Escaping the 9-5 is an aspiration often blocked by uncertainty and fear.
Seeing the success of others who have left their jobs to pursue entrepreneurship or early retirement is enough to inspire but not quite enough to make a decision. While becoming your own boss or reclaiming your time to do things that you are passionate about sounds like a dream come true, your financial obligations don’t just end because you decide to stop working. Moreover, your relationship with earning, spending, and saving may all change as you figure out how to create ways to generate cash flow or spend down on assets you’ve previously accumulated. These changes can trigger financial anxiety or stress that results in financial trauma.
In May 2021 during what was known as The Great Resignation, I decided to leave my steady paycheck to improve my mental health and pursue entrepreneurship. Although it felt good initially to fire my boss I had to learn quickly how to navigate the uncertainty of inconsistent income and the impact it would have on my own financial stress and anxiety. Here are four moves that helped me renegotiate my relationship with money.
Understanding The Change
The day I quit my job I was told that everything I previously believed about money was going to be challenged and would likely change. Pay cycles greatly impact your spending habits and how comfortable you feel taking financial risks. Whether those risks are acceptable in the form of investing or carry a negative stigma like gambling, the knowledge that next pay period you’ll earn more money makes these risks more tolerable. Interrupting that pay cycle may reveal what your values are financially and make you more vigilant about the financial risks you take even if they seem positive. Suddenly every dollar counts and you might think differently about how and what you spend your money on.
In a situation where you haven’t made any income you might take on debt you wouldn’t have previously, or consider selling down assets you’ve worked hard to acquire because it was what you believed was the right thing to do at one time. Understanding that a major change in your pay cycle can also trigger past financial traumas–or create new ones–is an important consideration in evaluating not only your current relationship with money, but how that may change in the future.
Separate Your Value From Your Income
In a society that teaches you that the more money you make the more important you are, it can be a challenge to separate your value as an individual from the amount of money you have or make. Recognizing that you have value outside of your title, position, and salary is key to renegotiating your relationship with money because it gives you the freedom to expand your skill sets, be a beginner, and try new things. It also gives you the space to be okay with building without seeing immediate returns, which can have a huge impact on your mental health.
Build Or Join A Community
You don’t know what you don’t know. Being able to join a community where your experiences and aspirations are mirrored is important. Being part of a community lets you know that you are not alone by providing resources, advice, and expanding your network. Members of a community can also relate to you based on shared experiences and values. Although not a replacement for a mental health professional, joining a community can also improve your mental and financial health by holding you accountable to goals and giving you encouragement when you need it.
Focus On Cash Flow
Even the heftiest of emergency funds will eventually run out. By focusing on your ability to generate cash flow, you can create your own paycheck. This allows you to stretch your savings a bit further and worry less about recurring expenses keeping you up at night. It’s important to note that establishing cash flow doesn’t have to look like trading time for money. You can trade your knowledge and experiences for lump sum payments rather than hourly rates or create a subscription product or service for repeat customers.
Whether working the 9-5 job, pursuing entrepreneurship, or retiring, you can choose to renegotiate your relationship with money that allows you to establish a relationship based on acceptance and control rather than one that may have been forced onto you through circumstances or unconscious habits.
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