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Ask The Readers: What If You Couldn’t Make Money?

1500 Days to Freedom

Think different and escape the rat race.

by Mr. 1500 Days 22 Comments

I was talking to my friend Jen recently when she asked a fantastic question. It was posed to her about a year ago. Here is how it went down:

Jen had just retired and was on a trip down to Oaxaca to celebrate. On the plane, she sat next to her friend Sean. Jen was telling Sean about all of the side-hustles she wanted to work on in retirement when he said this:

What if you couldn’t make money for the next year? What would you do then?

Jen was speechless. Much of what she had planned revolved around making more money.

I love this question because a lot of us in the FIRE community (me included) think like this:

OK, I just retired! What’s my next hustle?

A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell.

The problem with many of us in the FIRE community is this:

To retire early, you’ve probably got a pretty good handle on life. You’re a motivated human. You’ve figured out how to make a healthy income and have worked hard. You like money and the challenge of earning more of it.

Now, you’re retired. How do you turn all of that off?

Shaw’s quote completely resonates with me. I believe that we all need work in our life. However, that work doesn’t need to make money. It could be:

If we add money into the equation, everything changes. You’re not working for yourself anymore. You’re doing something with the hope that someone pays you money for your efforts. Another job.

If I couldn’t make money from the project house Mindy and I bought, would we have purchased it?


Ha! Whoops! I just got myself a part-time job.

I’m still sorta OK with it because we’ll move into the home when the kids move out. However, we could have just bought a house at that time. Besides, maybe we won’t even want to live in the house in 6 years.

Enough about me. What about you?

What if you couldn’t make money? What would you do?

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Filed Under: Early Retirement

Ax says

Money is just a means to an end. What then is someone’s end?
Mine is reading, learning, exploring national parks, helping others, and family.
Without having to make money, I have more time for these pursuits and others.

MamaMinou says

Reading, writing, hiking, meditating, volunteering, cooking, lounging around, puttering about in garden, enjoying time with my family and friends….

Todd says

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person to ever FIRE that doesn’t have a side hustle making money and actually living out the 4% rule. Examples of things I do are build a planter box for my mom, help my aunt setup a new laptop, help a friend install solar panels :). Mostly I spend A LOT of time volunteering at our local makerspace. Helen calls it my unpaid job. So basically help out friends and family, and tinker, build, and make things. I do need to put exercise on that list however.

Tech says

I don’t think making money is a bad thing. If you have fun doing it and getting paid is a bonus it’s a win win right? As long as you are FI and have the flexibility to make your own decision to do other things or heck even do nothing.

Still not sure what that means for me. I am still in the rat race, but at least I have a plan on getting out. I think my priorities will be health, family and happiness with a side of making the world a better place.

Mr. 1500 Days says

Making money isn’t bad, but I think I deceive myself sometime. The litmus test for me: “If you have $50,000,000, would you be doing _____?”

I’d still shovel snow (yay, being outside!) and cut my own hair (saves time), but I wouldn’t have bought yet another house to work on. Oof!

Financial Fives says

Agree, and Vicki Robin said it best in her book when she distinguished different forms or work, including “paid employment” we work on our households, health, communities, etc.

I’d love to spend more time volunteering in community efforts to expand multimodal transportation, parks, bike lanes, and advocating for the protection of open space!

Mick says

Chase the endless summer, exercise, golf, learn to play multiple instruments, learn new languages, read books………… basically everything I can’t or don’t choose to do or do as much since the 40, 50, 60 hour work week beats me into submission……

Adam says

I have a degree in music performance and play three or four times a week — so I’m really good at in-depth time-consuming stuff that doesn’t make money! Honestly, if I could not work and did not have to worry too much, that bit would remain the same. I’m lucky to be involved in as much or as little as I want out of my life’s chosen obsession at any given moment.

But the house would be cleaner. I’d have the time to figure out some basic woodworking — it’s a pie-in-the-sky dream of mine to make built-in bookshelves for our den. Meals would be more adventurous; I’d take more risks in the kitchen if there was time to screw it up and start over. “Side hustles” and “careers” never appealed to me anyway, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up — making money is just grinding in pursuit of freedom, and I’m anxiously seeking the end of the grind.

