My last “real job” where I worked full-time for someone else was a mess. There was sexual harassment, bullying, unfair hours and demands, and all sorts of other foolishness going on. I was young and hadn’t yet saved up a large emergency fund, so leaving wasn’t possible unless I had another job lined up. Not so easy in the recession of the early 90′s (much like today). To leave would have meant living on credit cards and, since job prospects were very low at the time, probably racking up debt that I’d still be paying for today. As miserable as I was, I wasn’t willing to do that, so I saved money like crazy and took a part time job so I could save up a big enough cushion to leave. I had to stay in that miserable place because I didn’t have any other choices. By the time I finally saved enough money to leave, I was depressed and hating life.
At least I didn’t have any debt. If I had, I would have had to stay much longer so I could keep on paying those bills. Debt would have slowed down my goal of buying my freedom. When I finally left, I knew then that I never wanted to be in that position again. I never wanted to be in a position where someone else had that kind of power over me simply because I didn’t have enough money to move on. I vowed that if I ever had to work for someone else again that I would be in the driver’s seat. I would be free to take or leave the job based on factors other than money.
Living debt free has made keeping that vow possible. Because I’m not mired in debt and have saved a large amount of money, I’m much freer to choose my own path. I haven’t worked full time for someone else since that mess. I’ve taken many part-time and temporary jobs to explore new fields, learn new skills, and to supplement my freelance income. While none have been as bad as my last full time job, there have been some losers in the bunch. I’ve been free to walk away because I don’t have to have the money. I’ve also been free to take some great, fun, but low paying jobs because I don’t have to have a large salary to pay off lots of debt. I’ve been free to develop my freelance business to the point where it provides all the money I need. Had I been stuck under a lot of debt I would have had to take any job, no matter how much I hated it. I probably wouldn’t have been able to launch my own business because I’d be too tired from chasing the paycheck for fifty hours a week.
I know too many people who are miserable at work but cannot leave because they need the paycheck to pay for the cars, houses, toys, clothes and other items that they’ve bought on credit. They have no savings to live on while they find a better work situation. I feel for them because I know what it feels like to be trapped in a miserable work environment. The only way out is to literally buy your freedom. You have to pay down the debt and save up enough money to walk away. Then you can walk away, do your own thing, and enjoy the freedom to work only at things you enjoy. But as long as you have to make payments, your boss can take advantage of you, yell at you, and make ridiculous demands of you and you can’t say anything because you need the job. That’s an awful way to live. We spend too many hours of our lives working to waste them in a miserable situation.
I won’t rule out working full-time for someone else in the future, but it’s going to be on my terms next time. Thanks to debt free living, I will be in a position to be very choosy about which job I take and to walk away if things go sour. I will be able to be firm with my superiors and refuse to do anything that’s demeaning or unreasonable. No one will be able to take advantage of me again and make my work life a living hell. Because I’m debt free and don’t have to take just any job to pay the bills, I get to make my work life what I want it to be: An enjoyable experience where I get to do things I enjoy with people I like and respect. Not a bad trade off for living debt free.