What If Your Paycheck Was Happiness, Growth And Fulfillment?

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

Last Updated on by Nate Zhang

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.


  1. Avatar

    Mustard Seed Money

    January 27, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Awesome article Mr. 1500. I totally agree that the traditional 9-5 is not sustainable anymore and that to be truly wealthy is to have the time to pursue your passions and take care of yourself. Who cares if you make millions on wall street if you die of a heart attack at 40 b/c you spent years neglecting your body and never got to have fun. Great job on building your financial nut and I hope to be where you are in a couple of years.

    • Avatar

      Mr. 1500

      January 27, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      Thanks so much for the kind comments MSM!

      And yeah, there are so many reasons to not rely on a 9-5 anymore. The main one is disruption which happens fast in modern times. No more staying at a company for 40 years waiting to get your gold watch and pension…

  2. Avatar

    Full Time Finance

    January 27, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Your conclusion is spot on. Why do you think billionaires invest huge amounts of money in living longer or feeling young? Several of them have moonshots in this area. Because time is the ultimate economy. Money is just about making your time more efficient so you can maximize your enjoyment time.

    • Avatar

      Mr. 1500

      January 27, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      Yep, I’ve read about Google’s project in this area. Time. Is. Everything.

  3. Avatar

    Ellie @ The Chedda

    January 27, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Wealth is definitely wonderful! At $300k net worth I’m starting to feel a bit more freedom in the decisions I make, but having a nest egg like yours will be incredibly liberating one day. I’m not sure what I’ll do with myself because there will be so many different options!

    • Avatar

      Mr. 1500

      January 27, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      I’m probably not well adjusted because I can feel how much money changed me; definitely for the better though. It is wonderful.

  4. Avatar

    Gentleman of Leisure

    January 27, 2017 at 10:10 am

    “Time, not money is you most valuable asset.” This is so true, having the time to pursue our interests, both personally and for the common good, without the burden of worrying about a paycheck is what motivates me everyday. Thanks for sharing!

    • Avatar

      Mr. 1500

      January 27, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      Let me tell you, it is wonderful having my own time. I just need to find a way to get more of it now!

  5. Avatar


    January 27, 2017 at 10:19 am

    Pretty clear blueprint. I’m not sure why anyone would want to follow something else. The 1500’s have done an amazing job. What do your girls think of it all? These are the lessons I’m making sure my three children understand very well.

    • Avatar

      Mr. 1500

      January 27, 2017 at 12:19 pm

      Ha, the girls are still too young to grasp much of it. However, one time I was a little tipsy after a couple beers and told them that we were millionaires. I don’t think they quite grasped it…

  6. Avatar

    Mrs. Picky Pincher

    January 27, 2017 at 11:42 am

    I think the quote was “The love of money is the root of all evil,” which I actually agree with. Money isn’t inherently evil; it’s just a tool. It depends on how humans use it, and we often use it for evil, unfortunately.

    Mr. Picky Pincher and I were talking about our work situation last night. I was offered a freelance contract on the side for doing social media, and it got me to wondering about my professional goals. I’d love to start working part-time myself and then spend my time getting things done and growing my blog as a stream of income. Unfortunately it won’t be a prudent move for us until we pay off our student loans in 2018, but it’s still something I’m working towards. 🙂

  7. Avatar

    Smart Provisions

    January 27, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    You got the definition of wealth right down to the T, Mr. 1500!

    Time is more important than money, and I’d rather have all the time in the world and just enough money instead of all the money in the world with no time.

  8. Avatar

    Steve from Arkansas

    January 27, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Great post, and great day you logged. I am also retired FI although I pursue four side gigs for about 16-24 hours a week because they are fun and I just like earning money, as strange as that might sound since I don’t need any money. However my day was spent sick in a recliner. Too sick to join my wife on our normal 5:30 AM five mile run, or to play my normal evening tennis, to do any side gig work and too sick to even get dressed! I’m fine now, not sure what it was but it did certainly help reinforce in my mind that health is worth even more than $$$. Like you I am active and stay in shape but sometimes out of nowhere life reminds you that health can go away in an instant no matter how well you manage the things you can control.

