Tastes like freedom

Each morning I make a cup of strong black tea and add some milk. And it tastes like freedom. I’ll explain in a minute. But first I want to ask: What do you give up for your 9-5 grind? In what areas of your life has your employment traded you a paycheck for your freedom? Some companies and bosses are better than others. But in each job, there is a trade off. So in February we are doing a little series about Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE.) A dear friend was recently let go. No severance. No bonus that was due to be paid out. No warning. I’m sad and angry. So let’s start this FIRE series about talking about when good work gets wrapped up in a crappy job. 


What we are retiring from?

First let’s be clear that I love work. All sorts of work. And I think that each of us has been gifted with a unique and important contribution we can make.

But does it really have to be a 9-5 grind?

If your greatest passion and most important work lines up perfectly with your 9-5 grind, that is awesome. But keep reading. Just in case.

Back to my tea with milk that tastes like freedom.

If you work long enough, with enough companies, and enough bosses, you will run into some really stupid and crappy things. Sooner or later something will be ridiculous or sucky.

I worked for a company that viewed drinking tea as equivalent to sloth. Coffee was fine. Soda was fine. Drinking tea was viewed as this extravagant exercise in laziness. Now this wasn’t a high paced job. My coworkers generally wasted a few hours a day surfing the web or watching funny You Tube videos. But I still caught a lot of shit about this. You know, this tea drinking habit of mine. It would involve walking to the water/coffee station and adding hot water to my empty cup (just like the water and coffee drinkers). Because I already felt like I was pushing it with my lazy tea drinking ways, I would never walk the extra 30 steps to the break room to add milk to my tea. That could waste an extra 40 seconds easily. (The outrage!) So I drank this cup of sadness for 3 years. Black tea, no cream.

Every morning since I quite, I brew my black tea and add milk. And it tastes like freedom. No snide comments heard. No critical glances. And then I do something really outrageous. I sit in my book room. And I read a book! I look at my planner. I sip my freaking tea like the queen of England would! 

And you know what I do on Saturday mornings after I sip tea and do some reading. I make pancakes for my kids! Pancakes with cherries and chocolate chips. Pancakes with silly faces. Confetti pancakes that I add sprinkles too. And that tastes like freedom too! See, I know what my perfect Saturday looks like. Tea with milk, reading, making pancakes, writing, adventures, maybe the early church service (so I can wear PJ’s all Sunday). Bam! That’s my freedom. That is the reward.

What did my Saturdays formerly entail? A cup of black tea (also known as a cup of sadness) at 8 am with 8 people I would rather not be hanging out with. 8 am on Saturdays used to be reserved for “meetings.” Unpaid, mandatory, constant bickering about what appropriate “business casual” work dress should look like. Not that hearing grown adults refer to each others work attire like “hobos, punks, sluts or fat slobs” isn’t slightly entertaining. But it was a full hour of unpaid time listening to the same stupid topics and insults every week. Then 9 more hours of commission only sales. Topped off with getting home 45 minutes before my kids go to bed.

I enjoyed the work. And HATED the job. Even great work can be wrapped up in a total crap job.

FIRE for me is about separating the great work from the 9-5 grind. I want great work. But I don’t need a crappy job to do that. When you finally get to the point that you don’t need that 9-5 grind to cover your bills, you get to decide if you want to break up with the 9-5 grind. You are free from the need for the paycheck to cover next months bills. Passive income, rental income, investment income, 4% withdrawal, dividends, a side hustle you actually love: however you want to cover it.

FIRE is about choice. It’s about freedom.

Maybe you RE (retire early) from your 9-5 grind, because that was never your most important or exciting work. And maybe you retire to something else entirely. Maybe you will find you love your job even more when you don’t need it to eat or pay your mortgage. 

So we will be talking about FI (Financial Independence) and FIRE. Most importantly we will be talking about how to create more financial freedom. Slowly becoming less and less dependent on our 9-5 paycheck. Building and guarding the financial margin in our lives. Because that is something we all can do.

For conversation:

Would you stay in your current type of work after FI (or same job even?)

Ever worked a crap job?

