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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?