Last week, I wrote a pretty personal post about my experiences and struggles with anxiety. I may have let it slip that one of the reasons why I dread going to work so much is that I’m so anxious about everything there all the time. It’s not a fun way to spend 40 hours per week. The truth is, I’m actually pursuing financial independence because of anxiety. Not wholly, of course – I have tons of other reasons. The top one is still to pursue my passions, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that part of it is due to anxiety. I don’t want to work anymore because I hate the stress of working.
Pursuing Financial Independence Because of Anxiety
I absolutely know I’m not alone in pursuing financial independence because of anxiety. In fact, I even found a Reddit thread about it. Tons of people are overworked, stressed out about it, and just generally unhappy. The thought of freedom is a shining beacon at the end of the proverbial tunnel. But that begs the question – is financial independence the answer?
Will Reaching Financial Independence Reduce Anxiety?
I guess the answer to this depends on the reasons behind the anxiety. In my case, and tons of other people’s cases, it might. I don’t struggle with anxiety for any clinical reasons that I know of. I struggle with anxiety when it comes to work because I hate being yelled at or treated in a condescending way.
Unfortunately, there are tons of people who either lack people skills, or get off on treating others poorly. I try not to let if bother me, I know that those reactions are usually a them problem and not a me problem. And it doesn’t even happen very often, but when it does my anxiety just goes through the roof. I’m naturally a people pleaser, and I hate feeling like I let someone down in the workplace. Usually I didn’t even let them down, I get anxious just thinking I did. So, I stress out about getting tiny things wrong because I don’t want to feel like I let someone down, even if they don’t feel like I did, or if they are clearly over-reacting to the situation.
I Need this Job!
Another reason that I stress out at work is because I need this job right now. I’m terrified of losing my job over the above-mentioned situations (even though that fear is unfounded). I have bills to pay (even though I have an emergency fund and a positive net worth). I need this job for the next two years so I can get to my ideal version of coast fire, and live the life of my dreams.
My hope is that when I don’t have to worry about those things anymore, my anxiety will decrease. Unfortunately, I’ve never been in a position to test this theory. I might be stressing about paying the bills right now because it’s the easy thing to focus on and stress about. Would I find something else to stress about once I achieve financial independence? That’s highly probable, especially considering my idea of financial independence. I don’t want to work for ten more years to get enough money stockpiled to never work again, I want to work for two more years and start living in the now. Clearly there would be nothing to be anxious about in that scenario!
All the Things that can go Wrong
I thought it would be fun (and I use that word loosely) to think about all the things that I could potentially be anxious about once I achieve financial independence. Maybe if I consider them now, I can find ways to mitigate them over the next two years. That’s the idea anyway.
Lack of Income
The biggest thing that can go wrong is not having enough money to do things I want to do – or even to survive for that matter. Imagine taking the plunge into a work-free life only to get slapped with a huge recession, a medical emergency, or some other catastrophe that wipes out all the savings and investments you worked so hard to build. I think this fear is one of the main things that keeps so many people trapped in their miserable jobs. Really, I think not having enough money is the only thing that I’d really stress out about after quitting my job. Most of the major problems that come along can be solved with money (sad but true).
Emergency Funds for the Win!
The fear is very real, and there’s only so much you can do to mitigate it. Having a decent sized cash reserve will help if there is a recession. It will protect you from having to withdraw from your investments during the downturn (which is never a good thing). With all the fear-mongering going on in the news right now of an imminent recession, it might not be a bad idea to start building that emergency fun up whether you are planning on quitting the job or not.
Having an emergency fund can also help with any of the other catastrophic emergencies that come up, but it’s virtually impossible to plan for and mitigate every scenario. It would be nice to have an unlimited emergency fund, so that you know you will be ok no matter what happens. But the reality is that you can’t plan for everything, and even if you do the likelihood of everything happening is slim.
But this problem doesn’t disappear just because I’m working. I currently don’t have enough money in my emergency accounts to cover every possibility, and I don’t think I ever will. If I’m going to stress out about this either way, I’d rather not have the added stress of work.
Making More Money
But seriously, a great way to mitigate my concerns about lacking money is to make money. I still have the idealistic hope of making money from my passions. I mean, that’s the entire end goal. If I can turn my passions and side projects into an income generating machine, I won’t have to worry the lack of income.
Unfortunately, that’s quite a big “if”. I’ve been working on this blog game for 1.5 years now, and the growth is stagnant. My T-shirt stores have netted me about five bucks (though it would probably help if I created and uploaded new designs). I buy things to flip on E-bay, but I never get around to posting them. I’ve only written six pages of my best-selling E-book. To be fair though, I feel like I would have better luck with these things if the majority of my time wasn’t being sucked away at a job that I don’t necessarily like. There’s only one way to find out though, isn’t there?
Back to Work
Another option for creating income is going back to work. Pursuing my passions may not pan out, so my escape from the work force may not be permanent. I’d love to say that I’ll never work again but realistically, going back to a “normal job” is always an option.
Going back to work is easy, but finding a job with a similar salary probably won’t be. But do I need it? I can keep my mortgage free house in this low cost of living area and work a barista fire type job if I really need to. I can join the gig economy. There are tons of money-making options that may not necessarily align with my passions, but will give me something to fall back on if my passions don’t make any money. And if I keep the house, I’ll always have a place to live.
Stressing About the Same Things
Even though I’m partially pursuing financial independence because of anxiety, writing this has made me realize something: When I reach financial independence, I’ll most likely be stressing about the exact same things. Quitting my job won’t make a recession or emergency any less likely. It won’t be a magic formula that gives me a never-ending emergency account (unless I stick with working forever, but I really really don’t want to do that).
What quitting will relieve is the stress of working for someone else. It will stop me from worrying about letting someone down, or making a mistake in the workplace. Sure, there are going to be trolls and issues on social media, but I can just block those folks and never worry about them again (wouldn’t it be nice if we could do that in the workplace?). Financial Independence won’t make all my stress go away (I think it’s literally impossible and would be rather boring to have no stress), but it will make some of the bad stress go away, and I think that’s worth the effort.
Are you Pursuing Financial Independence because of Anxiety?
I’m very curious to know whether others outside of Reddit experience the same things that I do. So are you pursuing financial independence because of anxiety or any other internal struggle? Even if it’s not your entire reason, I would love to hear from you in the comments!
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.