What My Job Taught Me About Financial Freedom

I know you can’t believe this, but I don’t live a very glamorous life. I know that you picture the Middle Age Money Man living in financial freedom. He may be driving around in his Ferrari, hanging out with celebrities. Probably even drinking champagne. Sometimes I picture that too, but then my wife and kids bring me back to reality. I then get into my minivan to go to the grocery store to buy some Pop-Tarts.

I graduated from college with a degree in Computer Science. That means that my job has involved sitting at a desk either writing code or analyzing data. Now I am not saying that it is not a glamorous job. The women just flock to guys wearing shirt and ties behind computer screens that never see the light of day. Fortunately, I am one of the lucky ones. I found a woman that liked a nerdy, yet very cool, guy.

I actually enjoyed my job. I loved going to work everyday and doing something different.  I enjoyed figuring out problems.  I tolerated helping businesses save money and see trends in their data. It was a satisfying career choice and paid the bills for a twenty-something guy.

As the years behind a desk passed, and job titles and companies changed along with salaries, so did our lifestyle. If we could afford our current house now, we could definitely afford it with more income. We deserve it, right? We deserve that new car. We deserve that bigger TV. We deserve that vacation. Of course we did, I’m moving up in the world.

Okay, fast forward 15 years.  Now we are standing on top of a mountain of debt because, of course, instead of paying cash for any of those things, we financed them. I moved up a little bit, yes I said a little bit, in the corporate world, and in my mind I was rolling in the dough.  I just figured the financial end would work itself out later.

Yeah, it did, but not for the better.

So I still sit at a desk five days a week, but I do it for a different reason now. Remember when I said that I enjoyed my job and it was satisfying? Well, it has become more of a mandatory evil. The debt has completely shifted my outlook on almost every aspect of my life and has skewed my view on many things that I used to enjoy without any negative thoughts.

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Getting up in the morning and sitting at my desk, putting in the 8-10 hours per day now feels like a ball and chain. Not necessarily because of what I am doing as a career, but why I am doing it. I used to work because it was satisfying and enjoyable. I went to work to help people and businesses. Now I go to work to pay off a crapload of debt that I built up because of the fact that I thought I could afford it from the money I made from working. Wow! That is a vicious circle isn’t it?

I know I am not alone here. I know that there are probably so many people out there that are in the same exact situation, so I am going to offer you a solution. Not an end-all be-all solution, but a solution that works for me. Your mileage may vary.

Things I needed to do to reach financial freedom:

Define My Triggers And Habits:
I needed to figure out what caused me to want to spend this extra money when I came across it.  Was it something from the way I was raised or the way that my parents handled money?  Did I want to “keep up with the Joneses”?  We all have reasons why we do things, we call them triggers. I found that, suffering from depression, I got a sense of completion from purchases.  Buying things satisfied a hole that needed filled.  Imagine trying to achieve financial freedom and suffering with depression.  It is like walking up a down escalator.

I would like to thank a fellow PF blogger for turning me on to a great book about triggers and habits.  The Power of Habit“, by Charles Duhigg, is a very detailed look at how our habits are formed and how we are able to reprogram them.  If you are looking to dive deeper into the possible reasons for your actions and routines, this book will definitely give you some insight. It is not an affiliate link and I do not get any money for sharing it.  I just read it and love the book.

Reverse The Process:
I upsized my lifestyle because of the increase in pay, etc. This had an undesired side-effect of increasing my debt. I need to take a look at my current lifestyle. Am I still living that increased lifestyle? If I am, I need to go back to the lifestyle I was living before I got the raises and moved up. This is called living below your means. It is one of the most difficult things you can do, but it is the most important thing you can do.

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I Have A Big Pile Of Crap (Debt), Get A Big Pooper Scooper:
I have a crapload of debt sitting there staring at you every single day of your life. It stinks and I just want it gone. I knew that I had to have more income coming in than my 9-5 job was providing. Now, I learned my lesson and am not going to increase my lifestyle again just because I have more money coming in. This extra money is going to go straight to paying those debts off (scooping the poop). I got a few side hustles. As a matter of fact, at this point, I am barely home, which my wife is not too happy about but she understands.

I Figured Out Where My Money Was Going:
I almost had a heart attack when I created my first monthly budget and saw exactly how much money I was spending on eating out and stupid things like snacks at work, etc. It was more than a car payment. By having a monthly budget, I figured out exactly how much money I can put to each category and how much money goes toward my debt pile. There is no room for error when you account for every dollar of your income. Yes, I budget for a little “me” money in there too.

I Need To Find My Purpose Again:
One of the biggest things that I had to do was figure out how I was going to go to work everyday and not feel like the sole purpose of my job was to pay off my debts. This was really what was making me feel like I lost all hope to begin with. To be honest, this is still a work in progress and changes day-to-day, but I have found that knowing that I have a plan definitely helps. Just knowing that if I stick to my monthly budget, put my extra money on my debt payments, and keep using my big pooper scooper, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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These things, along with writing articles for this blog and the community of fellow bloggers and site visitors that have become family, have made this journey so much smoother.

I am not saying that when I finally reach my dream of financial freedom and independence that I am going to stop working or coast along in life.  Far from it.  Reaching Financial Independence will give me the freedom and peace of mind to enjoy what I do again and do it for the right reasons, which are to make a difference for people and businesses while bettering myself as a person.

It is actually kind of funny when I think about how you actually don’t mind going to work when you really have no need to go to work.  Once you remove that ball and chain, life takes on a new hue.  It is almost as if you no longer have a boss that can breathe down your neck or make you do things that you don’t want to do.  You now have a choice as to what you can choose to take on and put up with as far as your job or career goes.  You are not “stuck” at a job worrying if it will be gone the next day.

In conclusion, just because you begin to make more money and advance in your career, this doesn’t mean that you should go out and start spending that extra money or worse, money that you don’t even have yet.  If you do this, you will need to buy a big pooper scooper for your debt pile and be chained to your job in misery.  When you achieve financial freedom, you control your life, can choose what you do with your job, and can actually enjoy what you do.

I hope that my articles help my readers in some small way. I appreciate you taking the time to read them and comment. If you like them, please share.

What My Job Taught ME About Financial Freedom

  • Jane says:

    This resonated with me a 100%. I grew up so poor that once I had my hands on money, I resorted to living the “life” I thought rich people lived. I lived under false pretenses – and like you when my income increases, my lifestyle did as well. I’m glad you liked at The Power of Habi. This book and Mind Over Money has provided years of financial literacy I was missing in my earlier years. Here’s to a happier fuller life without debt!

  • Great article, I can really relate to what you’re saying about debt sucking the enjoyment out of work. I’m there now and trying to get some side hustles going to pay them off faster.

    • Thanks for the comment Danell. Side Hustles are a must to pay those debts off faster. Sometimes you get lucky and your side hustles are something you actually enjoy doing and may even become your main hustle.

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