Living (Relatively) Stress Free

About a month ago, my workplace laid off around 15% of the employees in my 400 person company, with no warning to the staff of the company (as is usual in these type of circumstances). I was not affected by this move, but it created quite a lot of anxiety internally with my company, as there were very few departments which weren’t impacted by the corporate “shuffle”.

Due to our fairly low monthly spending amounts, compared to the amount of money we bring in, my wife and I are able to cover all “fixed” expenses through either one of our salaries. We set up our budget like this purposefully, as in the past, my wife has had a couple of terrible jobs. I would rather she (or I) have the flexibility and freedom to leave this kind of situation, instead of feeling stuck due to our lifestyle requirements.

Stressing over money (or anything really) isn’t healthy. I recently read a book called “The Cholesterol Myth” – in it, the author described two kinds of stress. The first kind of stress is the kind you’d get being chased by a lion – once you lose the predator, the stress is removed from your life and you go back to “normal”. The second kind of stress is the dull, persistent stress experienced through work and personal relationships – the kind of thing that doesn’t have an easy fix and stubbornly nags at the back of your mind. It’s the second kind of stress that leads to health problems and is one of the main drivers of heart disease today (besides terrible diets being consumed by most people).

My wife and I would rather not have to worry about money. We think it’s healthier for our relationship and allows us to enjoy our daily lives much more. There are some things we do that would seem ridiculous to others – like having a bunch of money sitting in a high interest savings account rather than being invested, but these are done to reduce the impact of major life occurrences to our normal spending “curve”.

We are also responsible only for ourselves – we don’t have children, or even any pets that are dependent on our ability to create wealth in order to eat every day. This type of arrangement also offers some additional flexibility in our financial decisions – we can act more selfish in our spending and saving.

I am by nature a bit of a worry-wart when it comes to money, perhaps borderline paranoid when it comes to the possibility of extended unemployment. The benefit of our goal of Early Retirement, is that even if we only get part way to the goal by the time we reach age 45 (our hopeful date of financial independence) – we will hopefully continue to live a financially stress-free life.

Do you stress about money? Have you in the past?

12 thoughts on “Living (Relatively) Stress Free”

  1. I never stressed about money. In my 23 years of working, I was never in danger of losing my job. There were a few times in the 1980s when I did not have much money, particularly after I bought my first car and my apartment. But I was always able to cover my expenses with something left over and never dug myself into a hole I could not get out of.

  2. Upon retiring, after 45 yrs of working full time for about a dozen employers, I can say that we were never unduly stressed out about money – even during the time that I was laid off for 7 months (a decent termination package helped out). Like yourself, while both my wife and I were employed, we lived within our means so that we could live on just one of our salaries if we had to. With careful budgeting, disciplined spending, working hard and willing to make sacrifices as needed, we were conservative in our investment strategy such that today we are debt free and living a modest yet comfortable and joyful retirement lifestyle. All that said, however, we tended to not get too fixated about money matters in our daily living, to the exclusion of all other interests. Don’t sweat the small stuff has always been my motto and in life – everything is just small stuff in the grand scheme of things!

  3. You’re DINKS!! No wonder your dream of early retirement is an easily reachable reality.

  4. Canuckguy – best to make your choices in life and own the consequences. I’m a single parent of two (illegitimate) children and have never felt like FI/ER was out of the realm of possibility for me once I made up my mind to attain it. Yes, it might take longer but it was possible. Please don’t tell me it’s somehow harder for you than it has been for me given circumstances.

    It isn’t really “easy” for anyone. Saving hundreds of thousands of dollars over time isn’t “easy”. Making constant investment decisions isn’t easy. Saying no to yourself or someone else when you actually would really like to go to the Caribbean for a week or three in the middle of winter isn’t easy. Bringing your lunch from home every day when everyone else you know eats out isn’t easy.

    We all make choices all the time. Some of us make choices that aren’t what we want to do right now but know (or hope) they will pay off long term. Writing things off as Dinks vs. non-dink gives an easy out for not reaching goals. Pfft to that.

