(I’m not really sure which of the two bloggers wrote this, so I’m going to guess that it was Nicole. I have a 50% chance of being right.)
Nicole and her spouse are making some smart choices, such as paying the mortgage off early, being canny about retirement funds and living on less than one salary. In this post she noted that throwing every extra dime and spare minute toward millionaire-hood would get them there faster.
To do so would mean giving up things like charitable donations, trips to the used bookstore, the option of having a second child, or even simply trying a new variety of cheese now and then.
“I’m not willing to make deep sacrifices for something that isn’t going to change my quality of life that much in the future,” she writes.
Me either. Besides: If life is the currency, then I’m already rich.
Sweet corn and old friends
It’s precisely because I’m not chasing wealth that I have been able to spend six of the last nine months visiting friends and relatives in New Jersey, Alaska and Arizona. Two of those trips occurred due to serious illness of family members. Right now I’m in South Jersey visiting an aunt who is not likely to survive chemo.
Then again, last April I rushed here to visit another aunt who was very ill with pneumonia and not expected to live. She’s 87 and still with us. I’m visiting her three or four times a week, too. I have that luxury because as a freelance writer I can work from wherever I happen to be.
In addition to visiting my aunts I’ve been able to help my dad on his Christmas tree farm. I’ve hung out with my brother and his family. I’ve met my niece’s husband and baby. I had a great breakfast meeting with Flexo of Consumerism Commentary (boy, do I miss Jersey diners).
I spent some time listening to an old friend with a serious illness pour out her fears and anguish. I’ve eaten really good sweet corn, tomatoes and peaches (and far too many Tastykakes). I’ve driven around the area where I grew up and ruminated on who I was then vs. who I am now. And I’m hoping to make side trips to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. before I go back to Seattle at the end of the month.
Couldn’t do those things if I were a regular working stiff.
Not ignoring the risks
Had I taken a job as soon as I finished my degree last December, I’d have had to wait at least a year to earn vacation time – and it probably would have been only a week’s worth. I’d also have had either to quit writing for MSN or not create Surviving and Thriving. Both options are unpalatable.
I can easily survive on what I earn because I live simply. I save where I can so I can spend where I want. My income is a tool, not a toy: I use it to craft a life that works for me.
And this life does work for me. I plan to live as a freelancer (which pretty much precludes millionaire-hood) for as long as I can get away with it.
I’m not ignoring the risks, mind you. Like Nicole, I’m mixing short-term serendipity with long-term security. I do have some retirement monies from my newspapering days. I’m funding a Roth IRA and I have a solid emergency fund. I also have health insurance; it’s pricey but I pay it because no machine runs for more than 50 years without some maintenance issues.
Life holds no guarantees
When I think about money as “security,” I get a mental picture of someone sitting in a bank vault surrounded by piles of cash that he is unwilling to share. I don’t want to be Scrooge McDuck, backstroking through an ocean of dollars and singing, “Mine, mine, all mine!”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 52 years on the planet, it’s that there’s no such thing as security. Your job, your health, the economy can all go south with incredible rapidity.
Suppose I’d found a full-time job after college (and these days, that’s a big “if”). Right now I could be making more money. But I’d likely be spending more money; working people often do.
More to the point, I wouldn’t be making a difference. For every obnoxious (and conveniently anonymous) comment I get on those Living With Less columns or MSN Money Smart Spending blog posts, I also get feedback like “I’m out of debt because of you” or “I’m back in school because of you.”
Knowing that I’ve inspired people to change their lives is something I wouldn’t trade for a 9-to-5 with a dental plan.
Living a freelance life lets me spend time with the people I love. It lets me travel. It gives me the flexibility to, say, take a house-sitting job in New York City on the spur of the moment. (And if you know any Manhattan residents who need someone to feed Fluffy and water the plants, give ’em my e-mail address.)
I’m 52 years old – when am I going to allow myself the luxury of life’s surprises if I don’t do it now?