Ramblings Thought Experiments

If you had ten years to live

The second in a series of thought experiments proposed by Saving Ninja. What would you do if you had ten years to live?

In Saving Ninja’s own words:

What would you do if you knew with absolute certainty that you would die in exactly 10 years time? It doesn鈥檛 matter how you know this or what you will die of; in 3652 days you will drop dead.

As before, the only requirement was a stream-of-conscious style post. So here goes…

What would you do if you had ten years to live?

This question is harder than I thought, if only because, whatever I think of, I end up thinking “well, why aren’t I doing that now?” Obviously, the reason for that is that I hopefully have a lot longer than ten years left to live, so need to act accordingly so I don’t run out of money too soon.


Make money

I imagine for the first few years I wouldn’t do too much differently than I am now. I’d focus on accumulating enough money to ensure I can do what I want to do in the latter few years, as well as being able to leave some money behind to make sure that my girlfriend isn’t destitute when I’m gone.

After a certain period (2-3 years?), I would start to cut back on my hours, switching to some sort of part time work. This would give me even more free time to tick a few things off of my bucket list.


Bucket List

After ensuring I had enough money to see out my remaining years, I’d want to experience a few things and make some memories with my girlfriend, friends and family.

I already laid out a few goals I want to achieve in the next five years. Whilst some of these would no longer be applicable if I knew I was going to die in exactly 10 years time, a lot of them are still relevant.

First of all, I would set aside some time to do a lot more travelling. I’ve only been to a handful of countries in total, mostly in Europe and a few in Asia. There are still several countries in Europe alone that I haven’t visited yet that I would like to, not to mention the huge continents of Africa and America that I want to see.

I’d like to get around to writing a book or two and sticking them on amazon. Not for any worries about leaving behind a legacy, it’s just one those things I’ve always thought would be cool to do.

In the final year I’d do a few things that I would like to experience but am currently too worried that they might go wrong and end up with me dying, like hang-gliding, skydiving or bungee diving. Obviously, if I have less than a year to live, that’s no longer such an issue!


Friends and Family

One key point amongst all this is that I would want to spend more time than I do now with friends and family. It’s easy to take for granted that you’ll catch up with a friend again in the future, but to be honest I probably only see most of my friends and family a few times a year. This tends to be a problem when you move city/country every few years and all of your closest friends don’t live nearby! So as I started to take more time off of work I would aim to spend more time with those I love. It wouldn’t need to anything extravagant either – a few drinks in a pub, a dinner party at my place, or playing a board game at a friend’s house; these are some of my favourite ways to spend the day, so a lifetime of that would go down pretty well with me.


Ensure all my affairs are in order

I would marry my girlfriend to avoid any issues with me leaving my estate to her, as well as any inheritance tax issues. Reading that line back, the reasons sound coldhearted and cynical, so I want to stress that we do intend to marry in the next few years anyway, this would just be another reason to do so!

One thing that I’m totally stealing from Young FI Guy is to set up a life insurance to further ensure that my girlfriend would not be left destitute once I’m gone. I wouldn’t have thought of that otherwise though.

Finally, I’d make sure to write a comprehensive will, to make sure everything is accounted for.

In summary

As I said at the beginning, this was a harder question than I first thought. I think it’s a valuable thought exercise that everyone should attempt, as it helps identify what really matters to you and what you want most out of life. Much like I don’t think you have to wait for financial independence to start doing some of the things you might want to do during retirement (early or not), I think it makes sense to give a lot of thought to what you want out of life, and to then act on it sooner rather than later.

Thanks to Saving Ninja for coming up with the idea. Looking forward to the next one!

Check out what other people thought:

12 replies on “If you had ten years to live”

Thanks for taking part Dr!

The life insurance idea is a very good one! Although I guess it depends on what the way you’d actually find this out. Obviously, that was omitted from the proposed question, but in most cases, you’d probably have been diagnosed with some kind of terminal illness, in which case, you’d not be able to take up a new policy.

I’m a little too far along my moving all the time phase to even visit friends now. After a while, it just gets a bit awkward going back to visit as we’re different people now. Maybe I’m just lazy? 馃檪

In the few more years that you’d work do you think you’d behave differently? I guess working longer hours, striving for promotion, wouldn’t really be worth it anymore. Would you be less committed? Or would you try and pick up additional work/Over time to earn more?

No problem!

Fair enough, that would make life insurance harder to get. In my mind it was something more fantastical, like a prophecy or a spell. Clearly I read too many fantasy books and play too many video games!

It’s not too bad for me. Most of my friends are split between two cities, so it’s pretty easy to head over for a weekend and see several people at once.

Hmm, good question. Career progression would no longer be something I’d be aiming for, but then, any chance to earn more money would certainly be useful. I probably would be less committed though – at the moment, I want to build a career that spans another 20 years, so I want to continuously improve and learn new things. If I know I’ve only got 10 years left, that would no longer be a factor.

“I would marry my girlfriend to avoid any issues with me leaving my estate to her, as well as any inheritance tax issues.”

You old romantic! Bet that line costs you a penalty dinner someplace nice if your long suffering girlfriend were to read it 馃檪

The “making memories” point is one I find fascinating. Enjoying experiences is for you, one that I support and applaud.

Ultimately the memories made will be for those you enjoy those experiences with… a legacy of sorts. Is an interesting thing to consider. Those who really loved you would remember you fondly regardless, while those who didn’t probably wouldn’t be swayed by trips to Disneyland or Michelin star meals out. Either way you would be beyond caring at that point.

It’s a wonder that she puts up with me!

You definitely raise a good point – I wouldn’t necessarily be ‘making memories’ *for* my friends. I would just want to fill the time I had left with fun times and great experiences. And hopefully I know my friends well enough that I wouldn’t be wasting time on those who wouldn’t remember me fondly! But then, on the other hand, you’re right, I would be leaving a legacy of sorts, and the idea of leaving behind memories of me and my time together with loved ones is something that makes sense and appeals to me. Interesting point to consider!

“…I鈥檇 like to get around to writing a book or two and sticking them on amazon….”

Can I steal that one from you? 馃槈

Can’t believe I didn’t put that on my list. Writing a book is the one thing I still hope to do in my life.

I already stole an idea from YoungFIGuy, so steal away! Books have been such a large part of my life, especially as a child and teenager, so I’d love to contribute my own.

I thought of the life insurance “scam” straight away without reading Mr YFI Guy’s post first (promise), was that cheating then? I read the thought experiment the same as you did, in that it would just be some magical death clock not an actual real illness. I thought it was morbid enough without throwing that into the mix on top! 馃檪

I think you nailed it with the whole “why aren’t I doing this already” thing, but that is the whole point of the exercise I thinm? You should definitely go and see your friends this Christmas 馃槈


Haha, I will take your word for it!

Rest assured, I think every weekend in December is already booked with trips to see family and friends. It’ll be busy and tiring (and the blog will probably suffer for it) but it’s always worth it to catch up and see everyone!

What’s really interesting across all of these is how much similarity there is in what we all want to do. Travel, family/friends, and financial security all loom large for most people.

Also it seems that we all agree that we shouldn’t wait – cracking on with things now has to be the right thing to do!

Like I said in the main post, I think the main strength of this thought experiment is that it allows you to strip back all of the unnecessary stuff and really identify what is most important to you! And, for me, the main selling point of financial independence is then having more time to pursue those things.

Of course, you are correct in saying that one shouldn’t put their life on hold until they reach FI. Much better to strike a balance, pursuing some degree of financial independence whilst still enjoying the moment and living life right now!

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