Sabbatical Dreaming

I’ve been in the new job now for about two months now and have settled into it a bit more.  I have learned a lot, but there is so much more to learn.  I’ve also confirmed through conversations with others on my team that they are finding the job to be challenging, too.  We are an almost entirely new team that has been stood up in a relatively new organization to help project manage the largest project our company has ever delivered in its history.  So even in ideal conditions, this would be a difficult job.

In addition to that, because the org is so new, everything is a fire drill.  Things are done in a reactive way, not a proactive way.  Example – our whole team was asked on a Thursday to book travel to one of our other offices for the following Monday.  In any reflection my stress-addled brain has had a chance to do in the past several weeks, the realization has become that the regular parts of the job are manageable, but the disarray caused by the fire drills is what is really driving my angst.

I have three weeks until my sabbatical.

I can’t wait.

I am finally starting to have a little brain space to envision what I might do during that 4 weeks, and some of that includes:

  • Lots of running, walking, yoga, time in nature/at the park
  • Family time – visiting my mom, possibly traveling with the mother-in-law
  • Going on a quick child-free trip with Mr. FIREdup to NYC
  • Finally finishing my two-year-old’s baby book
  • House projects like painting the living room and cleaning up the spare bedroom (where we store all the junk we don’t want to see)
  • Completing a volunteer project that’s part of my sabbatical requirement
  • Blogging!

My only concern is how I’m going to be able to force myself to come back to this goat rodeo once my little R&R break is complete.

How do you psych yourself up to return to work after a vacation/break?

A New Job and a New Milestone

It’s been a while since the last post.  Life has been busy and I’m trying to establish a new “normal” routine.

New Job!

I’m now three weeks into the new job.  It has been exactly as I imagined yet at the same time different from what I expected.  The days absolutely FLY by.  I’m trying really hard to maintain a good work-life balance.  This job could easily consume 60 hours of my life every week, but I’m not willing to give it that much, so I’m trying to focus on the most important things and to be as efficient as possible in the time I do work.  So there’s not a lot of down time during the work day.  I did set an intention to have some sort of lunch break twice a week, whether that be lunch with a friend or taking some time to get away from the desk to go for a run.

What I’ve discovered over the last three weeks is that the new job is even more undefined than I had expected.  Each work day generally starts in a panic with me thinking about all the things our leadership has tasked us to get done that I’m not making any progress on.  Then, by the middle of the day, I realize that most of the other people doing the same job as me (who are also pretty new to the team) don’t really know what they’re doing, either.

There’s probably a handful of things that are keeping me from not losing my mind over the ambiguity of this new job:

  • I started taking meds again for my anxiety.  This is something I’ve never talked about on here, but from 2011-2016 I took an SSRI, then stopped taking it during my pregnancy.  I’ve thought on and off since then about going back on it, but knowing the stress that would be involved with a new job was the biggest factor that finally made me decide to start it again.  I think it has definitely been helpful during this work transition.
  • I’ve been at my company a long time; I’ve made a few of these job transitions, and I’ve always figured out a way to eventually get in a groove and deliver results.  I respect the leadership in my new group and know they have a vested interest in making sure we are all successful.  They know this isn’t an easy job we’ve been tasked with doing.
  • We hit a new $X00,000 household net worth milestone this past week!  It kind of sneaked up on me.  We were close to hitting this number last fall before the markets tanked, but since I’ve been busy lately I hadn’t been paying too much attention to the upward fluctuations in the market.

Celebrating Milestones

This net worth milestone is far from what we would need to be FI.  However, it’s REAL money.  It’s enough that it eases some of my work stress – I know that if things got really terrible, I could leave and we would be okay for a while.

It’s going to be a while before we see another one of these milestones – maybe even a couple years.  So did we do anything big to celebrate?  Sort of.  We went to dinner at a nice restaurant with some friends.  And I ordered exactly what I wanted, without worrying about how much it cost.  I had two glasses of rose wine, a strip steak with Gorgonzola cheese topping, mashed potatoes, and coffee and key lime pie for dessert.  It was DIVINE.  And I felt zero guilt about spending the money.

