When is your financial relaxation due date?

I am perched in the corner chair, cup of Chai in hand, with just hours before the deadline for this post. I have piles and piles of clean laundry that need to be folded. Dishes need to be washed. I can't recall the last time I've dusted any room in the house. My husband has been working 80-hour weeks for a few weeks, so I am doing the single-parent thing: kids awake, dressed, fed, homework, and chores. (Single parents, you have my undying respect.) The loftiest thought I can come up with at this point is, Can I clone myself? Through it all, I am still trying to juggle three part-time jobs, but there just aren't enough hours in the day.

Yesterday, I read a comment by El Nerdo in Honey's post. Here's an excerpt of the comment directed to Honey, but I took it and ran with it:

“But with the income (since for you it's an extra job besides your full-time one) there is the other side of it that means more hours working, less time to sleep/read books/play/eat ice cream/etc. It can get tiring in the long run.”

In my head, my exhaustion and El Nerdo's comment got married. And this post is their baby.

Gestation of financial progress

I have read a lot of personal finance blogs. With slightly different twists and turns, the basic story is usually the same: most bloggers were deep in consumer debt, stressed-out, in jobs they didn't/don't like, had no hope (or plan) for the future, had accumulated too much stuff, and were just plain overwhelmed.

Then, to borrow a term from Dave Ramsey, they got gazelle-intense. They sold their stuff, they worked extra jobs, they ate beans and rice and rice and beans, and – voila! – one day, they were out of the hole, even if they hadn't started climbing yet.

My story shares similar financial genes. Though probably not as debt-ridden as some, I still wanted out of the hole. So I started working extra jobs, teaching an extra class or two, and trying to cut my expenses. After I was out of the hole, I wanted to increase my net worth, so I kept working my extra jobs. We paid for our adoption expenses, beefed up our emergency fund, and got to a place where I could quit my full-time job.

And I did quit my job and thought I would have lots of free time. After all, I had freed up 35-40 hours per week. And elementary-aged kids can mostly take care of themselves, right? And they'll be in school most of the day, so what's the big deal? Ha! Around a month ago, after I was rushing from one task to another, I added up my three part-time jobs and realized that I am still working 40 hours a week, not to mention the unpaid work that I do. No wonder I feel like I am almost as busy as I have ever been. This isn't the slower-paced life I imagined. This isn't the slower-paced life we planned for.

And here is where this post gives birth to its point (which took long enough, but sometimes labor takes a long time).

The point is, when do you stop sacrificing your health, relationships, and your time for the sake of your finances?

Digging out of financial holes takes some sacrifice, no question. But at some point, like El Nerdo says, you do get tired. We're not going to live forever, so we should enjoy our life. If I take after my dad, I have about seven years left. I want to make whatever time I have count for something!

When to push and when to relax

A few years ago, I was listening to Dave Ramsey's radio program. A woman called in to ask how long she and her husband needed to take on extra jobs to better themselves financially. Unfortunately, I don't remember Dave's response, but I have a few ideas of my own.

  • If you're slipping further behind every month, it's time to push.
  • If you're so stressed about money that you can't enjoy anything else, it's time to push.
  • If you're in danger of defaulting on a loan, it's time to push.

On the other hand, drastic life changes, whether it's working many hours or eating an inexpensive (if it's unhealthy as well) diet, isn't sustainable over the long-term. At some point, things should get more relaxed.

Once you've balanced your money, you can relax.

If your relationships are suffering because you are spending too much time on your finances, it may be time to relax.

But I am a hypocrite. I have oldest-child syndrome. I am not sure what it all entails, besides being bossy (that's according to my siblings, though I will say that if everyone did what they were supposed to do when they were supposed to do it, I could keep my mouth shut). But I feel like I shouldn't relax until our mortgage is paid off. Even though we can make our payments easily, have paid off a sizable portion of our mortgage already, and have savings, both long- and short-term, I want to fill my days with as much financially productive activity as possible.

Trying to cram too much into my day means that something gets pushed out. And unfortunately, sometimes those things are very important. Or it may cut into my sleep, which means I am not as patient with my kids.

Because I am kind of intense, if I had any type of non-mortgage debt, I would probably keep on driving myself until it was gone.

But how about you? How did you define when you were “good enough” financially and didn't need to push yourself to work extra jobs or slash more expenses? Do you feel that you need to push yourself more? Or do you think it's possible to be gazelle-intense for a long time, even if others think you're too extreme?

