This guest post from Jacq Jolie is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes. You can read more about Jacq’s story at Single Mom Rich Mom.
On 31 December 2009, I finished what I hope will be my last full-time, permanent job. I’ve worked a bit here and there over the past year, but it’s on my own terms, and not because I have to. I’m now semi-retired at the age of 45. But what does that mean?
About nine years ago, after reading Your Money or Your Life, I changed from an under-earning, confused woman to a woman with a mission: to never have to work again (unless I wanted to). In November of last year, I reached the Crossover Point, where the income from investments exceeded my expenses. (I think it actually happened sooner than that, but I hadn’t been paying attention.) At last, nine years after first figuring out what I wanted to work hard and save money for, I’d reached Financial Independence.
I’m fortunate that in the last few years, I’ve managed to raise my income so that I can work a few months a year and earn the same amount as I have working full-time (and overtime!) in previous jobs. I’m also fortunate that my wants remain relatively small and I never succumbed to lifestyle inflation. I’ve never wanted a big house, a fast car, or exotic travel.
In a “normal” year, I can easily live on about $36,000, including mortgage payments of about $15,000 per year (that I’m prepaying). So I knew that my Crossover Point was somewhere around $20,000/year with a paid-off house. In the next year, I intend to downsize and move to a (mortgage-free!) townhouse that will be close to public transit for those times I choose to work, and, more importantly, below maintenance to allow for periods of long travel during the summers.
I’m trying not to plan too far in advance. I want to be flexible. My hope is that I can continue to work part-time or a few months a year for the next 5-10 years until a part of my pension is eligible for withdrawal. My net worth is somewhere around the $500-600k mark, not including pensions. Since I don’t have any intention of touching my savings for the next ten years, I’m hopeful that it will last as long as I need it. If not, I’ll go back to work full-time for a couple of years.
I think what Financial Independence has given me has been a confidence in life itself — that I can handle anything that comes up. If life is difficult, sometimes throwing a bit of cash at a problem resolves it. It’s also given me the freedom that I first dreamed of when reading Your Money or Your Life — that I could work because I enjoyed working, and that I could have my life be about more than work. I have the flexibility to leave any work situation that doesn’t contribute to my overall happiness.
Having lived very frugally for long periods in the past, I experienced frugality burnout earlier this year. I’ve consciously been spending more lately on the things that I’ve “deprived” myself of over the last almost 30 years I’ve been working. For example, my bed was over 50 years old and desperately in need of replacement. A new bed is being delivered this week, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve also stopped thinking that I should DIY everything; I’ve had house cleaners come in this last month — something I would never have considered doing just six months ago.
Part of me still worries about the future:
- What is it like to be looking for a job and networking once I get over 50?
- Will it be hard — or impossible — to find work if I stay out of the job market too long?
- What if the stock market falls again?
- Are my investments too aggressive or not aggressive enough given that I hope not to draw down on them for quite some time?
- Am I jumping too fast? Should I keep working full-time for a few years and get to that magical million and give myself even more of a buffer?
I only have a year of semi-retirement under my belt, so I’m not sure if that’s necessarily a “success”; I’m still just learning what works. I do know I’ll never go back to a regular job again though and definitely not go back to driving myself as hard as I have in the past again. My hope is that my approach is flexible enough and that I’m resourceful enough to survive and thrive through whatever lies ahead.