As a millennial living in Sydney, I am faced with an important choice: a house or my life. I've decided to choose the latter.
I've made a decision to retire early. I don't mean at 55 or even 50 years old. I'm talking about hanging up my boots at the ripe age of 35 after a fulfilling, decade-long career.
While early retirement is not for everyone, I truly believe that becoming financially independent — that is having the financial means to stop working if you choose to — is an achievable and worthwhile goal for most Australians with a decent-paying job.
My own yearning for financial independence has grown over time.
The inhuman waking hours and long days filled with hours of overtime has slowly eroded the feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment I get from my work as an engineer.
More importantly, I feel that by working so much, I'm missing out on the rest of my life.
Unlike my peers, buying a home is not a priority for me.
Contrary to many people my age, who are driven by ever-rising property prices and the fear of missing out, I wasn't willing to mortgage myself to the neck. I rent with my partner and a flatmate.
Instead, I decided to invest in the share market to work towards my goal of early retirement.
My decision led to some raised eyebrows from friends and family.
My colleague Matt nearly choked on his coffee when I told him I had $250,000 in the share market. "That's crazy," he said.
But I'll tell you what I think is crazy: spending 30 years of servitude paying off a mortgage, just to own a very expensive material possession, when I could be doing other things like spending time with my friends and family.
By buying income-producing assets such as shares, I will soon have enough income to make work optional.
By saving aggressively and investing aggressively in exchange-traded funds, I plan to have $1,000,000 by the time I am 35. This will produce an income of about $40,000 per year for the rest of my life.
Now, that amount of money would not go far if I were to continue living in Sydney, one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world.
That's why I have aspirations to live in other parts of Australia and the world.
Cities like Cairns, Adelaide, Ballarat or Hobart (just to name a few) offer extremely affordable real estate and idyllic lifestyles away from the constant rat race of the larger cities.
Slowly travelling through south-east Asia or South America can also be done at a far cheaper price than it costs to live in some of Australia's large cities.
While many imagine a life of poverty on $40,000 a year or less, I have found that you can have a truly rich and fulfilling life by ensuring you spend your money on the right things.
Yearly upgrades to the latest iPhone and smashed avocado at the local café several times a week are out, while lots of outdoor time with friends and beautiful home cooked meals are in.
Being completely open and honest about these aspirations has meant that my friends and family know what my motivations are when I make decisions around spending.
I still remain social and see them regularly, giving myself a small social spending budget for meals out and other small incidental costs.
The key here is smart spending: I could waste one month's social budget on one meal, or I could forego the fancy meal and have every weekend filled with day trips to places such as public pools, the beach, hiking spots or free outdoor cinemas.
None of this is much different to what a young couple would do to save a house deposit.
Even with a very conservative strategy of withdrawals from my share portfolio to cover living expenses during retirement, I must admit there are still risks.
The prevailing risk is underperforming investments. The share market is an unpredictable beast in the short term.
Another risk is the possibility that I come to need or want to spend more on living expenses than I had planned.
If returns are not what I expect them to be or if I fall victim to lifestyle inflation, then I will need to adjust my plan to include more paid work and/or be more flexible with my spending.
I am content with the possibility of needing to work a bit longer or transitioning to a couple of days of casual work in a fun, low-stress job if I need to give my investments some time to grow.
Far from being the death knell of my retirement, these are challenges that I expect and am prepared to overcome by remaining flexible with my work and spending.
While, I must admit, the prospect of getting my hands dirty in the garden at 8am on a weekday while everyone else is rushing to work is alluring, I don't intend to drop everything once I reach my goal.
Juggling full-time work and child-rearing sounds painfully difficult and full of unfortunate compromises.
By getting the business of earning money out of the way early in life, I can focus 100 per cent of my energy on what will be my most important commitment: family and children.
Besides spending time with my family, I want to travel, learn a language and play music.
Hard work, achievement, productivity and contribution will always have an important place in my life. But it doesn't always have to be for money.
I hope to do some meaningful work in retirement that's not motivated by money. I'd like to volunteer and work on personal projects — but on my own terms, not those of my employer.
As Peter Adeney, who blogs about financial independence under the pseudonym Mr Money Moustache, points out:
"If you can free yourself from the need for money, you have no choice but to do work that is better for you, and better for the world … If you're doing it for love instead of money, you'll have no choice but to do a better job."
It's all too common to hear people who, at the end of their lives, regret working too much.
Like most, I don't want to be one of those people. Unlike most, I'm willing to do something about it.
*This blog was republished with permission from the author. Read more about Pat Seyrak's journey on his blog, Life Long Shuffle.*