If You Had 10 Years Left to Live

Welcome to Thought Experiment #2! The last one, ‘If you won £1m’ went so well that these will now be a monthly installment. At the beginning of each month, the question will be tweeted under the hashtag #ThoughtExperiment and the posts will go live on the 15th of every month.

I recommend to all who want to participate to have your posts written before the 15th and then post them on or after this date, I’ll then add you to the list!

To participate in a Thought Experiment, read the below question and put your thoughts directly into a blog post. No major editing allowed, these posts should read like an internal monologue.


What would you do if you knew with absolute certainty that you would die in exactly 10 years time. It doesn’t matter how you know this or what you will die of; in 3652 days you will drop dead.


As always tweet @SavingNinja if you have participated and I’ll add your post to the list below!

Impending Doom

I place down the letter and squeeze out a shallow breath. A stinging lump forms quickly in my throat, tears begin to fill my eyes. I’ve just been told that I have 10 years left to live. As I lean back on my chair, a million thoughts fly through my head.

Shock. My strongest emotion is shock. All of these years I opted for a cheaper house, cheaper and less frequent holidays and I never bought gifts for my loved ones. That’s just meaningless consumerism anyway! It doesn’t mean anything. Right?

I feel lied to! The perfect life that I wanted to build for my family will never come to be. We’ll never experience living on a beautiful remote mountainside in a log cabin that we built. Never enjoy drinking hot chocolate on a snowy day with the log fire blazing and our children smiling.

I feel an overwhelming sense of loss. An imploding urge to tell my loved ones that I love them. I should have told them that more. All I can picture is tears. The tears of my partners shuddering sobs as I tell her the news of my impending doom. Our lives were intertwined immensely, we don’t live near any relatives and have few friends. We’re different people now. People that rely on each other to function, how will we go on apart?

I can see the angry tears of my parents. Having a single child wasn’t a choice for them. My mother’s health disallowed me from having any siblings. How is the child they cherished and protected so dearly being taken away from them?

What should I do? I could run away. Leave, without writing a note, and suffer through my last 10 years in solitude. Surely my family would be happier thinking that I had left them rather than left this world? No. There are too many unknowns. They must know. The only option is to maximise my family’s happiness. This needs to happen in the little time that I have left. I need to find fulfillment within my soul and be content with passing away. I need to convince my family to be content too.

I lift myself off my cheap second-hand sofa and doggedly make my way across my tiny flat in search of a pen and paper. All can be fixed with a good plan.


How to Maximise Happiness?

I’m lucky that I and my partner need the same things to be happy. We’re at our happiness peak when we’re exploring new and exciting places with each other. When we don’t have to worry about work and have time to relax and enjoy ourselves. Traveling has always been a dream for us, to see and experience everything this life has to offer, to be free to roam wherever the wind takes us. We would be truly happy on one big never ending adventure.

Have you ever wondered why when you get older, your days seem to fly by faster and faster? This is caused by falling into the monotonous slug of the daily grind. When you’re younger, you experience new things almost every day. When you experiencing new things, a simple week can feel like forever! We need to pack as many new experiences into this last decade as possible. If we successfully accomplish this, the next 10 years will seem like they lasted a lifetime. This will maximise our happiness!

But, what about my parents? They won’t want to not see me for my final years… And I can’t take them with me. They’ll be heartbroken. I really don’t think that there will be be much that can change that. I’d want to minimise the length of suffering that their old hearts will have to deal with. They shouldn’t have to go into their 70s heart-sick due to my illness. I won’t tell them. I’ll focus on me and my partner reaching a place of happiness and acceptance. At the end of my journey, I can let them know a year or so before my expiry date and spend as much time with them as possible.

How Can We Go Traveling For 10 Years?

We don’t have enough money for this. If only I’d got this news a handful of years later; we would have had enough! This is what the saving movement is all about; preparing for scenarios like this. But it’s too soon, I haven’t saved for a long enough time.

If we sold our house, our net worth would sit at 60k. We’d need at least 20k per year for traveling — we’d run out of money in roughly 3 years time. That won’t do. I’ve also got to think about what I’m leaving my partner with; 37 years old with no money and a 10-year gap in her career? There must be another way.

I could carry on working for 5 more years

Pros:

  • We would be able to sustain ourselves for 5 years
  • There would be money left over after I’m gone

Cons:

  • Half of my time left would be wasted working
  • Would be demotivating to carry on working very hard and long hours

This could be an option, but throwing away half my life continuing to work these long hours would be very dissatisfying and difficult with the knowledge of my life-span foreshadowing everything.

I could start contracting and work only 6 months of the year

Pros:

  • We would have enough money to travel for 6 months every year
  • There would be money left over after I’m gone

Cons:

  • Half of my time would be wasted working, longing for the next 6 months to come
  • Long stints of adventure and soul searching would never be able to happen as I would constantly have to be thinking about returning to work

I would easily be able to try this option as I am in the right location and have the necessary experience under my belt to start contracting. The only trouble is it means I would still have to work half of my remaining days.

I could try and find part-time, fully-remote work

Pros:

  • This would allow us to travel indefinitely
  • Any surplus income can be invested and left behind after I’m gone

Cons:

  • It may be nerve-wracking knowing that I’m still dependent on finding work
  • Depending on time-schedules and internet access, it may limit where we can travel

This would be a very good option, if I can pull it off. A schedule of 1 week working remotely and 3 weeks free time would be preferential. Depending on how good the contracts are, we could even stop completely after 5 or so years.

The only problem I see here is if it’s possible to obtain this, if it is; how long will it take to set up? And how reliable will the contracts be?


