Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Are you passionate about your career?

When I was in high school, I was told by my parents and teachers to find a career based on what I was passionate about. Choosing a career path is a lot to ask of a 17 or 18 year old, and people often stay in school for years, get multiple degrees, leave jobs to get re-educated, or drift aimlessly, never really finding what it is they can be passionate about. They ponder what their true calling in life could be, and how to turn that into the Dream Job. But for some people – me included – a job will always be just that: a job.

Another one you hear a lot is “do what you love, and the money will follow.” Which might be the case for a few very lucky people, but unfortunately probably isn’t reality for many. If your passion happens to come with a low-paying wage, irregular/odd hours, or some other major issue, you have to make a choice: do you follow your passion with whatever faults it comes with, or do you choose something that you’re lukewarm about, but will offer you the lifestyle and stability that you want?

I chose not to pursue my passion because it did not align with the lifestyle I wanted for myself, and I learned that in 2007 – just one year after graduating college. I was offered a job that was two steps away from my Ultimate Dream Job. The only thing was, I’d have to take a 35% pay cut from what I was making at the time. It also required irregular hours, and plenty of OT (so much that it would be impossible to get a part-time job in order to make up the difference in salary). I wanted the job, but I couldn’t justify it. I would have to sacrifice my other dreams – like early retirement, owning a home, and traveling regularly – just to have what I would consider The Perfect Job. Essentially, I’d have to make my job my lifestyle choice.

In the end, I turned down the job. Which actually surprised me. I always knew The Perfect Job for me wasn’t exactly going to be high paying, I just always figured I’d find a way to make it work. But when the time came to actually make that decision, I started to second guess myself. Did I want to spend my life working long hours for a low salary? How important was traveling to me, and was retiring early really a goal I wanted to achieve? With the new job, I wouldn’t be able to do any of those things, no matter how much I cut out of my budget. So all of a sudden, The Perfect Job didn’t seem so perfect anymore. It was a hard decision to make, but I had to be realistic with myself.

I realized that, above all else, I would never be satisfied with my career unless I saw potential to grow my salary as I grew as a professional. And unfortunately, that was the one thing The Perfect Job couldn’t offer. It would always be low-paying, even at the highest level. So I chose a different path.

I am not passionate about my day job. Don’t get me wrong, I like marketing a lot. I think I’m pretty good at it, and it makes me happy enough that I hope to work in this field for the rest of my career. It is the path I chose for its versatility, salary range, and creativity. It offers a little bit of everything I like, and there’s a great deal of potential upward movement as my career continues to progress. So while it’s not my Dream Job, it’s as close as I’m going to get to it, while maintaining financial stability and achieving all of my other life goals as well. And really, I can’t ask for much more than that.

Some people have found a career they are passionate about. Whether they are rich, or poor, or anything in between, they wake up every morning and are absolutely excited to go to work. I honestly think that is incredible, and a really rare thing these days. But it’s unrealistic to believe that can happen to everyone, and I think we put too much pressure on people to find a career like that. There’s nothing wrong with not being in love with your job, and you don’t have to feel passionate about everything that you do in your career to feel fulfilled. You just have to like it enough to want to do it every day.

Are you passionate about your job?

The goal of early retirement

At least once a year I have bit of a breakdown about my early retirement plan. Even though I run the numbers every year to make sure I’m still on track, I somehow end up convincing myself that I’m not saving enough. This happened last week, and I promptly took an entire evening away from packing up my house to play in spreadsheets and run numbers through about a million online retirement calculators. I also tried to share my panic and frustration with RD, but because he’s got a nice government pension waiting for him when he retires, he didn’t really understand where I was coming from.

Early retirement is my number one financial goal. Right now my goal is 55-57. This has been what I’ve wanted since I started taking a keen interest in my finances back in 2006, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. But what does retirement actually look like? Taken from a 2013 post I wrote, retirement to me means having the freedom to do whatever I want to do, without the obligation to work for a living. I guess you could call it financial independence, rather than retirement.”

Freedom. It’s a word I’ve been using a lot lately. I recently freed myself from my mortgage, and the lifestyle I desire now (as well as in retirement) allows me the freedom to make whatever choices I want to make. I want my life to be open to all opportunities, and perhaps as I get older, those opportunities will become more defined.

