Here’s What Happened When This 29-Year-Old Dad Took a 50% Pay Cut

A family hang off the monkey bars at a park near their home in Florida.
Brad and Ashley Rice spend an afternoon with their 17-month-old daughter, Evelyn, at their at home in Wesley Chapel, Fla. Rice leveraged his years of experience to negotiate a 20-hour workweek with a new employer and spends 10 hours a week on his side business. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Brad Rice didn’t think much about when he’d retire. All he wanted was to retire rich.

He envisioned a couple million dollars in the bank, a boat and lots of traveling. But like a lot of us in our 20s and 30s, he didn’t really think about why he wanted to retire rich, much less how he would get there.

That was until he realized he couldn’t wait until his 60s to get what he really wanted from retirement.

Brad, now 29, worked long hours as a consultant for cloud computing company Salesforce; his wife, Ashley, is a speech language pathologist.

In 2013, on a vacation to Hawaii, they accidentally booked a hotel on Molokai, an island less than one-fourth the size of Rhode Island with no traffic lights or shopping malls.

The accident turned out to be a serendipitous awakening for both Brad and Ashley.

The couple embraced the slow life the community lived, the connection the people had to one another — instead of their phones — and the care they took to preserve their island.

By the end of the trip, working for decades just to afford traveling in retirement seemed like the wrong approach.

“We sort of had this awakening that said, ‘Well, let’s retire early instead,’” Brad said. “From there, it became simple: Stop listening to marketing and consumerism, and start filling my mind with this pursuit of happiness.”

He continued working long hours, but instead of going back to their old spending habits, Brad and Ashley slashed their expenses and saved more each month.

They cut cable, ate at home more, and maxed out their retirement accounts. For the first few years, they made huge gains toward their early retirement goals — until the birth of their daughter, Evelyn Kate, in 2016.

Kids change everything, don’t they? You have grand plans, and then they hand you a tiny human.

Brad didn’t want to work long hours to retire early if that meant missing first words, first steps and everything else that comes with being a dad. So he decided to create his own version of early retirement.

How He Traded His Retirement Dreams for a Better Life

A man plays with his cat as he works from home.
Brad Rice plays with his cat, Cashew, as he works from home in Wesley Chapel, Fla. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Because he and Ashley had already been living frugally and saving, Brad had freedom to take a pay cut for a more easygoing job.

“I had a lot of bandwidth in my budget to say, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to save as fast, I’m not going to retire as early, but I’m going to enjoy my life today,’” he said.

He knew the minimum salary he’d take and that he wanted to work closer to home. So he used LinkedIn to reach out to local companies.

For every 20 messages he sent, he averaged around one response.

Eventually, a representative for a small company that had been using a contractor emailed him and said they wanted to work with someone in-house. But the company couldn’t pay him what he wanted for full-time work.

So he leveraged his years of experience and some Glassdoor research on the company’s previous salaries to negotiate for a part-time job.

After a one-month trial — that he fit into long lunches at his fast-paced job that he hadn’t quit yet — the smaller company hired him part time. He took a 50% pay cut to quit his stressful job to take on the part-time role.

Why That 50% Pay Cut Was Totally Worth It

A man rides his bicycle to work.
To save money, Brad Rice and his family only have one car, and he rides his bicycle to work. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Brad, Ashley and Evelyn Kate had to cut their expenses even more  — well, Evelyn Kate not so much.

They’d already gotten rid of cable, but they eliminated Netflix as well, and called their insurance and internet companies to negotiate lower monthly rates.

Because his new job was closer to home, Brad convinced Ashley that they could go down to one car, and he could bike to work.

It rained two of the first three days he biked to work, and temperatures were in the 30s. The fourth day, the weather was perfect. But as he got onto his bike to head home, he found his back tire was completely blown out.

His resilience paid off. Now he loves biking to work. He’s saving money, he’s in the best shape of his life, and he’s worried about repairs for one less car.

“It’s gonna take a lot more than a flat tire and some cold weather to make me give up on this lifestyle change,” he said.

Working part time means he can take periodic dance breaks with his daughter. It’s also allowed him the time to start consulting on the side.

Now, he works 20 hours a week at his part-time job. The income he earns from the 10 hours a week he spends on his side business has erased the pay cut he took.

“I can make just as much money in half the time,” Brad said. “I just didn’t realize it until I took that opportunity.”

Even though they’ve slowed down on saving, Brad and Ashley still plan to retire early. His new side business and the sale of their car shaved a few years off their timeline.

In the meantime, they’ll be hanging out with their daughter and doing more traveling on a budget.

“Even if I had to sacrifice early retirement, the fact that I get to spend five extra hours a day with my kid, that would be worth not retiring early,” Brad said. “It was a no-brainer.”

Jen Smith is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder and gives money saving and debt payoff tips on Instagram at @savingwithspunk.