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From Financial Integrity

Ann - I can live my values

  • Urban, Western United States
  • Multi-adult household
  • No children/dependents


I've always had an environmental bent. In college, my dream was to save enough money to buy a farm, farm it organically, and bring students onto the farm to teach them organic techniques. I got my computer science degree in order to get a job that made enough money to fulfill this dream. The dream went on hold while I got myself established in the computer field. I was pretty bored with that after two years, so I went back to school for a master's in environmental studies.

After school I found that with the environmental degree, the jobs open to me were very low paying and often part time, temporary, or both. I couldn't figure out how to work these jobs and feel financially secure. I went back to computing, still determined to save enough to quit. It was the dot-com days so the money was great, but I was really tired of my entire life being dedicated to something that didn't thrill me.

About this time I found the Financial Integrity program through the book Your Money or Your Life (YMOYL). I'd been looking at books on investment, trying to figure out how one carries out this vague plan I had of quitting early. My broker didn't understand what I was getting at. The book was like a confirmation for me - yes, it IS possible, and this is how you do it. Angelic choirs, light from the heavens... I worked up a wall chart projection (Step 8) and took it to my accountant, who, with a couple of small modifications, agreed the plan should work. I've been tracking expenses ever since. This was about 2000 or 2001.

The tough part was carrying it out. I bought a house with the intent of finishing the basement in an environmentally sound fashion (which I did) and giving tours of it. I would rent out the extra rooms to pay the mortgage. That helped, but I really didn't have enough time for the house while I was working. I got laid off a few times (from dot-com to dot-bomb!) After a while I ended up opting out of the job market and living off my savings to finish the house. I learned SO MUCH.

After finishing the house and being my own boss for a year (albeit unpaid) I couldn't imagine going back to full-time corporate computer work. I moved to San Francisco to be with my new partner, Fred (we met through our mutual interest in the FI program) and found non-profit computer work. This was much better. I was happier, I had more in common with my colleagues, and thought I'd be able to hang on and finish building my capital. Eventually, though, I just couldn't do the work. My heart wasn't in it. It wasn't fair to the organization for me to stay when I couldn't be productive, and it was making me miserable. I kept whittling down my expenses and building my capital to the point where I felt comfortable working just half-time, then finally quitting entirely.

Fred and I moved from a typically expensive San Francisco apartment into a small, simple house boat that we bought outright. Our housing expenses dropped down to the berthing fee, which was half our rent in the city. This was one of the steps that allowed me to quit entirely.

I still work occasionally - sometimes as much as 20 hours per week - but now I work in what I call financial education, helping others learn to do what I did. My values are in complete alignment with my work. Much of what I do now I'd do for free. I have time for triathlon training, bicycle advocacy work, and practicing guitar. Fred and I have a strong relationship based on shared values, and we have time for each other. Life is good!


This page was last modified on 4 November 2008, at 00:27. This page has been accessed 7,549 times.