If I Can’t Figure It Out In A Decade…

figure out decade“I appreciate the opportunity, but I want to try my hand at a variety of endeavors.”

If you’re joining us from the “Why I Negotiated For A Pay Cut” essay, the above was my response to my aforementioned employer. (If you haven’t read that piece, I’d recommend quickly backtracking to get caught up.) In other words, I fired my boss.

A lot of people in the financial independence community talk about the “one more year syndrome.” Actually, it doesn’t even have to be finance related, as this idea could apply to nearly anything. The basic concept is that you presently have enough, but you continue on aspiring for more. “Sure, $1 million might fund my retirement, but doesn’t $1.1 million sound a whole lot better?”

On the surface the concept is reasonable – why not provide yourself with a little extra cushion – yet be conscious of the risks involved; the trade-offs that result.

My journey is more along the lines of what I like to call the “one less year syndrome.”

See the thing is – depending on how the assumptions are formulated – I conservatively have about 10 years of expenses covered in the form of net assets. Now assuredly my expenses are minimal in comparison to the average. Moreover, anything can happen in short or long-term. So it’s not retirement. I still have to “do something” in order to provide income before jetting off to a lifetime of golf, beach and paddle boarding (or whatever the latest retirement commercial has you doing).

And it’s not Financial Independence really. I would assert that it’s something new, something different. To be frank I think it’s something the future is going to have quite a bit more of.

Some might call it a “gap year,” or I suppose in this case a “gap decade.” Blogger jlcollinsnh would call it “f-you” money – the financial wherewithal to do what you please for a while. Call it what you want, but I just think about it in terms of “what’s the deal?” Here’s my thought process:

“Ok, I could sit on my keister for the next 10 years, that’s 3,653 days, and still be just fine. In the more likely scenario whereby I actually do something, that will last me longer than a decade. Say I write a finance article and earn $50, that’s 8 more Chipotle (CMG) burrito bowls or a week’s worth of groceries.”

Finance 101 is creating a gap between what you make and what you spend. But Finance 102 should be how to best utilize that gap – the discretionary time that comes with the process. Most just tell you that you need a larger and larger gap, or on the opposite end of the spectrum that you need to buy more and more stuff to be happy (thus reducing said gap). Yet few focus on the mechanics – the benefits and sacrifices – of either. We trade time for money and money back for time, hardly realizing that our lives are what we make them.

I don’t have all of the answers. But personally, trading extra money in exchange for more time was the smaller sacrifice. Or in Jason Fieber’s sentiment: “you could earn more money… and you could get more oxygen by increasing your breathing, but I have all I need.”

I knew that I’d regret it if I hadn’t given it a shot.

Plus it helps to think about the downside; not a “worst case,” but a bad case looks something like this:

I wake up financially “broke” in 10 years – still better off than a quarter of the world’s richest nation.

In a more likely scenario – call it a year or two – I would suppose that I might recognize a downward spiraling trend and work to right the ship sooner rather than later. Even then I would probably have an excellent shot of retiring “comfortably” in due time.

It can be all too easy to forget how fortunate we already are.

For instance, it’s estimated that billions of people live on less than $2 a day. Expanding that a bit, the average income for the bottom 80% of the world is approximated at $3,900 – roughly $8,000 in purchasing power.

Not feeling so bad about that missed trip to Hawaii or your mid-level sedan huh?

The truth is we already make scores more than the majority of world’s population; and not just now, but in all mankind. Some make in a week what others make in a year. Yet for some reason they aren’t 52 times as happy. Imagine that.

To sum up using Ben Franklin’s words: “when you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” I’m not finished changing and neither is this website. Stick around for updates, insights and awareness as we continue to spin on this rock together.



12 thoughts on “If I Can’t Figure It Out In A Decade…

  • August 5, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Interesting thoughts. I deal with the same struggle myself, and keep thinking I’ll be so much better off if I just keep grinding it out for “one more year”.

    Right now, my plans are to get out at 30, but we’ll see… Recently, I spoke to some local investors, who are multi-millionaires, and their goals are now to get to $10MM+… One more deal… one more apartment complex, etc. etc.

    When is enough, enough? Unlike with food, there’s no feedback mechanism to say, “I’m good”, which keeps a lot of us chasing wealth/money a lot longer than we probably need to. When you put things in perspective and compare to others in another country, you start to appreciate how little you might actually need…

    • August 5, 2014 at 12:27 pm

      FI Fighter, thanks for stopping by!

