What’s Important to You?

Let’s say your boss comes up to you and simply says, “You’re working this Saturday.” Most of us would likely go along with this in an effort to maintain our jobs.

Now, let’s say this Saturday is the Saturday you’ve been promising your son that you’d take him to a baseball game. You’ve been talking about it for weeks. You’ve already got the tickets and your whole day is planned.

What do you do?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer here. You’re either going to have to tell your boss “no,” which will likely do some damage to your professional situation, or you’re going to have to tell your son “no,” which will likely do some damage to your personal situation.

In the end, you’re likely going to choose the route that is truly the most important to you.

You’ll likely come up with some reasons for it. You need the income level from this job to maintain your lifestyle. You’re going to have a very hard time finding any sort of comparable job if you lose this one. You’re going to be held back from a promotion if you don’t do what your boss says. It’s just a baseball game.

Or, on the other side, it’s just a job. Your son needs to believe that you’ll always be there, no matter what, and working would show him that’s not true. Your son won’t be this age forever and you need this opportunity to bond with him now or the chance will pass by, never to return.

In the end, it still comes down to what’s more important to you. You can fill the air with as many words as you’d like, but your actions show what’s truly important to you.

So, where am I going with this?

When I look at this situation, to me, the baseball game with the son is more important. It absolutely, unquestionably trumps the boss’s mandate. That’s my take and it’s one I genuinely live by, because it’s a big part of the reason I made an abrupt career switch in 2008 into freelance writing. I realized that I was choosing the “professional” obligation far more often than I would like because of the demands of that job.

I had the freedom to make that choice because I spent most of three years before that living in a very frugal fashion and getting my finances in order. In other words, I was actively reducing the power that the “professional” obligation had over me, making it easier to make the choice that I did.

What we do with our money changes what’s actually “important” in our lives. The more we spend, the more we need a higher-paying job. The less care we give to our finances, the more power we give to our bosses.

On the flip side, if we’re careful with our money and work toward financial independence, a big part of the power that our career has over our life begins to disappear. We become more and more free to make personal and professional choices that are more fulfilling in other aspects besides money.

Being in touch with your money means having more control over our entire lives. It’s not just about having cash in the wallet when it comes time to buy something. It means having the freedom to look at your boss and say, “Nope, sorry, I have a little boy at home that needs me that day,” and not worrying too much about the consequences.

It’s about a lot of other kinds of freedom, too. It’s about the freedom to say, “You know, I’d rather be working for that nonprofit for about half as much money because the work means a lot more,” and just doing it. It’s about the ability to say, “I need to telecommute two days a week so I can take care of my ailing mother.”

Personal finance is about the freedom to do what’s actually important in your life.

Whenever you think of a meal plan or a grocery list or a trip to the thrift store or a 401(k) enrollment form or an online banking system or an automatic investment plan as being drudgery, drop that thought right now. It might be busywork, but doing it right and doing it consistently means that you’re giving yourself the power to decide what’s really important to you, with no regrets.

That’s what I’m working for. That’s what I hope you’re working for, too.

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