Downshifting is defined as making major changes to your lifestyle caused by accepting a reduced level of income by Wikipedia. (Downshift is also the name of a Transformer Omnibot, circa 1985, but that's just some brain lint I picked up with the help of Google).
But I don't think Wiki gets it quite right. I think it's trading money for time. Most of us trade time for money every day when we get up and go to work. 40 or more hours spent working, plus time getting ready for work, travelling to and from work, and so on.
When you downshift, you trade money for time, giving up some income to have more freedom.
We're on a 10 year plan to get there. And we will need every minute.
I'm a believer in setting goals. I think having something to look forward to, and to work towards is a tremendous motivator. Especially over the last few years, as I have watched some long-desired goals come to fruition, the pull towards setting and acheiving targets has become more and more a part of my - and our - life.
Downshifting is, for us, an uber-goal. It's the goal to beat all goals. It means that we can sufficiently afford for me, and potentially Sander, to not get up and go to work in our fields. It means we can live on less, or we've saved sufficiently to cover the shortfall between our income in the IT fields we are in, and what we move towards in the future.
Some people manage to downshift right at the start of their lives and stay there. They decide that time is worth more than money to them always, and live their lives accordingly. Others decide early on that earning money is what matters. And then there are those of us who never made a definitive decision either way, but have somehow landed in one camp or another - working too much or working too little.
Sander and I fall into the camp of those that found themselves very busy somewhat unintentionally. I landed in a project-based, feast or famine field, and he, while having somewhat better work/life balance, has a long commute and stressful job.
For a while now we've been daydreaming about what happens when we're ready to get off the treadmill, and we finally chose a date to make it happen. From ten years out, many things could happen, including not being ready for a multitude of reasons from the financial to the 'just not ready to quit yet'.
But we have a plan. Some parts are detailed, some less so. The highlights of the plan to get us there are as follows:
- Pay off all cars, and have enough saved to pay cash for at least one replacement car.
- Pay off our 2nd mortgage.
- Pay off as much of our mortgage as we can.
- Have a minimum of a year's worth of savings in a high interest savings account. Two years is preferable.
- Have reached our target retirement savings goal for the time period (we intend to keep adding to it).
- Have some seed money in the event my husband decides to open the bar he daydreams about.
- Fund college savings accounts for our future children for an as-yet-undetermined-but-sufficient-in-our-eyes amount.
- Have done all the major work on our house that we plan for in cash, so that the investments we need to make are primarily cosmetic.
Needless to say, this is a heckuva punch list. We're pretty far away from a lot of it. But...we have time. And we have a plan that we're working towards, a dollar and a day at a time.
On December 24, 2018, I intend to leave the world of full time work and long commutes for the last time. That doesn't mean I have no intention of working again. If I cannot provide the income we will need by writing, which is my goal, I will take a job that supplements whatever writing income I have coming in. But it won't be full-time, and it will be something that requires a few less Saturday evenings spent on a plane for work.
We are not sure if we will both downshift at the same time, and my husband may not choose to at all. We are preparing as though we both will, and can adapt our plan as needed.
Why? Well, that's more complicated for us. For me, it's because I actually think it's terribly important to be available, engaged and around as children get older, and we intend to have children that are heading towards their preteen years at that point. My husband agrees.
We also see how busy we are now, and we know it will only get more chaotic as we start our family. We're working on some flexible work options for the meantime, but at some point we may need to stop the roller coaster for a while.
Lastly, while we both enjoy what we do, there are things we love better. For me, writing is the job I will do no matter if it pays me or not. My husband hasn't chosen the dream he wishes to follow yet, but when he does, we will be ready.
A lot can happen in 10 years and 10 months, so we're keeping open minds and staying flexible. As time passes, we'll add detail to our plans, and adjust where needed.
In the mean time, I look forward to a VERY Merry Christmas that year.