How I’m Creating a Life I Don’t Need to Retire From

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My husband started work last month after 15 months of travel with our kids.

That means we are now receiving something we haven’t seen in nearly two whole years – a regular paycheque!

I’m so freaking excited, mainly because a regular paycheque lifts the pressure on our savings and allows us to begin planning our next escape.

Yep – one month into the new job and we are thinking about his exit.

When I started this journey I thought early retirement was the end goal. Now I've changed my mind - I'm working towards creating an online income that gives me the freedom to travel with my family, whenever I choose. That sounds like the kind of life I don't ever want to retire from.

As I’ve written more (and read more and learned more) about money I’ve come to realise a few things about life. It can end tomorrow. Or in ten years. Cruelly, I’ve heard of people dying shortly after leaving the workforce to enjoy traditional retirement.

Related post: How to Semi-Retire in Your 30s

This one precious life must be lived to its fullest. So when I started working out all the ways we could take to retire in ten years there was one bloody big obstacle that I couldn’t get over.

It would take ten years. Ten of my healthiest years, with young children who are ultra-portable.  Ten years without travelling.

I can live without fancy clothes and furniture. I don’t even need my car to function properly (remember those electric windows that won’t budge).

I will happily rotate the same 7-day meal plan for the rest of my days. I will dress my children in hand-me-downs and buy them only second-hand toys.

I have given up smoking. My daily coffee purchase. And wine*. But not travel. I just cannot give up travel.

My name is Emma and I’m a travel addict

In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. 2014.

I haven’t been able to sit still for more than 3 years in a row since I became an adult.

I have been on a repeat cycle of work my arse off-save hard-quit job-travel-get new job-work my arse off-save hard-quit job-travel since I turned 21 and moved from New Zealand to live in Australia.

If having kids didn’t stop me travelling then nothing will.

For me to be motivated the next adventure must be looming. Ten years of no travel is too much for me to bear.

I have also had many breaks from the workforce, and have sorely missed the lovely frequent pay cheques that come with regular jobs.

So whilst I will continue to plan and scheme for the next adventure, indefinite travel is just not for me.  A balance between slow travel and simple living at home is my ideal.

Saying Adios to Early Retirement…Instead I’m Retiring Regularly

We live in extraordinary times. Technology has enabled huge change in the way we work.

People pay me to work as a virtual assistant helping them with their businesses, when they need changes to their websites or marketing help.

I have worked on client projects from New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Mexico, Ireland and France.

When we spent a week at the theme parks in Orlando, I’d have fun with my son at Disney during the day and at night I’d get online to work with my client in Australia.

What a life! I’d was pinching myself every second minute. I was being paid to do work I loved, yet I could choose to change my surroundings whenever I wanted.

The combination of fulfilling work and travel is every bit as wonderful as it sounds.

Unfortunately that contract ended but the seed was firmly planted. The flexibility to work on projects I enjoy with clients I like is the type of business I don’t ever want to retire from.

Maybe it’s because I’ve already quit my job and travelled multiple times, but full on early retirement just isn’t for me. All I want is the freedom and finances to work and travel as and when I choose.

Now I’ve established that I don’t want to give up travelling for ten years retire early, my focus is on creating an income that can travel with me.

We still need to minimise expenses and optimise income but knowing that we are not abandoning a regular job means we have time to sort out systems that allow passive income to flow in.

How I’m creating a life I don’t need to retire from

1. Building my business and websites. 2016 will be a time of growth as I target new clients in the hope of replacing my husband’s income (so he can be a stay at home dad). If you need help with managing your website, creating content or just a general virtual assistant please get in touch, I’d love to work with you.

2. Sell non-performing rental property. When I first started investing I believed I would never sell but I have now come to realise a non-performing property is a huge burden and a big risk to the travelling lifestyle.

3. Aggressive pay down of mortgage debt. The properties we keep will be income streams while we travel so having debt against those properties directly reduces our income. Eliminating debt means higher income and reduced risk if a property is vacant.

4. Diversifying investments away from property. I’m looking at index funds through Vanguard which are finally available in New Zealand. We’ll be incorporating a monthly contribution into our budget.

5. Getting our small house into a condition where we could rent it out on Airbnb while we travel.

This will take more than a year as we need to redo the kitchen and bathroom and convert the dining area into a third bedroom so we’ll need to spend at least ten grand.

Probably more. But it’s part of the strategy that will enable us to travel for large parts of the year which is one of the main benefits of living in a smaller home for us.

