Don’t Wait Until F.I. to Answer the Question “How should I spend my time?”

4 min read

Imagine what it would be like if you had an unlimited amount of money.

I think most people would quit their day jobs. Some might write their boss a nasty letter and hand it to them in person. Others might send an email out to their department, letting everyone know they won’t be back. Others might take the noble path and provide a traditional two week notice.

A small percentage of people would keep their jobs. This represents the select few who enjoy their work and would do it with or without a paycheck.

After quitting their day job, I think most people would take a vacation with their family. They might take that road trip to Sequoia National Park they had been planning for years.

They might fly to Australia and visit the Sydney Opera House.

Perhaps they’d go on an African safari tour.

Once they satisfied their wanderlust, most people would come back home.

Some would use their newfound unlimited money supply to move to a new location. Maybe some place warmer, like Southern California. Perhaps somewhere more exotic, like Bora Bora.

Others would stay put in their hometown, but they might upgrade their house. They might buy a new car. Or some new gadgets. Maybe a bigger television.

Once they finish upgrading their lifestyle, buying all the cool gadgets they want, and traveling to all the places on their bucket list, I think most people would be left with the thought “Now what?”

Now What?

That question of “Now what” is deeply fascinating to me. Obviously I haven’t been in that position before, but I can imagine it would feel like an existential crisis. Buying new stuff and taking trips might be fun for 6 months or a year. It might be exhilarating for a while. Yet, at some point, once the excitement wears off, you would still have to face everyday life and answer the world’s hardest question:

“What should I spend my time doing?”

Most of us have never had to face this question head on.

So much of our time is consumed by working and commuting that we naturally use our free time to relax.

If we’re not working, we’re probably relaxing. If we’re not relaxing, we’re probably working.

We don’t have to worry about how to use our time in an optimal way. Most of us don’t have enough free time to ponder this question.

Yet, anyone who hopes to achieve financial independence one day will have to answer this question.

Of course you won’t have an unlimited amount of money, but you’ll hopefully reach a point where money no longer influences how you live on a daily basis.

If you have enough savings that you don’t need a day job to pay the bills, you’ll naturally be in a situation without a job where you have to decide how to spend all your free time.

I think this is the point where you would truly get to know yourself. Once money stops influencing your decisions, curiosity becomes your north star.

Your natural curiosity and interests would lead you.

You could start a nonprofit organization without worrying about the income.

You could start writing more because it doesn’t matter if you earn any money from it.

You could become a park ranger without wondering if the salary will cover the bills.

You could join that yoga club because you have the free time.

Curiosity vs. Salary

Curiosity is a wonderful thing. It always leads us in the right direction. Unfortunately, the need for money distorts the direction we take in life. We often pursue jobs because
of the salary, not because it aligns with our interests.

We have to be realistic, though. We need money to live. Some people’s natural interests simply don’t align with a high income. If your one true love is creative writing, you’re in a tough spot. It’s not a well-compensated field.

On the other hand, if you came out of the womb solving complex coding problems and enjoying every minute of it, you’re in luck. The world values your work tremendously and rewards you with a high income.

Many of us, I think, find a happy median. Most of us are in fields we find at least somewhat interesting, but undoubtedly an expected salary range influenced our decision.

At the end of the day, that difficult question of “How should I spend my time?” is one that most people never have to answer. Yet, the answer to that question often tells us exactly what we should be doing in life. 

Ask That Question Now

If you’re on the road to financial independence, I encourage you to start pondering this question long before you have enough savings in the bank to quit your day job. 

I have been pushing myself to follow my curiosity more. I started this blog last year because I didn’t want to wait until I was rich to start sharing my thoughts on money. I recently joined a weekly yoga class because I was curious about it. I have started playing basketball more often because it makes me happy.

You don’t have to wait to start following your curiosity either.

Do that thing you enjoy outside of your day job.

Write more poetry if that’s what you like.

Draw more art.

Build more stuff.

Take online classes that peak your interest.

Stop procrastinating and start that blog.

Join that meditation class.

Join that fitness group. 

Do more things that you used to enjoy as a kid, before money became so influential.

Don’t wait until you’re financially independent to answer the question “How should I spend my time?”

My favorite free financial tool I use is Personal Capital. I use it to track my net worth, manage my spending, and keep an eye on my monthly cash flow. It only takes a few minutes to set up and it makes tracking your finances simple and easy. I recommend trying it out.

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9 Replies to “Don’t Wait Until F.I. to Answer the Question “How should I spend my time?””

  1. Very true! I think a lot of people will be in that position. You suddenly take something you’ve been focused on for most of your adult life and get rid of it…it can be easy to not know what to do.

    I definitely would have a good yearish period in which I unwind. Travel a bit, and then just have some unstructured/down time. Enjoy the seasons, work on things around the home.

    After that, really focus on writing and volunteering. 🙂

    1. I think that’s the path most people would follow – spending some time unwinding, relaxing, and learning to live without a 9-5. Then once that adjustment period is over, you can make the transition to doing work / projects you enjoy more 🙂

  2. Ha ha. Are you sure you are only 24 yo? Pretty profound. I know I have told you that a couple other times, but you have a very good insight into the world already.

    All those little things that you mentioned that you can do right now if you are curious, mean so much more now than trying to start later. If they become a part of your life when you have time, they can help during the turbulent times, if needed. I play basketball every Saturday(much older group than yours) and it just makes the week better no matter how bad the week was.

    As we reach closer to RE, we find ourselves trying new things to enjoy with extra time we have. Which actually makes work a little more enjoyable, but still sticking to the RE date.

  3. I retired slightly early with essentially unlimited funds. I chose to start up several paid side gigs that occupy me maybe half time but they are fun and some really stretch my comfort zone so I can continue to grow and they make even more money, which I do not need at all. Then there is tennis, several matches a week, running several days a week and a half dozen volunteer gigs. Like I’ve got to go right now to a steering committee on a low income health clinic we manage, no pay, but lots of good vibes. And there is travel domestic and abroad, fishing, hiking, skiing. It really is a nice life. A lot of it works because my wife is awesome and shares the same hobbies and interests and agrees that my continuing to work on side gigs is good for me. And I started thinking about this life twenty years ago and developed the skills that would make the side gigs possible and developed the hobbies and interests my wife and I share. So I totally agree with your indeed profound advice to plan this life in advance!

  4. This is an interesting article- thanks for some wise words. I’m not there yet, but hoping to be in just a few years. Hate to sound like Eeyore, but what if I don’t really have a passion? The blogs are full of everyone seems so happy, finding meaning, etc. – are they sugar-coating it? The current indexes and asking questions of my friends and peers seem to say more are actually quite unhappy. I’m hoping that when my time comes, I’ll be able to fill up my day meaningfully but, for me, that doesn’t mean sitting in more meetings on useless boards (regardless of their value) fighting with people of the opposite view. I’ll exercise more and try and stay engaged but it’s hard to “force” a hobby? Is it just me? I’d love to hear from those who did go moderately early with a day-in-the-life please.

  5. This is a very important question to consider. I have some interest I enjoy pursuing, but this is still a question I continue to contemplate often. My favorite line that stood out to me was: “Of course you won’t have an unlimited amount of money, but you’ll hopefully reach a point where money no longer influences how you live on a daily basis.” That’s 100% the goal, being able to live without money influencing my day-to-day decisions.

  6. Hi all,

    My take is that we can start planning the time the moment we have the stash which covers at least 10 years annual expenses. Debt-Avoidance is one of the ways to do.

    We can choose to work because we want and not because we want to.


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