This is a guest post by our own long time commenter, Jacq, who has an excellent point of view on the question: to work or not to work.
Goals are great to have. When you have a far off dream like financial independence, I can almost guarantee you won’t get there unless you turn that dream into a goal.
So you set up your budget, fire up a spreadsheet and map out the path to your goal.
Along the path to that goal will be many milestones that you strive to reach. If you miss them, you’re not on track and have to change something. Maybe cut back on regular spending, delay taking a trip or buying that new cork flooring that you really really want. [Editors Note: Damn I’m so going to have to take before and after pictures of this floor when we install it. ]
But sometimes you can over-achieve on those goals too.
The temptation is there to keep on a roll. One of my dad’s favorite sayings was “make hay while the sun shines.” (Can you tell he was a farmer?) He was always aware that the weather was unpredictable and if you didn’t keep working, it could rain the next day and your opportunity would be gone.
Isn’t that the smart thing to do? That’s what most people do when they work and save for 30+ years and then retire at 65. Sometimes they stop with “too much” money and not enough retirement years. It’s what most contract job people (like me) do – never take a day off because you don’t know when you’ll be out of work and for how long. It’s what the fearful part of me wants to do (and she talks very loudly but fortunately not very often).
Except sometimes you get a wake-up call to pay attention to what’s also important. Obituaries of current employees who have died are posted about once a week on my intranet workplace. (I’ve always found it ironic that people “like” those posts.) Every time I see one, I’m sad for them and their families that they never got to enjoy a period of slowing down with their loved ones and hope that they really enjoyed their jobs since they gave so much of their lives to them. Every time I see one, it reminds me that life can be so short and I can’t control life no matter how many spreadsheet scenarios I run.
For people who strive for financial independence and a better work-life balance, those spreadsheets (aka maps) are essential for both knowing when to step it up – and knowing when it’s ok to slow it down because you’re reaching your destination sooner than planned and maybe it’s time to look around and enjoy where you are on the trip. Most other people who don’t value that life balance just go out and buy more stuff. The FI people will do things like cut back to an 80% work week or take unpaid leave and trust that somehow the sun will keep shining down the road.
So I’m booking a lot of unpaid vacation time. And crossing my fingers that it won’t rain while I’m out camping. It’s just another way of making hay while that sun is still shining.