Time is something we can’t do over.

thThe 2013 Financial Blogger Conference was the best yet, and also the most exhausting. We got up at 2 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 15 to fly to St. Louis and, coincidentally, walked back through our front door at about 2 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24.

In between: a long plane trip, most of a day spent “frugalizing” a family with MP Dunleavey (for her Woman’s Day column), the conference itself and then a few days hanging out with my daughter, who also attended.

The conference days were a blur of activity, four days of leaving the room at 7:30 or 8 a.m. and falling back into bed at 1:30 or 2 a.m. Yet it was delightful to attend sessions, reconnect with others who’ve attended for three years running, to win prizes, and to discuss some very interesting work-related propositions (nothing I can noise around just yet, though).

Right now DF is on furlough (grrr), so we had Thursday and today to recover from the trip. It’s been tough for me to get my head back into the game; instead, I want to spend my days talking about writing and having other people cook for me.

Scratch that: I want to spend my days working only when I feel like it. I expect I’m not alone.

As I noted in “Termination dust,” being kicked to the virtual curb by MSN Money has caused me to reconsider the kind of life I want to lead. That’s why an e-mail I received today really resonated.

The writer, whom I’ll call “Lynn” for privacy reasons, faced wrenching life changes a few years back. Her husband died in a horrific vehicle accident, which was awful enough – but then came the parade of relatives and friends who weren’t shy about stating what they believed they were owed.


The second half of life

It’s tough to grieve when people are lining up with their hands out. Ultimately, Lynn cut off contact to save her sanity. She also took a leave of absence from work, a break that continues today. Her husband had some life insurance, and Lynn’s frugal ways will allow her to stretch those funds for a long, long time.

During an e-mail conversation today Lynn said she was glad to see that I was “off the fast track,” i.e., cutting way back on work until I figure out my next move.

“Money can be made one way or the other,” she wrote, “but time is the only thing we never get to do over.

“I intend for the second half of my life to be better than the first.”

Lynn has put herself on a strict budget but is happier than she’s ever been. Hey, me too! I didn’t realize how heavy things were until I stopped carrying them.


Planning vs. reacting

It’s not that I haven’t worked since finishing up at MSN on Sept. 27. Prior to leaving for the conference I wrote two long pieces for Money Talks News, one for Wise Bread and 11 posts for Surviving and Thriving. I also dealt with a recurring site issue and handled a bunch of paperwork.

That’s not the same thing as a three-a-week deadline or, heaven forbid, my previous five-a-week deadline. But this is the point of my slowdown: I want to stop putting out fires. Hence the decision to write for pay just once or twice a week.

While I’m acutely aware of my good fortune — the ability to take that break and still keep the lights on — I wouldn’t say that my position is due entirely to luck. Sure, I caught a couple of breaks (chief among them sitting next to Liz Weston at The Anchorage Daily News way back when). But some very specific choices led me to this point.

My expenses are relatively low and my consumer debt is nonexistent. Various frugal hacks let me build a decent emergency fund over the past few years, even as I saved for retirement, traveled, donated to charities and helped out family members.

Not that I want to dip into capital, mind you. But after years of frantic busy-ness, of being afraid to say “no” because an opportunity might never come again, I’m calling a temporary halt.

From now on I want to plan my days rather than merely react to them. As Lynn noted, when it comes to time we are allowed no do-overs. But we can try to do better with such time as we’re given.


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  1. Rita Phillips

    This about time is timely. Thank you.

  2. lake livin'

    The good/smart choices you’ve made in the past are allowing you to have choices now. Good on you, Donna.

  3. “I didn’t realize how heavy things were until I stopped carrying them.”

    Brilliant statement, almost Buddhist – I’m gonna tape it to my monitor. Thanks, Donna!

  4. This post resonated with me in a way I hadn’t expected. I was laid off from my job in 2011 and viewed it as an absolute blessing. The birth of my son occurred just over a week before my last day. I’ve now been home with him for over two years and somedays I wonder if I’m making the right decision about not working, but deep in my heart I know that this is a point in time I will never be able to recapture. As I push him on the swings at the playground or let him dip his fingers in gooey paint I relish our time together. To hear him giggle and squeal makes my heart sing and I think that the pursuit of money and things often trumps sharing time with the ones we love. I worked hard in those first 12 years out of college, I lived within my means and saved a significant amount of my paycheck during that time. That has afforded me the luxury to stay home now. I feel utterly blessed for all that I have, but like you I need to give more credit to the time that went into getting here!

    • Donna Freedman

      Yeah, that working hard for a dozen years and saving part was all you, ma’am. That wasn’t luck. That was prudent planning.
      Enjoy your time with your little guy.

  5. I do recall commenting with “Lynn” on one of your old sites a while back and was wondering how she was. That was quite a blow when her husband was killed and then for “family” to show up and put pressure on her about certain things…Not cool!… I can only hope that I would be half as strong and resolute as her. The thing I have found is that a real effort has to made to follow thru with change for it to take place. In the rental biz…I have found the greatest predictor of future behavior …is past behavior. Someone who doesn’t pay their bills is not apt to change without real effort.
    And as for your employment status…you are the busiest “unemployed gal” I know of…LOL.

    • Donna Freedman

      Yep. I was corresponding with her and the emotional bullying she felt was tremendous. “Your husband would have wanted me to have this” kind of stuff, plus someone who assumed she didn’t know the value of a certain type of possession and offered her pennies on the dollar to buy it. Sheesh.
      I’m told that deaths bring out the worst in some people. Based on what I’ve heard, I believe it.
      Are you following the “Not the MSN Money” proboards? A lot of the old gang from MSN’s Smart Spending board shows up there. After a disgracefully long time away, I’m back — and I may reinstate my every-so-often giveaways over there, too.
      Thanks for reading, and for being such a consistent commenter.

      • Thank you for the heads-up Donna about the “gang” from the ol’ MSN boards…I’ll check it out. Aaaand you are so correct about a death bringing out the “worst” in folks. DW lost her Mom & Dad within 6 months of each other and the conduct of some family members was just unbelievable…

  6. I love this post, Donna. It practically vibrates with wisdom and lessons well learned. You’re clearly thriving and way past surviving. You’re rich in what matters.

    Another woman I respect who’s survived hard times and is now thriving is Malala, the young education activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban. I wanted to let you and your readers know that I’m giving away a copy of her excellent book. Come over if you’re interested. Warm wishes on your good new life-chapter.

  7. I hope you will spend more time writing about how to revel in having time of your own that you are CEO over. And how to truly make the most of that time to re-charge or just enjoy. Sometimes it is really hard for driven, work-a-holics to slow down without imploding!

    I’ll look forward to this new and improved lifestyle writing!!

  8. Well. The second half of life. At first glance it looks a bit…like termination dust, really. But truth to tell, the snow is very lovely.

    It can take a long time to realize how much BETTER life gets after you’ve been canned. Freedom’s a great deal more than just another word for nothin’ else to do.

    Money happens. After the Great Desert University closed our office, canning me and all my staff, I lived (not badly!) on a $14,000 emergency-fund grubstake and a variety of incidental income sources.

    Enjoy. Life gets better and better.

    • Donna Freedman

      Just today I said to someone that my 50s have been the best decade of my life. Here’s hoping the trend continues.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.


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