Michelle vanDellenComment

Company Retreat

Michelle vanDellenComment
Company Retreat

Some unknown number of years ago, we started sitting down once a year to review our household situation. How is our budget working? What big projects or expenses are looming over us? Are we having enough fun? Can we retire on time, or maybe even early? These sorts of questions are hard and sometimes scary to talk about but ignoring them doesn't make things better. So before our company yet existed, we decided to take one weekend a year for 'Company Retreat.' We committed to a weekend with no other plans, planned some fun meals at home and out, and sat down and talked. And talked. And talked.

At the time we started, a big question we wanted to answer was whether Kelly could quit his full-time job. We came up with some numbers and a plan to transition him out of that job. A few months later, the whole plan went out the window because some changes at his company made his day-to-day life miserable. If we hadn't had a plan, we wouldn't have been ready to change plans. It was early but we were ready. 

Since then, we've worked plans to pay off all of our student loans and grow an actual company. We talk frequently outside of Company Retreat but find it to be a really good reset and refocus time. 

This past weekend we took Company Retreat on the road for the first time. We reviewed our performance over the last year, revisited how I can keep being productive in my full-time job, planned our big summer adventure (AKA work-ation), set some goals for the year, came up with some photography/video content ideas, and schemed about buying a DIY camper van. We set up laptops over long meals and chatted while we hiked our way around the Smokies. The WiFi in our rental was a total bust, which limited our productivity somewhat. Regardless, we're now back home with a clearer plan of what to get done and how to do so together. 

An absolute ground rule for Company Retreat is mutual respect. This is not the time to play the blame game about why you're in the boat you're in. This is the time to face the facts--good or bad--and find some steps forward. 

Here's a list of some questions we recommend you might consider in your own 'Company Retreat.' Whether you're single, newlyweds, or partnered for a long time, this kind of face-the-facts weekend might be just what you need to reduce stress and find a way for more of your kind of adventure.  

1) What is your actual spending like every month? Break it into categories and develop a loose budget. We have a spreadsheet that records every expense we make in a a few key categories, which we created during an early Company Retreat.

2) What kind of debt are you facing? This is a touchy subject. Talk about it anyway! Can you pay it off sooner? Every early payment you make on credit card bills, car loans, home loans, and student loans saves you money on interest. Student loan interest is (so far) still a tax deduction so pay off other things first. And for your own sanity, get rid of credit card debt ASAP and permanently. Consider taking out a loan to pay off credit card debt if you are realistically in a place to prevent yourself from growing more debt.

3) Where are your savings accounts sitting? After paying off credit cards, get yourself a 3-6 month cushion of your salary. Is this a pipe dream? Maybe. But it's the best way to keep that credit card debt away.

4) What do you want (or need) to buy? Revisit that spending spreadsheet and make sure you're planning for these things. If you're lucky enough to have extra money, dream a bit about how to spend it. 

5) Where do you want (or need) to go? Company retreat should be fun, too. Daydream a bit about an upcoming adventure. Or get booking/planning on a real one.

6) When do you want to retire? What kind of lifestyle makes sense for your retirement? Are you legitimately saving for retirement (not a pension and not social security)?  

7) What do you eat? Some years we spend a lot of time brainstorming new meals or recipes. Nearly every year involves some discussion of how we need to eat more vegetables. Most people can save a lot of money by eating out less so taking time to think creatively about meals can be a major accomplishment.

8) Do you exercise? What do you need to do to shake it up or make more progress? Do you want to try working out together or do you need to come up with ideas to do so separately? You can't live a long and happy life if you're not in reasonably good fitness.