A change in direction for Money Can Buy Me Happiness

I’ve been writing here for nearly a year and whilst I love it I’ve become a little burnt out writing about saving money and budgeting.

The hard truth is that wealth is not created solely by living frugally, you have to maximise earnings.

Whilst it’s a great idea to optimise your systems to bootstrap your dream business, aiming for a lifetime of low earnings just doesn’t appeal to me.

I’ll be using this site as a place to document all aspects of my ‘Create A Portable Income’ project.

I’ll be publishing monthly income reports – which I’m sure will suck for the first wee while – detailing the income I earn online from both my freelance business and the websites I am working on.

There will still be musings on money and the sharing of hard lessons, but 2016 is all about making more money. Bring it on.

What does your 2016 look like? Do you plan it out or just wing it and hope for the best?

 *I haven’t really given up wine, I’ve just been a milk machine for 2 kids for the past three years so wine and me are on hiatus.

About Emma Healey

Emma is a recognised family finance and budgeting expert and founder of Mum's Money. Her advice has been featured in Readers Digest, Yahoo Finance, Lifehacker, The Simple Dollar, MSN Money and more.

38 thoughts on “How I’m Creating a Life I Don’t Need to Retire From”

  1. I’m a travel addict, too. Since our businesses can be run completely online, we travel about once per month. I like the idea of creating a life I don’t want to retire from, and I suppose that’s what I have been doing all along. Still, I do plan to retire early one day – I think we’ll be able to in our mid-to-late 40s. I may not quit working completely, but I would like to have the option!

  2. The change in focus makes perfect sense given your goals. Why wait for 10 more years to do what you can do now (with work and projects interspersed throughout)?

    I’m digging the different income streams. Vanguard index funds, a rental house portfolio, Airbnb, and your online ventures. All of those won’t do well every year, but between the four (or more) sources of income you should eventually develop enough income to reliably support your travel habit. 🙂

    And as your passive income grows, your more active online income can shrink (unless you’re doing what you love already and want to keep doing it for fun).

    That’s certainly the lesson I’ve learned since retiring early. I started a couple of different location independent side hustles since retiring, spend relatively little time on them and it’s paying most of our living expenses (including some sweet trips like the Caribbean cruise for the five of us next week). I followed the traditional path of work hard for 10 years – live frugally – save a lot – retire. Now that I’m retired, I find that a few side projects to keep me entertained and intellectually engaged are actually fun. It’s nothing like 40-45 hrs per week of full time work with relatively infrequent breaks.

    • Thanks Justin. I’m sure that eventually our rental properties will get to the stage where they’ll be able to support us (right now combined weekly rental income is more than my husbands salary but that’s before expenses) but until then I think I can live with this plan. I’m so excited we finally have access to Vanguard index funds in NZ, I really couldn’t be bothered learning how to play the share market, now I know I’ll match it with hardly any effort! Can’t wait to read about your Caribbean cruise (assuming you’ll be writing about it) that’s the next place we want to cruise to.

  3. Those many “mini” retirements are a great idea! I’ve known too many people who worked hard until they were 65, and then didn’t have the health to enjoy life. Really, you’ll get bored doing nothing, so why not go back and forth and enjoy life all the way through. Great thoughts and best of luck with your many business ventures! Wishing you all kinds of success.

  4. I love this idea of a rotating job. I love to travel too. But early retirement seems so out of reach. I’ll be following along to watch your progress

  5. It will be interesting to see your new direction. I admire the early retirement extreme folks to some degree, but I feel that they often give up a lot of present-day living for their ideal future.

  6. Hi Emma,
    You and your hubby sound so much like me and my hubby. I also have the travel bug really bad and can’t bear the thought of not travelling anywhere for years and just hanging on the hope of being able to do it later. We all know that tomorrow is never guaranteed.
    Our plan is very similar to yours. We thought about selling one of our rentals (also in Christchurch) recently, but because interest rates are so low, we decided to take the opposite approach and borrow a bit more money to fix the things that were wrong with the house (just general maintenance).
    We have realised that the cashflow from rental income is just not going to be enough for significant early retirement, but our plan now is to travel for around 6 weeks every 2 years whilst keeping our permanent jobs (I have a job that I like, and my husband has a job that at least he doesn’t hate – he’s just sick of working). Having the rental properties means that instead of trying to stash money away for retirement, we can use some money for travel and still have the assets for later on when we do hit retirement age.
    Our 2017 trip includes Orlando! Can’t wait!
    I am going to look up Vanguard funds now because I didn’t realise we had access to those in NZ.

