Accountant Quit Job At 43: Life Balance with Financial Freedom

One of the things Andrew can do now is to walk his son to school.

I co ordinate the schedules of volunteers at the high school where I work, and Andrew is one of those volunteers. Please read his story of financial freedom.

What messages about money, either spoken or unspoken, would you say you absorbed as you grew up?

I grew up in a middle-class home.  My dad was a professional engineer and my mother was a stay at home mom.  I don’t recall ever having explicit conversations about money, but it was clear that my parents “knew the value of a dollar”.  We always had what we needed, but we certainly didn’t grow up in an environment of excessive consumption.  Clothes were worn until they didn’t fit anymore; holes in jeans were patched – not pitched out; toys were limited in number and we got new stuff on birthdays and Christmas – period; we rarely went to the movies – we played outside with our friends.  

My parents had no problem telling us “no you can’t have that” when we wanted something unnecessary or too expensive.

So, I guess I’d say that my messages about money were learned over time and mainly through “observational osmosis”.

 

What was it that made you decide you wanted to scale back in your career as a chartered accountant?

I was tired.  

Working ridiculously long hours during periods in the year (particularly in the winter/spring months) I realized that I wasn’t having fun at work anymore.  I was too busy, taking on a lot of projects that I really didn’t enjoy, and at the same time taking care of clients and trying to have a life outside of the office.

Out of balance, for sure.

How old were you when you resigned? What did you have in place to allow you to make this move? 

I jumped off the hamster wheel at 43, and took a lot of time to think and reflect on what I felt was important in life.  I started spending much more time at home with my wife and kids, and doing simple, yet rewarding things that I had not made time for in the past.  Walking our son to school in the mornings, community volunteer work, learning to downhill ski and getting back into the kitchen to cook, to name a few.  

I came to realize that the most valuable commodity in the world is time.  Our time is not unlimited, and we all have the power to choose how we are going to use the time that we have.  So now I don’t roll the way most people roll.  I don’t do things simply because everybody else does.  I work at keeping balance in my life – work, family, health, friends, community.  

When it comes to personal finance, I think it is important for people to realize that sound financial health allows us to enjoy a level of control over our lives that doesn’t exist when our financial life is upside down.  And to be clear, it’s not about the absolute amount of money/wealth that we have – it’s about having enough money to support the life that we want to live, now and in the future. The answer is different for everyone.

Please describe your working life as it is now.

I work out of my home office as a fee-only/advice-only financial planner.  

At the most basic level, I help people understand their money and help them get control over their finances.

As a fee-only/advice-only financial planner, I don’t sell any financial products (think mutual funds, insurance, stocks, bonds etc.).  The tremendous advantage for my clients is that they are guaranteed objective planning advice.  I don’t receive any form of compensation from anybody other than my client who pays me for my planning expertise (feel free to check out my website at www.misenerplanning.ca).

Part of my role is that of educator for my clients.  Most people don’t have a good understanding of personal finance and how everything fits together, whether it’s understanding debt, investments, insurance, household cash flows or the like. I love my work.  Helping clients understand and succeed in their financial lives is tremendously satisfying to me.

What would you say are the most significant differences between your overall life as it is now compared to how it was in your last few years of full-time work?

I am much happier and contented in my life now, because my life is in balance and it’s simpler.

I’ve organized my planning practice in such a way that I limit the number of clients that I will take on at any given time.  In this way, my clients will be assured of my dedicated attention to their needs, my family will get my dedicated attention, and if I feel like playing golf or going for a bike ride on a sunny day then that’s what I do.  

What drew you to volunteer work at our high school?

I love mentoring and teaching people.  

When I was an accountant in public practice, part of my time was spent mentoring and coaching a younger generation of accountants and CA students and I got great satisfaction in watching their knowledge and skills improve.  I also love numbers and math.  So, I took the opportunity to volunteer in a high school math class.  I figured that it would be fun – and it was!  I’ve been helping a great teacher for 3 years now, and we have a lot of fun working with the kids.

Jesse, the math teacher with whom you volunteer, said about you, “He is like my financial psychiatrist!” Why do you think he said that? 

Being a financial planner is a bit like being a psychiatrist I suppose.  Quite often people feel that they have a problem, or something isn’t quite right financially, and they just need to get the ball rolling by talking through their concerns.   Everyone has a different relationship with their money, and what percolates to the top of the financial “issues list” for one person, may be near the bottom for another.  Part of my role is to understand what issues are most important to my clients from a financial perspective, and help them see the big picture of how a well-designed financial plan can give them peace of mind, and help them meet their objectives.   

What do you find is the most common financial advice that you give to people?

Live within your means and avoid getting into trouble with debt.

Another very common issue that I see is that most people have no idea what their investments are invested in, and don’t realize how much they are paying in fees for poor return performance.  I work with people a lot on that one.

Financial planning isn’t rocket science.  Just get the process started.


Your comments are welcome : ) 


Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

24 comments on “Accountant Quit Job At 43: Life Balance with Financial Freedom

  1. Fantastic interview!
    A great message. We all think we know the value of a dollar, but we should aspire to learn the value of time!
    Thanks!

