When Do You Have Enough? – The Work/Life Balance Struggle
This is a question my wife asks me a lot, and it’s a good one. After 16 months of fatherhood it also becomes clear that it is a question I want to answer as I have no doubt that time is the most valuable commodity in the World. I built a business out of thin air with an aluminum chair, a laptop, and a desk I saw a neighbor put out for trash day when I was in Boston. That was 10 years ago, and I’m now 34 and could retire today if I really wanted to, but I never feel like I have enough.
Though this is centered on “enough money”, I’m not a very lavish person. Most of the clothes I wear I have worn for 10+ years, and 95% of my shirts either have a sports team, brewery, or hunting/fishing on them. I drive a Nissan Titan, it’s a solid truck and I only drive like 2,500 miles a year or less, so I was never one to get excited about having a fancy car. I like to take my dogs to the lake swimming, get them muddy and load them back into the truck, not caring about some precious fabric. I have zero interest in shopping, though when it comes to Technology I tend to buy the latest gadgets, but the costs are minimal. The majority of my spending comes from Food & Beer, I like to eat well and drink even better. I don’t spend money going out because my wife & I cook amazing meals at home, usually 6X/week, and I would never want to do that differently. We eat healthy and it’s always fun making meals together, so why bother going out to a restaurant where you have no idea where the ingredients came from or who is cooking them. I buy great cuts of meat and seafood, sometimes get hard to find things overnighted from Seattle, and my garage fridge is always stacked with a great variety of craft beers around the country. I do like big things, the thought of owning 3-5 houses at various locations to break up the monotony of the year excites me, as I can work from anywhere, but the logistics of that drive me crazy even thinking about it. Outside of that, I like to travel, but work so damn hard I barely find the time, and when on trips we do tend to live it up. I have a nice list of projects I want to do at the house but I’ve always been the kind of person who wants to do everything himself, not pay someone else to do my work. I may not do it as well, but I like learning new skills, but again, this is something that takes up more time.
So, the issue is not really about having more money, but I am a person with a very active mind, always creating and wanting to create more. I always get excited letting my wife know of a new cool project I thought of, and her response is usually “creating more work for yourself, when is it enough.” Investing/Trading is an addictive drug, every day you have no idea what may happen, and preparation is vital. I thrive at being prepared, constantly researching and putting together new tools to assist with making the process even smoother. A lot of the ideas I have I am unable to bring to life, really wish I had minored in programming (if you are reading this and are an excellent programmer who wants some side jobs, shoot me an email.) I’ve always been a super competitive person, like extremely, so battling the market which many say is impossible to “defeat” gets my juices flowing every day. Unfortunately the feeling of winning trades is becoming less satisfying, while a losing trade sticks with you and can change your mood for a day/week. It relates to human psychology, you tend to remember bad things and forget the good things. My optimistic wife helps offset me there.
I put in around 70 hours a week, and even more during earnings season. It starts to take a toll as you get older, the constant sitting, lack of time to get to the gym, vision worsening from too much screen time, and the overall impact of the daily stress/anxiety that comes with doing this kind of work. My first 28 years or so I was about as active/healthy/fit as a person could be, but more recently have become so engulfed in my work that I have slacked off, and the research shows that your body does not get any bonus points for being healthy “once”, it needs to be a constant focus. And it’s no longer that I want to be healthy and live long for myself, it’s for my daughter. Becoming a dad is by far the most amazing feeling I’ve ever had, and I want to be able to live long to see the person she becomes and everything she will do. I also understand that I have it good, being able to work from home, I do not have to suffer the commutes and time-loss that many other American workers do, but it still feels like there has to be a way to be able to spend more time with my daughter, because it’s more important than anything else. Working from home is another give and take, its great being able to have my dogs with me all day, so for a stroll on the property, have access to everything, etc., but you do miss out on the social fun of being in a workplace, and your work is always right there, so a “pop in” to do a quick task drags into spending another hour at the computer with my ever growing to-do list.
I like to calculate things, so I work 70 hours/week, sleep around 45 hours/week leaving 53 hours per week for me. When I look at that number it seems like a lot more than I figured, though after working a long day a lot of that time you feel burnt out and just want to let the mind rest. I’d kill to have time to read a good book, I have 30+ sitting on my bookshelf that I have planned to get to for 5+ years. I did not even bother to get my fishing license this year, nor have I played a round of golf outside of when I was vacationing. Those 53 hours are prioritized, and making sure I spend them with my daughter supersedes everything else. The problem is she is sleeping about 21 of those free hours I have, leaving 32, which sucks.
It’s a trapped feeling… I love what I do and make a ton of money, but hate being stuck at a computer all day and want more time to travel, read, be in nature, and spend quality time with my family. The only thing that excites me more than the stock-market is sports, but I do not see a lot of NFL teams hiring guys like me whose resume would include “self-proclaimed football expert” for a GM position, lol.
I don’t want this to sound like a “poor me” piece, I assume there are a lot of people out there struggling with this work/life balance. If you were looking for answers in this write-up, I apologize, but I simply do not have them which is rare. I’m a problem solver, but this is becoming a worsening issue that I simply cannot come up with the perfect solution. I do, however, have some ideas of things to make your life better:
- Read more, watch less TV – Nothing is better than a good book, I prefer reading non-fiction because I love history, but either way, you become better educated through reading, it opens up conversations with people and is much better than the mindless things on TV
- Rescue a Dog – I feel good every day looking at my Jasper and seeing how far he has come, thinking “man, we gave this guy and chance and a great life, and he makes us happy every day.”
- Wake up early, even on weekends – Life is short, sleeping 6 hours a day means at the age 80, you slept 20 years of your life, mind-blowing
- Have kids as soon as financially/emotionally comfortable – It’s been amazing so far, and I hear it just keeps getting better, and so far it really has. They consumer your thoughts every day with the things they do/learn, and the joy you feel seeing a little person develop a personality, figure things out, act goofy, etc.
- Drink Good Beer – If you are drinking Coors Light, Miller Light, Bud, etc., you are really missing out
- Learn to Cook Awesome Meals – You can eat a lot healthier and bond with your loved ones in the process
- Exercise in Nature, not in the gym – Being outside is healthy in itself, hike, explore – the US is filled with magnificent natural beauty and you get a good workout in the process
- Travel often, and to new places – Expand your horizons, don’t take a trip to Disney every year or some place you have been before, explore new cultures, new environments
- Give Back – Monetary charitable donations are great, but even better is giving your time, whether to youths, the elderly, or just a stranger – improve someone else’s life and you will improve your own
- Start a business – Take a chance, if you have a passion or something you can make it work. It feels great not having a boss and being able to mold your own direction. Stress comes with it, but the only thing unhealthier than stress, is regrets
So, when do I have enough? I wish I had this answer and I do not think I can solve it with a dollar figure. Much like pro athletes, I think it will be when I stop enjoying the process. Athletes never retire because they stop enjoying the games, it’s the film study, practice, training they lose the passion for, which translates into poor game performance. Traders will never tire of that opening bell and firing off trades that they spend years building a process, but once I tire of putting in the prep work, perhaps, I will know it’s time to hang ‘em up.