Updated on 10.24.07

Your Money or Your Life: The Power of Working for a Finite Period of Time

Trent Hamm

YMOYLThis is the twenty-fourth part of The Simple Dollar Book Club reading of Your Money or Your Life. Want to know more?

So, what exactly does that crossover point represent? It’s basically the point of total freedom – the point where you no longer have any association between the requirement to make money and how you spend your time. Better yet, the time you have to get there is pretty definite – you can plot out with some accuracy how long you’ll need to work at something you don’t like.

This little piece of Your Money or Your Life focuses on this implication. When you have a very finite and tangible goal in mind, it’s a lot easier to be motivated to get there. Frugality, instead of being a chore, begins to feel like a tool for reaching your dreams.

Better yet, the destination: suddenly, you have huge swaths of time that no longer have to be dedicated to a job that drains you. Think about the commuting time and all the other demands on top of the time actually at work. That suddenly becomes time you can devote to something else that makes you feel alive.

I attempted to plot this crossover point out for myself and imagined what I would do when I reached it. My work hours would transform pretty quickly into more family time and some extensive volunteer work – I’d love to actually start a small vegetable co-op, large enough that I could spend maybe thirty hours a week gardening at it, but not any larger than that, and earn enough money from it to pay for the supplies and the land. Given that, I’d basically just service families with children and accept applications to the co-op during the winter. This is something I’ve sort of dreamed of doing for a while now, but been unable to do it.

I think this quote from Peter Lynch really took this section home for me. Lynch, who is one of the biggest names ever in stock investing and was responsible for creating the juggernaut Fidelity Magellan fund in the 1980s, quit at the top in 1990 and started spending his time with his family. He wrote a few books and basically dropped off the map. Here’s what he had to say:

I loved what I was doing, but I came to a conclusion, and so did some others: What in the hell are we doing this for? I don’t know anyone who wished on his deathbed that he had spent more time at the office.

I couldn’t say it any better myself.

Tomorrow, we’ll finish up the eighth chapter, “The Crossover Point,” starting with the subheading “Voluntary Action: The Freedom to Choose What You Do and Do What You Choose” and continuing until the end of the chapter. This section appears on pages 279 through 291 in my paperback version of the book.

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  1. This is a very cool chapter and I love the Peter Lynch quote too. His books are great and he is clearly a person who ‘gets’ what work is for.

    I haven’t thought too much yet about what I would really do when reaching that point. Maybe it still seems a bit too far off, but I’m starting to move in that direction.

  2. Minimum Wage says:

    Stuff like this seems very pie-in-the sky to me. The authors don’t say anything about being stuck indefinitely doing something you hate because it pays so poorly that you can’t save up enough to quit.

  3. Brip Blap says:

    I’ve heard that quote that Lynch gave about “nobody wishes on their deathbed they’d worked more” before. I wonder if it was original to him – probably not.

    I think focusing on a crossover point is what gives you the power to achieve “crossing over”. It may seem like a ridiculously remote idea at the moment you imagine it for the first time, but setting a goal and aiming for it are critical.

  4. Today
    25th October I see the dollar dwindling in circles. There is no chance the dollar will come up now as the Far Eastern economies are bettering the American dollar not just on the currency field, but the skies see the Chinese and Russian satellites after many year . Do not know if we are back to the era of Mao kike years but the dollar is definitely out for some time.
    Seems bad but that is the fact American will have to live with. I think the downfall was mostly because of the Iraq war and no oil or no QWMD.
    I thank you
    Firozali A.Mulla MBA PHD
    P.O.Box 6044
    East Africa

  5. Peter says:

    I love that Peter Lynch quote. It’s important to me to be able to look back on my time and feel I’ve been living my own life for my own reasons and not for someone else’s.

    Live for the journey not just the destination.

  6. Donna says:

    I can’t help but wonder where health insurance comes into the picture. Gone are the days were it was a nominal expense. These days a policy for a family of 4 with some basic medical issues can easily run over $1000 – which is twice my mortgage payment!

    You can retire early but you pay for it dearly in the cost of health care – and at the time in your life where it is very expensive, you are older but not yet Medicare eligible. And, then when you can get Medicare you still pay for Part B, Part D and Supplement coverage which is easily half of your SS check….

  7. rebecca says:

    I agreee. Health care is the major thing keeping me at my job. But I’m fortunate that I have a 20hour a week job with health care benefits. It’s also a field I enjoy (though my current position isn’t my first choice). My goal when hitting retirement or a crossover point is to demote to a job with less responsibility that I find more fun –while keeping those health care benefits.

  8. lorax says:

    Little known fact: Peter Lynch actually still works at Fidelity, although only part time. He’s a philanthropist too… he’s almost the polar inverse of Donald Trump.

    The “finite” time seems pretty long to me. When I first read this book (a number of years ago!), I was hoping it would be five years. That nasty dot com bubble set that back. I guess trees really don’t grow to the sky.

    But I am playing with something similar to Trent’s ideas. It would be nice to switch to part time work, and be home during the summer. With the extra income, we might be able to swing that.

  9. Sir. Wednesday, October 31, 2007 paper state the dollar I see over valued

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