By Dr. James M. Dahle, WCI Founder
Katie and I have found ourselves in an interesting position in the last few years. We love our work (both with The White Coat Investor and clinically) and continue to do both part-time. But we are also well beyond financial independence, and we want to experience that FIRE (Financially Independent, Retire Early) lifestyle as much as possible. We end up cramming our lives so full of everything because we fully subscribe to the Hunter S. Thompson quote:
“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow what a ride!'”
A phrase I use frequently with our staff at WCI is “It's a lifestyle, not a vacation.” Naturally, they all now use that phrase frequently to tease me right back. But what do I really mean by it? Two things really.
Setting Up Your Life Deliberately
The first thing I mean by it is a glib response to anyone that incredulously exclaims to me, “You're going on vacation again?! You just got back from a trip.” I simply reply,
“It's not a vacation, it's a lifestyle; I set up my life this way on purpose.”
Being deliberate in our lives is a core tenet of the financially responsible and, especially, the FIRE community. We deliberately spend our money on what we care about most and use the rest to invest to fund other things we care about—like early retirement, the financial security of our children, and our favorite charities. Too many people live their lives by accident, simply falling into habits and routines because that's what they have always done or because something happened to them. Too few of us actually draw a picture of our ideal lives and work persistently to align our actual lives with those ideal lives.
I don't want to say our Venn Diagram (the second image below) has perfect overlap, but it's pretty darn close, and it has gradually become closer every year. Especially if you compare it to the first Venn Diagram.
None of us are probably ever going to have perfect overlap, but the process of working to increase it is likely to boost the happiness and effectiveness of our lives.
More information here:
Working on ‘Vacation'
The other thing I mean when I say, “It's a lifestyle, not a vacation” to the staff is that just because I'm on a trip, that doesn't mean I'm not working. Here at WCI, we don't really have a vacation policy. It's basically unlimited vacation. It certainly is for Katie and me. But there is the expectation that you will get your work done, and that applies to Katie and me just as much as anyone else.
Since we go on so many trips, that means we usually have to do at least some work while we're on them. All of us have a job that is location independent. That means if we have a cell phone connection, we can work. And we often do. Some of my trips are to places without cell coverage, and while I often think about work while on them, I can't actually do any. But most of them allow me to work—at least a little. That means I do a lot of work while sitting in airplane terminals despite my travel motto: “If you never miss a flight, you've spent too much of your life in airports.”
I do a lot of work while riding in cars and sitting in hotel rooms, too. As I write this, we're currently on the tail end of a nine-day trip to the former Yugoslavia with two WCI staffers and their spouses. Brett, our COO, is driving while James, the CTO, navigates. Katie and I are furiously typing on our laptops.
Is this your idea of vacation? Maybe not. But again: it's a lifestyle, not a vacation.
What have the days looked like while on this trip? We wake up early, grab breakfast, and go touristing. One day, we're canyoning in the coldest river in the world. The next, we're checking out the Tunnel of Hope under the Sarajevo airport and standing in Gavrilo Princip's footsteps. The next day, we're exploring Croatian national parks or climbing a Slovenian mountain on a via ferrata. Or exploring cathedrals and long abandoned fortresses. Or doing a bike tour through Zagreb. We're young, healthy, and location independent, and we're trying to make the most of it by vacationing actively. We don't know anyone in their 70s that could keep up with us so we don't want to wait until we're 70 to do this stuff. By mid-afternoon, we take a break back at the hotel before dinner and spend some time cruising the streets, visiting bakeries and gelaterias for dessert.
Then, it's time to work back at the hotel.
From 8pm to midnight, we may be putting in a solid half day's work. I'm answering emails and responding to comments, writing blog posts, choosing whether to accept a new advertiser, revising a chapter in the original book, deciding whether a post from a contributor is sufficiently aligned with the WCI philosophy or needs more editing, making plans to re-record the five podcasts we did the day before we left because the sound was recorded with the wrong microphone, explaining to yet another online entrepreneur how trademarks work and why we defend ours so vigorously. The work is unlimited. There is always more to do. We make a quick call home to check on the kids and the grandparents caring for them. We remind the kids again that this is “Parent Appreciation Week” and that they need to be on their best behavior. We're also trying to keep the sports teams we're coaching going by email and text while we're gone and helping the kids revise their school essays. Perhaps I shoot off an email for the real estate syndication I've been entrusted with. We also have to do our own budgeting, investing, and other chores.
By midnight, sleep is overcoming us, and we crawl into bed only to do it all over again tomorrow. The other staffers hopefully have a higher relaxation-to-work ratio than we do, but they're working while they're here, too. Not quite enough that we can write off this trip as a business expense, but enough that I suspect they'll soon be saying, “It's a lifestyle, not a vacation,” too.
More information here:
Living the Dream
Is it a great life? Absolutely. Brett tries not to let me write blog posts where the takeaway is “my life is way better than yours.” So, I hope that's not the message you're getting from this one. There are seasons in our lives. In our 20s, we deliberately decided NOT to “live the dream” of being a ski bum and a climbing dirtbag. Instead, we went to school, got jobs, learned about personal finance and investing, and did a residency. This was Spring. In our 30s, we took care of business, saving a large percentage of our income, boosting our earning ability, and starting a small business. Perhaps that was Summer, when the blazing sun seems to slow growth as the plants in your garden stockpile almost invisible resources. Now in our 40s, we're enjoying the harvest of Autumn, when we see the fruits of our hard work paying off. Eventually, we'll have Winter, but at least we'll know we have plenty stockpiled to get us through.
I don't know where you are in the seasons of your life. Perhaps you're in Spring. Let our harvest inspire you to do the hard work it takes to plant the crop. Maybe you're in Summer, and nothing seems to be growing as fast as you would like. Keep watering and fertilizing, your time is coming. Perhaps you're now like us and moving into the Autumn of your life and reaping what you've sown. May you achieve extensive overlap between your ideal and actual life. If you're now in the Winter of life, may your carefully guarded stores last as long as you need them—and then some.
What do you think? What have you done to live your life deliberately? What season of life are you in? Can you get on board with the “it's a lifestyle, not a vacation” philosophy? Comment below!