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From Financial Integrity

Gordon – Having the Choices

  • Southern Ontario, Canada
  • Married to my best friend Maureen
  • No Dependents.


Gordon Morrow - Financial Integrity Trainer/Mentor

My story is one of living the principles outlined in Your Money or Your Life before I had read the book. When I came across the book it reinforced what had already been a big part of my life. The tracking of my expenses really took full force upon reading the book and, I found out shortly that I had achieved FI already.

So the year was 1996 and at the age of 41, I officially retired from fulltime work knowing I had enough to never have to work again. My goal from the moment I started working was to retire as young as possible. I believed at that time that retirement meant never working again and simply living a life of leisure. For me this meant two things. One was never dealing with another Canadian winter. The other was pursuing my passion of playing tennis every day.

We lived this dream for 6 years, Wintering in Florida and playing tennis every day. Yet, I had started to become restless and discontent and began to realize that this was not as satisfying as I thought it would be.

We had worked the summers while back in Canada, not because we had to but because we wanted to. We both came to realization that this was not the balance we wanted. So after an extended stay in England, where my wife took a job for 6 months, followed by a 5 month trip to New Zealand and Australia, we now reside back in Canada fulltime.

Our life is now a balance of part-time work, travel, active leisure and personal growth.

My story reinforces that for me FI is not about not working but about having the choices. Living below your means and having savings allows you to have those choices. For me now it is about working at doing something I love because I want to, not because I have to.

My work as a Financial Integrity Trainer/Mentor is my passion. I truly want everyone to have a chance to live the life they choose. I believe that by following the principals of the FI program anyone can have the life they choose.

I am truly grateful for the work of Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin, and the people at FI and all those who have found their balance and are actively helping others discover theirs. I feel privileged to play a small part in continuing the FI movement.

Note: Gordon's Story was the 3-category winner in New Road Map Foundation's 2010 Writing Contest. You can also read more about Gordon and his FI journey on his blog Time and Money Connection and on his Speaker's page.

Interview with Gordon Morrow

As our 2010 writing contest winner, we wanted to get to know Gordon better. He was kind enough to answer 12 Questions.

How do you describe yourself at parties: retired, FI, something else? Or do you just change the subject?

I avoid parties, just kidding! How I describe myself has changed over time and is often determined by the situation. In 1996 when I left my last full-time job at the age of 41, I considered myself retired. This was something that I consider a great accomplishment and something I was proud of. It was often a challenge to tell people that I was retired at 41 as people either were envious of my situation or wonder how or why I would retire at age 41. Being retired at 41 certainly was a conversation starter that is for sure. My first 5-6 years of Retirement, were really for the most part retirement. I did the “spend the winters in Florida thing” and spent my time playing tennis and working out.

For the past number of years I call myself either semi-retired or self employed Retirement or Money Coach. As self-employed Financial Coach, I had on my business card Gordon Morrow FI (Financially Independent).

Regardless of what label I use to describe myself, my main focus when I speak to people is how what I have achieved financially is a matter of making choices.


Was there a day that you celebrated as meeting the goal of financially independent?

My official date that I celebrated FI was Sept 30 1996. That was last day I worked at my fulltime job as a Supervisor in the Social Services Department in the Region of Waterloo.

Who first inspired you to consider your financial philosophy?

In my opinion, the key to achieving Financial Independence is spending less than you earn and to stay out of debt. You have to save money to become Financially Independent. My mother never had much money and was very frugal. Though I did not know it at the time, it was my mother’s approach to saving and spending that influenced my financial philosophy.

Do you know anyone else who tried your strategy? How did it work for them?

I have had a number of people who have used my strategies or at least information I have provided that has made a big change in their lives.

One person in particular comes to mind. It was a lady who I had worked with who also came to my Path to Financial Independence workshop. I did not have any contact with her for a few years and then ran into her one day and found that she had taken early retirement shortly after my workshop. A few years later, I heard she died of ALS. She learned that she had enough and by learning that she was able to spend a few years living the life she truly wanted before she became ill. I was pleased for her that she got a chance to live before she died.

Did you develop any tools, exercises or habits that haven't been captured in a book?

