Begins with Money Balance
The first way in which pursuing money balance helps you attain life/work balance is that it relieves you of the impossible goal of trying to change your employer.
We all seek life/work balance. We enjoy work. But we don’t like to see the demands of our work dominate our time and attention to the point at which other important components of a full life are not given the attention they merit.
Most recommendations focus on the work side of the equation. The fact that we need to live a life -- take showers, brush our teeth, keep up with the news, go to church, raise kids, get some exercise, take in an occasional movie -- is taken for granted. The problems we often experience with maintaining life/work balance, it is presumed, are rooted in “non-progressive” employment situations. If only our employers would come to understand that we require more flexible schedules, we could all live happily forever after.
I’m not so sure.
I of course favor workplace flexibility. I question whether it is a goal that can be achieved in the real world to the extent necessary for large numbers of us to achieve life/work balance.
I once worked for a newsletter company that followed progressive policies. I liked most of the people who worked there and most of the people who worked there liked me. There was only one problem -- I was too ambitious. I was entrepreneurial. I wanted to start my own newsletter, and, in the event I was successful, obtain the sorts of rewards (both financial and otherwise) that should naturally follow. The company was not a risk-taking company. It produced good products and it produced good profits doing so. It was not inclined to stick its neck out and take chances on losses that would cut into the profits it obtained from the sure things.
I left to work for a risk-happy competitor. There I was able to engage in as many entrepreneurial ventures as I pleased. That made me happy until the company experienced the downside of risk-taking -- in the recession of the 1990s, I was let go as sales dropped and the company came close to going under. RIsk is good. Except when it isn’t.
The reality is that neither of those two companies (and probably no company on earth) could fully satisfy my life/work balance needs. I enjoy the challenge of being in a risk-taking environment. So a safety-first company can never entirely work out for me. I am financially responsible for a stay-at-home mom and two small children. So a throw-caution-to-the-wind company can never entirely work out for me.
What works for me? Attaining enough financial independence early in life to limit the extent to which my risk-taking proclivities threaten to leave my family without shelter, food, or heath insurance.
I don’t believe that our employers can solve our life/work balance problems. Perhaps they can do better than most do today. But I don’t think they can ever entirely give us what we want in this area. I’ve come to believe that seeking to change our employers to achieve life/work balance is the pursuit of an impossible goal. We should let our employers at least partly off the hook. We should put more energy into trying to achieve life/work balance for ourselves through the adoption of more effective money management strategies.
The second way in which pursuing money balance helps you attain life/work balance is that it provides for a more permanent solution.
Say that you find an employer who adopts every policy that you think is needed to help you attain life/work balance. You’re set, right? Not really. There could be a recession and that could force a change in the policies followed now. There could be an economic restructuring. Your current boss could move on and be replaced by a boss who implements the life/work balance policies you favor so strongly in a poor manner. There are all sorts of things that could happen to transform a situation that looks ideal today into one that is far less than ideal tomorrow. Life/work balance achieved through making changes in our employers is a shaky thing.
Shaky solutions to the life/work balance problem are not good solutions to the life/work balance problem. To really enjoy the life you are seeking to build for yourself, you need stability. You can never count on that when relying on employer-rooted solutions to the life/work balance problem.
You can count on saving-rooted solutions. The money you save is under your control. It doesn’t go away when a recession comes along or when an economic restructuring comes along or when a boss moves on.
The third way in which pursuing money balance helps you attain life/work balance is that it empowers you.
Money is power.
If you react negatively to that statement, I think you should stop for a moment to consider why that is so.
Money really is power. We all need to eat, and we all need shelter, and we all need health insurance. Those of us without money need to take just about any deal offered us to obtain those things. Those of us with money can afford to be more choosey. So we have more power. We have the power to say “no” to work arrangements that we do not like. That makes all the difference.
Many of us shy away from acknowledging that money is power. I understand why. Most of us don’t have in our possession as much of the green stuff as we would like to have in our possession. It hurts to acknowledge that money is power because that is the same thing as admitting that we are not as powerful as we would like to be.
Failing to acknowledge the realities does not change the realities. If you don’t have the power you need to achieve with your life what you want to achieve with your life, you need to get about the business of attaining it. Your chances of succeeding in that endeavor head upward when you gain the ability to state the realities clearly and directly and boldly and confidently.
Money is power. That’s reality. Don’t be squeamish about stating the reality. Be determined to take it into consideration in the development of your plan to leave your mark on the world. Grab some of that power for you and your loved ones.
The fourth way in which pursuing money balance helps you attain life/work balance is that it opens up a multitude of opportunities.
Find an employer who gives you what you want in terms of life/work balance and you are tied to that employer for life. That might not be such a good thing. Your interests might change. What are you going to do, leave the one employer you have found that satisfies your life/work balance needs?
When you save your way to work/life balance, you have found not one solution to the problem but dozens of them.
I am currently self-employed. I like the set-up. If I tire of it, I can take a different path. I can work for a big company. I can work for a small company. I can take freelance work.
I don’t need full-time employment. I don’t need a big paycheck. I don’t need to accept work conditions that don’t appeal to me. Why? Because the earnings from my savings covers a good portion of my essential spending needs. That’s what financial freedom is all about. The thing that you are free of when you attain financial freedom is the need to trade control over the hours of your days to an employer in exchange for the money needed to eat and be sheltered and be insured.
Saving enough to cover your basic costs of living does not mean that you do not still want to work or need to work. I still want to work, I still need to work. I can afford to be a whole lot more choosey than I could be if I did not have money in the bank, however. I can say “yes” to some things and “no” to some others. I can devise my own customized life/work balance policies and then see that they stick.
The fifth way in which pursuing money balance helps you attain life/work balance is that it leads you to thinking in emotionally healthy ways.
Trying to get promises out of employers that they will honor your life/work balance needs, and then seeking to ensure that the employer who makes the promises keeps the promises, puts you in an emotionally vulnerable position. It’s a position of begging and pleading and suggesting and requesting. It’s a position of dependence.
Save your way to attainment of your life/work balance goals and you call the shots as to how your future work endeavors will be performed. It’s your life. It’s your work. It should be your responsibility to make sure that the good things that you want to see happen really do happen. It’s emotionally healthy for the work to be done by you and for the rewards to be enjoyed by you.
The sixth way in which pursuing money balance helps you attain life/work balance is that it provides you with a strong incentive to save.
It’s not just that saving helps you attain life/work balance. Your desire for life/work balance helps you save. It provides a motivational drive that the desire to finance an old-age retirement rarely generates.
I like that. I like to see my life, work and money goals integrated. I work to increase my savings and I save to enhance my work options and I choose work options and money allocation options that are consistent with attainment of my most important life goals. It all works together, at least when I am doing things right.
Do you see the power of that?
I say that attaining money balance is the first step to attaining life/work balance. What is “money balance”? It’s an approach to money management in which you elect to spend or save based not just on consideration of what those decisions mean in money terms but with life and work considerations in mind as well. Why mix everything together? Because life, work and money considerations naturally are mixed; it’s artificial to try to disentangle them.
I don’t get all of my money choices right. Not by a long shot. But I believe that, when I think of my life, work and money options in an integrated way, I am at least following a process for looking at these questions that makes sense. By looking at not just life and work, but money too, I believe that I am on the right track to attaining a true and lasting balance.
8 Paths to Financial Independence