Freedom vs financial security

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 Permalink

Last week I started working with the lovely Michaela of Five Frogs Coaching. Before our first coaching session she had me fill in some questionnaires – predominantly about values (which is also an area of particular interest to her).

My results weren’t particularly surprising in some areas (perfectionist tendencies, prone to avoidance rather than confrontation etc), however it was interesting that – in terms of ‘what makes me happy’ and what I rank as being of the greatest importance – I offer up two almost competing desires:

Freedom vs Security

And that, dear readers is exactly why I’m working with Michaela.

In typical me style I started our recent skype session by blurting out some current frustrations: relating to the fact I’m still struggling with the need to make enough money to live comfortably; while recognising that the I made the distinct seachange decision to live a life which was more in line with who I ‘think’ I am/could be. A more ‘authentic life’ – in wanky words.

However… the challenge for me is that, while I’m almost completely happy in my new life, the main thing I worry about (as do many others I realise) is financial security. Yes, it all comes down to money.

In reality, leaving my previous life and making the seachange was the second time I sacrificed financial security on a quest for purpose and contentment. (This may surprise many people who’ve known me after that time or met me later, as I suspect I come across as risk-averse and ridiculously responsible!)

In 1995 I left the workforce (sold my car, cashed in what superannuation I could) and became a volunteer overseas.

“Life has to be about more than material possessions,” I thought at the time.


In Phnom Penh – my neighbours.

Of course three years later when I’d moved from Mozambique to Cambodia and there was gunfire in neighbouring streets and rockets going off my first thought was… “I’m not paid enough for this shit!”

And sadly, travelling back to Cambodia with the Australian Government, a subsequent diplomatic posting and work as a project manager in developing countries, made me realise that (despite these earlier experiences) I remained far less evolved and more shallow than I’d have preferred. Life was just SO much easier with money and ‘authority’ behind you.

Fast forward 10-12 years and I took a redundancy and made my seachange. My reasons were fairly unremarkable. I’d recently realised / discovered I wasn’t going to have a family. My father had passed away and three colleagues / friends (my own age) were suffering life-threatening illnesses.

Again I thought, “There has to be more to life than this.”

I’d had some horrendous experiences in government, though was quite contented with the job I was in at the time. However, I realised the future I’d expected was not to be and the life I was then living may have been ‘it’ forever. (However long that might be in my case.)

Quite frankly I was almost in my mid 40s and tired of waiting for my real life to start.

Two months after I finished work I’d sold my city apartment and bought one on the beach. I’d downsized and was ready to live a more authentic life. I was debt-free and decided I only wanted to earn enough to live on – while not having to watch my pennies TOO carefully.

PicMonkey Collage.jpg

Almost 18mths later I continue to tell people that it was the best decision I’ve ever made. And that’s true. I didn’t say it in the post last week, but… IF the rest of my life was like this: it’d mostly be okay.

That was actually a huge revelation for me. Sure a relationship would be nice, losing weight and being healthier would be nice, but…. if THIS is my lot in life, then that’s okay.

And the only blight on my lovely world is that I feel so passionately about two extremes: the dichotomy of freedom vs financial security. And this is where my challenge lies.

From The Economist

From The Economist

Will I ever find a happy medium? Does anyone?

Part of me wonders if I’m just being self-indulgent…. but I’ve already made some big sacrifices to live the life I want to live. If I can pay my bills (including my excessive oft-complained-about body corporate fees) and have enough left over for food, wine and the occasional treat; then surely that’s enough.

Does it matter if I can’t ever afford a new car or overseas holiday? Surely day-to-day happiness and contentment is more important?

Opposing desires are nothing new. Many of us love food but need to eat less of it. Or we hate exercising but really should. Do you have habits or life goals which are at war?

I’m joining again with Jess and her IBOT link-up today.

  • ann
    April 15, 2014

    Thought provoking, love it. Will have to ponder this and get back to you.

    • Debbish
      April 15, 2014

      No worries and thanks for commenting Ann.

  • Lee-Anne
    April 15, 2014

    Really interesting post, Deb and what a fascinating life you’ve had (so far!)

    In answer to the big questions you raise: You’re not shallow wanting financial stability, it’s just pragmatic…we’re no use to anyone if we can’t pay our bills and have a little quality of life.
    I think – as you say – a balance is good, between the material and the other less tangible things such as contentment, peace of mind and the elusive happiness. Your place on the beach sounds a divine spot to achieve these things, although life and its pressures, inevitably intrudes.

    Sorry I’ve written an essay in response to your post (must be the English teacher again)

    • Debbish
      April 15, 2014

      Love long answers Lee-Anne. And yes, my place on the beach is lovely. I just wish it was a house rather than an apartment. (But I’d have to return to full-time work for a while to afford that!)


  • Char
    April 15, 2014

    I sometimes struggle with the same conflicts. I sacrificed a professional career to be a mother – my choice and happily made. But that sacrifice is longer-lived than the 18-22 years of child-rearing (or in the case of one of our sons – 25 years and counting). Nearly no super, no holidays, some savings but not a hell of a lot. I don’t regret my decision but there’s often a wistful thought of how things could have been.

    • Debbish
      April 15, 2014

      Glad there’s no regrets just wistfulness Char!

