Last week I described two paths to financial freedom: Traditional and Transitional. This week, I’m sharing a few of the key factors we’re using to determine which path is best for us, and answer the question: How long do you wait before you quit your job to make your time your own?
Is it better to push for financial perfection before you quit your job, or should you settle for good enough and quit your job sooner?
A Renewed Sense of Urgency
I recently learned about the sudden passing of a former coworker. Although I didn’t know him very well – we had only met a few times – he seemed to be a healthy, happy man in his mid 40s. He was definitely way too young to die.
While that news by itself made me sad for him and his family, the details behind his passing made me even sadder. He died in his hotel room while attending a work event.
Now, as someone who spends a good portion of her time traveling for work, I can tell you the last way I want to die is at a business function with my coworkers. The very thought horrifies me.
I’m supposed to die while doing something I love, surrounded by people I love, a long, long time from now. And I certainly can’t die before I’m able to reap the rewards of financial freedom. But, alas, we don’t often get to choose when or where we die (sorry, I didn’t mean to take such a morbid turn!).
Anyway, I’m now finding myself with a renewed sense of urgency to get busy living (as Andy Dufresne would say) and reassessing our approach to financial freedom.
When to Quit Your Job? Push for Picture Perfect
To date, our focus has been saving and investing enough money (achieving our perfect target number) so that we would never have to earn another cent. In this sense, we’ve been focused on the Traditional 2-Stage Financial Plan of “work” and “retire” – with an emphasis on retire early. Here’s what “picture perfect” would look like for us…
But there’s another option… we could settle for good enough.
When to Quit Your Job? Settle for Good Enough
Rather than wait several more years to achieve “picture perfect” finances, another option is to settle for “good enough” earlier. This means embracing a Transitional 3-Stage Financial Plan of “work”, “work less” and “work optional”. Here’s what “good enough” would look like for us;
When to Quit Your Job? Key Considerations
Here are a few of the considerations we’re using to evaluate the best option for us…
- Our Desire to Work
As I’ve said before, my primary desire for financial freedom is to be able to make my time my own. I want the freedom to spend my days doing “work” that I enjoy – like writing, creating, researching, etc. And E feels the same way. I could easily see him getting a job at a fitness club or golf course after he quits his corporate job.
For these reasons, the “work less” stage of the “good enough” financial plan looks like it could be good fit for us.
If, on the other hand, we had absolutely no desire to work and only wanted to spend our time volunteering, traveling, golfing, etc., then it makes more sense to push forward with a “picture perfect” financial plan and enjoy the security of early retirement
- Our Age
E and I are no spring chickens. We are both in our 40s, and if we push to achieve our “picture perfect” target number, we will need to keep our corporate jobs for at least another 6-7 years. But having already spent over 20 years in corporate roles, we are definitely starting to feel the burn out. I think it would be really tough to stay more than 2-3 more years.
However, if we were both in our 30s (only wish we would have had the financial freedom mindset back then!), and not yet feeling the burn out of our corporate jobs, I could see us able to push for the perfect target number.
- Our Health
Physical fitness is one of the most important priorities for E and me.
We are super fortunate in that we’re both healthy (knocking on wood) and in pretty decent shape. E more so than me – he works out daily, plays sports, eats relatively healthy except for the occasional doughnut (oh, and his Sunday night Hershey dark chocolate bar).
But with each passing year it becomes more difficult to stay in shape… it’s easier and easier for me to pack on a few more pounds, and harder and harder for me to work them off. I’m my healthiest when I stick to a routine – but because I travel a ton for my job it’s difficult for me to stay in a good rhythm. Plus, my eating habits while I travel are less than ideal.
Having a bit more freedom in our schedules would certainly help to keep me on a good fitness and food regime. And this isn’t something I can just put off until I “retire” – I need to make this a bigger priority now.
The other aspect of health to consider is when I think about having the freedom to make my time my own, it means being very active – biking, hiking, skiing, etc. How awful would it be to finally have the time – financial freedom – but not have the physical health to do the things I want to do.
All of this makes me lean toward the “good enough” option – having a transition phase sooner (at an earlier age) where we have more time to establish workout routines, and enjoy all of the physical activities on our bucket list. More time to work less and just enjoy life, vs working so hard to make more money and achieve a “picture perfect” retirement.
- Our Outlook
The last consideration I want to highlight is a shift in our outlook. Ten years ago our focus was all about earning more money to spend more money – buying designer shoes and handbags, buying a nicer car, buying a bigger house, etc.
But today, our outlook is less about “things” and more about “happiness” – and for me happiness is about learning new things, trying new things, pushing and challenging myself to see how much I can grow and develop, and ultimately, spending time laughing with friends and family.
This change in outlook means we can live on less money than we have in the past. It means that it’s more important for us to have more TIME then it is to have more MONEY.
Less Than Perfect, But More Than Enough
So, as you can probably tell from the above, the clear winner for us is to settle for “good enough” and implement the Transitional Plan — bridging into greater levels of financial freedom over time:
- We will quit our corporate jobs once we have saved up enough money that, over time, will grow to sufficiently support us when we no longer want to work.
- At that time, we will transition to doing work we enjoy and earning just enough money (small fraction of our current earnings) to maintain our desired lifestyle.
- As a result, we will have more freedom to make our time our own sooner, rather than later.
Rather than calling this the “good enough” option – I actually think the better term is Less Than Perfect, But More Than Enough!