More about...Planning, Psychology

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A-L
A-L
6 years ago

We’re somewhere in between the push and relax phase. We can pay all our obligations, have no debt besides our mortgage, and are not slipping further behind. On the other hand, we’re not fully balanced (I was just playing with the numbers over the weekend). But with just a small increase ($60) in savings, we’ll be at 20%. Due to being teachers in a higher cost-of-living area, our fixed expenses (housing) are high. So as some other PF people have mentioned, we’re trying to work smart rather than work hard. We’ve saved up enough money to finish renovating our lower… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
6 years ago

Financial relaxation date for us is when the last mortgage payment is sent in. Currently that is 10 years from this month (with our extra payments, so it very well will be a couple of years shorter than that as we increase our extra payments). However, 10 years sounds like a loooong time (much better than 25-30 though!), so you are definitely on to something about how one must live their life too, and not become neurotic in allowing the PF side to push away all other sides and interests.

Great post, and makes one think!

Frugal Sage
Frugal Sage
6 years ago

I have never been in the debt most people have. I’ve always been frugal and saved. Yet I always feel that I have to push myself more. My relaxation due date is the day I am financially independent and I can retire for good. Money spent now on useless things is just delaying the day of peace and relaxation down the road. Now I am not saying that you should never enjoy yourself. Its a tough juggling act. Working out what is worth the expense, and the joy and options that money can bring and what isn’t. But in the… Read more »

FI Journey
FI Journey
6 years ago

I’m still in the “pushing” phase, but am debating when to relax a bit. Financial independence is the goal for us, but not at the expense of spending time with my wife and kids.

Mrs. Waste Not
Mrs. Waste Not
6 years ago

This is something I struggle with as well. If I am meeting all my bills and saving a sizeable chunk of my income, do I just sit back and relax? I built a spread sheet, and in it I put current retirement savings and what I can add each year. As long as it meets the amount I need to get to where I want to be at retirement, I tell myself I am fine. But there is always the voice in the back of my head telling me to do more. Another point, I worked from home for a… Read more »

MoneyAhoy.com
MoneyAhoy.com
6 years ago

I’ll let you know when I figure it out – I’m still in the pushing phase 🙂

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago

Excellent question! For me, the due date was yesterday. I mean, it’s always overdue. Why suffer? Check out a 2007 article from the Harvard Business Review called “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.” https://www.google.com/#q=manage+your+energy+not+your+time It’s available online for free or paid depending on where you land (I’d post the link to the free one at U Michigan but the PDF says “This article is made available to you with compliments of The Energy Project. Further posting, copying, or distributing is copyright infringement. To order more copies go to http://www.hbr.org.”– so I won’t link it, I suppose.) It’s also available as… Read more »

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

El Nerdo, thanks for the article. It was amazing! And thanks for your contribution to the post today :).

Leah
Leah
6 years ago

Good choice to get double (maybe triple) milage out of writing this piece! Leveraging your work is a big key to what you want. I’ve always seen it as a number rather than as a time: when we have $xM (and/or auto-pilot business) earning xx%/$ annually. There are plenty of calculators where you can plug in expenses and rates of return to come up with a number. But, because my husband has a mandatory retirement age, we do also have an age we measure our progress against. If you can get there while your kids are still in grade school… Read more »

Barb
Barb
6 years ago

I didn’t even realize you and El Nerdo were dating…let alone giving birth to an article! 😉 I am already relaxed (mostly) but when did that happen? Hubby and I have always been good earners and thrifty by nature so we never lived beyond our means. The result is that he retired at age 60 (almost 6 years ago) and loves every minute of it. I am blessed to have a job that I mostly love so I still work at age 59. We haven’t had any debt for many years except for a mortgage and we paid that off… Read more »

M
M
6 years ago
Reply to  Barb

I hear you both about living for now because life is short. The early death of a parent does that to a young person. I try view that insight as a gift. My epiphany happened when I was walking to my car after leaving work. I was running payroll numbers through my head and realized I didn’t need (wanted, maybe)pay diverted to my retirement fund. OK, first world problem. Get that. But when I realized that extra money could increase my cash flow so I could work less, my world brightened. I could trade money for time! And not only… Read more »

