What you need: A Freedom Cache — from the Career Opportunities Podcast
One of the most important aspects of any career is the freedom to make the best decisions for yourself and your family. Allowing circumstance to push you from one job to another without any sort of plan ensures that someone else will always be in charge of your career. You either make your career happen or your career happens to you. If you truly want to build the career you deserve, you have to insure that you also build the stability and the cash reserves that allow you make career decisions on your own terms instead of making decisions because you have no other choice.
As difficult as it might sound, one, main, underlying goal from the moment you begin you career should be developing a “Freedom Cache” (or Cash) if you prefer. This is a reserve of otherwise untouchable cash that can see you through tough times, job changes, and career missteps. This money is one of the resources that allows you to leave a bad job when needed. It is the freedom to choose one job over another. It is the stability and comfort that allows you to make the best decisions for yourself and your career, even if it means leaving behind the stability and income of your current job. Some people call this “forget you” money, to use a family friendly form of the phrase. In some cases, this might be exactly what it is…a chance to confidently leave a bad situation when you need to.
Why is a freedom cache so important? It allows you to focus on the job or career issues at hand without adding in worries over associated issues that might be triggered should you make a particular decision. It is stressful enough when you decide to leave a job, look for another job, or start your own business. When your career decisions are also clouded by fears about health care, rent, food and clothing, that will impact your ability to make the best career decision possible. These basic needs will always take precedence over more abstract thoughts about what you want and need in your career. Simply put, if you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, you can’t even contemplate quitting your current job — even if it could lead to much greater success in your future career.
When your basic needs are not being met you are trapped in a number of ways. You are trapped in your life because you can’t improve your career without dangerously effecting your precarious standard of living. All decisions you make will come from sheer self-preservation, with little thought towards possible future benefits. You’ll feel that you can’t risk everything (or anything) for some unknown, possibly achievable rewards in the future. Of course, this also then means you are trapped within your career. You can’t even contemplate quitting the job that is keeping you afloat, no matter how demanding or demeaning it might be. You will put up with abuse, mental and even physical, because you feel you have no other choice. When you feel you are trapped in your life, you truly are. By believing you are trapped, you make that trap real.
A freedom cache can help to break you out of this trap. Even more, once established, it can help move from one career success to another as your stability and resources grow over time. Like many parts of life and career, it is a cycle. Once you build your stability, you are willing to take more risks, which results in more rewards, which results in more stability, which allows you to take more and bigger risks which results in more and bigger rewards. In successful careers, this cycle repeats over and over with greater and greater effect. Like a snowball rolling downhill it creates its own momentum and builds its own size as it goes.
So what do you need in your freedom cache? At the start, it is mainly about the cash. From the moment you start earning money, you need to be saving as much as you can. This doesn’t mean starving yourself or living in a hovel, but it does mean making a conscious effort to put something aside, no matter how small. Every penny you put away is one more piece of stability you are adding to your life — one more small place to firmly stand even when the storm is raging around you.
How big a freedom cache?
My basic guideline for a freedom cache is enough money to cover 3-4 months of your current expenses, should you need. Of course, in order to know this amount, you must track your monthly expenses — something that everyone should be doing as a matter of habit. Yes, you can probably live on less if you need, but knowing that you have a 3-4 month buffer in your life, without effecting your current standard of living can be liberating. It can remove a lot of the day to day worries that can sometimes overwhelm us.
You don’t — and probably can’t — collect this money all at once, but knowing your monthly expenses gives you a milestone to work towards. I want to reinforce that anything you can put towards this fund is useful, no matter how small. You aren’t trying to deprive yourself, but rather work towards a long term goal in whatever way you can. That said, this goal shouldn’t be — and I believe can’t be — ignored. If you do, you are allowing life to happen to you instead of moving your life in the directions you most desire.
Education and Skills
Along with work towards tracking your monthly expenses, consider the state of your education and skills. Just as you might bank cash for your future, you need to bank new knowledge and skills for the future. In some ways, this can be easier than building up your cash funds, as you can build your education through many free or cheap resources. Your local library is often the first place to start, closely followed by the huge collection of Internet resources. You can learn almost anything by reading or watching videos and you should always be seeking out those topics that interest you most. Sure, many won’t turn into a career –and they don’t have to — but I find that knowledge learned in one area often has a way of being useful in many other areas, too. This education will provide the ability to move from job to job and career to career with a ready set of skills that can be applied wherever and whenever you need them. Fill your education bank accounts on a daily basis and consider that a worthy addition to your freedom cache.
Finally, the last and probably most important part of your freedom cache is a collection of great people. This doesn’t mean just powerful people who can help you in your career, but rather great people in all aspects. Surround yourself with the best friends possible as you make your way through life and avoid those people that exhibit the worst parts of human nature. You reinforce your own best qualities when you surround yourself with others who do the same. When new people join our circle of friends, they often comment on how “nice” our friends are. This isn’t something that happens by accident. We cultivate those people who exhibit qualities we would most like to see in ourselves. We don’t bother with those who are petty, jealous, grasping, coveting, angry or envious. Time is too short to spend in their company. Cultivate your own, best, collection of friends just as you collect money and knowledge. They are equally important parts of the whole.
Money, knowledge and friends are the biggest parts of your freedom cache. You should hold them in your mind always and seek to develop them in every way possible as you make your way through your life and career. Together, as part of your freedom cache, they hold the secret of a happy, and productive life and also the career that you deserve.