I’m a sucker for inspirational mugs! That one in the pic is a new fav, pictured in my book room at 6:30 this morning. =)

Is there one area that would make your current 9-5 MUCH better? More time off? More flexible location? More flexible work hours? More choice in projects? Nicer coworkers? 😉

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39 thoughts on “Tastes like freedom

  1. I would definitely keep teaching after FI. I don’t know in what capacity, though. After realizing how much income we’re losing for this maternity leave, it makes me realize even more that I do what I do because I love my students and my coworkers – not the bureaucracy that runs our school systems.

    • I think teaching is such an amazing calling. And I know most people love. love. love. the work. But sometimes the job is a tough gig. I’m glad you are there for the students! And I hope that as you create more and more financial freedom, the bureaucracy will seem less like a pain in the butt. =)

  2. This is exactly why I want to reach FIRE at some point – the ability to choose if I want to work or not. Paying off my student loans opened up some options. I no longer needed to work a specific type of job just to pay off the debt. But that’s only step 1 – I still need to work a 9-5 to pay the bills and save for retirement.

    Would I stay in my current job if I were financially independent? No way. I’d probably just become a bike messenger full time and then try to write on the side. Most people would say I lack ambition, but I think just trying to reach FIRE is ambition in itself.

    • I think as the bills get covered we are able to really figure out what kinds of work we want to fill up our day. And financial freedom is kind of a sliding scale. At one point we needed two incomes. Then we just needed one. Then we only needed half an income. Then at one point, we realized we don’t really need much more income. So we took a year off to figure out what we want the rest of our life to look like. =) At each point, having more financial freedom felt great. Now we can be really picky about the work we do. And it always allows for milk in my tea. =)

  3. Great topic, MM! I don’t hate my job, but I don’t like the reality that I’m forced to have a small apt “In The City” as part of our FIRE transition plan. If I were able to work from my cabin in the woods, I’d likely work beyond FI. As it is, I’ll achieve FI this summer, and RE next (building a 1 year buffer into the numbers due to my concerns on health insurance inflation). After FIRE, I’ll do more of the things I enjoy (like commenting on your blog!), and less of the things I don’t (no more living apart from my wife 3 nights/week!).

    • I think location independence is huge for most people! I think most people would stick to the 9-5 if it were more flexible. 9 months before Mr. Mt turned in his notice, he offered to go half time for half pay. If they would have said yes, he would probably still be there. He LOVED the work, but the hours/stress were just too crazy with 5 little kids at home. =)

  4. Great definition of FIRE…! separating the work from 9-5!

    Good news for me: in my office, it is ok to drink tea… we drink a lot, have a lot of flavours and will do an online group order later this week!

  5. I like the type of work I do and I’d love to do it part time, maybe as a consultant, when I can cover most of my expenses from my stash. Just spending less time working would improve my job the most–even 40 hours is too many to do any single thing except sleep!

    • Yes! The hours. Now that we are self employed work hours are funny. Some weeks other things are more pressing, so we will put in 20-30 hours between us, because we are sick, or the kids are sick, we are traveling or I am tiling my stupid shower! But some weeks I’m working on an big project and we will put in 50+ hours. Work is awesome, but it’s not the only awesome or important thing in our lives. Finding work that is flexible would fix most of the issues. =) 40 is rarely the perfect number week after week. =)

  6. I worked a crap job about 5 years ago. It was good work in a very bad environment. Thankfully, I had the choice to quit – and ended up with a side hustle that paid almost as well (and I enjoyed much more!).

    We’re striving for FIRE in order to create more choice. Specifically, the choice for Alan to walk away from the 9-5, if he wants to. Who knows if he actually will, because once it is a choice, the outlook on the job will be different. But, I am anticipating us starting a new chapter in the form of a business that will involve work we both love.

    Great post, Ms. Montana! 🙂

    • I think if people work enough places for enough people, everyone finds that “one crazy place.” =) And it is AWESOME to feel like we have the choice to leave! Honestly I had a hard time thinking about the kind of work I would really want to do until I didn’t need the money to pay bills. I think you guys will find wonderful, awesome ways to fill your time and produce even better work once you no longer need the 9-5!

