My Life in a Box

During one of our walks around the neighbourhood the other night, my wife and I had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: It would be nice to break-free from work eventually wouldn’t it?

Her: Yes, and that’s what we’re working towards <pause>, right?

Me: Yes, breaking out of the box.  I mean, we live in a box (house), we drive in a box (car), and we work in a box (office cubicle).  Everything is a damn box.

Her: When you put it that way, I suppose we do.  So, when are we getting out of the box again?

Me: Good question.

I don’t have the answer to my wife’s question for today’s post but we are both aligned – we are working towards a level of financial freedom.   If we can stick to our financial plan for the next 8 years, the house will be paid for and we should be in a financial position to take advantage of some opportunities.   Here are some options that have been discussed recently, options that are on the table:

  • Selling the house, investing the proceeds from the sale, and living off the passive income from the investments to travel abroad.
  • Selling the house, and renting for a bit until we figure out what we want to do.
  • Keeping the house, working part-time and travelling part-time.
  • Other options…

I have no idea what the future holds but we do know we want to seize some opportunities and take some new adventures down the road.   I suppose this is what financial freedom can provide, the choice to break down the walls of any box.

What are you working towards – retirement or financial freedom?  Do these words mean the same thing to you?   Any advice you have for us?

18 Responses to "My Life in a Box"

  1. What are you working towards – retirement or financial freedom? Well at this point, I don’t work, so I guess I am retired. I do not like that tag line though as retirement suggests something less productive, which I’m not. Maybe I should refer to myself as an at home dad, but then again my wife dislikes that term… So, in the end I struggle with what to refer o myself as when people ask. Realistically, When people ask, I should respond – Enjoying life and all it has to offer… Unfortunately when you say this others look to their own situation and then want to push you away… Do these words mean the same thing to you? Retirement is a change of course from a daily routine or career to something different. Finacial Freedom is being able to do what you want, meaning if I understand my finances, we are able to plan and do the things we would like…. within reason of course. Financial freedom provides for a well balanced life in my opinion and not well what are we going to do because the wallet gets fatter everyday because of our investments… Any advice you have for us? Plan and think about life and what it means to you. What would you like to achieve? If you were not working what would you like to do today, tomorrow for the next 2 months? if you have a list then well align your life and all it’s daily workings to support what you want to achieve. I know for me I am involved in many “extracurricular” things from volunteering, to home repair, to supporting friends and my community. My primary goal is to spend quality time with my son and reduce my wife’s life stress as she continues to work (she loves her job and it pays decently ta boot!). Retirement can mean many things, but it does not mean you have to sit back and relax… It is really more of a time to capitalize on doing the things that truly define who you are and what you stand for morally. – cheers

    1. Loved the detailed comment Phil.

      I also don’t like the term “retirement”, it’s outdated for me anyhow.

      “Enjoying life and all it has to offer…” Solid answer and I believe this is what I am working towards. I enjoy many aspects of my job, but it doesn’t define me. I hope to aspire to do more with my time and energy at some point, including volunteer work.

      Financial Freedom is definitely what my wife and I are working towards, that’s the plan. To me if offers choice. I appreciate your advice, it’s always great to hear from folks who have attained what they’ve been working towards, and learning what worked for them to apply it to our own situation Phil.


    2. Phil, Why don’t you tell them you/re a personal investment manager? Admittedly you only have one client, but that’s none of their business unless you like them and want to share more.

  2. Mark,

    I think that “getting out if the box” means something a bit different than abandoning your home, car and office. If either of these are really tying you down or keeping you from exploring, perhaps you have a point, but these are probably not boxes for you.

    A home is a place to live, a base of operations, an island of stability in a sometimes turbulent existence. Make your home a place of peace.

    Your car is a transportation devise. Bit gives you freedom. It isn’t tying you down. Use it, or not, as you choose. You are in control of your car, not the other way around.

    Your cubicle or office is the place where you do the productive work that is financing your investment plan. If you don’t like the company you work for, change jobs. If you don’t like your cubicle, work from home or decorate it or whatever. Your cubicle does not contain you. You simply occupy it.

    The real boxes that we live in are the ones we build around ourselves and carry with us all day long. They are the limitations we place on our selves because of fear or lack of awareness or fixed attitudes. They are the boxes of entrenched ideas. Especially ideas about ourselves.

    The best ways I know, to break out of these boxes involve meditation, prayer and quiet conversations with people you trust.

    By the way, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences about investing so generously. They are excellent.

    1. Great comments Jim. I’m looking at these “boxes” metaphorically as something that “contains” me, as financial obligations. I need to work, income provides opportunities to own a car, own a home. I’m working diligently to pay off debts as obligations to others so in a sense, I am “contained” and bound by those obligations. Once those obligations are done, I will/should/hopefully will have more freedom and choices in my life.

      I like my home, I like my (old) car and I like my job. However, I don’t think I’d be the first person to say if I had financial freedom I’d do things a little bit differently. 😉

  3. I agree with Jim’s comments. They resonate with my own views on ‘what is a box anyway?’ I am retired; in other words, I stopped being paid to work for someone else. Now I work for myself, playing as a grandmother most days and the smiles and laughter are worth more than any currency.

    There are many who believe that if you do what you truly love to do and it gives you joy, then the money will follow, if that is also important to you. If writing this blog is your love, rather than the job that brings in the money, then don’t look back. Maybe it’s time for a book. I could have used your advice 40 years ago, and now I read your blog because I sense a tremendous desire to help people with an important part of their every day lives, and I like your writing style. Genuine is the word that comes to mind.