Do you celebrate net worth or debt payoff milestones?  If so, how do you celebrate?

Building my Career Ladder

Even though we’re working towards FI, we’re moving at a pretty slow pace, so I anticipate several more years of working in a corporate type job.  So I thought I’d write about the new position I just accepted at my company, how this all went down, and the way I have approached my career.

I figured out many years ago that I’m not a traditional career trajectory person.  I don’t like any one thing enough to keep doing it over and over for years upon years on end – especially since big companies are oriented around doing a very specialized job, as opposed to doing a variety of tasks.  I’ve been at my company for 13 years, and part of the reason for that is because I’ve had opportunity to move around and try new things.  In 13 years, I’ve had 6 different jobs on 4 different teams, and the longest I’ve stayed in any particular job was 4 years.

But because I’ve moved around, it hasn’t been a straight line towards the top.  A few years ago I took half a step back in order to move to an entirely different organization.  While it didn’t pay off in terms of upward growth or pay, I got a ton of experience that I wouldn’t have gotten if I had stayed in my comfortable bubble.

career

Then nearly 3 years ago I had an opportunity to go back to working for my prior boss.  It was a new position and she treated me well when I worked for her before.  This also ended up being a GREAT job to have during my current stage of life – pregnant and then having a baby/toddler.  It didn’t require travel, late hours, or tons of stress.  There really isn’t anything terrible to say about this job (I’ve had much worse jobs in the past!).  But.

Signs were starting to mount that it was time to move on.

  • I was getting bored with a lot of the day-to-day.  (I get bored easily.  That’s a bad trait OR a good trait, I suppose, depending on how you look at it.)  The boredom was a big reason I interviewed at the end of last summer for an external job.  Though I picked up some new work tasks subsequent to that, I anticipated the new stuff to mostly wrap up by mid-2019.
  • I work with some great people, but they are not GET IT DONE kind of people.  Things do not move quickly; people don’t prioritize the work that I do.  I have to constantly project manage/push people to get things completed.  I don’t mind project managing, actually, but that is not what my job is supposed to be.  This frustration really began to mount in recent months.
  • The job I do now doesn’t relate well to the external job market.  I started to have concerns that if I couldn’t find other opportunities internally, that I would struggle to find good opportunities outside the company.
  • There’s no upward growth (promotion opportunity) in my current position.  That isn’t really an issue now, but it could be longer term.
  • Now that we have a 2 year old and I am slightly more in control of my life outside work, I feel ready to take on a new challenge.

All these things have been brewing for a while, but then last fall something happened that was sort of the icing on the cake.  A new person was hired that works directly with me, but who reports to another team.  I like her personally, and think she brings some great things to the table.  But we don’t see eye to eye on some things.  Her last job was at a company that has an entirely different culture than the company we work for.  We’ve struggled to figure out the boundaries of who does what, as our functions, while separate, have some overlap.  So while she wasn’t the reason I was starting to put out feelers for a new job, the friction I was experiencing in that work relationship confirmed that it was time to accelerate the search for the next opportunity.

I knew that there was nothing in my current (functional) organization for me, and I mostly work with a different (client-facing) organization – so that was where I figured my best chances for a next move existed.  Luckily, right before the holidays I ran into someone I used to work with – and while catching up, she mentioned that her team was hiring.  I latched on to this immediately!  I really liked working with her in the past.

I followed up by having coffee with her right after the first of the year, which led to interviews about a week later, and (after a few painful back and forths with the recruiter), a job offer and acceptance.  A few things to note about this new job:

  • I’m taking half a step back again in order to do something different (but somewhat related to what I did two jobs ago).  There is no pay cut, but I’ll need to get promoted to keep getting good raises.
  • In our (overly complicated) corporate job scheme, there are two seniority “levels” above the new job.  So I have room for growth.
  • Remember that half step I took back a few years ago?  If not for that experience, I’m not sure I would have met the requirements for the new job.
  • The job I’m moving to will give me more marketable skills for external jobs.
  • The organization I’m moving to is growing and is an important part of the company’s future strategy.
  • One likely downside is that I’ll spend a lot more time in meetings and have less control over my daily work schedule.

