I’m sitting at my desk on the trading floor, and the sun is pouring into the room. I look at the clock: if I pick up the pace, hopefully I’ll be able to leave by 4. It’s Sunday, and I still want to make it home in time to cook dinner. But I want to grill a fresh fish, which means I need to stop at the market first, and time the train perfectly so that I don’t get stuck in the heat holding a dead, rotting fish. –deep sigh-
This isn’t an atypical day. I work from my client site 7 days a week, on a bad week, and 6 days on a good week. One weeknights, I stay until 8 or 9, but on weekends, I try to leave “early.”
“This is what I worked so hard for. This is what I wanted.” I remind myself. I’m a management consultant and team lead on a high-visibility project at a Fortune 500 company, at a top-tier firm, and I have the distinction of overseeing the work of our many subcontractors.
I’m extremely well compensated for my time, but I don’t have the time to spend or enjoy the money at all.
Still, these hours will all but guarantee my top-rank and bonus.
I close out the tab on my browser: “Go Curry Cracker.” It’s a blog written by a man and his wife who saved 70% of their income to invest and retire in their 30’s and now they travel around the world for a living, living off of the interest.
I glance back at the clock then open my spreadsheet tracker: 10ish more years and then I’m out.
When you’re on the path to early retirement but you’re not happy in your current situation, saving $1,000,000 (or whatever your number is) feels so far away. But what if I told you that you only need a fraction of that?
What if I said that the key to living more isn’t $1,000,000 but half of that, or a quarter of that, or, if you’re young enough, 1/10 of that.
Perpetual part-time work. How much is part-time?
2 days a week.
3 days a week.
4 days a week.
6, 7, 8, or 9 months a year.
The choice is yours.
But as I began the transition to early retirement, I started envisioning what my ideal life would look like, and I decided that I didn’t want to spend more than 1/10thof my time on work (work defined as “things that I do for money”), and that ten years was too long to bring that to fruition.
There are 168 hours in a week, and for years, I worked upwards of 80 hours a week (common in consulting, investment banking, and tech).
That meant that over 50% of my entire existence was on work or work activities: commuting, dry cleaning, preparing for work, thinking / planning about work. And somehow, I was supposed to fit in a healthy sleep schedule, 10,000+ steps a day, cooking 3 balanced meals a day, a social life, leisure activities, passion projects, volunteer work, and general “maintenance” like nail and hair appointments, waxing appointments, cleaning the house, running errands, grocery shopping.
Oh, and overcompensating for being at work so much by also trying to be the perfect wife: waking up before my husband to make him breakfast, cooking dinner and packing his lunch and snacks, cleaning around him while he watched TV. No wonder getting divorced felt like a massive weight off of my shoulders. Womp.
I refused to believe that I couldn’t do it all, though. If I just found the perfect productivity hack, or the right shortcut, surely, I could keep up this balancing act, right?
But I still felt time poor. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was spending too much time at work, and not enough on the things I loved. Outsourcing help was merely a Band-Aid solution – I had to work less.
One of my favorite entrepreneurs and writers, Ramit Sethi, likes to say, “show me your calendar and I’ll show you your priorities.”
We make time for the things we value. Period. If my passion projects were critical to me, I’d have to make the time for them – without sacrificing the equally important time for sleep and health.
Before, I dedicated almost half of my life to work and (all things work related) – now, I spend less than 10% of my time on work. Next year, I’m dropping this to less than 5%.
Working way less is the obvious change, but let’s dig a bit deeper:
Since I’ve made this drastic lifestyle overhaul, I’ve come to a few big realizations:
Now, how can someone actually start a semi-retired lifestyle?
The Main Four Approaches:
If you’re new around here, this may sound unrealistic, but all of these case studies are based on real life people, including myself.
Semi-retirement may not be the right choice for you, but if you’re burnt out at work, and want to scale back, whether it be for family obligations, personal interests or leisure, consider amping up your income and scaling back the excess.
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