Work: More or Less

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.

5 thoughts on “Work: More or Less”

  1. I make ay while the sun shines. I am trying to start early by saving as much as I can and working hard to make the as much money as I can to save. I hope that by starting this early I will not be working when the sun is shining in 15 years or so. Once financial independence is in sight or already accomplished I will be making the most of everything.

  2. I agree with your post. Especially the point about co-workers dying, early. It is sad & reminds us all, that you never know. You might live until 100. Maybe the average of 80. But you might only get 51.
    You don’t know, so make the most of what you do get.

  3. The comment about co workers dying early struck a chord with me. I do not want to be just “doing time” while I wait for that magical day when I can retire and do what I really want to do, and then die early.
    I like many aspects of my job but there are many other aspects I am finding more difficult to live with every day, particularly the powers-that-be who have a fair bit of control over my work day.That is giving me more motivation to work toward retiring sooner rather than later.
    You never know when your time may be up and it’s later than you think…

  4. Poorstudent – you’re young (I assume), so I agree (for the most part) with your strategy. I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing ALL the fun you can have in your 20’s and 30’s and beyond just to save, save, save. I’ve known a few people who’ve done that – actually I think I’m related to all the ones I know. 😉

    Canadianmdinvestor – yes, I’ve had a few people in my life die early and one lady here at work had a heart attack during work last year I guess. Scary stuff and a good wake up call.

    Nancy – I think what can be bad as well is when your job is stressful and that leads to poorer health and a shorter lifespan because of it. I think that’s where many are willing to downgrade their potential lifestyle just to be able to walk away from those sub-par work situations. I know I sure am – to a point.

  5. My job is not stressful, it’s just terribly uninteresting. I am not sure if I want to look for something more interesting, or if working in general is just uninteresting to me. I’ve never had a job that I really loved, except when I was 16 and working at the public library. Maybe I need to do that again. 😉

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