So that’s my back story.  I’m both excited and terrified to move!  But I hate being stagnant, and it will be great to learn new things.

I wish I was a more patient/tolerant person in general, as I probably could have better handled some of my frustrations in this job and possibly stayed in it longer.  But knowing that I’m moving means that I’m seeing my current job in the best possible light and enjoying it for the last few weeks I’ve got left.  Several people I work with have expressed that while they are happy for my opportunity, that they are sad to see me go.  I’m not someone who needs a ton of feedback, but it would have been really nice to get some of that positive feedback while I was in the trenches of this job, rather than hearing it after I’m already planning to go.  So if you work with someone great, take a minute the next time you see them to genuinely thank them for what they do.

Do you have a defined career trajectory or has it changed over time?

12 Items in 2018: A Recap (and a 2019 Pledge)

In February of last year, I embarked on the 12 items in 2018 challenge.  The goal was to be more intentional with my clothing purchases for the year.

When I did my last update in July, I was right on track with 7 items purchased through the 7th month of the year.

I ended the year with 12 items.  What else did I buy?

Apparently I really need more shoes in my life.  Because three of the remaining 5 items were shoes:

Running Shoes!

NB

These were a must.  I started getting knee pain and knew it was time to buy a new pair.  I’ve logged lots of miles on these already.

These New Balance Fresh Foam Zante are an old model, so I got them for a significant discount (about 50% off).

Booties

lucky

Decided to capitalize on the bootie trend.  Also, I was kind of in need of a shoe that would keep my foot warmer than a ballet slip-on but that was something less than a tall boot.

I got a great deal on these – I think I paid $39 and they retail for somewhere around $79.  (Thanks, random DSW coupon!)

Hiking Boots

cole haan

 

I blame cookies on social media for this purchase.  I kept getting ads for them.  But they were so darn cute that I kept checking them out.  Then on Cyber Monday they had a 50% off sale.  I would have never bought them at the full price, but 50% off was doable.  I also stacked this with at 10% eBates rebate that will pay out next month.

I’m really enjoying these boots right now as January cold and snow has descended upon us here in the Midwest.

T-Shirt

I bought a t-shirt that reps our local MLB team.  It was a total impulse purchase that was free because we used some Kohl’s cash.

Wallet

My wallet is old and dirty, and my toddler ending up drawing all over it in our hotel room in Denver when we went to Cents Positive back in November.  While we were out Christmas shopping in December I bought a new one.  I still haven’t gotten around to using it yet, though.  Hmm…

Other 

There were a few other things I received at the end of the year that I didn’t count towards the challenge.  I bought some new underwear and a pair of socks.  I also got a pair of earrings for Christmas from my husband, and my mom bought me two scarves.

Lessons Learned/2019 Plans

I am really glad I did this challenge last year.  A few thoughts:

  • Even with a limit of 12 items – arguably, not a lot in our consumerist culture – I STILL made at least one totally unnecessary purchase.  (I haven’t worn that t-shirt yet…though I did buy it at the end of the summer, so we’ll see how much I wear it this spring/summer.)
  • My mindset continues to shift from quantity to quality.  Though I got a good deal on nearly everything I bought this year, the price was rarely the focus.  In fact, my least thoughtful purchase of the year was the one that was “free.” Free things are rarely ever free, though, especially not the ones that just end up cluttering our physical space.
  • Being able to stay generally the same size of clothes over many years has contributed significantly to my ability to do this type of challenge.  Just last week, I had a day where I needed to dress a little more nicely for work.  I pulled out a wrinkle-free button-down dress shirt that I’ve had for at LEAST 13 years (I bought it before I came to my current company).  Because it was nice quality and not trendy, there is no way anyone would have known how old it is.  Having this mix of nice (but older) items in my closet means I can dress for almost any occasion without having to go out and buy something new.
  • Because I set parameters around the number of items I would buy, I didn’t feel guilty spending on the things I did buy.

I liked this challenge so much that I’m going to do a 12 for 2019 challenge as well!

