‘Happy Money’ vs. ‘Findependence’

Does your job generates “happy money?”

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(Multi-bits/Getty Images)

(Multi-bits/Getty Images)

Financial planner Jenya Rose, recently argued on my blog that there’s no need to seek early financial independence (Findependence) as long as you eventually find a line of work that allows you to generate  “happy money.”

This started as an exchange on Twitter, and I said initially only that I didn’t think the two concepts are far apart. After letting Jenya speak for herself, I also said I’d respond more fully today. This is my response.

I’ve always said Findependence is all about working because you want to, not because you have to (financially speaking). And I’m fully supportive of career changes where you find a more fulfilling line of work, even if you have to take a pay cut. I did precisely that in 1993, when I took a $25,000 pay cut to leave public relations and return to journalism at age 40.

Findependence facilitates happy income

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call PR unhappy income but I didn’t feel it was my true calling. Certainly my first job (in computer sales) in my early 20s did qualify as unhappy money but fortunately I took the advice of my yoga teacher then and quit after six months. Making cold calls and asking for the order just wasn’t my thing.

By contrast, journalism, creative writing (which is what the book Findependence Day was an attempt to engage in), blogging, web videos and even public speaking could in my view all be categorized as happy income.

I don’t see Findependence as retirement. That’s the whole point of the Financial Independence Hub. Personally, financially speaking, I could “retire” tomorrow in the classical sense of the word. But I’m nowhere near ready to settle down to playing golf and watching daytime television.

For me, doing what I’m doing now—including writing for MoneySense and various other media outlets, running a website or three, writing and publishing e-books, and doing a little public speaking—is happy money! I totally agree with Jenya. Before this year, I had to do many of those happy income projects on the side while my day job generated what Jenya terms unhappy money.

Once I left salaried employment in May of this year (aka Findependence Day), I felt able to spend not just nights and weekends on happy honey endeavours but the precious Monday-to-Friday 9-to-5 time. That was always a goal but to do all these projects required, at least for me, some degree of financial independence.

Retirement redux

Findependence doesn’t necessarily have to occur decades or years before traditional retirement. If classical full-stop retirement occurs at age 65 or 67, I fully anticipate “working” long past that age. To me, Findependence is exactly equivalent to happy money: I’ll be happy to write full-length books (perhaps one every two or three years), to do the odd speaking engagement and probably keep websites like this running and I’ll likely keep doing all these things between 65 and 75, health and the good Lord permitting. (I’m 61 right now.)

My friend Sheryl Smolkin views the world in similar terms. She’s been working on various writing projects and web entrepreneurship for almost a decade since she first “retired.” You can read about her adventures at her Retirement Redux site. Sheryl hopes to write a guest blog for us here at the Hub in the next few weeks.

Extreme early retirement is really early Findependence

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As for millennials achieving “Findependence” in their early 30s, I say wonderful. Read Sean Cooper’s article on how he plans to do just that by age 31, right here at the Hub. Sean (pictured on the left) doesn’t call it retirement, nor should he. I can’t believe all those extreme early retirement authors and bloggers actually “retire” at age 30. If nothing else, they’re still “working” by writing books and blogging about how they “retired” so young. It’s not retirement at all—they’ve achieved financial independence, as defined here. One of my columns in MoneySense this fall was on this exact topic.

Thanks for starting this dialogue, Jenya and for reminding me that on Twitter references to Findependence should be preceded with a hashtag, like this: #Findependence. Who knows, if one day this trends on social media, we might actually effect some positive change.

Plan for longevity, not retirement

This site has a section on longevity and aging because I believe we’re all going to live a lot longer than we may have thought when we were in our 20s and 30s. (I’m addressing fellow Baby Boomers here). I wrote elsewhere that 35 years is a long time to go without a paycheque, if you “retired” at 60 and lived to 95. That goes double for those who think they’re going to retire at 30. Sixty-five years is a helluva long time to go without a paycheque.

One of the bloggers in that section to which we’ve devoted space is Mark Venning of ChangeRangers.com. He’s about my age and believes we should be planning not for retirement, but for longevity. This is also the subject of my current column in MoneySense.

He’s right. So is Jenya.

Call it happy money  if you want, call it “Freedom 55,” “Second Age” or whatever you like. I think Jenya and I almost totally are on the same page: we’re just using different terms for the same concept. For me, however, it’s probably too late to call this the Happy Income Hub. So I’m sticking with the term Findependence!

In any case, I welcome the exchange and hopefully we can have more back-and-forth once our forums are up and running. That’s the plan anyway.

Jonathan Chevreau blogs at www.financialindependencehub.com and other sites. He can be reached at jonathan@findependenceday.com.

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