One of my favorite posts on this blog would have to be this one which outlines my family’s journey from approximately 2000 to 2007. Yet since that time a lot has changed in our lives which has been documented somewhat on the blog, but not all in one story. So I’m going to try and compress that down into a single summary post.
At the end of 2007 our second child was on the way and I started to notice a difference in my perception of the world. In the beginning of my early retirement journey I fell into the trap of a lot of people that I thought about early retirement as a solution to a better quality of life, but then I started to realize that there is more to life than just savings. You can do things now to improve your life that yes do cost money, but often can lead to a better balance now and in the future. So after our second baby was born in the spring of 2008 I had arranged to have a seven week parental leave to help out at home. This was despite the fact my wife was taking a year off with no income since she was self employed.
It was one of the best things I have ever done. I loved those weeks off at home and so did the rest of my family. I helped out a lot with the baby and also demolished our old deck with my oldest son. It was again one of those periods in our lives when we didn’t have much extra money, but we enjoyed ourselves at lot regardless. I’ve noticed that in my life. A lot of my most happy periods I had little to no extra money. Perhaps this is why I find the concept of retiring early on a small income not something to be afraid of, but rather looked forward to.
I also got some perspective on my work during that time off and decided that my job at the time had a fatal issue with it. I liked the work and the people, I just disliked the highly variable workload that goes with working at a consulting firm. So in late 2008 I moved on to another job for an increase in pay, but more importantly generous time off benefits and I was hoping a more steady workload. The steady workload did occur, which made me very happy with my new workplace.
Yet after two kids I was starting to notice and care about more larger scale issues and I began to get involved more with following and being involved with politics. So when I noticed no one was running for the public school board for our subdivision in late 2009, it seemed like a good time to test the waters and I filed my nomination papers. Much to my surprise I was acclaimed to the position for a three year term. I also found out it happen to pay fairly decently with a salary of $23,400 a year.
So now I was doing some work that helped in my desire to improve the world for people and making more money, but after six months of working both jobs I realized I was doing too much. My family was suffering and so was I. My wife was even trying to take a self directed course during this time and we found that was hard for me to support. If I kept this up I would likely just burn out sometime before the end of my term. So I had a great meeting with my boss where we discussed some ideas and I proposed dropping down to 80% time. I was pleasantly surprised when he agreed and we started a six month trial which would become permanent after that time (if we both agreed it was working).
From my perceptive the change has been worth every penny of pay I lost going to reduced hours. It’s also if anything made me more loyal to my place of work than any raise they could have gave me. (Note to all HR departments: the new coin of the realm isn’t money, but rather flexibility.) It has also allowed my family to streamline our week together to place common appointments on Friday and then leave more time on the weekend to be together. My wife even enjoys the situation as it has allowed her time to take another course and complete a certification for her daycare.
Then if that wasn’t enough positive change to our lives, I had the opportunity to write for the Toronto Star early this year and fulfill one of my dreams of getting paid to write something. It was a lot of work, but I did enjoy the experience overall. It also provided my the motivation to push ahead with my book project in 2011.
Now of course going after some of these dreams of ours it has made our lives more enjoyable now, but also helped us out financially. In three years we have increased out net worth from just over $200,000 to over $370,000, but even more impressive is we have paid off almost $60,000 of our mortgage and increased our investments from about $47,000 to $117,000. That’s an average reduction of debt and investment increase of about $43,000 per year.
So in my last success post I focused on the fact you can defy the odds and early retirement is possible. I still agree with that conclusion, yet I would also point out you don’t have to wait to retire to pursue you dreams and have a better quality of life. The two goals are NOT mutually exclusive. Dare to dream to have it all, you might be surprised on what you can do.