Kestra
Kestra
6 years ago

Once I got married and sold my house at the same time, I found I could live on half my take home pay. At that point, early retirement became a reality. The question was when, not if, so now we can afford a few splurges and not worry about money in the way I had to when I was younger.

twin
twin
6 years ago

When to stop pushing? You don’t. But remember pushing is a question of degree. You can push a little or a lot. My wife and I retired early from teaching, have 2.8 million in assets. Zero debt. How? Diversified investment. Which means you need capital. Which means you need no debt which is like heroin, so addictive. Which means you push yourself hard to avoid spending beyond your means. Make sure you have tons of fun (we have never worked summers) but that your lifestyle is modest. Even now, comfortable retired at 58 and wintering in southern California, we push… Read more »

Laura
Laura
6 years ago

“The point is, when do you stop sacrificing your health, relationships, and your time for the sake of your finances?” I have never seen this question posed on a PF blog or in a PF book before, and I deeply thank Lisa for publicly raising it. This is exactly the problem DH and I are facing: in our 50’s and with age-related health issues beginning to crop up, taking on PT jobs that eat up more of our time is much, much more challenging than it was 20 years ago. We’re trying to do this by ensuring any time we… Read more »

Rose
Rose
6 years ago

A diagnosis of cancer five years ago put everything in perspective with regard to my family’s finances. Interestingly, we got debt free (except for the house) after the diagnosis, because it was giving me too much additional stress and I realized stress in my life was bad for my health. What I learned is that you can do both—work on the finances and balance it with a full life. I learned that being busy does not always mean being productive, and that taking care of yourself—enough sleep, eating well and exercising is more important than a spotless house. Not having… Read more »

Brian
Brian
6 years ago

Still in the pushing phase. 80K pay off in the last 40 months. Agree you need to find a balance, but it’s really a situation by situation type decision, no one size fits all.

Matt @ Your Living Body
Matt @ Your Living Body
6 years ago

“The point is, when do you stop sacrificing your health, relationships, and your time for the sake of your finances?” I have a 90 day goal philosophy that I find works pretty well. Set 90 day goals. That time frame seems to be enough time to work hard, see a difference, and even evolve your plan as your goals come to fruition. At the 90 day mark, reward yourself by taking a well deserved break. About the health: it’s NEVER okay to sacrifice your health no matter what. Make your health a lifestyle. Make it a habit. If your health… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago

I do this. I am a big fan of goal-setting and to-do lists…I’m the nerd that puts something I’m about to do anyway, on a list so that I can have the satisfaction of crossing it off. I also like to set a major goal for the year, usually around my birthday, after the bottle of birthday wine. It helps to remind me that I need to constantly be moving in an upward direction. It’s easy to get comfortable and let the years swim by, but I have regularly set and met my goals for the last 4 or 5… Read more »

Mike
Mike
6 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

Thanks for helping me laugh at myself Imoot! I may or not be guilty of putting things like “brush teeth” or “shower” on a daily to-do list haha. For me it has always been about building momentum. Toss a few cupcakes on the list to cross off and before you know it on paper the day is already off to a productive start. My overall list of life goals is pretty aggressive. Each year I sit down and compile a list of about 50-75 goals broken into Financial, Professional, and Health/Lifestyle. I also maintain sets of goals 5 years out… Read more »

Samantha
Samantha
6 years ago

Thanks so much Lisa for this article. I needed it! Hubby and I have been paying off debt (gazelle intense) for about 5 years now. The mortgage will be paid off next year. That’s pretty much the end of the Dave Ramsey plan. But I’m slowly realizing that once that is gone, there will be another, urgent goal staring us in the face: the Mr. Money Mustache plan, if you will. Continuing to live like we’re paying off debt, but saving most of our income in order to become financially independent as young as we can. (We’re currently 30 and… Read more »

Carla
Carla
6 years ago

I’m still pushing, but not in the work two jobs and sacrifice my body and mind sort of way… because I can’t. My “pushing” is finding ways to work smarter, not harder. I’ve already sacrificed my health and I can’t afford to do it again.