    In the end, money isn’t what makes people happy, the lives of many big lottery winners will show that. What makes us happy is appreciating the gift of each moment and the people in our lives every day.

    Thank you for the gift of your blog Mark.

    And PS, my clover lawn is doing nicely…thanks to you.

    1. Thanks for responding Kathryn. Like I told Jim, I’m looking at these “boxes” metaphorically as something that “contains” me, as financial obligations. Once those obligations are done, I will/should/hopefully will have more freedom and choices in my life.

      I do like my job and line of work, but there are days, I guess we all have them!

      I do enjoy the blog and the writing, it’s fun. As long as I enjoy it, I will do it and I don’t see that changing for some time to come.

      Money definitely doesn’t make me happy but it’s the choices I have with it that makes me happy. Time is precious and I value every bit of it and want to use it wisely.

      I’m happy you enjoy the blog, I’ll try and keep up with your high expectations!

      Best wishes.

  4. At least those boxes are “constructive”.

    Your home is many things, there is a reason there is the saying “there is no place like home”. You can rent something but there is always that “short term” month to month feeling of do I want to still be here next month, next year…

    Your car takes you to places that you can have great life experiences at. There is also some truth to the journey being better then the destination. It does provide freedom. Again it how you look at it, negatively or positively.

    Your work is the the box that allows you to work towards FI maybe the least fun box but it’s what you make of it when you are there. You can hate your time every day at work like Joe at “Retire by 40 but my wife still works” did, or you can look forward to a job if you put it in another perspective in your mind. Maybe your job indirectly makes other peoples life easier if you look at it with an open mind. Maybe find something else you like to do.

    Lastly for those city people that ditch their cars and basically live 99 % of their lives in a few blocks east – west – north – south of their home. Aren’t they simply living in an outdoor self restricted box? They never leave the comfort zone of their immediate neighborhood because “everything is there”? I find that an odd way to live. That’s just surviving to me. Your not growing.

    1. Fair point Paul, and regarding the home, I probably wouldn’t be happy renting. At least right now.

      The car is a car, I’m not too fussy about my old car, although I would like a nice ride at some point in my life.

      The work is good, I’m happy (I also have bad days but so does everyone else) but the work is also temporary in that it’s getting me to where I want to be; it as you say allows me to work towards FI even though the fun isn’t always there.

      I never got the city folks that don’t venture out beyond their ‘hood either. I couldn’t live like that but I guess what works for some people doesn’t work for all.

      Thanks for reading and writing.

  5. Can you really retire without having financial freedom? i guess maybe if retirement is forced on you by legislation or ill health. But otherwise would anyone retire if they didn’t feel financially stable?

    Anyway, that’s just quibbling over words because I think what you meant was are we working towards being able to choose our path without worrying about finances earlier than the standard 65. (If that’s not what you meant, I’m sorry!)

    We will probably be able to stop worrying about finances long before 60. In fact, if I wasn’t the worrying kind, we probably already could because the various retirement calculators I’ve experimented with say we just have to make minimum wage (each) between now and 65 to be fine. But our life is always inventing new things we’d like to save up for: our children’s education; helping them with their first home; paying for their weddings or investing in the start-ups of their personal businesses; expanding our giving to the charities we support; helping family members in retirement who deserve a bit better than what their pensions can support. There’s lots of ways to spend money!

    We tend to be savers by nature so being stable financially has been more of a byproduct of working than a planned goal. We have also always expected to find our “retirement” dates will be chosen by our employer: they tend to slash and hack their way through the employee lists every 3-5 years and force everyone 55 and older into retirement. So we have given some thought to what other employment opportunities interest us for when (not if) that happens. We know most of our choices will drop our income to about 1/3 of where it is now but we should be able to manage that.

    We realize we’ve been tremendously lucky: we have strong, loving families and were blessed with some saleable skills. We try to give back a lot because we know many, many people can’t say the same.

    1. You are correct Bet Crooks…”I think what you meant was are we working towards being able to choose our path without worrying about finances earlier than the standard 65.”

      That’s the plan.

      I hope to stop worrying about retirement and other plans, by age 50 or 55 at the latest, but unfortunately I am the worrying kind.

      Those sounds like great things to save and be thankful for: helping kids with home, weddings or personal businesses, not to mention charity and those that are less-fortunate. “Retirement” always sounds like stopping a bunch of things. I prefer financial freedom because it’s the start of whatever you want. This is what this post was all about.

      Thanks for the insightful comments.

  6. We’re working toward retirement. We have a whole plan set out but it involves working. Travelling sounds great short term but I am a huge homebody and love to take up projects and be productive at home. I know my husband really enjoys his job too. It would just be nice to have the option, even if we didn’t take it. You know?

    1. I know for sure Daisy. I think/I know this is what my wife and I are striving for…the options and choices. Good luck on saving and investing for your choices, and I appreciate all the comments on the site.

  7. Hi Mark,

    I have a question… Any particular reason why you aren’t putting both your TFSAs (yours and your wife) to the mortgage thus reducing significantly the interests to be paid to your mortgage broker ?


    1. Thanks for your question Marc. We’re trying to take a balanced approach. Our mortgage costs are around 3% now, we can earn that and more via investing, so I think it makes sense to contribute to TFSAs, RRSPs and paydown the mortgage using lump sum payments.

      Our mortgage should be done in 8 years. Over the same time, we will have maxed out our TFSAs and hopefully RRSPs as well. This might set us up to retire early.


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