Mr. 1500 Days says

There isn’t enough time in the day, week, month, year, or life!

ThomH says

I’ve been early retired for nearly six years now, and this has been a constant reoccurring thought since my FIRE date. It’s really tough to turn off. I think many of us are just wired to create and build income. It’s a big reason why we are at this successful point in our lives. It’s a creative deep drive within many of us. Some can tone it down and find other pursuits like music, art, fishing, golf or wood working. But making money is a gift just like any other gift. If you enjoy it and can make others lives better, why curb it? Pursue your gifts. Just because we make money doing them isn’t bad, as long as it’s not negatively impacting other parts of our lives. The same is true of any gift or hobby… “in all things moderation”. I’m casually cultivating mine, but entirely on my own terms. I say, embrace it!

Mr. 1500 Days says

I like your style!

AJ says

i don’t know hahahahaha I got bored when im 2 weeks off in vacations, so I don’t now how its going to be when im FIRE…. but my hopes are that I will travel to see my family and friends like you guys in Longmont ;), surf, go back to Uni, volunteer… I really don’t now yet but something will came to my mind the FIRE happens rsrsrsrsrs
Thanks for the great and inspiring blog!!!

Mr. 1500 Days says

But, the best market returns are after big losses. Stay the course*!

*Not professional advice! I’m just a weirdo on the internet! But really, stay the course!

veronica says

I haven’t made money in years. The first year was difficult, but now I never even think about being paid. I do whatever I like and best of all, I no longer have to put up with mansplaining, off-colour sexist jokes, discriminatory behaviour etc. As a woman working in STEM I ran into this ALOT while working and oftentimes had to suck it up to keep the job. No more.

Shockingly I still run into this type of behaviour when I do volunteer gigs, but I very quickly shut it down by giving the perpetrator a piece of my mind, the finger and my backside as I walk out the door to the next volunteer gig. Seriously dudes, there are more volunteer positions than volunteers – what the F$%@ are you doing!

Mr. 1500 Days says

Oh wow, your stories hurt. I worked in tech too and for almost my whole career, I worked for female bosses who were all wonderful without exception. I think I had the awesome situation of working in environments where we all respected each other and didn’t give a crap about gender. Let’s just get the job done. I hope my situation wasn’t an exception, but it probably was. Oof.

As the father of two girls and a big fan of STEMy jobs, it makes me sad that they’ll probably have to deal with this nonsense too.

I love your attitude now though.

What can we do to make it better?

Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life says

I have a LONG list of things I’d rather be doing in retirement that will only cost money: gardening, continuing to support the Lakota, working on my health (therapy, exercise, other stuff like that), helping dog rescues in some way, lots of things like that.

BUT I know I’ll also be nervous about not making any money as well. I’ve been exploring that idea and why it makes me nervous because I don’t want to find myself on the cusp of retirement unable to commit and going from a reasonably paying gig to working for pennies just because I have a pathological need to see a paycheck of some kind.
Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life recently posted…2023 Annual Lakota Giving ProjectMy Profile

Mr. 1500 Days says

I dealt with the same thing. Is there a way to transition away from money? Perhaps going part-time for a bit?

snowcanyon says

I have found retirement to be extremely pricey, much more than I was expecting.. I don’t have DIY skills like 1500, those are so impressive.
I don’t want a side hustle and I’m never bored, but alas I will probably have to return to the grind or leave the US.
Well, ya win some, ya lose some.

Jim says

Great perspective! Money is like a scorecard, if there was no way of keeping score, I think it would be a whole lot less amusing. That said, I would have to provide value in some capacity, whether that be volunteering, unpaid mentorship, or growing food for others to consume. I do like the competition of making money though, if I’m being honest.

Max says

Hi there,

I just wrote you an e-mail but it was returned back saying your mailbox is full.

Mr. 1500 Days says

Fixed! Thanks for letting me know.

Teetiv says

Learn new skills: Even if you cannot make money in your chosen field, there may be other skills you can learn that will allow you to earn a living. Consider taking courses or learning a new trade.

Live frugally: If you cannot make money, living within your means is essential. Cut unnecessary expenses and find ways to save money wherever possible.

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