I did develop workshops and wrote articles about financial independence/freedom. I have been inspired to put them in a book but have lacked the discipline to make it a reality. I will be starting to put together either a book or eBook starting this fall (after my Tennis Club Manager job ends). The title of the book is S.M.A.R.T. Guide to Financial Freedom for Canadians.

What movie, story or music if any, inspires you?

I cannot think of any movie or song that really inspires me. I have a few stories of real people that have inspired me.

I was first inspired by Paul Terhorst’s story as told in his book Cashing in on the American Dream who retired at age 35. My goal from the first day I started work was to retire early and Paul lived that dream.

Also Ernie Zelinski, who has written a number of books related to living without a real job and best known for his book The Joy of Not Working has been a great inspiration to me. He is all about living a good life without a real job.

Of course Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin have been a great inspiration to me. I discovered them about the same time I discovered I had reached FI. Their work and the book Your Money or Your Life was an inspiration and reinforcement that there were others like me. It is often hard to feel you are so different from other people. Their story and that of people they included in their book showed me I was not alone, I really was OK! I think they should have called their book Your Money and Your Life as that is really the message.

I love and am inspired by stories of people who challenge the materialist norm of Western society. Many bloggers who advocate “minimalism” continue to inspire me. Some of my favorite blogs are Be More with Less, Becoming Minimalist, Miss Minimalist, RowdyKittens and zen habits .

What I also find truly inspiring is that it is the young people who are really embracing the move to “less is more”. They are tired of being in debt and trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Were you worried or affected during the recent economic contraction?

I think it is impossible not to be a little worried or affected by any economic contraction. That being said, I was not really adversely affected. Having been FI since 1996, I have been through numerous economic ups and downs, so I know to expect that the only consistency in the economy is the inconsistency.

I have always been very conservative in my investment strategy so have had relatively low exposures to the stock market. As such, my net worth saw only a minor decline during the latest economic downturn. Also I have no debt and I continue to track my income and expenses. I do have spending categories that I know I could reduce or eliminate if needed.

In my opinion, carrying debt makes one very vulnerable when it comes to economic slowdown or outright recessions. Not carrying any debt makes me the least affected I can be. As a FI person, not needing a job to pay my expenses is also a great protector from economic uncertainty. As a matter of fact a few years ago, I wrote an article for Simple Living Newsletter called “Recession-Proof” that outlined that by living by the simple guidelines of Voluntary Simplicity one can avoid most of the impact of a recession. I live by these principles.

What advice would you give your 20-year old self?

In my early 20’s I was into buying new cars every few years. I always paid cash, so never carried the debt normally associated with automobile purchases. Despite that, a lot of money was wasted via depreciation. I would tell my 20 year old self, if you must have a car, buy used and keep if 10 years or more.

Would you give that advice to a 20 year-old now?

Yes, that advice still stands, even more so now. But most of all my advice to a 20 year old now would be “stay out of debt” and learn for yourself how much is enough.

Have you changed your strategy as you've learned or aged? For the most part my strategy remains the same even as I have aged. I do trust investment advisors much less as I have gotten older and I know It is up to me to make sure I learn about investing as I care much more about my financial health than anyone else. I completed a Certificate in Financial Planning to learn about investing.

I have learned that as I age my real needs become fewer and I want less stuff. I have become much more of a minimalist as I have aged.

Are you drawn to tell others about your experience, or are you more likely to keep it quiet? I am proud of what I have accomplished financially and I am troubled by those who struggle. I take every opportunity to tell my story in the hope that it will inspire others to take control of their life. Financial Freedom brings personal freedom and I believe that everyone can have it if they really want. It gives me great pleasure when someone tells me that they have implemented even minor changes that have greatly improved their life.

Would you change any of your decisions?

I have no regrets for leaving full-time work at age 41. If I had stayed I probably would have more money than I have now but would have lived so much less. The one thing that I would change is my notion of retirement. I was so determined NOT to work again and to NOT give up leisure time that I passed up some opportunities that could have been good. I have since learned that doing something you love, even if it something that is defined as WORK, is really not work if you enjoy what you are doing. Life really is about living on your own terms and only you can define that for yourself. I have a better understanding of that now a balance of work and leisure makes me happier than all leisure.


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