Have Better Career Success When You Are On F.I.R.E

Have Better Career Success When You Are On F.I.R.E

When I say you can have better career success when you are on F.I.R.E, I don’t mean literally on fire. F.I.R.E stands for Financial Independence Retire Early. It is a movement that is focused on getting to the point where you have financial freedom. What is considered financial freedom? I like to say it is the ability to make decisions about one’s life where one no longer has to consider the financial ramifications. At that point, you can technically retire if you want, but many devotees are not planning to do that. What they are searching for in financial freedom is the ability to have money in the bank so that they have more choices in their life. Money equals choices. Choices about what to do and how to do it.

Carl and Lisa’s Job Search

Let’s talk about why the ability to have choices is so important. Having a choice means that you do not have to do anything that you don’t want to do. People that have choices in their lives tend to have less stress. Let’s say you are Carl, who doesn’t have financial freedom. Carl has a mortgage to pay, two car notes and a loan on a way-cool boat. He is making good money, and he needs to keep making good money to afford all of his goodies. He has started to get bored with the job and has been thinking about a change but hasn’t done anything because he is comfortable with the role, his boss and the company. But wait. Things change at company X. There is a corporate restructuring. Carl loses his job and has 10 weeks of severance. Carl starts panicking. He needs to find a new job quickly and with a salary commensurate with what he was making. Carl is stressed. He doesn’t have much savings, so it starts getting depressing when he sends out resumes and hears nothing back. He chokes during an interview, because he is trying too hard to impress and instead looks desperate, thinking in his head only, “please, please give me this job.” Carl starts to eat too much junk food and has too much alcohol while trying to calm his building stress. Carl becomes mean and crabby, and while his friends want to help, he becomes unbearable to be around. That is okay with Carl, because he doesn’t want to be social anyway. He would rather lay on his couch and watch college basketball and hope the job market throws him a lucky bone.

Now let’s say you are Lisa. The difference is Lisa has financial freedom. Her house is paid for and she has money in the bank. When she gets her pink slip, she is sad because she will miss her coworkers. Yet, she is also excited. She had been getting complacent and was itching to do something different anyway. The severance is great because while she doesn’t need it, it buys her time to figure out what exactly she wants to do. She decides that she wants to do some volunteering at a no-kill animal shelter. She loves animals and wants to be able to help with unwanted pets. She does this fifteen hours a week. With her extra time, she goes to the gym (which she can still afford), meets friends for breakfast or lunch and decides to start a blog. She has always loved writing, and now she has time to write about many things, including her passion for helping animals. She decides that she will go see her best friend across the country for ten days. Why not? She has the time and money. She comes back and she is approached to help the no-kill shelter with marketing. They saw her blog and want her to write social media posts and fundraising letters. It sounds interesting and something she would enjoy. Ah, but the salary is low because this is a not-for-profit after all. No problem. She has financial freedom. She can do it and lose no sleep.

My Personal Story

I know of what I speak on this topic. I have been there. Let me tell you about my personal story and how lack of choices hurt me. In 2008 I was downsized. Many people were that year. I knew it was coming, the company had very apparent financial issues. Knowing this, I had been looking for a new position and almost at the same time that I was downsized, I got an an offer for a new job. Here was the problem. I knew the job was wrong for me. I could feel it in my bones. But I took it. Why? Because at that time I did not have choices. I was the breadwinner, had two small children and we needed health insurance. I did not have a large emergency fund to carry us through a long job search. It seemed like my back was against the wall. This job was by far the worst job I ever had. I could write a whole book on this employer and the shenanigans that went on there. My boss was relatively new and was great, but she and I both knew that the environment was not right. It was so bad that when I had a major health crisis, I was told by a long-term employee to not tell a soul because there was a chance I would be fired. My boss and I conspired to arrange my schedule so that I could take an extended lunch hour to have my treatments. Well, long story short, I was determined to get out of there as soon as I could. After my treatments were done, I started my job search and in the middle of the Great Recession, I found a good job at a nice company with great people.

Which would you rather be? Carl or me in 2008, or Lisa? Of course, you would want to be Lisa. Who wouldn’t (unless you hate animals)? Yet, so many are like Carl and me back in 2008. I see it all the time in my coaching business. People who are in panic mode during their job search as they see their bank accounts dwindle to $0. Now, your situation may not be as drastic as a layoff. Maybe you can’t stand your boss. Maybe the job is tedious. Maybe you hate office politics. Whatever the reason, because you do not have financial freedom, you have limited choices.

Yes, You Too Can Pursue Financial Freedom

You may say, “Well, Shelley, that is all nice, but there is no way I could have financial freedom.” I challenge you to remove “no way” or “I can’t” from your vocabulary. Maybe it will be hard...really hard. But I will venture if there is something that you really have wanted to do in the past, you have figured out a way, and the same could be said with financial freedom. Even if you are not financially free but on your way, that still affords you more career options than you might think. Building an emergency fund of six months of living expenses in most cases will allow you to weather a layoff without financial ruin. That means that you may not feel forced to accept a position that pays less than you want because you are on the verge of getting your electricity turned off. If you have an emergency fund and have paid down your debt and are living below your means, that may mean as a working mother you now have the option of working part-time to have better hours, a better commute or just to do less stressful work. Or as with Lisa, you can follow your passion and do lower paying work that you love.

Find work that “sparks joy”

For those that I have coached that have financial freedom, the whole job search process is so much less stressful. Time can be spent really thinking through what, as Marie Kondo, an organization expert, says “sparks joy” and not what can pay the bills. Then, a resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile can be crafted for just that type of work. You can network knowing the goal is to get to know the other person and develop a relationship instead of trying to use the person to get connections for employment. Interviews are easier because you know what you want to do and can speak to it with joy and passion, attributes that hiring managers really like to see. When it comes to salary negotiations you want to earn what is fair, but salary is less important than other aspects of the job, like time off or the commute. If the job search takes six weeks or six months, you are okay with it. You diligently do the work for your job search, but if an employer doesn’t call back, it may irritate you, but it does not upset you. If not that employer, then another one will be the right fit. If in the interview a company does not feel like the right fit, okay. Nothing lost but your time to go to the interview and maybe you have picked up some pointers for the next interview.

So you see, the job search, when you have financial freedom, can be so much different and even, shock of shocks, enjoyable. Wouldn’t you rather have that? So, get on F.I.R.E., have more choices and ultimately, more contentment and joy in your work life.

Resources about the F.I.R.E.movement

Paula Pan has a blog and podcast about F.I.R.E. You can find her at https://affordanything.com/start-here/

Brandon Ganch, The Mad Fientist. takes a more scientific approach to how to get to Financial Independence. You can find more information at https://www.madfientist.com/

Rob Berger has a podcast that is more about practical financial advice and less about F.I.R.E, but has good information for those that looking to become more financially independent. https://www.doughroller.net/thepodcast/

Mr. Money Mustache (Pete Adeney) is one of the most well-known bloggers about the F.I.R.E movement. He retired in 2005  and has been blogging about his life. His lifestyle is not for all, but he is interesting and informative. https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/

The book, Your Money Or Your Life was updated by Vicki Robins in 2018. She and Joe Dominguez wrote in 1992 the original Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence, which many people felt started the F.I.R.E. movement. Many people have found the book inspiring. Not all of the book with resonate with everyone, but there are many key ideas about time and money that are important.


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