    1. I’m glad you found the post helpful.

      It’s amazing that once we start to understand the value of time, the important things in life quickly come into focus.

  2. It’s great to hear how so many can “escape the daily grind” and help others and do what they enjoy because they can afford to.

    My wife and I took steps to tradeoff dollars for more time. We don’t have a perfect life, but, it is much better than it was before.

    The trick as you said is your nugget of advice “Live within your means and avoid getting into trouble with debt.” It’s the only reason I was able to swap careers two years ago.

    1. Hi Josh,

      Yeah. Debt is a real problem for many people. Glad to see that you’ve tackled that one.

      And I agree that trading dollars for time is a good trade.

  3. Great article! The messages in here are bang on and certainly relevant to every working person. Avoiding excessive debt is certainly key to giving ourselves the financial flexibility to make choices in our careers that will allow for good balance in life.

    1. Hi Didi.

      Thanks for your post.

      In addition to good debt management, we need to be prudent “savers” and have an appropriate investment strategy in place so that we have a sufficient source of funds to support ourselves into the future. This is especially true nowadays as fewer and fewer employers are sponsoring defined benefit pension plans for their employees.

  4. I so enjoyed reading this. The word BALANCE has always been something that I felt was very important in people’s lives. We constantly get out of balance and have to re adjust. The other comment that I loved was that – LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS . This is something I learned from my parents and I felt it was the best lesson they taught me and with that also goes the concept of APPRECIATING WHAT YOU HAVE AND BE HAPPY WITH IT.

    I congratulate you on the ability to put your priorities where they belong . When you die , no-one will ask you what your bank balance was , but they will comment on you as a good person and the family that you raised .

    1. Thanks for your comments Betty – well said.

      I’d just add that what I see today, is that so many young people don’t understand how money works (often because their parents don’t know either). With technology and the ability to be connected 24/7, people fall into the trap of expecting instant gratification and have lost (or never had) the ability to be patient and to be made to wait for something. The result, is that people buy too much stuff that they really don’t need. This stuff doesn’t drive satisfaction/happiness in any meaningful way, but it does sow the seeds for bad financial habits that become problematic down the road.

      If we can get kids, and young adults to better understand basic personal finance, they’ll well prepared for financial success as adults.

      Andy

  5. I lived the same way growing up. My parents grew up in the Great Depression and they were recycling and repairing long before it become the politically correct thing to do. I used the same paper lunch bag over and over until it was worn out. My mother used plastic bread bags to put my sandwiches for my school lunch in. When I got home she washed these plastic bags when she washed the supper dishes so they could be used again.
    But just the other day I was looking at what some of my neighbours had put in the garbage. There was a bicycle that looked like it just needed a new seat and new front wheel (both of which were missing) and maybe a tune-up. I saw someone this morning who looked like he was picking up an expensive BBQ that someone had thrown out. It didn’t look that old. You can buy parts for those. I see lots of other things too in the garbage that cause me to just shake my head and ask myself why people are throwing such things away.

    1. Hi Gary,

      We live in a world of excessive consumption and consumerism and what you observed at the curb is a manifestation of that culture of consumption.

      There are so many positive outcomes that result from being more selective in what/how much stuff we consume (environmental, social, psychological, financial).

      In my planning practice, I often work with clients in focusing on the positive financial outcomes that come from reducing the level of unnecessary consumption. The power of compounding is really quite amazing. Clients are usually shocked when I do some basic calculations for them to illustrate just how much money they would have in the future if they reduced expenditures today.

      Simple example: If somebody was to reduce their annual spend by $1,000 per year each year over 10 years ( $10,000 total) and invest those annual savings at a return of 5% per year, in 20 years that person would have an additional $20,488. In 30 years, that grows to $33,372!

      Food for thought.

      Andy

  6. Andrew, thanks for allowing me to interview you. Financial health is such an invisible quality. You’ve volunteered at the school where I work for 3 years now, and I didn’t know until doing this interview that you had achieved FIRE (Financial Independence / Retire Early). There is a whole subculture in the bloggosphere of people like you. Through aggressive savings and investments and frugal living, they earn themselves the kind of financial freedom that most of us don’t expect to see until our 60s. They’re called “badasses” : ) So Whether you know it or not, you’re helping to spearhead a cutting edge trend.
    All the best to you and your family as you continue to enjoy the benefits of the financial freedom you’ve earned. So glad you’re choosing to use your time to help others. We’re very lucky to have you working with our students – and to have your serving as financial psychiatrist for staff : )

    1. Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts Ruth!

      Congratulations on such a great website – it’s a very valuable resource that I would encourage everyone to take advantage of.

      Enjoy your summer!

      Andy

  7. I love this story, Ruth. What a great example of gaining flexibility and finding balance. That’s wonderful he can spend more time with his family, and spends time volunteering, while working from his home in a way that is enjoyable for him and helpful to others. And I love his advice!

    1. I agree with you, Kalie. The cool thing for me was that I knew Andrew for 3 years before knowing of his situation. There are financial superstars in our midst : )

    1. I love the meaningful work and volunteering too, Brian. That’s what I would like to have in my own time of financial freedom.

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