Related: Why 20-somethings might have trouble retiring by 65

I may not know what retirement looks like for me from a day-to-day point of view just yet (because a lot can happen in the next 25 years), and that’s okay. Right now, I want to live in a small (tiny) home in (or near) my hometown. But just like in life, I don’t think retirement needs to look a certain way in order to be happy. I may have this exact lifestyle for the rest of my life until I die. Or maybe a family is in my future. Or maybe as soon as I retire, I’ll want to move somewhere exotic or travel the world with my husband. I guess the point is, it doesn’t matter what I want to do when I’m older, it just matters that I’m taking the steps now to allow me the freedom to make those choices later.

Back in 2006, I was saving $50/month towards retirement. I’ve come a long way since then, but the $950/month I’m currently saving is still not enough. Once employer contributions kick in, that amount will increase to $1,200. If my average annual salary is around $80k, and I want to be saving 20% of my gross income towards retirement, then I should be at about $1,350/month.

I’ve got some time to think about it before I set my 2016 goals, but I’m fairly confident that I can save that amount, as well as save for travel and any other savings goals that may come up (my total savings rate should be about 50-60%). I’m just not sure how to adjust my auto-debits, as my income can fluctuate quite a lot from month to month.

How much are you putting away towards retirement? 
Does the amount you’re saving align with your retirement goals?

December 2015 Goals

December is going to be a painful month for spending. Especially because I missed a pay cheque in November due to taking some time off before starting my new job. But my saving grace is that I billed out for $8,500 in freelance income last month. After a slow start, 2015 is going to end up being a pretty good year for freelancing. I’m nowhere near the amount I used to make back in 2011 or 2012, but I’m only putting in 5+ hours per week compared to 25-30 hours I used to work. Now that I’m getting back into the habit of blogging on a regular basis again, I’m excited to look into a potential rebrand for this website.

Usually by now I’ve finished my Christmas shopping, but so far I’ve only bought something for my sister. As for RD and I, we decided to spend money on an experience together instead of stuff. RD came up with the brilliant idea of buying a 10-pack of Vancouver Canadians tickets for the upcoming season ($120 for 10 tickets + 4 bonus tickets = 7 games together). We both like baseball, and the stadium is just a short walk from our house ! :) That leaves my parents to buy for, as well as my sister’s boyfriend. The budget for all of this falls under the Miscellaneous category.


This month I’ve included something new into the budget – my savings goals. I’m not sure if I’m going to keep this going forward, but it’s here for now. Even though I don’t disclose my exact salary (for privacy reasons), I think it’s useful to show how much I’m saving versus how much I’m spending. Going forward, I’ll make somewhere between $80-90k annually between freelancing and my full-time job. But because freelancing is so sporadic and I cannot predict when I’ll be getting paid for the work that I do, I can’t change my monthly savings amounts to reflect that.

These savings amounts account for everything that is automatically debited from my accounts every pay day. It doesn’t show my actual savings rate (which is usually higher, depending on how much I actually end up spending in the month, as well as how much freelance income I bring in). I think that come January, I’ll be able to save about 60% of my net income on average.

The amounts below also only indicate my personal contributions, and do not account for employer contributions through the company RRSP or SPP. I will be eligible for RRSP matching after 3 months, and employer SPP match contributions only happen once a year.

12 - December 2015 Budget

December 2015 Goals:

  • Stay on budget with household expenses. We have priced out a bed and a kitchen island, and it should come to about $550 each after tax. This is quite reasonable considering both items are practical and can be used for many years. Hopefully we don’t have to buy any other big ticket items, but there’ll be a lot of smaller storage solution items that we’ll need to pick up. We also have access to a truck to move our furniture, but if it’s raining, we’ll likely rent a van instead.
  • Look at gym options. What was nice about my old job is that there was a decent gym in the building that we could all use for free. My new job doesn’t have a gym, but luckily there’s a rec centre just a 10 min. walk from the new place, as well as a couple of places like Steve Nash or Fitness World (anyone have any experience with these companies? I’ve only ever gone to rec centres).
  • Figure out my house sale. Mainly the financial part of it – where is that wad of cash going to sit? Decisions must be made.
  • Look into increasing my RRSP/TFSA contributions. My goal for 2015 was to increase these contributions to at least $800/month. They currently sit at $950, and will increase to $1,200 once my employer contributions kick in. But I know I could be saving more.

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