Ely
Ely
6 years ago

I’m definitely relaxed, maybe more than I should be. My e-fund is 1/3 of my original goal – but why stress to build it up, when we have well-off family frequently restating their willingness to help in a crisis? Our mortgage is a long way from paid off – but why spend time and energy to pay it off, when it would take so much away and when the intermediate stages have no value? Why hurry to pay off my student loan when the interest and payments are so low? I would rather use my cash flow to support living… Read more »

Jacque
Jacque
6 years ago

Thanks for such a great post topic! I hadn’t realized how much I’ve been wrestling with the same question until you articulated it. My husband and I have spent the first five years of our marriage being “gazelle intense” to finish school, pay off all debt, build up savings and purchase a house. We wanted to make sure we had a good foundation before launching into the next chapter of our lives. Our “relax” date is this year when we would buy our first house, start a family and I would quit my job. But now that date is here… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
6 years ago

If your husband is bringing home a paycheck while you are at home with the kids, then you are *not* doing the single parent thing.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago

TO all the real single parents out there, I didn’t mean to be insensitive. My deepest apologies.

Sam
Sam
6 years ago

I absolutely believe in ying and yang, one must be active to be passive and passive to be active. One must have day and sun in order to have night and moon, etc.

But, keeping somewhat intense on our finances, tracking our spending, saving a good chunk, avoiding lifestyle inflation allows us to relax and focus on fun, health and our relationships. Money issues are the third leading cause of divorce, so for us, communicating regularly about money, maintaining a pending plan, working off an allowance, etc. all require more effort and energy but the outcome is fun and happiness.

Lizzie
Lizzie
6 years ago

I’m probably too relaxed; I’m not in as much debt as some readers (less than half of my student debt and car loan left, and a few hundos on the credit card), but I also feel no urgency to pay it all down RIGHTNOW. My husband, on the other hand, pushes so hard that he’s been in the beans-and-rice stage for years. We keep our finances separate, and the balance we’ve come to is this: he inspires me to be more aggressive about my credit card debt (which has the highest interest rate), and I share my “disposable” income by… Read more »

Emily @ evolvingPF
Emily @ evolvingPF
6 years ago

I think pushing and relaxing are relative and I don’t think that the beginning of everyone’s life with be “push” and the end “relax” with no mixing. Honestly I don’t feel like my husband and I have ever “pushed” with our finances – we’ve never sacrificed health or relationships for money or been overly stressed about our finances. I had a car loan that I paid off quickly (no strain as the payments amounted to only 10% of my income). We have bumped up our savings rate a few times, and maybe that was uncomfortable for a month but we… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
6 years ago

For me, something to consider is whether or not you feel energized by the work you are doing. As long as you continue to feel energized by doing so, why not push? Sort of like how when you start working out you get tired, but then a month later you feel energized by the exact same activity. I think that there was a bit of a disconnect between El Nerdo’s comments and my responses as a result of that. He said, “But with the income (since for you it’s an extra job besides your full-time one) there is the other… Read more »

Tiara
Tiara
6 years ago

I have no debt of any kind, my emergency fund is full, and I am 80% of the way to my retirement funding goal… a few more years of pushing and then I can relax a bit. But I don’t think I will ever be fully relaxed… stock market crashes happen, bad health happens, at any moment there is the possibility of SHF. But that’s just my own half glass empty anxiety issues.

Scooze
Scooze
6 years ago

I think the time for relaxation depends on the individual(s) trying to get out of debt. For those that can pay off their debt rather quickly (say in a couple of years) then I think that it is okay to push push push and get it over with! Personally, I had let my debt sit there for far too long, and when I finally decided to do something about it, I need a jump start and to see the light at the end of the tunnel. For those who have really dug a hole, and need years to come to… Read more »

Done by Forty
Done by Forty
6 years ago

We relaxed once we paid off the mortgage. It’s a great feeling that, for whatever reason, took a couple months to settle into even after making the final payment. Ironically, our savings rate has increased since that point…maybe from stress having fewer negative impacts on our spending.

Kyle | Rather-Be-Shopping.com
Kyle | Rather-Be-Shopping.com
6 years ago

I’m relaxed about my fiances which means I don’t let it stress me out, life is WAY to short for that. But being relaxed doesn’t mean you bury your head in the sand either. It’s all about balance.

