Escaping 9-to-5

Here’s my progress so far on my quest escaping 9-to-5.
My original plan was to reduce by half my average activity-time spent working within 12 years.

Learn more about me here and read my detailed plans below…

Annual Average Activity-Time Spent Working (%)

2007   50.5%     Starting Point

2008   49.4%     ON TRACK 1 Vacation Week Added!

2009   48.2%     ON TRACK 1 More Week Added! 

2010   46.8%     ON TRACK 6-Month Leave Signed! 

2011   36.2%     ON TRACK Still paying for upcoming leave… 

2012   38.7%     ON TRACK BUT Great Year! 24-Day Trip to Italy! 6-Month Leave Taken! But not renewed…

2013   49.4%     OFF TRACK Lured back by interesting projects…

2014   50.5%     OFF TRACK Ongoing projects…Heath issues just before end of year.

2015   45.7%    GETTING BACK ON TRACK… Second 6-Month Leave Signed! Also writing again!

2016   36.2%    ON TRACK Back on track for good…Preparing for next year’s 6-Month Leave…

2017   35.9%    ON TRACK Second 6-Month Leave! Awesome 21-Day Trip Around UK!

2018   32.7%    ON TRACK 8-Month Leave signed for 2019…

2019   32.3%*   ON TRACK 8-Month Leave! Reconsidering complete early retirement in 2025…

* 2019 numbers estimated as of January 1st

January 2016 Update

After some missteps last couple years, I now consider myself officially back on track to my original plan to escape 9-to-5 within 12 years!

The first months of 2015 were tough.

But after I took some time to Revitalize My Blog during the summer, I was able to find my rhythm to Restart Writing on a Regular Basis utilizing the 12-Minute Approach.

I’m very glad to finally Enroll in My Second 6-Month Leave of Absence Tour and look forward to really taste it in 2017.

Let’s continue on this delightful path!

Note that the above chart was modified to reflect 2015 and 2016 updated figures.

Interesting Possibilities

In 2008, after I revisited my childhood dreams; for me, less time for work and more time for fun made a lot of sense. And escaping 9-to-5 suddenly seemed like an interesting idea.

It took some time to analyze possibilities. I had to make it work jobwise but also moneywise.

I’m a lucky man because my wife loves and is good at her job (she makes more than me if you read between the lines); she’s also younger and doesn’t want to stop working anytime soon.  I still didn’t want everything to rest on her shoulders.

We decided to gradually take advantage of opportunities to reduce my time spent working and concurrently, to save and invest more aggressively.

Because of the great conditions it offered, I kept the same job but with a whole new focus in mind; still working hard but less often. I never minded an occasional rush as long as it freed up some time afterwards.

My job allowed me to take up to 2 more vacation weeks every year. A 6-month leave was also possible every 2 years. Your salary gets deducted over the whole program so you still get some money in while on vacation or a leave of absence. I know, those conditions are pretty rare and incredible! So, why don’t take advantage of it!  

Those conditions would allow me to gradually escape the 9-to-5 while developing other projects. And all this would eventually get me to pre-retirement safe and sound, 12 years later. 

The Plan

After some number crunching, here’s the strategy that paned out:

Over 12 years, gradually reduce average activity-time spent working by half while investing at least 12% of family’s annual salary and maintaining a long-term stock portfolio return of 12%.

Some may say that a 12% return seems like a pretty lofty goal and may even be unreasonable.

We think that it’s relatively realistic in our case has we prefer to aim for 12% then get 8 to 10% rather than aiming for 8% and only getting 6 or 7%. From experience, a 12% return still appears attainable considering an 8% increase from capital appreciation coupled with 4% from dividends.

But rest assured; we always use a more conservative return of 8% in our projections. According to plan, our portfolio will amount to at least 325 000$ in 2020 before we start taking money out of it. We also know that adjustments will probably be necessary over that long of a period.

On the other hand, our Savings Rate Goal looks quite lame. We often see some much more aggressive objectives out there. The blogosphere seems invaded with devoted followers of high savings rate; a 50% norm is not that rare anymore. Our skinny 12% may appear pretty pitiful.