  5. @Jacq Well said. We all have different challenges when it comes to financial independence.
    I too am a worrier by nature Tim. My mind constantly runs through scenarios and possible outcomes. Money only adds to that. I worry less about money these days because of our income diversification – I still have the work/life stress you mentioned. I find that a little meditation can work wonders there.

  6. Oops. LOL
    Yes, it is easier for sure though to reach FI when your expenses are lower/split or when you have two incomes to get there. Sometimes it does surprise me though how some dinks will be ok with not making very much $ on a combined basis (IMHO). I had to be way more aggressive on the income side to reach my goals even though it was difficult at first to push for it. Worked out though so it’s all good. Expense control can only take you so far…

  7. “My wife and I would rather not have to worry about money. We think it’s healthier for our relationship and allows us to enjoy our daily lives much more.”

    I tend to feel the same about pretty much aspect of my life: not having to worry about money really enhances everything else. But jacq does have a point in terms of psychology:

    “Saying no to yourself or someone else when you actually would really like to”

    I find myself saying “no, I’d prefer not” to friends that suggest crazy spending or outings and have been much better off for it. In terms of saying it to myself, I never say “no”, but rather ask “is it worth it?”. Over time the answer has become “it’s not worth it”, and deliberately focusing on learning/creating/working/spending time with friends has turned out to be enough.

    For me, true freedom is really not wanting all the fancy stuff … but it’s not for everybody. If only I could find a significant other that agreed.

  8. Dave, I am a lot like you – worried about money by nature and borderline paranoid about losing my job.

    Two years after I finally managed to secure “permanent employment” with a job in a Canadian orchestra, myself and 16 of my colleagues were told by my employer that the following year our work, and thus salary, would be cut in half. At the time, 15 weeks of work in a year was just not enough to pay the bills nor qualify for EI.

    Myself and my colleagues used every tool we had available as a bargaining unit to fight this and eventually the situation was referred to an arbitrator who insisted we have a minimum of 22 weeks. In the years that followed, we eventually negotiated all of those positions back to the same number of weeks as those who were not affected AND the orchestra never did stop any operations due to lack of money!

    Having this experience so early in my working career underlined for me the importance of taking care of finances so that you won’t be on the street if your job dumps you. By the time I said good-bye to my orchestra job in 2008, our mortgage was nearly paid off, and my other musical activities brought in enough $ to keep the boat afloat – even without the orchestra income. Of course, my spouse’s income helps too, although ever since our 2nd child was born in 1998, she has chosen to work never more than 80% of a full load.

    Naturally, I still worry about money, and am paranoid about losing my other employment, but as I have already learned, as long as you are well-organised with your finances, chances are your world will not come to a shuddering halt if you lose your job!

    Today, between my spouse and I, we live on roughly what my colleagues would call one income and bank the rest. Although we don’t plan to retire for a few more years, it’s great to know that we have financial leeway.

  9. I never really worried about money, UNTIL 2007 when my wife gave birth to our first son and we bought a big schmancy house (I kid, it’s 1300 sqft) in Toronto within the same 3 week span. We paid $40,000 over asking and paid the highest price on our street for a house ever. EVER. I was literally sick for a week over it. Now I laugh at what we paid, because you can’t get a semi for what we paid for a detached.

    Those were tricky years, especially when my wife returned to work and we had mortgage payments + daycare payments of over $1,600 a month. Plus formula, diapers, strollers, it was terrible and I obsessed over money. As I refused to stop contributing to our matched retirement accounts, money was extremely tight and we weren’t used to that. (Say what you want about choices, but the simply fact is that as former DINKS, life was #@$@#$#ing sweet and easy).

    Now that we’ve decided on one kid and one cat, and our son is turning 7, our costs are way down and our savings are way up. I estimate we could both lose our jobs and survive on our savings for at least a year now, assuming our current expenses drop by 20% (commuting,new work clothes, etc would stop so that’s a reasonable estimate I think).

    But there was a time where I really worried about us both losing our jobs and then losing the house. Now I worry less, especially since we resisted the urge to move a couple of years ago.

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