Considering my focus on reaching financial independence, some might think that I would be the type to sacrifice in extreme ways to reach that goal. Let me assure you that our family’s level of savings and spending feels completely comfortable to us. We simply find happiness in a lifestyle with a level of spending that is much lower than our current salaries which allows us to maintain a high savings rate.
Our plans take into account that it is important to enjoy the present moment and even more so now that we are parents, since we wish to spend as much time as possible with our little ones as they are growing up so quickly. This desire, which pushes us to achieve financial independence as soon as possible also reminds us not to sacrifice the special time we have now.
We have included in our plan towards financial independence flexibility to gain more free time in our personal lives while on the road towards this goal.
Spend less time commuting
We chose a house in a location that was more convenient for our little family compared to the neighborhoods around our work locations. Consequently, M. Mod has about 40 minutes of commute to his work while I have about 30 minutes.
Of course, that is a lot of wasted time spent on the bus everyday which is why we have both taken steps with our employer to be able to work from home on an occasional basis.
In order to be able to telework, it is important that the type of work one does is appropriate for it. For example, if our jobs required that we meet face to face with clients, it might be more difficult but that is not the case. My work as a financial analyst can easily be done from anywhere as long as you have access to a computer.
Furthermore, it is important to show your employer that you remain or are even more productive when working from home. Personally, Mr. Mod and I are more productive when working from home since there is no interruption from colleagues or any of the distractions that exist in an office setting.
The number of hours worked remains the same but by working from home once a week, we each save over an hour of commute and with a proven track record of efficiency when working from home, it is easy to give a call to our employer to ask to work from home when there is a huge snowstorm that would double our commute time.
As for those days where we still have to spend so much time on the bus, we try to make the most of it by doing activities that allow us to relax, such as listening to music or guided meditations, reading interesting books or by spending that time listening to podcasts on interesting subjects (like Madfientist’s podcast on financial independence hehe).
Take advantage of your vacation time and plan sabbatical periods before reaching financial independence
Another way to get a bit more free time outside of work is to take advantage of the vacation time that you are allowed to take. It is important to be aware of the terms and conditions of your employer with regards to vacation time. Do you get more vacation time after a few years with the same employer? This could certainly count for something when you are considering going to work for a different place of employment.
Personally I was made aware by a colleague that the time I had done an internship with my employer could be counted towards my service time used to calculate my total vacation time. I then sent out a request to the humans resources department of my organisation and obtained an extra week of vacation one year earlier than if that internship time had not been counted! It is so important to be aware of those types of policies in order to take advantage of all the benefits offered by our employer.
It is all the more important to know the terms and conditions of your employer with regards to leaves without pay. In our case, we know that we have an option to take a maximum of three months without pay per year, under certain conditions, without losing our position. I’ve considered doing this when our children start school that way I could spend the summers with our little ones even before reaching financial independence.
Of course, I could drop the idea of spending the summers with them in order to reach our financial independence number sooner. I prefer to take advantage of this time and continue to progressively work towards reaching our financial independence without sacrificing the little time we have to see our children grow up.
Furthermore, since I know ahead of time that we plan to do this in the near future, I can plan what this reduction of salaries would mean for us financially. This is another advantage of living well below our means, since we do not spend the totalities of our salaries, we know that we can afford to have a three month sabbatical and that the impact will be a lower savings rate during those years.
Finally, since I know in advance that I have the intention to take those leaves without pay, I can strategically plan our careers to be in the right kinds of job that would allow us to leave during the summers. It is all the more important to continue providing excellent work to my employer. This will help them see the value of allowing me some flexibility while having the confidence that I can fully train anyone that would be tasked with replacing me during my leave.
In short, there are plenty of ways to change your path towards achieving your financial goals without having to do so at the expense of the present. Some people choose to work longer, but work part-time or six months per year to spend the rest of the year traveling. The important thing is to know your options and identify what applies best to your career and according to your goals.