  7. Love this article:)
    I left a 6 figure corporate gig, for a year and a half mini-retirement/creation of side hustle work I enjoy.
    I now have only a couple months left and the side hustle income didn’t amount to much.
    That said, we are now half way to FI….and I am facing an interesting internal challenge, I would be curious to hear what others think about…
    I miss being out in the world offering continuous service…although I would love FI…I could instead work 20 hours at S-bux, retail, waitress-ing etc. in a social “fun” job or could go back to a similar role as I had before and have 4-5 years until FI. What would you do? What would be your concerns either way?
    Love your blog MM, keep up the good work!

    • Thanks! Honestly if it were me, I would just do what I want to do. If you want to pound out the last 4 years, try it. 6 months in you could always change your mind and take the S-bux route. If you love the sound of a fun job, try it. It might be a perfect fit, or feel like you are wasting your time for hassle/income ratio. Especially beings you have already made so much progress with your money. You have earned the chance to try something you like, and change your mind. If you were drowning in debt and could barely pay the bills, that is another conversation. But having earned some freedom, I say enjoy it. Life is short. That’s my 2 cents. =)

  8. Love this topic. And that is so freaking weird they would make comments about your tea. Talk about petty! I would do the same type of work-ish that I’m doing now. It would vary on topic and other logistics, but no, I would not stay. But I say this partly because I will be of retirement age anyway. I do like my job, but like any other place there are work politics that sometimes make it challenging. Yes, I have worked a crappy job. I think one thing that could make my job more enjoyable is working 4 days a week instead of 5. I feel like it’s hard to cram a lot into two days off work.

    • It was an odd place on so many levels. =) Do you get my weekly email? There was an extra fun tidbit in this weeks. 😉 Just weird. And 4 days sounds great. Mr. Mt once had a job where he got a 4 day weekend every month. It was awesome!

  9. I won’t keep my current job for long after reaching FI, but I would hate to waste the decades of training and experience. I wish that our country had a way for me to continue contributing without all the bureaucracy and malpractice risk, but to do this I’d have to travel internationally to work.
    Time will tell. Maybe I’ll teach instead or take up another field entirely.

    • That is such a tough spot to be in. Are there other settings that are more informal and less restrictive? Maybe more wellness focused and less medicine? Finding affordable wellness care is so difficult. Insurance isn’t big into paying for wellness it seems, mostly disease. Maybe you could be the next Dr. Oz? 😉

  10. Ok I love this post but I especially love this mug. Very inspiring and I need a bit of that lately. Where did you get it??

    • TJ Max, most good things in my life come from TJ Max. 😉 Mugs are my one weakness. I have had to institute a one in one out rule. Or else all my cupboards would be stacked full of mugs, tea cups, and misc hot beverage devices. 😉

  11. The big one for me is FI brings confidence. No more fear of job loss or worries about choosing a risky path. That’s life changing and has resulted in me actually chasing more difficult roles for more money less. I.e. My work life balance is better because of FI.

    • The not fearing a job loss is huge. And the work life balance. It’s great when you don’t have to be always scrambling to the top, but enjoy where you are and the rest of your life.

  12. I have such mixed feelings about many of my jobs. Many of them were rewarding and interesting, most of them also had plenty of crap to deal with. (even my current job I can describe much the same). We’re lucky to have the freedom right now that I could walk away if I wanted to, but I probably won’t.

    One thing this points out to me is how much the loose labor market means that so many employers don’t have to concentrate on making the work environment good to keep their workers, but also how much more work they’d probably get if they just would work at providing their employees a good environment to work in. You just talked about the fact that you really liked your work, but the toxic environment killed the job for you, and I’ve had several jobs the same.

    • I think having the freedom to walk away makes 100% the difference. There is something really horrible about disliking a job but feeling like you have no choice and are stuck. And I totally agree about how some employers don’t feel like they need to create a friendly work environment or helpful benefits. I had a situation where Mr. Mt had gotten a really good job and when my coworkers found out they just assumed I would quite. Because, really, why would anyone work there unless they absolutely had to? It was sad. They joked if we won a lottery pool at work, they would just close the business because everyone would instantly leave.

    • Really? What is up with that? With all the real issues in the world, why do we have to fight about beverage equality? In our house, we have 1 overarching rule. Be nice. Whenever the kids are fighting, I give them “the look” and ask, “What is the number one rule?” “Be nice.” they sheepishly say. It’s simple but apparently hard to practice.

