We took a year off to give some space for our biggest dreams. The dreams that are hard to squeeze around a 9-5. We wanted to travel more, renovate, write, adventure, and transition. We weren’t really sure how all of that would look or where it might take us. We wanted family life to look different. Ideally more time with the kids: more fun on the weekends, more adventures, and a schedule that was relaxed and comfortable.
We started planning this 6 months before Mr. Mt handed in his resignation. Nothing has worked out according to plan. In the best possible way. Our plan for what we would do after our year off? Yeah, we have scraped that too.
During this year off, we changed. Our family changed. Our dreams and ambitions changed. So our plans changed.
In Part 3, I did a tell all of our numbers. We have created a solid residual income. We have kept expenses low, especially for such a large family. We have more flexibility. Mr. Mt or I don’t have to rush out and secure at $40,000+ a year job so that the heat bill will be paid next month. We’ve got the heat bill covered.
We get to choose the best option.
We are able to customize the life that’s best for us and for our family. That’s really what this blog is about. Money is just the means, not the end game. If you want to read about how you can stockpile 10 million to hoard it or buy a luxury yacht, you have stumbled into the wrong space.
I want people to be able to pick what’s best for them. Travel when you want to travel. Spend time with your family. Do work that is meaningful to you. Invest in your passions. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Get 8 hours of sleep a night, for goodness sake!
We live in a culture that say’s that is as much of a pipe dream as the 2 million dollar yacht.
What’s Next for us?
We want to create our ideal life. For us that would include being home with our kids 4-7 pm each night. Having a fun adventure on the weekends and church. 3-6 weeks of travel each year. Working 15-30 hours each (30-60 hours between the two of us) doing work that we enjoy and is meaningful to us. Work that has a flexible schedule and mostly location independent. Continuing our volunteer work as mentors. Getting enough sleep, and exercise. Time to maintain and grow friendships. 1-2 date times a week for Mr Mt and I. One weekend away for the two of us each year for dreaming, planning, fun and romance. =) I tend to live at a pace that carries a certain intensity. Did I mention we have 5 little kids? =) But in our ideal life there is downtime. I read about a book a week or 50 a year. If we schedule it out to the point where I can’t soak in the tub and read a good business book, we have done something wrong. I don’t want to be overwhelmed with panic and stress if we get sick for a few days. I don’t want a dentist appointment to throw our week into a tizzy, because we can’t squeeze it in.
My goal for 2017 is to grow our income by $2000 a month or $20,000 for the year. That will allow our investments to continue to grow without pulling from them. We can continue to max out our Roth IRA’s. We can allow for our family expenses to grow as our kids grow. It also will be a start for more long term planning for our kids. Our giving can remain steady and increase. It will also help me hit my goal to save $100,000.
Casting a Wide Net
Our original plan was Mr. Mt would go back to work full time or part time after the year off. I would keep doing a few hours a week on my blog. Ha. Isn’t that sweet? Back when I thought blogging only took a few hours a week. Ahhh…
The basic maintenance of the blog takes me about 20 hours a week. That is with no special projects, not creating pdf guides, no skype chats; just blogging. After that my plan is to cast a wide net. I have been testing the water a bit. Trying a few things to see if they would fit nicely into our lives.
I’m slowly learning that the shortage isn’t in opportunities to work or contribute, but time. So as we look to grow our income, there needs to be a focus on the value of our time. Making sure we set aside enough time for the kinds of work that are most meaningful to us and help us reach our goals. Without completely taking over our lives.
First my sweet blog. I don’t expect it to do any heavy lifting, but it’s been a slacker for the hours I pour into it. So I am going to see if it can pull its own weight a bit. $50 a month. Nothing crazy. But she should at least pay for hosting fees and courses.
I have never put up affiliate links. Even for the things I use and constantly hound my family to try. Which is a little silly. If I constantly tell family to try these things, why wouldn’t I at least throw a link in for you? But I wasn’t ready for that step before. You won’t find me hawking random crap. But if I share it with friends in real life, I won’t intentionally avoid it here.
I started a freelance job. It quickly grew into writing website content. Which transitioned into creating a content marketing strategy. I love it SO much! I am able to help business and organizations find their voice. Creating copy that tells a compelling story and gives clear direction to the customer. Organizing the content and message so it inspires, while addressing objections. I finally feel like I am using all those writing, marketing and business classes I took in college. So I plan on doing more work for small business and non profits writing content for their websites, blogs and newsletters.
I also signed up for an SEO course to offer a technical SEO audits of sites. If I like it, I will tell you more about it later. 😉 I think it will be a nice complimentary skill set to offer in addition to writing. Starting in January, I plan to start taking on a few clients. I can offer the technical SEO audits and keyword research, in addition to cleaning up a company’s website content, creating a content marketing plan and perhaps helping write or do content edits of their posts. I can offer a tremendous value helping expand a small business’s reach and the conversion rates on their sites.