  • Kathy
    April 15, 2014

    You have had a really interesting life (so far) and it sounds like you are doing a good job reflecting on the different perspectives you’ve gained. I think your dilemma is very common and finding a happy medium is very hard. Can you value security, but change your definition of what it means – it sounds like you did most of that in giving up your job and downsizing? Can you continue to value freedom but find it more in walks on the beach in the middle of the day than holiday escapes to exotic locales – you are probably already doing that. It sounds trite, but I guess we can only try to strike the best balance we can between opposing (or think of them as complementary) values that feels like a comfortable acceptance rather than a unhappy compromise.

    • Debbish
      April 15, 2014

      Love the ‘comfortable acceptance’ phrase. I have to admit the holiday thing doesn’t worry me too much (I’ve really not travelled / holidayed away – other than a weekend trip to Melbourne with bro, SIL, niece and mother – and blogging conferences / work for nearly 13 years!)

      I have to admit that I’m wondering if it’s more financial flexibility than security that I’d like. I’m just not sure. *sigh*

  • Liz
    April 15, 2014

    Something I struggle with Deb. Will be watching your experiences closely!

  • Bec @ The Plumbette
    April 15, 2014

    I’ve been meaning to read this post all day and I’m so glad I’ve finally sat down and really taken in this post. I think the Freedom vs Security debate is not self indulgent at all. I think we all think about the life we want to live and the money we need or should earn to maintain our lifestyle and feel secure about the future. I’m in this debate at the moment. I’ve stopped work, have two kids with a bub on the way but it has come at a financial cost but I wouldn’t swap places with anyone. I love my life and yeah more money would be nice but I’m peaceful about the fact that I will always have enough and I live in hope that my income will increase sometime in the future and I can invest into super or whatever for security later on. I always have faith about our future and if I get worried or feel like we are struggling I pray for divine intervention to bring what we need our way.

    • Debbish
      April 15, 2014

      What a great approach. I was a bit like that the year after I finished work. After buying my place I had a budget for how long I thought I could last and I did start getting worried when work options in my new hometown were limited. But… I ‘did’ continue to assume it would all work out. (It was just more stressful than I would like!)

  • Satu
    April 15, 2014

    I sure have conflicting values and goals. Recently I texted a long list of places I’d like to visit one day (including Australia and Hervey Bay) to my best friend who promptly answered that I should get busy earning more money or the list will be just a list…. And I haven’t progressed with my money goals the way I should if I’m ever going to make my traveling dreams a reality.

    I’ve probably said it before that you don’t want to be penniless. There is nothing fun about not having money to go to the dentist or contemplating fixing your undies because you don’t have the money to buy new ones…especially if that is not a temporary thing but will go on an on.

    • Debbish
      April 15, 2014

      Yes, I think the temporary pennilessness is doable, but knowing it might never change…. that is depressing.

      I’m kinda getting by at the moment and – it’s true… I have my groovy little Mercedes (midlife crisis much?!) but I wondered what would happen in 10 years if / when it needed replacing. I realised that IF nothing changed I wouldn’t be able to afford to replace it.

      Where are those rich benefactors when you need them?! 😉

  • Eva @ The Multitasking Mummy
    April 15, 2014

    Yes, I sure’s being a full time Mum and living on one income or working to get some extra money to do the things we enjoy and renovate our house. I’m hoping that getting into some freelance writing will help me to meet both in the middle!

    • Debbish
      April 16, 2014

      Yes, me too Eva. Fingers crossed for us both!

  • Neen
    April 15, 2014

    This is a good post.

    In my experience, control of my time is the most important thing. As long as I have enough money to cover basic expenses, I’m happy!

    • Debbish
      April 16, 2014

      Yes, I thought I’d be the same, but didn’t expect to fret so much about money. Maybe it needs a change to my values rather than circumstances!

  • Jess
    April 15, 2014

    Such an interesting career you have had! I backpacked through Cambodia and it was an amazing place, very sad history. Living there must have been quite an experience!

    I think about this often actually. I have always been a bit of a risk taker and gone for freedom over security. I do have regrets at not choosing the safer options at times and Id say now I have kids security will have to be more of a priority. So much more fun to pack it up, sell your car and go on an adventure. Coming home broke always sucked though.

    • Debbish
      April 16, 2014

      Very true – coming home broke to no job and having to find something… Mind you, when I think back over my life – that part is definitely not something I regret. It may have meant I put certain aspects of my life on hold for a few years, but I’m glad I did it.

  • iSophie
    April 17, 2014

    I can completely relate to this at the moment. My husband has worked for himself solely for about a year now. It has been pretty scary at times, and I know he stresses alot about money and security (we have 4 boys and another due in 2 weeks). He still puts in heaps of hours, 7 days a week to make sure we don’t fall behind. But at the same time he is there during th day if I need him here and there to help or look after the boys. I think it’s fantastic you downsized to a beach property, must be just so amazing to be so close to the beach. As long as you have your wits about you and you obviously do by reading this, I think there will always be a balance but you will know how to keep it. #teamIBOT

    • Debbish
      April 17, 2014

      Thanks for your email. You’d definitely know first hand then the ‘delicate’ balance between lifestyle and $. Although challenging it sounds like the flexibility is perfect for your family!


  • Lou Lou
    May 3, 2014

    We are about to make a big continent change! Any advice for before we leave?

    • Debbish
      May 4, 2014

      Just be prepared for the culture shock (and lifestyle change shock). Although you’re probably used to it, so it’ll be harder on hubby!

I'd love to hear your thoughts