This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any. Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

In a little over 2 weeks, I’ll be taking part in a Tough Mudder run north of Toronto.  I have been training for this fairly intensely for the past few months and at this point I feel confident that I may not drop dead over the 16 km course and 20 obstacles.  The race cost me about $150 to sign up for in February and I did it mainly as an incentive to get into and stay in shape over the summer.  Most summers, my wife and I travel from cottage to cottage, visiting friends and family; usually these kind of visits lead to overconsumption of both food and drink, which means that most of my work at the gym is negated.

So, on top of the challenge of the actual event, I am using it as a reason to not drink a bunch of beer and fill up on foods that taste good at the time, but make me feel terrible almost right after (well, maybe not the beer, that doesn’t make me feel bad until the next day, if I drink enough of it).  As a result, the 4 or 5 hours of running up and down ski hills may not be so bad, and as a side effect I may not put on the 5-10 lbs I usually do when the weather is nice.

To some, early retirement may be seen as a significant sacrifice.  Saving a significant portion of a paycheque rather than buying “stuff” that may bring enjoyment could be seen as something that isn’t worthwhile.  For me, as I have previously noted – I don’t really see it as a sacrifice as I don’t really have anything else that I want to buy.

In the same way that Tough Mudder is keeping me “honest” in prime beer and funnel-cake season, my early retirement plan is keeping me in line regarding spending decisions.  Although my demand as a consumer is not high, there is always some sort of purchase that at some point may “creep” into my plans.  By having the long-term goal of being financially free in a relatively short period of time, it makes me think twice about purchases that would reduce the probability of this taking place.

What this kind of thing generally boils down to is what a person deems to be a sacrifice.  Most people are unable to picture where the extra savings would come from for early retirement, in the same way that it seems like a tough ordeal to go through not drinking on a long weekend.  I prefer to keep my goals in mind, and the longer term picture rather than the short term enjoyment (even when it means missing out on ice cream cones in the summer for a few weeks).

Do you have a similar style of staying on track with your goals?

What would you do with yourself?

This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and worked as a financial adviser before retiring at age 35. He is married, has three kids and has returned to school with the goal of eventually living and working overseas.

Apparently, in the 1970s, as great strides were being made in productivity increases, it was predicted that 30 or 40 years later production would require far less human involvement and we would have more leisure time. Reality has not matched expectations (obviously), because instead of more free time, most people seem to have opted for more money.

An individual can make choices to have more time or more money, but not really both. I wonder if there’s a reason that most people choose more money. Blaise Pascal said, “All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.” Perhaps people who choose to continue working hard, for more money that they don’t really need, are too insecure to be alone with themselves. Staying busy at work absolves us from having to make wise choices about how we use our time, and it gives us an excuse (feeling tired) to watch TV or otherwise unwind passively at the end of the day.

There are people whose sense of self is wrapped up tightly in their work. Think for example of the people who like to describe themselves as: “I’m a doctor” or “I’m a lawyer” or “I’m a dentist.” The implication is that anything they do outside the office is disconnected from their sense of self and feels like wasted time. When a doctor isn’t being a doctor, he might feel he’s wasting time. When a lawyer isn’t busy being a lawyer, she might feel she’s not making a difference. Part of the problem might be the fact that their skills earn a high hourly rate, but changing a flat tire or making dinner doesn’t have a monetary value. People who think this way tend to pay money rather than spend time doing chores. But I suspect that perspective ignores the satisfaction and well-roundedness that comes from being able to meet the needs of yourself and your family.

For other people, part of the explanation may be related to the “Puritan work ethic” that has pervaded the North American culture. The “idle rich”were mocked and reviled throughout the 20th century in America. Many people only feel valuable when they feel productive. This is a boon for employers, but community and charitable associations struggle to find people who are willing to volunteer and get involved. And while employees may indirectly benefit their community, the people who do get involved with volunteer projects tend to create meaningful relationships and get great satisfaction from knowing that they have a positive impact on their community.

With a little imagination and some willingness to not always keep up with the Joneses (which is unrealistic, anyway), it’s possible for most people to be happy with a moderate income and additional free time. That time won’t stay “free” for long, however, once you’re able to express the impact you want to have on your community and spend your leisure time doing things that are meaningful to you and those around you. If you spent less time working, what would you do with yourself?

A Moment in Time

I recently had two interesting comments said to me this week, one was from a friend who said  “You’re really not going to stay with your employer for the long haul are you?”  To which I answered, “According to the blog the answer to that would be obviously no.” The second comment by a co-worker was “Well in 15 years time…not that you will be around here…”

What I found interesting about both of these comments was after talking to people about early retirement or financial independence for a while, the idea I won’t be around forever has finally started to sink into people’s heads.  In a typically workplace people often assume that everyone will be around indefinitely unless something comes up which people don’t expect, like a new job elsewhere. In my case this has changed.

In fact, this is so common knowledge the other day my boss commented I don’t act like most people at work.  I in fact act more like someone with a few years left until they retire.  I’m not scared to stir the pot on an issue and I’m utter fearless of getting fired.

On a psychological basis, I’m already free.  I know that my career is in fact just a moment in time, which in fact everyone’s is that way.  The idea that people will be around for ever is just an illusion of stability that we create in our minds to cope with the unending waves of changes the roll over our lives.  I already know I won’t be at my current jobs forever, life changes and so to this will pass.

What I find at being at this state is how wonderful it is to realize I can be just myself even at work.  I don’t care about impressing someone, I do my job because I find it interesting and I want to learn.  I value feedback to allow me to improve, but I don’t take it too personally. I’m nice to people, but I won’t hold back on what my opinion is to spare their ego.

In the end, I’ve already achieved one of the best things about working towards financial independence: I’m at work by choice, not because I have to be.   So I really can just enjoy my moment in time.

Where you you with your relationship with your job?  Are you still scared of getting fired or have you also moved on?