From the world of people who are actively pursuing financial independence, I hear the constant refrain, "Your money or Your Life." This phrase explains that if you invest money now, and keep your expenses in check, within mere years you to could have the freedom to do whatever you want.
Ten years from now, I won't have the freedom to play Lincoln Logs or to sing Twinkle Twinkle with my two year old son. He'll be twelve. I am hopeful there will be other kids too, but I wouldn't view other kids as my opportunity to make up for lost time with my eldest.
If the passage of time is the only thing that enables financial independence, then financial independence is not for me.
In case you're wondering, behavioral economists have a fancy term for this. It's called loss aversion. It means that I am willing to give up a great deal to prevent losing what I have right now. Ostensibly, I am willing to give up the whole concept of financial independence to spend more time with my kiddo.
In which I pursue my life and some money
In reality, I don't think the passage of time and rigidly adhering to the high earning, low expenses, invest the rest model is the only way to pursue financial independence.
In our Agile Personal Finance Manifesto, my husband and I laid out a few pillars for our journey to financial independence.
Ongoing financial contentment over striving to fulfill temporal desires
Financial simplicity over financial optimization
Shared life vision over freedom from working
Embracing relationships over embracing plans.
You might be interested to note that not one of these has anything to do with the passage of time. Not one tells us that we value reaching financial independence sooner rather than later.
However, if I were to quit working right now, we couldn't uphold these pillars either. Primarily because a family of 3 is going to be very, very hard pressed to live in a grad student stipend, which would yield to a lot of striving to fulfill temporal desires, financial complexity, relational tension, not to mention the fact that I already agreed to support my husband through grad school.
I could wait three years, when my husband will be back in the workforce, which was more or less the original plan, but I am feeling impatient. Seeing as I have largely given up on a big career in the near term, the job that I'm holding on to doesn't represent a big step towards my long term career goals, and to a certain extent it's holding me back from the life I want to live.
I don't hate my job. Quite the contrary, I love it. I love solving complex problems with interesting people. I feel quite certain that a career (in the traditional sense of the word) is going to be important to me for a very long time. It's just not my priority right now. I feel like I should be "hanging onto my skills" and focusing on raising a kid. Rather than "hanging onto my son" and focusing on growing a career.
Like many working moms what I want is to work part time. Just enough to keep my skills and my mind sharp. Just enough to fuel me for the less complex and often less rewarding task of being a mom.
Figuring this out is no joke, but that's what I'm trying to do. Welcome to my journey. Here's how I hope to do it.
1. Manage cashflow as a single income family
With the other income being right around $20K, this is a barrier, but not one that can't be overcome. Outside of home renovation, and childcare costs, we're sneaking in right around that amount. We would qualify for CHIP and Medicare at that income level too. It's not ideal, but we could do it.
2. Complete/Quit expensive projects
We're renovating our house. We're definitely going to keep going until the kitchen and flooring is done. We've now put off the bathroom remodels twice. Once our kitchen is complete, we may reassess whether or not we are done. Renovations are expensive, even when done the DIY way.
I'm not saying that we will never do expensive projects as a one and a quarter income household, but I don't want that to be a financial stress at the outset.
3. Start a side income business
I'm no stranger to "side hustles" but I have never successfully built a business. To be honest, the reason that I've failed on this front is that I've lacked perseverance, I've been too slothful, and I've been too proud to do the "pimping for pennies" work that would get my foot in the door to building a business.
No more. Turn around time starts now.
4. Grow side income to $1K per month consistently
In general, it seems that side business owner's have a tough time "staying constant" in their business. It's always either growing or sinking. Since my goal isn't to build a huge empire (yet), I have to accept the reality that at least half my time won't be spent getting paid. It will be on marketing type activities. So I'm aiming for $47/hr for 5 hours per week which is really more like $18 for 15 hours per week.
5. Find Healthcare
If ACA is still in effect, I'll be good. Otherwise, I might need to figure something else out. I'll worry about that when steps 1-4 are complete.
6. Quit Job and figure how to enjoy toddler time... all day long
Nobody thinks being a stay at home mom is easy. It's weary work, but it's the challenge I want right now.
I've reached out to a few friends who have successfully made this leap, and I'm hoping that I can cajole them into doing an interview for this blog.
Any sage wisdom for me?
I'm a wife, a mom, an employee, and a personal finance nerd who is devoted to spreadsheeting my way through life.