What If Your Paycheck Was Happiness, Growth And Fulfillment?

You don’t need to be a billionaire to enjoy the benefits of wealth.

I wrote this post on a Wednesday. Here is how my day went down:

  • 6:00am – 7:15: Had breakfast with my daughters and helped them get ready for school.
  • 7:15 – 8:00: Ran a mile and a half with the children at a school sponsored fitness activity.
  • 8:00 – 9:00: Responded to email, paid bills, and washed dishes.
  • 9:00 – 11:00: Set Pandora to a classical guitar station and started writing this post. I also worked on a chapter of a book that I’m writing.
  • 11:00 – 11:40: P90X chest and back workout.
  • 11:40 – 1:00pm: The leg workout wasn’t enough, so I went to the local recreation center and ran 3 miles. I brought a lunch that I ate after my workout.
  • 1:00 – 3:00: Went to the local library where I caught up on reading and worked on my book a little more.
  • 3:00 – 4:30: Picked the girls up from school and went for a hike.
  • 4:30 – 7:00: Homework, dinner and cleanup.
  • 7:00-8:00: Bedtime for the girls; washing up and reading.
  • 8:00-9:30: Reading with the wife.
  • 9:30: Zzzzzzzzzz.

Note two things about my routine:

  • It was a weekday and I wasn’t at work. No commute. No sitting in a cube. No mindless banter with co-workers.
  • I had a wonderful day. I was able to work on personal projects, read, spend lots of time with my children and exercise for hours.

I can structure my life this way because I don’t have to trade my time for money anymore. This is what Average Joe calls a job and at the age of 43, it is now optional for me. I work part-time and it will soon be no-time. And it is glorious.

Wealth is Wonderful

Money is the root of all evil. -Foolishness

The lack of money is the root of all evil. -Mark Twain (wise man)

In case you can’t tell which camp I’m in; I firmly believe this:

Money is good and wealth is wonderful.

Before I elaborate, I’d like you to think of one question. I’ll tell you the answer in a moment:

What does it mean to be wealthy? What is wealth?

Hint: It has less to do with money than you think.

90,000 Hours

The average person spends about 90,000 hours at a job over the course of their life. To put that in perspective, there are 8,760 hours in a year. If we worked 24 hours straight, 7 days a week, we’d still spend over 10 years working.

Most of us make an unconscious, but disturbing life choice; we wait until our lives are 80% over to leave work. According to Smartasset, the average retirement age is 63 while death comes 15 years later at the age of 78. By the time we stop working and really start enjoying life, our bodies are in decline. I don’t like this; not at all.

Freeing yourself from the corporate cube early has so many incredible benefits, I often wonder why we wait until we’re close to death to free ourselves from the shackles.

Consider Freedom

Join me in a thought exercise. Imagine you came into enough money to never have to work again. Here is how your life may change:

No more work stress: No more micromanaging boss. No more deadlines. No more sitting in traffic for hours every week in a drowsy haze uttering bad words at people who cut you off. No more worrying if your company will kick your butt out the door when the next recession comes around and sales crater. Sure, you may choose to work, but working because you want to, not because you have to, is always better.

Give back: I volunteer at my children’s school at least once per month. I am lecturing a group of students at Colorado State University about money management. I feel wonderful when I give my time. Imagine devoting some of yourself to improving the lot of someone else. There are fewer things more rewarding.

Travel: This summer, I’ll take a vacation with my family to the Northeast for 3 weeks. Because I don’t have to be back at a job, I’ll be able to take a relaxed trip instead of one week where there isn’t even enough time to decompress.

Exercise: At the age of 43, I’m in the best shape of my life because I have time to dedicate to my body. A couple of years ago, I couldn’t run a mile. Last week, I ran four miles. My blood pressure is down and I feel great.

Meaningful work: Yes, I said it. The W word; work. Work should always be a core part of our lives, but not the type of work you have to do. I’m talking about the kind of work that you wake up early for because you’re so excited to get started. This work is nothing less than embracing your passions. And it doesn’t matter if you make money or not. Your paycheck is happiness, growth and fulfillment.

If I haven’t convinced you that wealth (and I really mean freedom) is wonderful, I have another question for you. When you look back on your life when you’re 80 or 90, would you like this to be how you remember your best years:


Or this:

This does not suck. (bottom photo courtesy of PopUp Business School).


How to Get Your Freedom

Getting your freedom is easier than you think. I’m 43 and I have mine. And I’m not a physician, lawyer or executive. I’m a software developer with self-taught skills, but still managed to accumulate a net worth of over 1.6 million by living and thinking just a little different:

My net worth graph. You can get your own net worth graph at Personal Capital.

  • Know your level of Enough. Step off the hedonic treadmill and be happy with where you are (and who you are) in life. You are not allowed to:
    • Upgrade your home or car because you received a raise at work.
    • Get a new phone or TV just because a better one came out.
    • Pay for services (lawn mowing) so you can watch more TV.

What is Wealth?

And we finally arrive at the definition of wealth.

If you define wealth by piles of money and material possessions, you may not consider me wealthy. I am not a multi-millionaire. I drive a 14-year-old car that has almost 200,000 miles on it. My house has less than 2,000 square feet of space, much smaller than the typical American’s. I go out to eat only once or twice per month.

While I don’t live a life of flying first class and driving fancy cars, I’ve realized something critically important:

Time, not money is your most valuable asset.

This is obvious to an 80-year-old, but not so obvious when you’re 30. Since time is everything, let’s redefine wealth:

Wealth is having enough resources to be able to spend your time as you choose without worrying about money. A wealthy person lives life on their own terms.

A wealthy life is a wonderful life. Wealth is truly wonderful.

About the Author

Mr. 1500 is a programmer and personal finance writer who loves to write about personal finance, early retirement and anything else that has to do with money. He is most known for blogging about his goal of retiring within 1500 days, a story which he shares on his blog 1500days.com. His early retirement story has been featured in nationally syndicated media including CNBC and BusinessInsider. When not thinking about numbers and dollar signs, you can find him with his family playing in the beautiful outdoors of Colorado.


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