Change your life
How would you characterize your relationship with money? Do you live to work or do you work to live? If you were handed $10 million today, how would it change your life? What if you gave all of your money away? How would you feel?
A Life of Accumulation
A handful of years ago, I would say that I certainly lived to work, and there are a lot of extenuating circumstances for that drive.
I am the daughter of immigrant parents who came to the U.S. many moons ago. My parents worked multiple jobs, went to night school, reinvested every penny of their savings into real estate, and supported multiple mortgages. They worked hard to build a foundation for their children, and that was their dream for us.
My brother and I are the first generation. We are influenced by a fusion of old country culture/work ethic with the contemporary GenX approach to life. At times, there is tension between those two ways of thinking.
For instance, my brother and I were encouraged to follow the conservative fields of medicine, law or finance. And so that’s what we did. There’s no way that our parents would have been supportive if we decided to pursue our dreams. It would be unheard of to be paid to do what you love doing.
Selling the story of early retirement.
Even now, as I broached the subject with my mom about leaving my job of 12 years at a major Hollywood studio, it was a tough sell. I had to take a circuitous approach to explain how this would make sense from her point of view (instead of mine), and the most compelling argument was this:
When you take a 50-60 hour week and tack on another 20-hour commute, that lifestyle is not sustainable. It leaves me no time for anything else. This job is not more important than my life. It is not more important than my health. At the most basic level, I worry about days in which I am too tired to drive. The solution is not to get a hotel room closer to the office.
The solution is to leave and find something better.
How I would have loved to tell her the whole story, that leaving the conservative, well-paid, stable income source was just the beginning.
What I really wanted to do was to live a different life one that is unplanned and unstructured.
What I am proposing to do is not common amongst my peers, but I have a couple examples from my past that I can draw from… really courageous friends who had gone on to build amazing lives outside of corporate strategy and finance.
My friend Sam had a passion for cooking, particularly making delicious chocolate truffles. He also had a love for Latin American culture. So after learning a bit of Portuguese, he prepared his house to rent out and moved to Brazil. Eventually he opened a cafe and has operated it successfully for the past 12 years.
Another good friend Lisa was also working in corporate strategy and development. Before eventually becoming a professional writer, she took one more conservative detour which was to go to law school (in part to placate her parents).
Within 6 months of graduating, she hustled and networked her way onto a TV show, and the rest is history. She now is a show-runner of an award-winning TV series, and she has a bright future writing and directing feature films in Hollywood.
I am also reminded of my friend Sue who left her great corporate job of 20 years, to pursue her dream to become a life coach. She had been part of the same company for most of her adult life and felt there was a more fulfilling way to make an impact on the lives of others.
Looking back now, I realize that their lives and mine intersected for a reason. Perhaps it is to give me the courage and support to pursue a life in which I get to do what I love doing.
After a combined 50 years of working in the corporate world, this is a dramatic mind-shift from…
- living to work
- keeping up with the Jones’s
- letting money and possessions own you
Andrew and I are letting all of that go. We want to redefine our relationship with money. Our goal is to venture into the unknown, the unstructured, and to go where the wind blows.
A Life of Philanthropy
Andrew and I are embarking on a new adventure aboard s/v Rachel J. Slocum, where we are contemplating self-sustaining, minimalist living. Beyond downsizing possessions, we also are going green by generating our own power (wind, solar, water) as well as making our own water (e.g., SeaRecovery 30/gal hour hydraulic water maker) and mindful of water conservation, which is critical when we consider the type of sailing we’d like to do. It made sense to me to think about how this guiding principle can also help us to make a decision about how much money is enough and still be consistent with self-sustaining, minimalist living.
One of the ideas that came to mind was: How about we set up serenadewind.com with a non-profit charter in mind? The concept is simple: Whatever funds that come in will go toward paying boat expenses (including upgrades, maintenance, etc.) and any surplus in excess of some threshold will be given away to causes we believe in.
At this stage in our lives, we are not compelled to accumulate money just as we are not compelled to accumulate possessions, because they end up owning you.
While the philanthropy ideas are still in their nascency, we will probably look at contributing to organizations such as OxFam International, Doctors Without Borders, Solar Energy Foundation , or Sailors for the Sea.
Relationship with Money Updates
as of May 9, 2020
Over the past couple weeks, I have been helping my mom with some major financial decisions. Because my dad had passed away 5 years ago this month, she has had to make these decisions on her own. After his passing, she had a burst of energy, selling one rental property, downsizing from a 4-bedroom house, buying a new house, and moving into the new house all in the span of 6 months.
About a month ago, one of her tenants moved out and this triggered the typical property management activity: move-out check list, touch-up painting, repairs, etc. At her age and especially during the coronavirus pandemic, it was worrisome having her interact with so many strangers (contractors, agents, buyers, etc.) As a result, I have been enlisted to help.
Beyond the logistics of helping to coordinate these interactions, I am emotionally present for my mom, providing an anchor for her as she makes these decisions. What strikes me most are the parallels that can be drawn between our lives, now that she is experiencing sleepless nights just as I did earlier this year (see Support Local) while she faces her own relationship with money.
We are working together to break a habit formed and reinforced for over 70 years, I am helping her to learn how to let go and have a different relationship with money. My parents worked to set up a financial nest egg for the future so that they wouldn’t have worries. I reminded her that the best way to honor her younger self is to try to not worry now. Slowly over the next few weeks, she will learn to detach herself from money. I am so grateful to have gone through this process so that I can help her now.