    • Avatar

      Mr. 1500

      January 28, 2017 at 1:40 pm

      Four side gigs! That is awesome! I think you commented before about how you enjoyed earning money. And same here. I love to earn it, as long as it’s doing fun work. And yeah, work should always be a part of life. A life of constant leisure would be hell.

      I love that you start your day off with a 5 mile run. What an incredibly luxury! I have no doubt that you’ll live longer because of FI.

      Onward and upward in 2017 my friend!

  9. Avatar


    January 27, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    Totally agree. Time and health are the top 2. Money is important, but it’s down the list.
    Being able to do what you want with your time is worth a lot more to me than having more money. We have enough money and I’m happy with it.
    More would be nice, but it won’t make me much happier. Maybe just a tiny bit. 🙂

    • Avatar

      Mr. 1500

      January 28, 2017 at 1:40 pm

      “More would be nice, but it won’t make me much happier. Maybe just a tiny bit.”

      I know right? I feel totally silly for saying this, but I totally want a Tesla Model 3. Completely ridiculous.

  10. Avatar


    January 27, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Your definition of wealth is spot on. And your day sounds amazing! I’ll still a ways off of FI myself, but every day I’m trying to do things to make myself get closer. Great read!

  11. Avatar


    January 27, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Awesome article Carl, agree with you on all front. Money is important but time is even more important. We can’t buy time. 🙂

    • Avatar

      Mr. 1500

      January 28, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      Yep, we sure can’t buy time. At least not until Google, cryogenics or AI invent immortality (see Wait but Why for an explanation of those last two).

  12. Avatar

    Primal Prosperity

    January 27, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    I just taught a group of teenagers and emphasized a lot of these points. I made it clear that it is important to find freedom first, then you can do anything you want and continue to make money. It was very well received.

  13. Avatar

    Shannon MILLS

    January 28, 2017 at 8:25 am

    Great read! Time with those people we love is one of the most important things we will ever do. Bravo on making it happen so early in life.

  14. Avatar

    Mr. Need2save

    January 28, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    I like your definition of wealth much more than Webster’s. I can’t wait until I can decide to go for a run on Tuesday afternoon at 2pm just because I want to. Given that I’m a software engineer that actually still enjoys software development, I’m sure that I’ll find side gigs and hustles once we are financially independent. Hopefully I’ll be able to go to some of those conferences that my employer would never pay for.

    • Avatar

      Mr. 1500

      January 28, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      Hey Mr. N2S!

      I’m a software developer too and am having great fun coding stuff that I really want to code. I also love breaking up my day so that I exercise, code, read, etc. at certain times to maximize productivity. It’s wonderful to take two hours in the middle of the day to work out.

  15. Avatar

    Amber tree

    January 28, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    excellent definition of wealth! so great, so true!

    Like you, I do not find the W word scary, forbidden or evil. In my plan, there will be work, work that excites me. Maybe, I have found that right now, in the startup where I work. We all want to go the extra mile. No useless meetings and office politics…
    I can only imagine what life could be once that becomes optional and each school holiday, we are off, slow travelling where we want…

  16. Avatar


    January 29, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    You are definitely right about time being the most important asset. I have to get my mind around the fact that I don’t have as much time as I think. I think that is part of my problem: The what if? I scold myself so much for what could’ve been done that I miss out in the here and now. For example, I was thinking today if I was just 10 years younger the search for having kids, earning more money, etc would be so much better.

    I have to be a better job of being present and being really grateful for what I have and will have. In that sense, time is not my enemy, but an ally because this is my time and I am doing pretty well compared to most.

  17. Avatar

    Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes

    January 29, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    Great post Carl! I loved it! Wealth *is* freedom!

    Keep up the excellent writing!

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