What does your spending on consumer items look like?  Let me know if you want to join me in this challenge for 2019!

19 in 2019

I admit it.  I’m one of those people who loves to set goals.

So this time of year is always fun for me.  I like to see how I did over the past year and strategize for the year to come.  I love reading other bloggers’ reviews of their years and what they plan for 2019.

I’ve got a list of 19 goals for 2019 across a variety of categories.  Here are the ones related to personal finance!

Shelter Income in Tax-Advantaged Accounts to Avoid 22% Tax Bracket

It felt really great to max out my 401(k) for the first time in 2018.  But it’s probably not going to happen for 2019, for a few reasons.

  • Now that Mr. FIREdup is freelancing and our household income has gone down, maxing my 401(k) doesn’t leave much extra room for other financial goals.  There are other things I want to accomplish with our money next year.
  • My father-in-law made an interesting comment a few weeks ago that has stuck with me.  He was talking about his required minimum distribution (RMD) and how that money is being taxed at a pretty substantial marginal rate (he also receives a railroad pension).  I think the point he was trying to convey is that if you don’t tap into your tax-advantage accounts until RMD time, you could end up with a pretty significant tax hit when it’s time to take that money out starting at age 70 1/2.  This is not an issue for a lot of FIRE people, but we’re on a really sloooooow FIRE track.  Realistically we’ll probably be working, in some capacity, for another couple decades.  It’s likely that we won’t tap into our tax-advantaged money until 59 1/2 or later.
  • After thinking a bit on my father-in-law’s comment, I decided to run some numbers.  Assuming a 4.5% inflation-adjusted CAGR, even if we didn’t make any more tax-advantaged contributions, we would be close to a lean-FI 4% withdrawal rate in 25 years at a “traditional” age 65 retirement.
  • With our drop in household income and the tax changes for 2018, the tax advantage to contributing to a 401(k) just isn’t as great for us.  I ran some preliminary numbers for 2019, and the new goal is to make just enough 401(k)/IRA contribution to max out the 12% taxable income bracket.  (In other words, we’ll contribute enough to make sure no marginal income is taxed at 22%, the next highest bracket.)  The nice thing about this strategy is that we have IRA space that we can use at tax time to leverage any shortfall we may need to make up.  (In fact, this will probably drive our 2018 IRA contribution amounts.)

Now if Mr. FIREdup ends up going back to a full time job sometime in 2019, I’ll probably revisit the 401(k) contribution.  But for now, I’m dropping it down several percentage points.

Where is that money going instead?…

Total Mortgage Balance of Five Figures 

I’ve posted previously about how much I hate our second mortgage.  The stretch goal for 2019 is to pay that sucker off entirely.  But the more realistic goal is to get the total mortgage balance (1st and 2nd combined) down into the five figures by the end of the year.  This will definitely require extra payments on the second mortgage, but feels really doable!  Also, with the markets being so sketchy lately, and with no longer being able to deduct mortgage interest at tax time, making these extra payments locks in a 7+% rate of return.  And that feels pretty damn good.

Add $2,500 to E-fund 

I’m a bag lady at heart.  Having a solid emergency fund helps me sleep at night.  With economic uncertainty possibly upticking in 2019, plus the the second income in our house being based on freelance work, I want to stash a little extra money in this account next year.

I also get a sabbatical at work next year (yeah!!!) and we’ll probably go on a fun family vacation during that time.  Which means I’ll need to stash some additional money in this fund to pay for whatever we decide to do (if we can’t cash flow the expense).

Create “ICE” Financial Binder

In 2018 we did two financial tasks that I’d been putting off and that aren’t fun to do:  we got individual life insurance policies (not tied to our work) and we got our will/power of attorney/healthcare directive paperwork completed.

As the household CFO, I’ve thought several times this year about how unlikely it is that Mr. FIREdup would know where all our financial accounts are if something were to happen to me.  (A conversation at Cents Positive really brought this back into focus.)  So in 2019, my goal is to put together an in case of emergency financial binder that lists out all our information.  I haven’t determined the details yet but will probably use this resource from Chelsea over at Smart Money Mamas.  This is another one of those really important, but easily overlooked financial tasks.