  13. Whats fascinating for me is that five months ago when I started my blog, I was all gung ho about semi-retirement, mini-retirement I need a break from work, but now that I’m nearing the end of it, I’m almost more excited about what I’m going to do next, career-wise. And the thing is I’ve never been an overly ambitious person. My intended next career will be very different and will have an initial pay cut, but I’m super excited about it.

    I’ll certainly enjoy the travel along the way, but I’d be shocked if my “career gap” actually turns out to be this year long thing like I had originally anticipated. The plus side is that If I don’t find the type of work I’m looking for right away, I can always keep traveling, but if I do find the kind of work i’m looking for relatively quickly, I can just stop travelling with no major financial risks (other than, I guess, cancellation fees on AirBNB or whatever)

    Exciting times ahead, and I guess that’s what financial security buys you even if you’re not quite financially independent.

    And seriously, what’s with the tea shaming?

    • I love it! I talk about all the benefits and options that FI brings, and I think that finding things you are really excited about is a big one! I feel like a whole world of exciting opportunities opened up to us after we quite working.

  14. I’m with Tonya, Claudia, and TJ. Your boss pestered you over your tea drinking? Talk about a small mind. I worked for a very dysfunctional municipality for 21 years. I liked my co-workers–even though most of them were lazy and back-stabbing–but I hated management. They were classic pay-to-play scoundrels. The only way to get ahead was to give them money (i.e., make a donation to the Republican Party). Sigh. So this is what retirement looks like to me. It’s a wave from a motorist because I let him or her cut in. It’s a hug from Mrs. Groovy because I emptied the dishwasher without being asked. It’s waking up to find one of my posts being featured on Rockstar Finance. In short, retirement to me is anytime I’m rewarded for doing something good, not because I gave money to the right people. Thank you, Ms. M, for this wonderful post and this wonderful topic.

    • Congrats on that Rockstar feature today! And that work environment is nuts! I don’t know if I could have stuck it out for 21 years. In my new post, I mentioned a hostile work environment I had, but this actually sounds worst. But now you have FREEDOM! And freedom is indeed groovy. =)

  15. So weird that tea drinking was considered lackadaisical! I’m so glad you are in a better situation now.

    I think having flexibility is the next best thing to full FI. I And when we reach FI, I could see us staying or leaving current jobs, but having the ability to make the choice will be huge. It means if something becomes ridiculous or unbearable, you can leave. Or if you find that opportunity for your passion work, or to volunteer extensively for something very important to you, it would be possible.

    • I think financial freedom is a sliding scale. The more you can create, the more flexibility you have. It’s never fun to feel stuck somewhere you don’t want to be. You are so right, having that choice is huge!

    • Since we left the 9-5, flexibility has been a huge advantage for us. It’s so much easier to travel, batch work, or adjust our hours for family needs. At our last jobs, travel/time off felt almost impossible.

  16. Love the Tea with Milk example, thats awesome!

    If I was FI, I don’t think I would stay at my 9-5 corporate job even if my co workers were nicer, I had more time off, more options, etc. I just don’t like the idea of not being in control of my own situation. I don’t like the idea of one person deciding if I should get a raise or not and telling me what I need to be focused on.

    • Any time someone else is paying you, especially in a 9-5 situation, there are always trade offs. We might go back to the 9-5, but it would have to be a really sweet deal. =)

  17. THIS -> FIRE for me is about separating the great work from the 9-5 grind.

    We don’t feel the need to have a huge amount of money invested so that we will never have to work again. Our goal is financial semi-independence, because we know that we will still do work. But it will be the great work, and on our own terms.

    Enjoyed reading this post – you go and enjoy your tea like the Queen of England, LOL.

    And so sorry I’ve been unable to join the chats lately 🙁

    • Financial semi-independence is an perfect goal! I think it creates so many options. When the needed income gets to a small and manageable amount, really cool things can happen. When you really only need an extra $1000-$2000 a month to be comfortable, there are so many good work options. Plus it’s easy to make extra one year, then just take off for 6 months to a year. Or mix low earning years with more sturdy earning years. So much flexibility!