Not too long ago, I was discussing with my coworkers our company’s best perk– the 8-week maternity/paternity leave.

While we were raving about how amazing it is to have an extended time away from work (my two co-workers are mothers and had used this policy) it made me wonder “would the company be okay with me taking an unpaid leave of absence?”

At the company, we typically rotate jobs every 18-24 months. It made sense to me that I should be able to take unpaid leave during the transition period between jobs. I would love to have the opportunity to travel for a month or two straight, without sacrificing the rest of my vacation time, since I enjoy spending time with family throughout the year.

I ran the scenario by my coworkers and their immediate response was an emphatic “NO.” Unfortunately, they’re probably right. I doubt my company would go for this, and even if I could get them on board, what position would this put me in when the next round of layoffs inevitably comes? Leadership would probably justify- “we can let him go because he’s not as ‘committed’ as our other employees.”

The more troubling response was when one of my coworkers asked: “but who would pay the bills while you’re not getting paid?” She followed-up by asking, “I’m assuming your wife would stay home and work?”

I let her know that my intention would be for both of us to take the time off in this fantasy world. She was shocked and couldn’t understand how we could make ends meet AND travel while not getting a paycheck. Bear in mind, this woman is married and makes more money than I do, and her spouse works as well.

This whole discussion shook me because I realized just how broke many people are. My dual-income-household coworker can’t even imagine going a month without a paycheck. But it makes sense, according to CNBC almost 60% of Americans don’t even have $1,000 in savings. Meanwhile, the average wedding in the U.S costs $25,764 and the average new car purchase costs $36,113. How does that make any sense?

I would be shocked if my co-worker and her husband did not make at least $200k a year combined. Some people may read that and think, “how can she barely pay her bills if she makes that much money?” People are amazing at spending everything they make, check out Parkinson’s Law if you don’t believe me.

Fast forward a few weeks


I was finishing up a lunch break a few weeks after my initial conversation with this coworker and I saw her walking in from outside. I wanted to make some small-talk with her and asked her where she went to lunch that day.

What she replied with surprised me– she told me that it had already been a long day and that she just needed to get out of the office and go shopping.

Building her own prison

I’m sure you can imagine my thoughts after thinking through exchanges over the past few weeks:

  1. My coworker can’t fathom a world where she could take unpaid time from work because she couldn’t pay the bills
  2. She goes to work and needs to resort to retail therapy so she can get through work
  3. She is confused where all the money goes and why life is so expensive

Seek power, not servitude

Every time you increase the gap between your income and your expenses you are putting yourself in a position of power. By haphazardly blowing your money you are giving your employer all the power because, without them, you’re almost immediately broke.

What contradictions have you seen?

The purpose of this blog is not to judge or belittle other’s life choices, but rather to warn of common financial pitfalls and hopefully illuminate an alternative financially-freeing lifestyle.

What are some common behaviors you’ve observed that restrict freedom?



7 thoughts on “Are you unconsiously building your own prison?

  1. Great read. The average bank account balance is shocking. I also did my mistakes. For example I used to be in a very stressful senior management role and couldn’t wait to get my drinks after work just to calm down before the night. I spent thousands of dollars a month in bars – keep in mind the average beer costs 15$ in Singapore where I was based before and I ocassionally invited friends and colleagues for a drink knowing I was earning much more. I didn’t realise I was stealing from my future self then putting my FI date out for years by spending so much. It was bad for my health and my financial position, but at the time I believed I needed it. I later switched to sports (running) to calm my nerves. Was much cheaper and much healthier but the financial damage was done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, great example and I love your new alternative solution. Working is difficult, even if you enjoy what you do, you’re left feeling drained at the end of the day, which leads to poor decisions. I’m glad you were able to break that cycle and you appear to be doing great now!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it was Paula Pant who said “money is for buying freedom, not stuff.” Maybe Mr Money Mustache said it, I don’t know. Either way, it is an option so few realize even exists, and in fact I was one of them until a year and a half ago.
    It is interesting to hear how other people think about money, isn’t it? It’s tough not to be judgy, especially in situations like the one you described, but you do a good job of avoiding the snarky tone a lot of people in the FI community have. Nicely done, and a very enjoyable article to read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the quote and couldn’t agree more… which also makes it tough to justify what to spend money on.
      And thanks for the compliment, too many people in the FI community can be condescending with others, and it’s hard not to do because we think we have the meaning of life figured out 😉 It’s important to remember that it’s not a race to FI and we all have our own paths to follow, but along the way I want to help as many people as possible to avoid financial pain.

      Liked by 2 people

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