Several factors can explain that so small savings objective. For one thing, we are attacking the beast on multiple fronts. Even though it’s gradual, we are trying to reduce time spent working right away while still maintaining relatively high revenues. High revenues translate into higher savings amounts but lower relative percentages. We are also planning to realize dreams and reward ourselves along the way rather than waiting at the end of the whole process to collect benefits.

My lovely wife’s appeal for frugality is also less developed than mine. Yet over the years, we both achieved significant process. We kind of meet halfway where she entices me towards better quality and I encourage her to avoid wasting.   

That lower savings goal also has an unexpected side effect. The 12% Savings Rate Goal is less impressive and seems more attainable for the average-Joe. Thus, this accessible objective seems to be much more prone to inspire people and to help them implement that type of change in their own lives.

To reduce time spent working, the original plan was to permanently add 1 extra vacation week both in 2008 and 2009 and starting in 2012, to take a 6-month leave every 2 years as my outstanding working conditions allow me to.

Note that time calculated for leave of absence is distributed over the salary deduction period.
For instance for a leave the last 6 months of 2012, 75% would be used in 2011-2012 rather than 100% in 2011 and 50% in 2012.

The Results So Far

Mid 2015…Investing-wise, things are going great and running smoothly!

We’re keeping pace for both our Savings Rate Goal (actual average above 13%) and Investment-Return Goal (annualized return still above 14%). Refer to our Investing Goals Page for all the details.

As far as reducing time spent working goes, we opened up pretty strong but…

As you can see from the chart above, it started very well. Actually, we were right on the number till the end of our 6-month leave of absence in 2012.

To be honest, 2012 was all we dreamed about and probably even better: a fantastic year with lots of writing, time to rest and have fun, an amazing 24-Day Trip to Italy, etc.

Then I kind of fumbled a bit…

All rejuvenated and full of energy after that so pleasant year, my enrollment in the leave of absence program was not renewed right away. My inner voice was saying: « I don’t need more time off for now. We will do it later... » The first of many little mistakes…After a while, we simply forgot about renewal.

Then, new enticing projects quickly came up in 2013: « Why not work a little more; we’ll have plenty of time to rest later… » That was it! We were hooked; lured back in the rat race devilish spiral.

At first, it was exciting and fun: « Finally, some action! Things changing for the better! »

Then it progressively got heavier…

By the end of 2013, I had completely stopped writing. I had no time to waste on such futile proceedings.

Two main projects were due in 2014. During that summer, I even skipped family vacations and logged in a ton of overtime: « $$$ Cha Ching! »…But the actual event was poorly planned and that week was exhausting and dull as it can be: « Boo! What a waste...»

After that, I continued working my butt off, in charge of the second project scheduled by the end of the year: the implementation of a new tool to help manage customer’s requests and to improve feedback.

Reactions were fairly good but many resisted change, even if that much more efficient system meant making their lives easier. Not everybody was doing their small part so I had to tight up a lot of loose ends. We had a superb new Porsche in hand but still used it like an old Lada!

A couple of weeks before the Holidays, my body gave an obvious warming: I suddenly became dizzy and almost passed out. Fortunately, nothing too serious but the doctors gave me the usual rest-and-avoid-stress speech… Once again, I had gone too far; focusing too much on work and losing that so elusive but precious balance in my life.

Sadly, from that point on, I was never the same. The famous system is still up and running, actually improving day by day, but I really don’t care that much anymore. I will always remain professional but I will never put all my heart into a project for these people any longer.

What’s Next?

My first months of 2015 were shaded and kind of dark.

With time, working less and focusing on more vital matters, I slowly regained my balance and harmony.

I eventually restarted writing and made some plans for some new exciting family projects. Luckily for me, my original 12-Year Plan is still viable. I gladly enlisted back on the program for a new 6-month leave of absence in 2017. Let’s hope I won’t make the same stupid mistake twice and renew it afterwards.

During that whole experience, I learned that you can get carried away and that things don’t always go according to your plans. But if you are fortunate enough, a solid plan may allow you to adjust and can get you back on track even after some ugly mistakes.

Let's hope the future will give you a chance to pursue youthful teenager's dreams of your own! 

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