Financial Independence Can Help You Live on a Higher Plane of Existence
Recently, I’ve heard from a number of friends who are entirely burned-out at their jobs. Some of them have bosses that are extremely coercive, if not outright emotionally abusive. I’m talking about the kind of bosses that call you into their offices and cut you down personally, saying things like “I used to think you were great, but it looks like you just aren’t talented.” This is the kind of sadistic management that passes for “coaching” in the most toxic workplaces. Unfortunately for my friends, they are temporarily stuck in their jobs because they need the money. This is no way to live.
Most professionals in my experience, for better or worse, tie their identities to their jobs. They give everything they have to their career. While we all have partners, families, friends and hobbies; most people sacrifice time with people and activities they love to engage in paid work – jobs they love. This may all be fine until the shit hits the fan and your job is not loving you back – it’s hating you back. I’m not a psychologist, but I have to assume that this has the same emotional effect as having a long-term partner emotionally abuse you, cut you down, and tell you they don’t love you. We’re talking soul crushing stuff here.
Is this all the result of a lack of emotional or intellectual diversification? We tend to align much of our identities with our work, which is probably partly cultural (learned over generations from hard-working families and cultural programming in school), and partly a survival mechanism. The modern professional workplace can be intense, and it requires dedication. Unless you want to feel completely alienated, you eventually develop a sense of purpose and identity in your job, and giving that up is extremely hard. However, this problem gets even worse when you realize that you’re in a toxic situation and you’ve got nowhere to go. You need the money.
This is where financial independence could swoop in and save the day. I’m not even talking about the kind of financial independence where you have enough money to support yourself at a modest lifestyle for the rest of your life. Rather, I’m referring to having enough money in available investment or savings accounts so you can live for 2-5 years without a job. Some people call this “f*ck you” money, because if things get bad enough, you can say so much and walk out the door.
I think having the means to walk away from a bad job is important to being a well-balanced professional, and it upsets me that lots of professionals can get into their 40’s and not have this option. I think this is a goal that should be top of mind for any new graduate or young professional – it should even be prioritized over owning a home.
If you do have the financial backstop to walk away from a toxic job, it can entirely change your outlook on work and life. With enough savings to bridge a few years at a modest lifestyle, you can change everything. You can freelance, go back to school, get another job in your field, or change fields. The change in outlook that this security can have is remarkable. You can take on new risks at work and go after what you really want. You can be bold and ask to work on something new, or find work that is more fulfilling. You can put in a request to change departments without fear of retribution from the leadership in your own department.
What we’re really talking about here is moving up to a higher plane of existence. If we use the model of Maslow’s Hierarchy, basic financial independence can help secure the “safety” level on the hierarchy. In turn, this can allow one to focus on developing in the higher-level needs like love and belonging (family and friends, as well as close professional relationships), esteem (knowing that you are competent and can hold your head high), and even self-actualization (achieving your highest potential in your life and in your work). Financial independence is incredibly powerful in enabling you to live on a higher plane of existence.
It frustrates me to see people who don’t have the option to walk away from bad situations, especially when I know some of them have had years to build up this protective shield. There are lots of reasons why this opportunity is missed, but there aren’t any good reasons not to move towards this goal in the future. For the younger readers, I hope this post encourages you to start building assets that you can deploy when the SHTF at work. It’s probably the highest priority goal you should set as a young professional.
Have you used “f*ck you” money to get out of a bad work situation in the past? Please share story in the comments below.