    • It’s definitely nice to know that the rental properties will eventually pay themselves off and look after us in our retirement. We’ll still contribute to KiwiSaver but I’m not relying on it. Check out Smartshares and Superlife, both have Vanguard. The fee is higher than buying direct but still cheaper than a managed fund.

  7. I’m glad you found your path! It is very inspiring to find so many people who took the time to reflect on what is important in life (like you) and took action to do something about it. It took me awhile to find mine too, quitting my job, experimenting with early retirement and landing back too maximizing my earnings and pursuing interest based work.

    • Thanks Tracy, sounds like we are on similar paths. Interest based work is a great alternative to early retirement.

  8. Think you are right to be working on what you want right now. We had plans for our 50’s but my husband didn’t see 43. So I am now on a mission to get my life in order and an income in place so I can live the life I want. I am tied to school for the kids for the next 10years (I would world school them but they need stability at the moment), but once they are independent I will be gone. My income is spread over investment, property and the start of an online residual income and already I am able to travel when I want. Options are the key to making it work with a slow and steady forward progress! Good luck, look forward to following your progress.

  9. Emma,

    That’s a very profound perspective that you’d really like to take time now vs. saving it all for later. I too have come to a similar conclusion lately. I think we can lead more fulfilling lives if we really find the area we are meant to be in and max out our brain power in this area. It sounds like you have found your zone.

    I really love the “retire regularly” phrase you coined. I’m going to have to use that one going forward!

  10. Hi Emma! I love this post. I totally agree: I’d prefer to work now and travel now rather than ONLY work now to retire early later. I want to enjoy life as it is now, rather than hold off enjoyment for some unknown future date! 😀

  11. That’s awesome Emma. Retirement seems like so far away that it sometimes seems ridiculous to focus solely on that end goal that isn’t even guaranteed. Good on you for following your dream.

  12. Hey Amber,

    It looks like your blog will be of great help to me. I feel more and more like you. this phrase is the one that catches me the most.

    “This one precious life must be lived to its fullest. So when I started working out all the ways we could take to retire in ten years there was one bloody big obstacle that I couldn’t get over. It would take ten years. Ten of my healthiest years, with young children who are ultra-portable. Ten years without travelling.”

    I have this dilemma now: live frugally and retire in 2029, or live a little less frugal, enjoy life more now but work longer. But each working year will have more travel and other activities…
    One obstacle we have for now: our work is not portable…

    I look forward to read more from you!

    • It’s a tough choice, but five of my close family members (aunts and uncles) didn’t even make 65. A close friends’ husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 30 and died within 14 months. Nothing is guaranteed. A life with an nice mix of work and travel is bearable and achievable for most.

  13. I think one of the most fantastic things we can do for our financial outlook is determine that one thing that we are passionate about and have to have at all costs. If travel is your passion, it’s good to know so that you can cut out all the other meaningless stuff and go after what matters most to you. Good luck on your new direction! I’m sure those income reports will rock it once you get into the groove of things!

  14. Early retirement also means putting off “living” for a few years and focusing on work-money-work. More money would be nice but I won’t be able to sustain it for years. I need to travel, even just locally! And I need to rest and regroup after several weeks of work. I am trying to switch to passive income that will allow me to travel… I’m crossing my fingers that my plans push through. I hope the best for everyone who has this goal too!

  15. I’m a believer that you need to find what works best for your life. Whether that is retiring early, regularly, or when you hit 65, you need to find the system that allows you to do the things you value the most! Sounds like you have some exciting things on the horizon in 2016!

    • Thanks Thias. My Dad turns 65 this year and he is dreading retirement – I don’t think he will retire actually. Whatever works best for the individual is the best thing, but having the means to choose would definitely help.

  16. Emma – I can totally relate with your story.
    When I started to keep my finances under control, it was obvious that there was waste I could get rid off, purchases that could be delayed or cancelled and in general costs could be optimized.
    It was basically like re-focusing the priorities on what matters to me.
    For me, it comes down to what I can cut that I won’t regret in the future. What’s left is a healthy life, healthy relationships and travel.
    It seems that you’ve done something similar and realized you couldn’t cut on travel.
    Congrats! Not only is that a perfectly good reason, but that’s also a very common one 🙂

  17. Such a timely post for me as I just had someone comment on my site, “I am interested to hear your thoughts on early retirement because you said you are not on it deliberately.”

