Our Pyramid of Priorities
Welcome to GoWithLess!
We’re Tim and Amy, a financially-independent couple in our late forties. We’re designing a lifestyle that allows us the freedom to plan our days with fun-filled activities versus all that comes with earning a paycheck. While some would say we’re retired, this term just doesn’t fit us. We still work. But, our work is focused on personal passions rather than earning a livelihood. Our attention has shifted away from furthering our careers and maintaining our income to prioritizing our health, building our tribe, volunteering, managing the money we’ve accumulated, simplifying our lives and traveling as much as we can.
We’ve always been consistent savers and we’ve, also, been decent earners. However, we didn’t have a specific retirement plan until 2012 when we met with a life insurance advisor (sounds like fun, right?). Our chat boiled down to answering the following three questions:
- If your spouse dies, do you want the option of not returning to work?
- How much money would the surviving spouse require annually?
- How much money would be required to close the gap between what we have and what we would need?
Since I (Tim) track every penny we spend, understanding where our money went was easy. Unfortunately, we realized that maintaining our 2012 spending level in retirement would mean that we’d be working for another several decades or one of us would need to die soon so the survivor could collect a hefty life insurance payout. Although we’ve always lived well within our means, we spent foolishly throughout our lives. This exercise helped bring into focus the many meaningless indulgences we continued to make. We committed to saving more and consuming less. We mutually decided that we wouldn’t want to be required to work if our partner was gone. This meant that the amount of coverage provided by the term life policy + our current savings would equal our retirement bogey. The end result was:
- We determined the amount we would need to retire
- We bought a term life insurance policy to close the gap
- We created a spreadsheet to track our progress towards a hopeful “early” retirement
Based upon our nifty spreadsheet (which we proudly hung in our overly spacious walk-in closet), we were on a course to retire in 2025 (roughly the year our youngest child was scheduled to graduate from college). The closet chart had a box for tracking our accumulated savings each month between 2012 and 2025 (156 months/boxes). Each month, we would meet in the closet and ceremoniously pencil in our progress towards the retirement goal. At the time, we were saving every penny that Amy earned, maxing out contributions to my 401K plus investing some of my post-tax earnings. Our efforts were putting us ahead of target. Our progress made us additionally question what we really needed to have in the bank for retirement. Every month we revisited the possibility of an earlier move to independence.
In June of 2014, we enjoyed a hurried two-week vacation to Europe. This trip solidified our passion for travel and convinced us that doing it slowly was a better approach for us. Upon our return, we had a day to recover and were immediately back to the grind of our jobs. This too-fast trip made us question the wisdom of 60+ hour work weeks for a fat paycheck. Additionally, I had a series of health events (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, limited exercise, insomnia, a trip to the hospital for vertigo on a business trip, etc.) that seemed to indicate a faster change was in order or Amy would be collecting that insurance check and travelling the world with a new companion. Our tracking chart helped us understand that reducing our planned post-income expenses would cut years off our target retirement date. The insurance discussion pointed us to the tools to make calculations with confidence. We could plug new numbers into our retirement equation and see that spending X amount less allowed us to leave work Y number of months/years sooner.
Shortly after this trip, we came to the conclusion that there was a way to make our current savings last a lifetime. Living frugally and searching for ways to move more quickly to retirement pointed us to a collection of inspiring communities that offered guidance for those looking to do more with less. We found House Sitting, Minimalism and Financial Independence. We read multiple stories about people selling all their belongings (including their home) and traveling the world. We ate up everything we read about creative lifestyle design. Our research convinced us that with frugality, simplified living, downsizing and proper investing we were ready to break free from our corporate gigs. We established:
Substantially reducing our spending and streamlining our lives was the key to our financial independence. What we spent was far more important than what we made.
We sold our big (6,000 sq. foot) house. We gave away, sold or threw out 60% of the crap (and some nice stuff) we had accumulated over the course of our consumption-driven lives. We sold our gas-guzzling Jeep Commander. We stopped having anytime-we-wanted sushi meals. We cooked amazing, healthy meals at home. We moved into a 1,500 sq. foot town home that we had owned as a rental. We cut the cord with cable TV. We found ways to reduce our cell phone bills. We used travel hacking techniques to make our appetite for travel affordable. We cut our $6,000 annual entertainment budget for better/free alternatives. And, we officially launched our life of financial independence in April of 2015 when Amy left her job. I followed with a move to part-time consulting work that November.
On this site we’ll be sharing details about our path to achieving and maintaining our fiscal freedom. We’ve always enjoyed travel, eating, drinking (primarily my love for beer) and being with friends. We’ll be sharing details about our engineered lifestyle and how this allows us to enjoy the things we love while finding inexpensive ways to do almost anything.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
We’ve built a model (Maslow-esque) that reflects the topics we intend to discuss and the priorities in our lives. We believe that the foundation for our future is built on maintaining our health. Without our health the whole designed-life-thing falls apart. While we both struggle to remain true to our model, we have this as a framework for how we want to live our lives. We believe that relationships and building a group of like-minded friends (our tribe) delivers a network of support. While our investments are mostly passive, we’re very active with ways to keep our expenses to a minimum. Whether we’re travel hacking, house sitting or volunteering as a means to keep our entertainment costs low, we spend a lot of time seeking ways to keep our budget in check. We’ll share all the tricks we find.
At the peak of our model you’ll find items we jointly pursue as passions. We’re excited about any and all travel adventures. We believe that a simple life (a life with fewer things) is a better life and we’ve found that simple living is more complex than it looks. Lastly, we’re enthusiastic about learning.
On many occasions, we’ve been encouraged to provide details about our experiences and our journey. We hope to offer value to our community by providing the details of our pursuits and how and why we choose a path with less.
Could you live with less?