So that’s it – everything related to our financial goals for 2019!  Do you have goals for the new year?

About those 2018 Goals…

Well hi there!

I’m a couple days early in posting this, as we’re not quite to the end of 2018.  But I don’t think a couple of days will have much impact on reporting on the dumpster fire that was the financial markets as of late.

SO without further ado, here is a recap of the 2018 goals I’ve been tracking here on the blog.

Financial Goals

Max out 401(k).  Complete!  This actually happened this year, for the first time.  Which is awesome!  But it doesn’t feel as awesome as it should since my 401(k) is worth LESS than it was at the end of last year.  Sad.

I actually think I’m going to backtrack a bit on the 401(k) saving in 2019, for a multitude of reasons.  I’ll have more to say about that soon, when I publish my 2019 goals.

Fund 25% of Financial Freedom goal for non-retirement funds.  Not quite.  This is an entirely market-based goal and I was meeting it at the Q3 update since the markets were still doing great then.  I’m back down to 22.9% now.

capture2

Make 2017 IRA contribution/Finalize will.  These were both done earlier this year.  I’m really happy to have the will finalized.  We also got term life insurance policies, too.  Adulting!!

Minimalism/Simplicity

12 Items in 2018.  My plan was to limit clothing related purchases to 12 or less items this year.  It looks like the year will end with exactly 12 items.  I really enjoyed this challenge as it made me think a bit more mindfully about my purchases.

Blogging

Average one post per week two posts per month.  I just *barely* met this goal.  The last half of the year life has been busy and I haven’t been as inspired to post.  We will see if inspiration strikes again in 2019.

Share quarterly updates on progress against the Financial Freedom goal.

freedom goal.JPG

Sigh.  This was 78.2% at the end of Q3.  Not a whole lot you can do when the market is moving against you.

Stretch Goals

Get 2nd mortgage balance below $10,000.  Today this balance is a little under $12,000.  I paid a little extra on it every month this year and make an extra big chunk of payment towards the principal on my December payment.  I’ll be working more on reducing this bad boy in 2019!

Summary

It was a good year, all things considered.  I can’t control how the market is taking us for a  ride this year.  I would not have predicted at the beginning of the year that Mr. FIREdup would lose his job and later start freelancing.  I didn’t anticipate having a few thousand dollars in medical expenses from a hospital stay for our daughter.  Despite these surprising turns, we were still able to save for retirement, continue paying down our mortgage, and maintain a healthy emergency fund.

I’ll be back soon with a list of 2019 goals!

How did your 2018 goals turn out?  Do you have big goals for 2019?

Is Unlimited PTO a Double-Edged Sword?

Our company announced some benefits changes last week.

On the whole, they were actually really good changes.  They will now offer 12 weeks of paid maternity leave.  (I won’t get to use this (we’re One and Done!), but I’m really happy for the employees who will get to use it.)  They also upped our paternity leave to four weeks and gave US employees another holiday.

They also changed our time off policies.  We now have a hybrid program where some people get “flex PTO,” some people get a bucket of accrued PTO, and some people get a bucket of vacation and a bucket of sick time.

I don’t work in HR, but I have enough context to know why some of these changes were made – to manage regulatory complexities of doing business in a variety of locations, to keep our benefits competitive so we can continue to attract good employees, but also to manage the significant cost of providing benefit programs.

I’m actually now in the bucket of employees who get “flex PTO,” which means there is no accrued amount of PTO given to me in any given year.  We are left to manage our PTO to our own needs.  It isn’t exactly unlimited PTO per se, but there is some flexibility on how much time we can take each year.  A guideline for amount of time to be taken was communicated as part of the change.  The amount of PTO I accrued historically falls exactly in the middle of those guidelines.

In my experience, people are pretty emotionally invested in their benefits.  I had an accrued balance of PTO that evaporated overnight.  Does that annoy me?  Yeah.  But it’s not the end of the world.  However, I know there are some others in the same situation as me who aren’t happy with this change in philosophy on managing time off.