I place the pen down gently on the table and gaze up at the wall, reiterating the plan in my head. I will hand in my resignation and I’ll start freelancing immediately whilst continuously searching for a fully remote position. I’m bound to find one eventually. I’m determined enough! Why didn’t I do this sooner?

My eyes are misty, I must have been crying. “Why don’t I feel better?” I think, as my stomach roils with sickness. My heart begins to beat faster, it feels like it’s about to be ripped out of my chest…I don’t want to die! I don’t want to emotionally stab a dagger into my loved ones hearts. Why does this have to happen to me?

Regret. I’m filled with so much regret: For not loving harder, not grasping life with enough passion and for not being the best that I can be. I’ve lost so much. I won’t be able to look into my partner’s excited eyes as we catch the first glimpse of the yearly Christmas market. We won’t be able to drink spiced mulled wine or cinnamon infused tea whilst walking in the woods as the autumn leaves fall around us… We were meant to grow old together. Now I’m leaving her alone—‘Baby? ‘What’s wrong?’ I startle as I feel my partners hand grasp my shoulder. I struggle to swallow due to the ever-expanding lump in my throat, I look into her eyes as tears begin to betray me once again, ‘I’ve got something to tell you.’

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20 thoughts on “If You Had 10 Years Left to Live

  1. Powerful story SavingNinja. You really threw some sunshine down with that one!

    Question is, now that you’ve actually stopped and thought about time being scarce (hopefully not 10 years scarce), how does your approach to real life change?

    Has playing this game altered your attitude towards longevity? Risk? Work/life balance? Marrying your long suffering partner? Kids? Home ownership?

    That is the real benefit of these thought exercises: think it through, learn from the experience, then apply that learning by actually making changes.

    1. Yeah, was a bit depressing 😛

      It’s definitely made me re-evaluate the little things like buying flowers for my partner every now and again or taking my parents out for a meal. The loving harder bit. There’s so little time to give it your all and show them how much they mean to you. Maybe I’ll regret not doing more things to show my gratitude and love toward my parents when they’re gone? (or I’m gone!) I do still believe this can be done mostly without money being spent. But sometimes, it’s easier to buy something or go out. I have to remember that it’s better to do that than to not do anything at all.

      With regards to the quitting work side of things, I am hoping to start going down that path in 2019. Search for a freelancing position, then switching to (or searching for) remote positions would be the next step. I’m hoping that slowly, as I approach my 30s and my pot grows, I’ll be able to position my career and life such that the Segway into what I’m striving for will be easy (fingers crossed!).

  2. An excellent thought experiment and powerful and emotional answer there, SN!

    I considered joining in but aside from not wanting to think dark thoughts, mine would have been an incredibly short post!

  3. Wow! Ok, that was an unexpected question and it lead to some interesting results that I’ve outlined on my blog. I have always considered my death would be a sudden thing, but I had not seriously considered what would happen if it was not. My plans don’t stack up. So, thank you for helping me spot the flaw in my planning!

  4. Well that was more emotional than I was expecting! It made me wonder if I had been too clinical when I thought about the question myself. I think though that there’s no ‘right’ way to feel when something like that hits you. It is what it is and you have to deal with whatever it is that you are feeling.

    What I would note though is that all of those potential negatives can be turned into positives (especially as, yanno, none of us are actually dying in 10 years!). The Christmas markets and the woodland walks, the change in your work pattern, the log cabin in the snow. All of that can be made reality now.

    It’s kinda what I was driving at in my post on this. I thought about this a few years ago (although not in these precise terms) and started to make those changes anyway. It was easier, and more rewarding, than I thought it would be.

  5. Well that was…. depressing 🙂

    I didn’t really even consider the emotional side of it too much and just went into planning mode!

    Do you think it’s a stage of life kind of thing? I am not “that” much older than you but you can do a lot in just 10 years and I’ve already had that (and then some I think) on you, so maybe it’s because I already felt like I’ve been around the block a few times already, I just didn’t think about any regrets of not doing X or Y. I just thought let’s have more of the same and maybe accelerate a few things I still haven’t done yet. It seems like a trend that some of the other older PF/FI bloggers who’ve answered the question are also a bit more sanguine over it.

    Obviously, it would be heart wrenching to leave my wife and daughter though and I would venture that they would feel exactly the same (maybe worse for them as they continue living without my awesome self! 🙂 ), but I guess I didn’t really want to think about that too deeply so maybe I missed the point of the experiment after all 😀

    Thinking about the emotional side of it does definitely put the whole “love harder” aspect into play, and that is something I will try to think about more often in my daily life, and being a bit more stoic about things like petty squabbles with the other half, and focusing on the bigger picture.

    Cheers for getting me thinking more deeply than I originally did about it!

    1. Can be interpreted any way you like 🙂

      I’m a bit of an emotional git in some things, un-emotional in others. For this, I was sat on the train and trying to pretend that it was actually happening. I thought it would be better for it to read like a story and I always wanted to try a bit of writing like this.

      I didn’t initially intend for it to be so emotional, not only for the embarrassing tears forming whilst on my morning commute sat next to a stranger, but because it’s yea…depressing! But I guess it is just a sad thing to happen and as I was really believing that this was happening, it’s bound to be a sad story.

      With regards to your point about why I may be more regretful than you and the other bloggers. I guess it is because I’m younger. I’m only about a year into aggressively saving and me and my partner have pushed back a lot of things in order to aggressively save now. We always say we’re in our ‘shit years’, we’ve bought a place in a really shitty area 4 hours away from both our families, we’re not going on any snowboarding holidays (which we both love), amongst lots of other things. We’re doing this on purpose, as we say that when we have kids, we’ll be able to be in a position to live a more free life. So to get this news would be extremely shit, as we’ve lived well below our means in order to be free in half a dozen or so years when we start a family.

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