work becomes optional that you get to really examine your priorities. What you value. What you want from life.

On the one hand, I would absolutely get more time with my wife and kids. That is a major pro for quitting now.

On the other hand, we’d be back to living close to the edge. We live very simply and continue to remove clutter and unnecessary expense from our lives, but without my contribution – that would be everything. Justifying basic travel like a half-hour drive to a state park would become difficult, let alone the dream of taking the goblins on road trips to national parks and whatnot.

Knowing that I don’t need my job anymore is empowering, but money is a tool. Right now I want enough of that tool to speed our journey to FI and provide cushion for a more enjoyable life without being wasteful or overly damaging to the environment. Not to mention it seems really silly to “retire” (even to being a SAHD) when our net worth still remains negative.

Like knowing whether to finally pull the plug and declare FI/early retirement though, at each step of the journey we can ask “what is enough for the time together to outweigh the money?” As we accomplish each sub-goal, we’ll step back and examine.

  1. Pay off same-as-cash home improvement loan before interest accrues
  2. Retire my graduate loans (~$300/month cash flow gained)
  3. Replace two ageing cars with a single, more efficient, car.
  4. Retire PMI on mortgage ($80/month, lowers effective APR on mortgage)
  5. Retire Alchemist’s graduate loans (~$340/month)
  6. Retire all outstanding debt
  7. Reach halfway point to FIRE, when a PT job can sustain our core living expenses without drawing on assets.
  8. FIRE

At this point, I’m guessing this will happen somewhere between steps 2-5. Our tentative FIRE date will be right as our youngest goblin turns 19. I’d much rather have more time with them while they are kids, delaying FIRE a few years if necessary.

I thought about enlisting the MMM community by doing a case study, but for now I’ve answered the question myself: not yet. It’s exactly what I would have advised a stranger if I were reading their case study.


5 Comments on “When employment becomes optional”

  1. envisionhappy.com says:

    I think most Mustachians would agree that when you still have debt you should act like your hair’s on fire. I understand the desire for more family time with the kids while they are younger though.

  2. Dr. Doom says:

    It’s a tough problem, and the only correct answer is a personal one. Objectively, it usually means more to earn money early in life — $1 earned now is, on average, the same as $2 earned ten years from now because that $1 will grow over the next decade if invested. But subjectively, well — maybe it’s worth the trade.. Kids are only young once and they’re very, very different after age 12 or so.
    At any rate, a big congrats for hitting the point where you don’t need your job. That knowledge alone must enable some degree of mental liberation.

  3. Once you have enough and work becomes optional, you have a lot more leverage to name your terms in any employment engagement. It’s like you suddenly grow this pair of big brass invincible cojones and you can ask for anything you want.

    I got ballsy at my last (and final) full time job and got fired. It didn’t matter. Now I do very infrequent freelancing, and I have no problem naming a crazy figure for what minimal effort I put forth since I don’t care if I price myself out of a job. Employment is optional and any extra money is just gravy (inheritance for the kids, more college funding, earmarked for eventual charity, travel/fun money, etc).

    It’s a good place to be!

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