So is Flex PTO Good or Bad?

I’m interested to see how this will play out at my company.  There are definitely some pros and cons from both the company’s and the employee’s perspective.

Pros:

  • Reduces cost of administrative overhead and eliminates need to pay out PTO when employees leave (pretty sure this factored into my company’s decision – $$$)
  • Conveys trust in employees to manage their work autonomously
  • Favors performance-based results over sheer hours worked
  • Is generally viewed as a positive benefit as it encourages work-life balance
  • An attractive benefit to recruit good candidates to the company

Cons:

  • Have to ensure employees don’t abuse the policy – which forces managers to more effectively manage employee performance (not a particular strength for my company)
  • If not administered well, it can actually lead to a culture where people feel like they aren’t allowed to take time off.  (I actually talked to a long time employee who felt like this would be a problem – her accrued PTO was something she “earned” and couldn’t be taken away.  She fears that bad managers could discourage people from taking time off now.)
  • Flex PTO levels the playing field – there are no advantages given to long-term employees.  Previously, PTO was accrued based on seniority – I had the max amount because I’ve worked here for a long time.  Now, anyone who is hired into a job that has the flex PTO plan will automatically have the same time off benefit as me.  For some long-term employees, this is frustrating.

My company is generally know historically for it’s work-hard play-hard culture.  As it has grown, that workaholic culture has been diluted somewhat, but it still exists.  I definitely see the flex PTO as being a risk in some departments as it could discourage certain teams from taking needed time off.

Ultimately though, this policy change has little effect on me.  I’m really lucky that I’m managed very autonomously and I already manage my time off based on the driving idea behind flex PTO.  My time off is based on the fluctuations in my workload as well as overall life demands (such as sickness or a sick kiddo).

Do you have a flex PTO policy?  Does it seem like a good idea or a bad idea to you?

A Look Back: One Year of Being FIREd Up

Real talk, y’all.

This little blog celebrated its first anniversary on November 3rd.  Two weeks ago.  And it has taken me THIS LONG to write a post about it.  Which says a lot about how the past couple of weeks of my life have gone.

Fittingly, the anniversary landed smack dab on the weekend that I attended Cents Positive.  So I had to get a blog post out first about that.  But the Cents Positive weekend led to some sleep deprivation for our whole family.  Then last weekend my mom visited.  Then this past week we had a sick kid which meant more sleep loss.  All this occurred while I was trying to maximize the actual time I had at work, since I had to take a few hours of PTO to watch the sick little one.  (She’s fine, BTW.  Just the first cold of the season.  But she had a fever and couldn’t go to daycare a couple days this past week.)

Here’s that first post from a year ago, if you’re interested.  Guess what?  The reasons I put in that first post for why I set up this little blog?  They’re still true.  Especially these bits:

  • I want to interact more with this community and continue to learn from what other bloggers have to offer.
  • I don’t want to spend the next 17+ years slaving away in a cubicle, working for someone else, doing something that doesn’t provide fulfillment, when instead I could be spending more time with my daughter and spouse.
  • We probably won’t reach true “financial independence” in the next 5 or 10 years.  But I do know that the less we spend, the more we can save and invest, which does provide FREEDOM and OPTIONS to make different choices about how we work in the future.

It’s interesting how we can plan as much as we want and still, the world has surprises waiting for us.  A few surprising things from this past year that I wrote about on the blog:

A few other posts you might want to check out:

  • My financial freedom manifesto (part 1 and part 2)
  • The post with the most shares as of late
  • The post that seems to bring in the most consistent Google traffic

So, what do I have planned for year 2?  Honestly, there is no big vision.  I would love to post more than I have been lately, but if I can at least post enough to keep the blog from going dormant that will make me happy.

Most of my favorite personal finance blogs are exactly that – personal.  I love reading stories of how other people are navigating the interesting complexities of managing their money.  So in year 2, I imagine most of my blogging will be providing updates on how the FIREdup household is doing that too.

Thanks to everyone who has followed along in year 1.  Can’t wait to see what year 2 has in store!

