Do you have parts of your job that are unfulfilling?

For 30 years, I worked in Information Technology and struggled with some aspects of my work that grated on me. While I enjoyed most of my work, these pieces caused me much angst.

I ultimately walked away from my job last fall, feeling burnt and stressed to the max.

This week I’ve been reading the new book Taking Stock by Jordan Grumet, and I found some advice about dealing with the stresses of work and life. He calls it the art of subtraction.

The prescription sounds simple.

I began to subtract all the parts of my job that were unfulfilling or ungratifying. Then I applied the same process to life beyond work. The calculus becomes simple. Which tasks do I enjoy? Which would I rather avoid?

Grumet, Jordan. Taking Stock (p. 55)

You can’t just stop doing everything you do not love.

Very few of us love our jobs. Likewise, very few of us hate our jobs. Most are somewhere in between and mostly tolerate their work.

If you stop doing things you don’t love, you could seriously hinder your journey to financial independence. Making money is necessary for saving and investing.

However, you do not have to pound away doing unsatisfying work.

Building a safety net or even FU Money can significantly increase your freedom to move away from unfulfilling aspects of work and life. This may take time doing less gratifying work.

You do not need to be financially free to start subtracting.

In the book, Jorden Grumet describes how he removed aspects of his work after discovering he was financially free. I feel like I was on the same path as the author.

I worked many years doing highly stressful work. I was always on-call, with my mobile phone at my side. Always. I missed holidays, scouting events with my son, birthdays, and more.

I was afraid to make changes to my work, though. I was making significant progress toward my goal of financial freedom. The end was getting closer.

This deferred gratification mentality cost me time with my loved ones. I can’t get that back.

The Finoneers coined the term Slow FI, which is a different approach. In this approach, you start subtracting early in your journey. Your path may be longer, but you get the benefit of enjoying life along the way — YOLO.

Jordan Grumet argues that we don’t know what the future holds. He’s learned from the dying through his work as a hospice doctor, and the top regrets of the dying are related to being true to oneself, not working so hard, expressing feelings, staying in touch with friends, and being happier.

Removing things from your life that get in the way of your happiness and cause you to work too hard will serve you best if done early rather than later.

You may live to 100, or you may die tomorrow.


When I hear this term, I often think of financially irresponsible people. People who spend all they have and more.

In a financially responsible world, YOLO means to enjoy life and save for your future. You can make compromises that reduce stress and deprivation and still keep you on track for a secure future.

You may not be on a 5-year sprint to financial independence, but money is only one aspect of financial freedom. By subtracting stress from your life, you begin to enjoy freedom long before you hit a net worth milestone.

What happens when you subtract later in life?

In my case, I feel that I took steps to enjoy my journey but failed to subtract the most significant stressor from my life. In hindsight, I would have had the courage to make a career change.

While I enjoy the mini-retirement trip I’m on; I still have a desire to do meaningful work. Those who master the art of subtraction can build a life filled with meaningful work.

Work that you have no desire to stop.

I’m fortunate that I can explore meaningful work on my terms. I’m also lucky to have good health and, hopefully, time to discover my purpose fully. I was worried about the health tolls of my work, though.

My goal is not to be one of the dying who regret not living a life true to myself.

Start early.

Thanks to voices like The Finoneers and this book by Jordan Grumet, the message of the importance of life happiness is reaching people.

Money is just a tool. You need happiness and health to be truly free.

The sooner you realize that unfulfilling aspects of your life are sucking away your soul, the better.

Building a slower life with more satisfaction beats the nose-down grind in my book. I worked hard for a long time. These days, I’m so much happier in a slower life, even if it means my financial progress moves much slower.

Final Thoughts

I first heard of the book Taking Stock at a meetup with people in the personal finance community. Jordan Grumet joined the meeting and talked about his book. I connected with his message immediately and pre-ordered the book.

The message goes beyond the tactical details of earning, saving, and investing. Freedom is more about your purpose, identity, and connections.

I needed this message and wished I had found a book like this years ago.

If I had, I would have found the courage to subtract the stressful aspects of my career much earlier. Perhaps I would still be working.

I highly recommend the book to anyone on a financial journey. The art of subtraction and many other lessons in the book just might touch you too.