Because my income goals are so low for 2017, I can work with companies that are the best fit for them and me. I don’t want 100 clients, but a few that I can offer the most value to, and I look forward to chatting with. Having worked in sales for many years, I know there are customers I look forward to calling and some I dread picking up the phone to talk to. In this custom life, I will be focusing on the former. =)
I use to speak about 50 times a year. It’s something I still do a occasionally. I don’t want to go back to speaking every week, but it is something I really love. It has an energy that is tough to replicate. When an audience laughs, cries and chats you up after (preferably all three), it’s just magic. I have no intention to launch a large speaking career this year, but I want to reserve more space to be able to say yes to requests. I have carved out space for 4 speaking spots this year. And then already accepted one for December and one for January.
I have always loved coaching. I have done free money coaching for years. It’s been a great way to help friends and keep my skills sharp.
This year I will look into offering coaching to a more niche group. It’s hard to transition into early retirement, or take year off and then reenter the job market. Before we did this I searched everywhere for advice, or books. I came up a bit short. I hired financial coaches and CPA’s who had never even heard of this idea. (Not a great investment of money!) None of my family or friends had any useful suggestions (they mostly thought it was strange and unheard of.) I felt like we had to jump into this without much guidance. So I try to distill as much as I can here in 700-2500 word posts. But at the end of the day, sometimes you just need another human to hear your plan and give some useful suggestions. I can only give coaching a few of my work hours and it won’t be a huge income generator. But it’s something I have enjoyed so much in the past, that I want to be able to carve out a few extra hours a month to give people that one on one help and attention. I would love to put together another pdf about setting yourself up to find work after a year off or negotiating time off from your employer. But honestly, the first pdf took me 30+ hours to put together. It might be something I could offer in addition to coaching. There is always more opportunity than time.
Mr. Mt went back to school full time this fall. So add this up: He was putting in 30 hours a week at school. I was putting in 30-60 hours a week blogging and starting to freelance. We were making sure we took adventures on the weekends. Mentoring teenagers. And trying to finish a bathroom remodel. With 5 little kids.
Too much. Just too much. It’s all great, but too much.
Here is the rub, after Mr. Mt retired from the Army he earned the Post 9 11 GI Bill, which provided 4 years of tuition and a housing stipend. If he doesn’t use it within the next 5 years, he just loses it. Which makes me a little sad. This Spring he signed up for part time classes instead of full time. He might only be able to use of year of his benefit, but at least I won’t feel like it was completely wasted. He is still getting to learn new skills that he loves. Useful skills that we can put to work in our rentals, reno’s and maybe one day building our own home. Our YouTube DIY skills have taken us a long way, but at some point, it’s good to take a class. Hopefully the new part time class schedule will take less than 20 hours a week. We will have to reevaluate come next fall, but at least he will have a few classes under his belt.
He is also considering starting a one day a week side hustle. We really need to take hard look at our schedule before he jumps in. (If you have been adding together the possible work hours up until this point, you will see that the 30-60 hour a week target is already stretched thin!) But it is flexible enough to allow him to take a few kids along. We take our kids with us to work on our rental properties all the time. I love being able to have our kids see us working and earning money on our own terms. The economy is shifting and I want them to see how they have more choices than just waiting and hoping someone will hire you. Plus a lot of our activities are kid centered, so it’s nice to do a few “grown-up” tasks as well.
Being able to travel is a priority. It takes a full day to just leave Montana, so little weekend trips aren’t enough. We did 6 weeks this summer and that was amazing. 2-4 week trips each year would be awesome. That rules out 95% of jobs right there. 10 vacation days just won’t cut it for us. Maybe the Army spoiled us with 30 vacation days a year, plus holidays off. We don’t want to feel forced to work on weekends or holidays, especially during the school year. That time with my kids is just too important; for them and us. We don’t have any problem working intensely for a few days or weeks, as long as we get to enjoy a nice break after. 60 hours a week, every week is out of the question. Working two 60 hour weeks, so we can take 2 weeks off a travel to the coast is fine by us. So any work we take on needs to be able to accommodate this.
We want to custom create our ideal life.
We want to choose the best life for our family. It feels a bit like putting a quilt together. Picking each fabric. Designing the pattern. Then sewing it all up together just how we want it. It might take a few tries to figure it out. But it’s better to rip the seam and resew than put all that work into a flawed design.
We are creating just the right mix of family time, adventure, meaningful work, travel, personal growth, community involvement, volunteering, and rest. Maybe that sounds like a millennials pipe dream. Maybe it is. 😉 But I’ll take it!
Check out part 1 (questions and doubt), part 2 (lessons learned) and part 3 (the numbers). How we got here isn’t all that impressive. If we could do it, I would say it’s within reach of most folks who don’t care about having 10 million in the bank or a luxury yacht. Classic cars are fine. =) (Apparently you only have to give up cable TV to afford one of those.)
I’m excited to see what 2017 brings our way. 2016 was a game changer for us. I hope these 4 parts have given a flesh and blood example to the how-to lists and posts. Every situation is so different, and people’s ideal mix, goals and values will be different. Maybe in a few years we will be offered the perfect 9-5 and will jump back in. The point isn’t having everything 100% figured out and nailed down. The point is being able to choose. To have the flexibility to grow, change and shift directions as it best suites your needs in each season of life. For 2 years I worked a job I hated. Never again. And that is a beautiful thing.
Have you thought about what would be the “ideal” for this season in life? How do you see the economy shifting to benefit alternative work situations? If you could choose your ideal work, how many hours would you want to give to that?