Side hustling has become a way of life.
It’s been one of the main strategies I utilized to aggressively pay off debt and accelerate progress on my financial goals.
The additional income over the years has allowed me to max out my retirement accounts annually, year after year, payoff nearly 6 figures in student loan debt in five and a half years, and save a $60,000 downpayment towards the purchase of my current home.
Side hustling has been a blessing!
But it has also been a curse. Earning “extra” money can be addictive.
Especially for someone like myself. I have been known to have workaholic tendencies…
Although I am fully aware of these tendencies I have difficulty controlling the impulse to dive headfirst into a pile of work. Stress and anxiety tend to make matters worse because I use work as a way to escape and distract myself.
Over the past two years, I have been on a Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) kick.
If you’re not familiar the FIRE movement is a sub-set of the personal-finance community that is focused on…you guessed it…becoming financially independent and retiring early.
Financial independence is the ability to cover the cost of living expenses through passive income.
The ‘Retire early’ portion of FIRE means that you stop working (or no longer NEED to work to live) well before the traditional retirement age which typically lands somewhere in the 6th or even 7th decade of life.
For the past two years, I have been reading blogs and podcasts chronicling the lives of FIRE enthusiasts that have managed to reduce expenses, while at the same time increasing their savings rate and investment portfolios, making financial independence and SUPER early retirement possible.
As a workaholic I found myself fascinated by these stories. And I began to wonder if FIRE could be possible for me.
Becoming debt-free made other audacious financial goals seem possible.
But the thought of having enough money to retire in my 30s or 40s?
Could that be possible for me?
It turns out I had stumbled onto my new ‘Why’…
The reason behind all of the budgeting and sacrifice.
FIRE would be my new thing, the BIG financial goal that I would work towards.
As a side note, my husband doesn’t share my enthusiasm for FIRE.
He just doesn’t get it.
When I broached the subject his exact words were…”Retire and do what”?
From what I hear this is a pretty typical initial response to FIRE.
But for me, a chronically sleep-deprived, workaholic, FIRE seemed to be just what the doctor ordered.
Being the analytical number cruncher that I am I quickly calculated my number. In order to sustain my current standard of living, I would need a net worth somewhere in the ballpark of $1 million dollar. More comfortably…$1.3 million.
The good news I’m halfway there.
The bad news is that I still have halfway to go.
I have kicked myself for not discovering financial independence earlier. If I had only known about this 10 years ago I could most certainly be ready to retire
But it’s counterproductive to focus on the should, coulda, wouldas.
After going over the numbers a few times, in my head and on paper, I’ve come to the conclusion that the numbers just don’t add up. Even if I continue hustling and earning at the same pace that I have in recent years, I am at least 6 or 7 years away from my FIRE goal.
Alternatively, if I can make a drastic lifestyle change and get there sooner. If I sold my house and moved my family to a lower cost of living area I could get to FI in half the time.
The latter seems to be an unlikely scenario, particularly because my husband isn’t on board. My husband, bless his heart, has little interest in my personal finance pursuits. He loosely follows the budget and indulges me with monthly budget meetings but his heart isn’t in it.
We aren’t exactly on the same page with the financial goals.
With things being what they are I have been tempted to give up on my FIRE aspirations. I have also questioned my motivations for wanting to escape the rat race in the first place.
Is my longing for FIRE a byproduct of being chronically overworked?
Regardless FIRE isn’t in the cards right now.
But, does it have to be an all-or-nothing scenario?
Can I take my foot off of the gas and scale back work just enough to be able to travel and enjoy a slower pace of life right now?
Isn’t that exactly what I plan to do in early retirement?
Do I have the ability to design a lifestyle that would allow me to enjoy the fruits of my labor both now and later?
Semi-retirement will allow me to work less and live more while I’m (relatively) young and healthy enough to enjoy it.
It’s the best of both worlds.
- A less demanding work schedule- I can cut my work schedule back to half-time
- Travel frequently without having to worry about requesting time off for work
- Have more time to pursue my passions and entrerprenurial endeavors
- Continue to trade time for money in the form of part-time work
- No permanent escape from my job (at least for now)
- I will not truly be financially independent
- I will need to delay purchasing a new (used car)…but who needs a new car if I’m not working
The Gap Year Experiment:
My teaching position is ending in May of this year. Instead of running out and diving into a new full-time job I’m taking it as an opportunity to do a test run, a gap year experiment. I am going to give semi-retirement a trial run and see if its right for me. I plan to work roughly 20 hours per week June through December and then see how things go from there.
I think semi-retirement will be my new thing. In preparation for this 6-month semi-retirement, I’ve been prepping my finances by paying up bills and trimming the remaining fat from my budget. I also plan to stockpile household items in advance to minimize spending later.
I don’t like the unknown. The unknown is scary.
But worst-case scenario I can always go back to work early.
I’m looking forward to the adventure and the challenge.
Have you ever considered retiring early?
What’s stopping you from designing your ideal life?
If you didn’t HAVE to work, what would you do with your time?