      You got it. I’ve been following your updates on your website and it seems that you’re progressing nicely. You’re sentiments here remind me of the book “Enough” by John Bogle. It opens:

      “At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his widely popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds: “Yes, but I have something he will never have… enough.”

      It can be tricky figuring out what enough means to you, but I believe the concept is fundamentally important. Incidentally, I’ll be posting an article on this subject shortly. Stay tuned.

  • August 5, 2014 at 4:48 pm


    Great stuff.

    Figuring out your “enough” is extremely important, but something that few people take the time to do. So they instead continue to run on a wheel that leads nowhere, hoping that expelling more energy somehow propels them along further than they were before.

    Couldn’t agree more with your sentiment. I’ve figured out my enough, and it’s just not that much.

    Looking forward to more updates!

    Best wishes.

    • August 5, 2014 at 5:13 pm

      Thanks DM! I remember seeing your oxygen quote (as cited above) somewhere, but I wasn’t able to find it directly. Hopefully I captured the sentiment appropriately.

      You’re on to something with more energy, less progress ideology that many have. The trick is creating awareness, making the world a better place and all that jazz. I guess that’s why we’re here.

  • August 10, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    I see you are trying to build your own community, other than exclusively relying on third-party websites. Congratulations, and I wish you good luck in your future endeavours!

    I also see you have 10 years worth of living expenses – that is amazing, considering you are not even in your 30s yet.

    Now, considering that you are at 10 years living expenses, you are somewhere like 40% – 50% of your target for financial independence. You know, the dividend crossover point where your dividend income exceeds expenses. So if your expenses were $10K/year, but you had a portfolio of dividend paying stocks yielding 4%, worth $250K, you are free “forever”. I guess, can you squeeze that budget a little more? Or spend a couple more years till you hit that magic point?

    Personally, I expect to be able to cover expenses from dividends sometime in 2018, if things go according to plan. In reality, I expect myself to be subject to the one more year syndrome..

    • August 11, 2014 at 10:59 am

      Thanks DGI, I appreciate your commenting / stopping by! It seems you’ve had similar success in creating your own space, so if you have any tips or insights I’m definitely open to suggestions.

      Yeah the number of years is a bit arbitrary – it’s more about having the freedom to do what you enjoy and it just so happens that a few of those endeavors bring in income. With regard to the 4%, that’s a reasonable starting point but there are things you can do (preferred shares, REITs, higher yields) in combination with your typical DGI portfolio to reach your needs.

      2018 is coming up! Hopefully you crush your goal while simultaneously thinking about the trade-offs of the “one more year syndrome.” Hope to see you around the site. All the best!

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  • August 15, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Just out of curiosity, did your employer come back with a counter offer or did it just end there 😉

    • August 15, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      Hi Ed, thanks for the question. Nope, no counter offer. As mentioned in the previous post, this was essentially their response:

      “They said I was too valuable and they weren’t looking for me to work less or get paid less. Indeed, they indicated that eventually they would like to pay me more and had no interest in discovering my capabilities as a well-rested, multi-faceted citizen.”

      I expected a counter and was open to common ground. However, after talking it was clear that they were trying to motivate with money when all I wanted was time. I’m certain I could have performed quite well (maybe better) with reduced time in the physical office, but perhaps they were stuck in the old “time in chair = time working” ideology. After a point, attendance doesn’t necessarily correlate with productivity – eventually parkinson’s law comes into play. They asked me to stay, but it would have been the bigger risk.

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  • May 5, 2015 at 4:08 am

    Hi Eli, wow, I’ve finally found your blog (what a shame that it took me so long…). You wrote me some time back and I’ve just recently found your blog through Gen Y Finance Guy.

    This post really resonated with me as I recently did the same thing (a paycut for 2 days off) and it got approved. However, I’m planning to explore other endeavors during this ‘semi-sabbatical”.

    Great stuff & will keep your blog on my reading list.


    • May 5, 2015 at 1:55 pm

      Hi Josh, thanks for your comment and kind words. I’m glad you found it as well! Sounds like you were more successful in the pay cut negotiation than I. I’ll make you a deal: I’ll keep writing if you keep reading :) Cheers!


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