We aren’t close to financial independence (~15 years out), but living well within our means has already significantly impacted our lives. When our son was born, my plan was to work very part time until he was 6 months old, and then go back to my full time (plus) career that I loved. When I did ramp up to full time though, I found our lives were frantic and stressful and unhappy while we adjusted to life with a new child. There were never enough hours in the day just to get the basics done, and self care was a thing of the past. Monday through Friday was a blur, and the weekends were for catch-up on chores and errands we didn’t have time for during the week.
In order to wait on daycare until our son was a year old, I worked from home part time, which meant it would take me at least 10-12 hours to get a full workday in. I would open my computer for naps and do what I could while he was awake, but found myself working on the computer every night for hours after he went to bed. In short, I was trying to do it all and making myself miserable in the process. After months of living this way, I knew I had to make a change if I could. I cared about my job and was doing important work, so staying at home wasn’t really my goal, but neither was staying in the constant whirlwind that was my life.
Enter in the goal of financial independence. While we are still a lot of years out from “never having to work again,” we were doing well on living below our means and putting money away into savings, and we had paid off the medical bills from our son’s birth. I looked hard at our monthly expenses, and I realized that we could live on just my husband’s income if we needed to, though we would have to pare down our lifestyle to do it. Because we could financially live on just my husband’s income, I felt comfortable bringing up the conversation about cutting back my hours, knowing that, while I really wanted to stay where I was at, if the answer was no, I could not work for a while until I found a way that I could.
A big piece of going part time was that I was willing to give up some of my responsibilities and step off the “fast track” of my career – something I didn’t ever expect to want to do until I had my son. I was so used to putting in 45-50+ hour weeks that I had a hard time believing I would want to do something else, but after running myself down to the bone and feeling completely overwhelmed with a baby, I realized that something would have to give. I expected to miss working full time and be frustrated that others would be taking over some of “my” job duties, but I knew it had to happen. Now that I’ve been part time for a year and a half, however, I realize that was something I should never have worried about. While becoming a mother pushed me to part time work, I’ve found that I would have been much happier doing so regardless. I don’t see myself ramping back up to full time, even when my son is in school. There will be school drop off / pick up, school field trips, and whole summers that I don’t want to miss out on while he is still little, and when he’s older, I still have plenty of other activities that I will want to do just for me. Life is just better when work doesn’t consume your whole day – who would have ever guessed 😉
I was able to take an hours/pay cut to 80%, which means that I still have full benefits (healthcare!), and I work M-F so taking vacation days is simple as well. Since I’m still in the office 5 days a week, my coworkers know that I’m accessible every day so there is less resentment if they have a question, because I’m around to answer it during the busy part of every day. Though I do wonder sometimes if it might be better to work just 3 long days instead, I know I really do have the best of both worlds. More time with my son but also a career that I love most of the time.
While it may have been a large pay cut, our past and current financial choices made it so we could make the change and not have to worry about paying the mortgage (and paid off student loans / no consumer debt). FI gives you the freedom to choose if and how you work for money, but pre-FI still gives you options to choose how you do.
I now get to spend my mornings and afternoons with my son, and I have time for the housework and errands that used to be delegated to the weekends, so we get to go on weekend adventures instead of playing catchup from the hectic week. Life has gotten SO much better for it now, even without FI, all because we had options and weren’t completely reliant on my paycheck. It might not be total FI, but it definitely felt similar to make that change.