In what little spare time I have I follow a few money and finance blogs, which has helped me develop my philosophy about how smart financial decisions can help creative people get where they need to go. I’ve found a lot of the advice from these blogs to be solidly helpful (make a budget, track your net worth, pay off debt, etc.), but there’s one thing financial bloggers are always talking about that I couldn’t be less interested in: retiring early.
Now just so we’re all on the same page, retiring in the technical sense of the word isn’t about having your hair turn white or moving into an old folks’ home. On the contrary, the concept of retirement applies to a principle that’s WAY simpler than that:
Retirement means not having to work anymore.
That’s right, retiring just means that you have enough money stashed away so that in all but the most dire circumstances you could live out the rest of your days without being required to earn an income. You could still work if you wanted to, but when you’re retired, you’re free of the obligation to bring in a certain amount of money by working because you’ve got enough coming in or stashed away to keep the bills paid and live in a way that you’re satisfied with.
But Ian, Not Having to Work Sounds Awesome!
Those of you who’ve been following this blog know that from the very beginning I’ve been talking about how my goal is to not have to work Day Jobs anymore. On the surface this sounds a lot like retiring early (no more work, yay!!!), but the key difference is that I want to transition away from doing Day Job work into doing work that’s more meaningful to me and the rest of the world.
Since I haven’t found a lot of people talking about this online or elsewhere, I want to try to clarify the difference.
Early Retirement Treats Work as a Chore to Be Avoided
A lot of bloggers talk about leaving their jobs and retiring early in a “You can do it too!” kind of way that, while helpful and inspiring, assumes that the people reading really want to leave their jobs because they have other, non-work-related things they want to spend their lives doing. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most people fall into this category (like this guy who’s been disconnecting from his boring office job for over a decade), and want to trade in their jobs for time they can spend traveling, raising a family, or developing their hobbies.
The trade-off is that a lot of early retirement stories involve things like working jobs you don’t like for long periods of time, learning to invest like a Wall Street boss, or fixing up real estate and renting it out as a landlord. In the most extreme cases it even involves moving to countries with WAY lower costs of living and/or sleeping in your car like Paula Plant did.
Not only does achieving early retirement the way these financial rock stars did involve a lot of work, but it involves a laser-focused drive toward the goal of early retirement, which doesn’t leave much time for creative goals in the meantime.
While taking ten amazing trips a year and living life on my own terms would be pretty sweet, I know my life wouldn’t have the meaning I’m looking for if I wasn’t using my energy to get more of my writing out into the world, since that’s more important to me than having a bunch of free time later on.
I’m More Interested in Substituting Work I Don’t Want to Do With Work I DO Want to Do
The other day I was reading the Wikipedia entry for performance artist and writer Miranda July where she mentions not having had to work a Day Job since she was 23 (!!!). (While I REALLY wanted to know more about how she did this and what her living conditions were, this information was sadly absent.) The article implied that she didn’t have to work not because she was independently wealthy, but because she was earning (or scraping together) enough from her creative work to get by.
The thing about creative work is that whether it’s writing novels or designing video games or doing interpretive dances, there’s always, always, ALWAYS some way out there to earn money from it, even if it’s not a lot of money, or if earning said money involves working a crazy number of hours. And if you’re able to do that, and do it enough, just like Miranda July, you won’t have to work a Day Job anymore.
A few things make this switch different from early retirement: when you transition to earning more of your sustenance from creative work, you’re still working, still focused on a goal, still actively earning money, and you still have to answer to the deadlines, responsibilities, and plain old work that comes from getting your creative projects done and out into the world.
So, in reality, working as a creative person is a different kind of job, but one that you want to be doing, and one that’s meaningful to you and to other people in that way that only art can be.
In that sense, my ultimate financial goal is not having to depend on Day Job work money anymore because I’m able to earn enough from doing creative work that matters. Barring that, it’s to be doing less Day Job work and have more time for creative work, or to at least be doing Day Job work that feels slightly more meaningful than your average Day Job.
Saving money is important, as is good financial planning and hard work and focus and setting strong goals for yourself. That’s a lot of things, but the big one to think about is whether you’re working toward simply freeing yourself from Day Job work so you can enjoy non-work things, or whether you want to free yourself from Day Job work so you can pursue the kind of work you’d rather be doing.
I like putting my work out there and I imagine you too—otherwise you wouldn’t have read all the way to the end. Since that’s the case, how about spreading the love by telling your friends about this blog, sharing a post, or even just Liking the page on Facebook?