There’s a lot of anxiety around money- not having enough, worrying it will run out, keeping it safe, etc. As someone who has consistently had unreliable and often insufficient sources of income, you would think I would be a prime example of cash flow concern, but if anything, I’m the opposite.
When I worked as a singer on a cruise ship, I made more money than I ever had before. I was getting paid to sing, see the world, and all my expenses were covered. That was as “monetarily made” as I ever had it. Unfortunately, the work environment was unbearable, namely the constant sexual harassment from guests and officers.
A month and a half into my nine month contract I put in my two weeks notice. People kept asking me, “What will you do now?” and I answered honestly, “I don’t know”. But I wasn’t nearly as worried as everyone else seemed to be for me. The day I disembarked the ship I got a phone call with another job offer for a gig that started a week later.
Now I’m not saying the timing on that job offer wasn’t remarkably serendipitous, but it did teach me one very important lesson early on, it isn’t worth committing to misery or sacrificing respect and integrity for a good paycheck.
That experience also taught me to have faith in my instincts. Rather than being ruled by the anxiety of no longer receiving a paycheck, I took a chance and it paid off.
It hasn’t always been that simple though. As an actress, I often face periods of unwanted unemployment. As much as I enjoy performing in Christmas shows each holiday season, the audiences won’t come after the New Years, which brings my work to an end before I’d like it to. But I’ve learned to accept that reality as a natural part of my job cycle. Rather than letting myself become overwhelmed by money anxiety every time a show closes, I live my life in a way that allows me to be prepared for unemployment and inconsistent income at any time.
I keep expenses low by living below my means and when windfalls of cash come in from bigger contracts, the money goes into replenishing savings and retirement funding. By maintaining a cash cushion in the form of an emergency fund, I feel protected rather than anxious when returning to the unemployment line.
I also have the protection of my “hustles”. From writing to babysitting to personal assisting, I know there’s no shortage of ways for me to earn extra income while I’m auditioning for the next gig. Rather than wasting time being overcome by anxiety, I get to work.
Of course, I don’t have to worry about anyone but myself. Had I a spouse or children relying on my income, I’m sure that monetary pressure would be on big time. It’s one thing to cut back to eating beans and rice and have to crash on couches for me, it’s another to put others in that situation. Perhaps, that’s the biggest reason that I haven’t considered making any of those major life commitments just yet.
I’ve found that being free from money anxiety allows me freedom to pursue my dreams and freedom from being stuck doing something I hate. Too often, people don’t even take a chance on doing what they want because it isn’t “financially sound”. In my opinion, that’s just the money anxiety talking.
I even see it among people who are pursuing their dreams. The money anxiety gets them trapped in survival jobs they hate. Rather than finding an alternative way to bring in additional income, they become trapped by the safety of a reliable paycheck, soon after, they lose sight of their dream and why they started.
Money anxiety is so strong that it allows people to completely abandon their passions and lose site of the things the love. Let it go.
Has anxiety around money ever kept you from pursuing a dream?
I used to have a lot of anxiety about money…..but then I realized that as long as I have a plan I can get through anything. When you put yourself in the driver’s seat, there’s no longer any reason to be anxious.
Exactly. Plans are powerful. Even more powerful than crippling anxiety.
Wow, what a great article! I am just like you. I freelance and have somewhat steady side income, but I also have a very large reserve. Since I live a simple life, I know that I will always be able to side hustle or get a part time job to bring me the money I need to survive. I think people forget that a life fully lived is much cheaper than they think. Instead, they sweat the small stuff and stay in jobs they dread, while missing out on experiencing life.
I think for people who have always had traditional jobs, it’s very hard to understand that life is livable (and even enjoyable) on a variable income.
Yes! Mr. FW and I structure our lives in such a way that money doesn’t make us anxious–to oversimplify, we don’t spend much and we save a lot. Your full pursuit of your dreams is inspiring!
Simplifying your lifestyle is such a great tactic. The fewer demands on your money, the more freedom you have to pursue income in a way that suits you.
I know someone who has a good income, but he doesn’t really love his job. But unfortunately his ideal job pays a very low salary range and he thinks that he can’t feed his family from his salary.
When people have always had a good and steady income I think it can be exceptionally difficult for them to see the possibilities outside of that way of life.
Good food for thought Stefanie. Wow, I didn’t know that working on the cruise ship would be so awful like that.
As far as money anxiety goes, I’m much better than I used to be say 2 years ago, but I feel like I will never be completely free of it until I’m back at the proverbial square one. I’ve been thinking about that a bit today. Is that in four more years when all debt is gone? I broke my debt down into 3 buckets. Of the total 6 year timeframe 3.5 years is consumer debt, 1 year is vehicles and 1.5 years is mortgage. I started my journey in 2012, so by Sep 2015 I could say my consumer debt is gone and I’m back to square one. However, I’ve lost the ‘time’ to pay off mortgage and car debt, so then I’m back to 2018. But I will try to let it go, what’s done is done, and the bottom line is we are way better off than we were in Mar 2012.
Thinking too far into the future or past I’ve found to be a recipe for anxiety and/or depression. Glancing at both to learn the appropriate lessons and make plans is necessary, but after that, it’s the present that really matters.