Have you ever looked back and thought, “If I didn’t make that dumb-ass financial mistake years ago, I would have had XXX more money right now!! What was I thinking!?” 🤦♂️
I came to a similar realization recently… If I’d never left my sales job a few years ago, there’s a fair chance my wife and I would have reached FI this year. 🤯 Crazy! I could have been “retired” right now, at age 36…
But instead, we’re still many years away from financial independence.
For those of you who don’t know, in early 2018 my wife and I left our jobs to begin a 1 year sabbatical. It somehow turned into 2 years off for me, and since then I’ve only returned to part-time work, earning less than 1/5th of my prior salary. We are now on the Coast FI train, intentionally slowing down our journey to FI.
If I’m being honest, it feels really shitty thinking about how much money we’d have in the bank if I’d just continued working. Part of me is kicking myself for not taking full advantage of high-income-earning years.
But, the other half of me is at peace with it all. I’ve accomplished some cool stuff and grown a lot as a person the past 3-4 years. My lifestyle is already much like a retired person’s. If I could go back and change it all, I’m not sure that I would.
I’m still processing all the thoughts and feelings on this, so bear with me if some of this post flip-flops around a bit. There’s a bunch of things to consider …
Regarding the Money …
OK, so, if I never left my old job and kept earning money until today, my guess is we’d have an additional $500-700k saved for retirement. Maybe more. The reason I can’t calculate an exact savings number is because 50% of my salary was commission-based. Who knows, maybe if I had a blowout sales year I could have saved an extra 1M+ over the past 3-4 years. Very possible and crazy to think about! (It’s also possible I could have been fired or laid off during covid – you never know).
But, would having $1M more in the bank really change much for me right now? Would I really feel more free, confident, or happy than I am right now? I don’t know. 🤷♂️
Growing up I’ve always had this recurring thought… “If I just had XXX amount of money, I would finally feel good about things.” In my early 20s that number was like $100k, then it grew to $500k, then $1M, and beyond… Somewhere along the way I realized this might be an unquenchable thirst. I am trying to chase feelings (freedom, confidence, happiness) that aren’t actually tied to how much money I have in the bank.
In fact, one of my favorite posts from Mr. Money Mustache is called Money and Confidence are Interchangeable. Here’s an illustration from the post…
This blog post came out right around the time I was quitting my job, and it helped a lot with my mindset shift. My biggest takeaway was that more money doesn’t actually give me a whole lot more confidence in life. In fact, I was noticing the opposite. As my savings pile grew, I became more adamant on needing my number to be bigger and bigger.
Would it be nice to have an extra $1M in my retirement accounts right now? YES!!!!
But would it realistically change what I’m capable of in this world? NO!!!
Regarding Personal Growth …
Anyone who’s taken a long sabbatical can probably confirm this: You experience rapid change as a person during time away from work.
It’s like cramming 10 years of living into just 12 months.
Without work interfering with everyday decisions, you start to question things… EVERY thing, in all aspects of your life. Personal development, reflection, your relationships, travel, career evaluation, emotional progress — you name it, it changes when you quit your job.
As far as the progression of who I am today, I can easily say that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without dropping work and starting my self-exploring journey.
If I didn’t leave my job, I might have continued being the same person I was back then. This wasn’t horrible, but I certainly was not the chilled out surfer idiot you guys read about on this blog. (Oooooh, I just came up with a future post idea about who I was 5 years ago, stay tuned!!).
Regarding the Lifestyle …
I was chatting with a friend this past weekend and mentioned that I could have been retired by now if I’d never left my job…
His sarcastic reply was, “You mean you could have been drinking beers under a palm tree all day, surfing and napping whenever you please, never going into an office, just relaxing and enjoying life?”
We both laughed, because THIS IS what my life is already like, now. (I happen to have a palm tree in my front yard that we were sitting under.) Apart from the fact that I have to still make some money somehow, my lifestyle is already quite nice. Working part time is very much like being retired. And many forms of self-employment offer the same lifestyle.
Instead of thinking about the things I don’t have (an extra $1M in the bank), how about I focus on and enjoy the things I already do have?
I’ve touched on this a little before within the stages of financial independence… Once you’ve got a decent sized nest egg and your investments are on auto-pilot, there is a TON of freedom that can be realized — almost as much as if you’ve already achieved FIRE.
When I think about the lifestyle I will have as a financially independent person, it might be very similar to what I already do today.
Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda …
It’s not just 1 decision… looking back, there are a million little things that I could have chosen differently that would have resulted in more money for me today.
But I can’t go back and change the past. What’s done is done, and I am where I am right now.
As much as I love reflecting on the past, I more so enjoy being my rich and happy present self, as well as dreaming of the future.
Wishing you a great week ahead! I sincerely hope you are enjoying and loving what you get up to, no matter how much money you have.