The hand grenades about to be thrown at me.
I get it. Wealth, freedom, and retirement are three of the dirtiest words on the internet. I deserve a cake in the face for using them in a title. You’re right. But hear me out.
I’m not talking about financial wealth. I’m not talking about retirement where you sit on a beach in your swimmers and sip mojitos all day. I’m not talking about the version of freedom where you assume everybody else is a slave and you’re so smart and good-looking for figuring out how to stack $100 bills. Or even the version of freedom that says if you have a job you’re doing it wrong.
These ideas are so 1990s internet talk.
What we’re talking about is designing a life where you still work like a normal person. Except you reach a point where you no longer have to work in fear. A point in life where you retire from normal work and do whatever work you actually like doing.
I did exactly this. I retired from my job and will never go back, yet I work harder than I ever worked. That reality crushes the current perception most people have of wealth, retirement, and freedom.
Freedom is making all your own decisions.
You own the risk. You own the upside. You get rewarded when you do well, and penalized when you screw up.
Here’s how to retire from other people’s decisions over your life.
Free time for life isn’t an accident
Having free time is never the default. People don’t just fall into huge blocks of free time unless they retire.
Rather, free time is the result of strategy. It’s the result of looking at time differently.
— Michael Simmons
I’m lucky to have complete freedom for the first time in my life. Don’t congratulate me. And definitely don’t call it luck.
Free time is an intentional thing I went after. A few years ago I worked my ass off. I achieved way more than my KPIs and gave up loads of my free time to do it. This meant I was owed a bonus and a promotion. When it came to pay up my boss said “sorry, it’s been a bad year for the entire business. Unfortunately we missed our numbers, so you won’t be getting your bonus or a promotion.”
I was pissed. I made my numbers. How am I supposed to control what 50,000 other employees do to achieve theirs? I can’t.
So I came up with a strategy to invest my free time elsewhere. I had no idea where to start. All I knew was I’d find something on the internet that would allow me to have 100% free time one day. That decision changed my focus.
My mind started to pay attention to online opportunities in a way it never had before. That’s the first step.
Train your mind to listen out for anything that can help you get back your free time. When you see an opportunity keep an open mind and explore.
Hours become the new measurement of your life
When your mindset switches from financial wealth that funds Lambos, to time-based, it’s like you stepped out of the matrix. The world looks different. That’s what happened to me.
The other day a friend told me they bought an entry-level electric car.
“It’s only $50,000.”
My reprogrammed mind instantly started working out how many hours of my time I’d have to give up to buy one. The number came out at more than 250 hours. That’s just not worth it.
250 hours buys me enough time to read a lot of books. 250 hours hiking through Australia with my fiancé isn’t worth giving up. 250 hours less time with my parents before they die one day is not a sacrifice I can make. They raised me. They changed my diaper. They helped with my homework.
No electric car is worth 250 hours to me because I value time not status. Status is bullsh*t. It’s a figment of our imagination that corporations came up with, so we’d have motivation to go to work each day and have micro-managers make decisions that screw up our lives.
The best job you can have is one you’re happy to move on from if they make enough decisions that work against you. That was my last job. Four weeks of back-to-back stupidity is all I needed to go “you know I can just jump on LinkedIn and choose another job.” That’s real freedom.
A retirement full of free time is a nightmare
I don’t want endless days with no work to do. This is the dream people imagine they will live after they retire at 65. It’s a joke.
I tried it when I got fired. It felt good for about a week. Then I was itching to work on something — to build something I could be proud of and that had a meaning greater than myself and my survival.
Ask anyone who has sold a startup for millions of dollars. They never just lie on the beach for the rest of their life and do nothing. No. They don’t realize what really happens. I’ve noticed. They sell their business and go from being money-focused to meaning-focused. This is a beautiful thing.
A new definition of retirement is to trade money for meaning. You can’t do that though when you’re barely meeting your expenses.
Downgrade your lifestyle to become ridiculously happy faster
The more expensive your lifestyle, the longer you’ll work — Steve Adcock
I don’t care about being frugal. I don’t care about discounts or sales or getting something for nothing or being able to say “I’m a badass minimalist.”
The reason I still have the same lifestyle from ten years ago, despite my income changing by a lot, is because I want to get out of the money game as quick as possible. That’s right. Making money is a game. I want to play a different game. I want to do work I enjoy without caring about how much money it makes.
Millennials and Gen Z are realizing more and more that free time to do what you love is the ultimate wealth, not money.
So every expense that makes up our lifestyle determines how many years we will spend doing work we’d rather not be doing.
Less expenses equal a faster transition from structured time to free time.
Side hustles have become popular for a reason
If you’re working 80 hours a week to enjoy 65+, you’re hustling in reverse — Justin Welsh
The traditional way of life is to work your ass of so you can have free time when you’re old and crusty. Justin’s right. That’s hustling in reverse.
Now you know why side hustles have become so popular. We’ve figured out that if we diversify where we spend our time now, then we can figure out how to buy back our free time sooner than 65.
Side hustles produce passive income. We then use that money to buy back our time rather than get financially wealthy and buy a mansion. It’s a retirement from work for money’s sake, to work for time’s sake.
Own your time and you’ll never miss a dime.