    I love THIS. Your strategy. More of the Tim Ferriss 4-Hour-Work-Week mini-retirement plan. I too love the idea of chasing the digital nomad life so I can pursue other ventures and not be tied down to a specific employer in a specific location. Or even just a specific location because you’ve bought a house and it’s a cheap place to live and your money can stretch.

    This is my first time on your site and I look forward to seeing the updates about building the portable income. Best of luck!

  18. I’ve recently discovered your blog and I LOVE your posts. It’s soooo good to finally find a kiwi blog that I can relate to in terms of strategies! I’ve only just discovered the concept of an early/mini retirements and we’re getting our finances in order. Good luck with your online businesses and I look forward to following your journey 🙂

  19. I love this! I followed an eerily similar trajectory in my financial journey, although I’ve yet to have any kiddos. I bought rental property in my 20s and was convinced I’d be set for life by age 30-33, but of course life doesn’t always work out as planned! I used to think early retirement was a big goal. In hindsight I think I just wanted the option to stay home with kids without cash flow being super tight. I actually can’t quite imagine not working at all and simply enjoying a life of leisure for the better part of my life (OK maybe I can imagine it…but it’s not a driving motivator. I get antsy and anxious if I don’t have a goal or routine or reason to get out of bed for more than a week or so).

    I’m 32 now and at a crossroads, but I’ve figured out that I don’t want to totally give up working – or earning an income – even if I do have children. I make too much and my job is (currently!) too flexible to justify throwing in the towel in the foreseeable future. But to your point, I also admitted that I am simply not willing to sacrifice that heavily in order to (hope I live long enough to) to “retire early.” We love our nice house and our nice and frequent vacations. We like our semi-luxury cars and not having to think twice if we want to dine out or order another expensive cocktail with friends or colleagues.

    Our working lives aren’t so bad and I’m convinced a full on retirement may not be that great anyway. Instead we are working to build lives NOW that we don’t want to retire from. It works for us but of course we are also heavy savers. Sure, we could save even more if we were frugal (which I don’t pretend we are); but we save roughly 43% of our gross pay which is aggressive enough for me. I have a hunch this phase won’t last long, and I want to have all the flexibility I can if/when kids to arrive on the scene.

    PS I may just take you up on some website help in the near future!

    • Ooh Hello money twin! Ha, I must check out your blog. Also 43% is a fantastic savings rate! Especially if you’re not naturally frugal (I really struggle in that department – I know I need to be better but it’s tough sometimes).

  20. Emma I’m really excited about this new direction you’re taking!!
    Don’t mind me, I’m just catching up on the last year of your blog in one setting here : )


  21. i have one goal right now: to finish paying off my personal loan ($5K to go) and then the daughter and I are saving up for a prepaid trip to Germany. other than that I have no goals as of now. but am happy to have read your post – it offers some guidelines I might embrace and leads for inspiration.

    saving up for years on end to retire sounds rather sad (although that is the path i am living). and I have heard many of tales about people dying within month of retiring, too. eek! i started out late in life with trying to build a stable financial path. so retiring early is not quite likely. I like your goal of retiring regularly.

    best to you on creating a digital nomad business. looking forward to your ‘Create A Portable Income’ project posts. perhaps you can pick up some freelance work on the problogger job boards?

  22. I know I am way late with a response to your blog entry, but I only found it tonight!
    I think this works across the generations. My husband ‘retired’ 5 years ago. After a few weeks he got a call from his previous employer to say, would he be prepared to work part-time, in his own time? So he now gets about 50% of his original salary, doing the stuff he loves. (No admin, no boring stuff). He does it in his own time which might be 10pm, 7am, doesn’t matter. He is happy, doing his beloved maths (he’s an engineer…)
    So regardless of your age or circumstances, flexible working is the way ahead. In the last year, we have spent 6 weeks in Spain, 2 weeks in Ireland, and about to head off for 4 weeks in New Zealand. He has laptop, wifi and phone, so can work anywhere. No complaints from his boss, except total envy!

  23. I relate to this so much Emma. I started with a need to save as much money to work again, then at some point a light bulb moment happened when I realised I could travel and work – the two aren’t mutually exclusive. This is my year of growing my side hustles to support myself and my husband so I’ll look forward to reading about your similar journey.

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