Karla Twomey
Karla Twomey
6 years ago

I have never been in the position where I felt “good enough” financially but I adopted more of a turtle method to budgeting and paying off debt, rather than the gazelle-intense. I work two part time jobs and still try to relax and enjoy my family. All work and no play… 😉 Thanks for your post. Made me think
Karla Twomey
Kids and Money: Teenagers Guide to Becoming a Millionaire
http://nomorecreditcards.com/?p=3196

spiralingsnails
spiralingsnails
6 years ago
Reply to  Karla Twomey

Hooray! I finally know what to call our approach to debt/savings/earnings: we’re turtles!!! And if you remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, being slow’n’steady isn’t too bad 😉

Naomi
Naomi
6 years ago

I’m going to feel better once I see numbers going up, rather than going down. When I can save money without having to push down the mortgage debt. Right now I’m paying it off very fast, which means once it’s gone, I’ll have a lot more disposable income each month – which will be saved. And then the savings total will go up very fast 🙂 That is way more enticing to me than just paying down a debt. So, I’ll relax when that happens.

Carol Z
Carol Z
6 years ago

The summer of 2012. I had neurosurgery for a very rare and potentially disabling condition. I still went back to work, but as a few months went by and the pace was really hard, I knew it was time to relax. I’d saved, and though I wasn’t where I wanted to be, it was time to step off the treadmill going six miles an hour, and enjoy as much time and mobility as I had.

Lance @ Money Life and More
Lance @ Money Life and More
6 years ago

Recently I’ve been thinking after my wife’s student loan debt is gone we need to enjoy the journey a bit more and relax. We’ll still plan to reach our goals, but driving so intensely just to get there earlier doesn’t seem like something we’re willing to do if it makes us unhappy in the meantime.

goldsmith_ie
goldsmith_ie
6 years ago

I have recently reached that point, when I finally had a year of living expenses saved up, and an additional $4000 emergency fund for home/car repairs. (I am single with no dependents.) I meet my mortgage payments (with extra payments) easily and save 20% of my pre-tax income for retirement. It was amazing actually, how the gears shifted in my brain when I saw the living expenses fund hit the magic number, in a way I didn’t really expect. Anyway, I now feel that I can use some of the money I continue to save every month to treat myself.… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago

As for a financial due date…I don’t know that I have one. I have more of a plan of financial ebb and flow…or financial seasons if you will. I’m not really aiming for one big bang goal of never having to work again. I am aiming towards the model of working hard (but it has to be work that I enjoy) and taking long breaks in between (up to a year or even more). I’ll always have financial goals I’m working towards, except maybe when I am much older, 70’s 80’s etc (hopefully), so my compromise is to only do… Read more »

The Debt Shrink
The Debt Shrink
6 years ago

I’ve been inspired by El Nerdo more than once. Relaxing? When I reach the goal of saving 50% of my income. But “pushing” can affect relationships with friends/family who don’t understand the quest for financial freedom.

Danielle
Danielle
6 years ago

I loved this article. I think that the best way to get out of debt and make financial progress is slowly. Because doing it quickly for me has led to crash and burn situations.

victoria
victoria
6 years ago
Reply to  Danielle

Agreed! One of the best articles I’ve seen on here in awhile. I agree with the rules of thumb, too. I might also add, “If you have more anxiety about your debt/finances than you’d add by taking on more work, push.”

Airi
Airi
6 years ago

I think for me there is no financial relaxation in my case right now. Thanks for the article for some tips.

Amy K
Amy K
6 years ago

I am relaxed now. I’ve always been conservative with money, worried about the future. Not long after college I started putting money into my 401k and IRA. I ramped it up over time, figuring that someday soon I’d be getting married and having kids and wouldn’t be able to save like that, so I crammed in as much as I could. Getting married and having kids took longer than I thought. I socked quite a bit away before my daughter was born. And at this point in my life, when I always thought I’d have to dial back the savings…… Read more »

Donny @ Personal Income
Donny @ Personal Income
6 years ago

For me it is more about enjoying what I do on a daily basis then make tons of money doing something that I really hate. I definitely enjoy the luxuries of being an entrepreneur because it gives me the flexibility to create my own schedule and travel around the world as I wish.

Marie
Marie
6 years ago

Family members dying young is a HUGE shadow over our financial planning. How can you plan for retirement at sixty-five, when none of your grandparents or parents even got to sixty?

We wring our hands constantly over whether to push hard now in hopes of retiring young, or to be more laid-back in hopes of a calmer lifestyle leading to a longer life.

Nifty Future Trading
Nifty Future Trading
6 years ago

This financial due date this gives a very relaxation times for no more expenses for further to create a good or new things on that price.thanks

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