Financially Empowered Women: My Experience at Cents Positive

This past weekend I attended Cents Positive, a retreat for women who are into money and financial independence (FI).  The event was spearheaded by Tanja, who writes a great FI blog over at Our Next Life and early retired nearly a year ago.

I signed up for a ticket a long time ago but I waffled a bit on going.  I haven’t been away from my daughter overnight yet and wasn’t sure a trip where I would be out of town for 3 nights was the right choice for my first time away.  What we ended up doing is making it a family trip.  (This is where the flexibility of Mr. FIREdup’s freeelancing works out pretty well.)  I sold my ticket for the all day Friday blog event and instead we spent the day doing family stuff, including a trek to Red Rocks.  We were back to the hotel in plenty of time for the Friday night kickoff for the main retreat.

The Retreat

Friday night we had an icebreaker game to get people interacting and meeting each other.  This was pretty key since there were about 85 women at the event.  After the networking game there was food truck dinner and more informal chatting.

Saturday morning was SUPER early for us as my toddler buddy decided to wake up at 4am and not go back to sleep.  I am a very lucky gal, because my exhausted husband took care of this wild little beast all day while I attended the retreat from 9:30 to 6.  There was lots of good stuff on the agenda:  more networking, a presentation from Kara, amazing ignite talks from attendees, a live recording of the Fairer Cents, and a discussion on health insurance.

Sunday was just a morning session and was more unstructured.  We heard from some attendees who are already retired, discussed how to build the community, and then attendees led 10-minutes mini-sessions on various topics.

Was it Worth It?

So was it worth my time?  Absolutely.  I met many incredible, financially empowered women on the FI path, all moving towards the same goal but with totally different journeys along the way.  There were attendees from all these various categories:

  • Low, middle, or high earning
  • Single or partnered
  • With kids, without kids, or wanting kids in the future
  • Sharing money with a partner, or keeping it separate
  • Working for a corporation, the government, a non-profit, as an entrepreneur, on a break from traditional work, or already retired
  • Wanting to retire from a disliked job, shift to a more meaningful career, or continue working in an enjoyable career while still pursuing FI
  • At the beginning of their financial journey, in the long slog towards FI, or nearly at the end

Let’s be honest: retiring at 30 is not practically feasible for most people.  But meeting the ladies at this event reinforced this for me:  FI may not be for everyone but there’s room for a lot of people in this movement.  Don’t let someone tell you that you don’t belong because you don’t fit the stereotype.  

For me, FI represents freedom, independence, a life with more purposeful work and more time with family and friends.   Though I’m not on a fast path to retirement, the worst case scenario is that I “only” retire on time, but with plenty of savings to enjoy my retirement.  And how can that possibly be a bad situation?

Disappointments

My only significant disappointment was that there were many people I didn’t really get to talk to.  It’s difficult to interact with 85 different people when you have such a short window of time.  This was probably exacerbated by the fact that I spent some of my free time with my family instead of the ladies at the retreat.  But all the people I interacted with were very welcoming and easy to talk to and I had some really great conversations.

Takeaways

There were a few more practical takeaways for me, which included:

  • Since I am the household CFO, I need to do a better job of making sure my husband knows where all our assets are and has the account details.
  • I got some fun tips on how to teach kids about money.  And one of the ideas I can probably start in a year or two, which was earlier than I expected.
  • Before I went to this retreat, I didn’t tell anyone in real life about it (other than my husband).  But I’m going to do a better job of subtly sharing my financial literacy with others, especially the women in my life.

Thank yous!

Tanja, you really are a community builder. Thank you for creating this event and bringing together such an impressive group of women!

And THANK YOU to all the ladies I had a chance to meet this weekend.  Keep on being “weird,” because more of our weirdness is needed in the world.

When Unemployment Ends: An Update

It was the end of April when Mr. FIREdup lost his job, and it’s been quite some time since I’ve provided an update.  So how are things going?

Unemployment and Job Searching

Mr. FIREdup was able to get unemployment benefits for a while.  During this time, he was applying for jobs every week.  Unfortunately, most of the applications disappeared into the ether, with no follow up at all.  He did spend some time talking with a potential employer about a job that was very similar to the one he left in April.  However, neither he nor I had a good gut feeling about the job.  I don’t think it would have been bad, but I don’t think it would have been great, either.  The joy of living below our means is that we aren’t in a financial situation where he has to take a job just to pay the bills.   

Another Option?

The hubby has been talking to one of his old bosses since this spring about the possibility of going to work for him again.  His old boss runs his own small company and has kept his business going through both good times and lean times.  He was interested in hiring my husband again, but just couldn’t quite justify the cost without the long-term business to support it.  So he had a proposition for Mr. FIREdup to do some long-term freelancing.

This freelancing option was being considered at the same time as the full-time job mentioned previously.  We decided that we were in a good enough place financially that we could handle the fluctuations in his income if he chose to freelance.  He has a great working relationship with his old boss and felt like he could learn and grow more from that work than from the full-time job that he was being considered for.

Freelancing Begins

Mr. FIREdup is now several weeks into his freelancing gig.  The weekly pay varies depending on the projects going on that week.  Most weeks have been a small amount, but he is now working on a couple projects that will pay more (but also require more work output, of course).   The nice thing is that Mr. FIREdup can work mostly flexible hours and can usually work from home.  I’m not a night owl, but my husband can often get a lot of productive work done late in the evening when the creative genius strikes.

Family Time

The benefit of Mr. FIREdup working a flexible job is that he has time to pick up some extra household work during the week, such as grocery shopping, laundry, mowing the lawn, etc.  This means it’s a lot easier for us to do fun family things on the weekend.  Mr.  FIREdup also has the time to make dinner early most nights of the week and have it ready in time to soothe our hangry toddler.

A side benefit is that it’s a lot easier for us to go out of town or plan events that require time off.  I’ve been at my job for a while, so I have plenty of PTO.  Mr. FIREdup didn’t have that luxury before.  Now, we only have to consult with one employer to plan time away, rather than two.  (He can always work while we travel if necessary, too.)  As an example:  I took a few hours of PTO this past Friday and the two of us shared a margarita and chatted on a quick afternoon date before running errands and picking up our daughter a little early from daycare.

…But Still Not Enough Time

The thing I’ve been working on is balancing my expectation regarding household needs against Mr. FIREdup’s work obligations.  I am learning to be more realistic about the number of household chores he can take on.  It’s easy for me to forget that even though he’s not working a traditional job outside the house, his freelancing work is still real work and some weeks it’s nearly a full-time obligation, depending on what project he is completing.  While we have more free time as a family overall, there are still some pesky household to-do’s that will continue waiting to get crossed off that to-do list.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Future?

We don’t know what the future holds for this freelancing gig.  It could disappear as soon as the spring if the client doesn’t continue to have the funding to pay for the work.  Mr. FIREdup does continue to keep an eye on full-time jobs as well.  It’s a little scary but also a little exciting to daydream about what he might be doing in the next chapter.

Gratitude

While our saving for FI has slowed down some, it hasn’t slowed down nearly as much as I expected.  Mostly I have my well-paying corporate job to thank for that, but it’s also the result of the accumulation of good financial decisions over the years.  Honestly, some days I feel like I’m getting away with something, because we don’t have two adults in our household that are frantically working 50+ hour weeks while trying to care for a child and have some semblance of a personal life.  That vision of “success” has become so ingrained in our societal expectations that it feels almost like there is something wrong if we’re not adhering to it.

Financial Freedom = Flexibility for Lifestyle Design

This pause in the rat race of having two full-time working adults in our household continues to make me think about financial freedom and the trade-off between time and money.

Though I’m a proponent of FIRE, I don’t think it’s likely that we’ll both fully “retire” anytime soon.  I think it’s much more likely that our future holds a mix of work like what we are doing now – freelance/full-time, part-time/full-time, or possibly even part-time/part-time or freelance/part-time?  That would be amazing!

What mix of work works best for your (or your family’s) situation?  What kind of time vs. money trade-offs do you make currently?

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