Working in the high tech field, I've met and worked with a number of people that I consider workaholics, who do not have any work life balance. Part of my job responsibility requires me to travel and have face-to-face meetings with customers. Through these meetings, I have met a number of people in my field of work and connected with them on a more personal level during dinner or after a few drinks. It's always interesting that personal stories begin to come out when alcohol is involved and you really begin to know the person on a personal level rather than purely business interaction. One thing that always catches me by surprise is when people start telling me that they are not living with their families due to their work. Here are some examples of that I've encountered:
I met worker #1 on a business trip to Japan. After a few drinks over dinner he mentioned that he dearly misses his family. He has a couple of kids less than 5 years old. His kids and wife live in Kyoto permanently while he works in Tokyo. Kyoto is about 3.5 hours from Tokyo with bullet train. Worker #1 typically works about 10-12 hours a day and visits his family once a month. He has been doing this traveling arrangement for the past 2 years and he believes he will be doing it for more years to come as he climbs up the corporate ladder within his company. His family has no plans of moving to Tokyo because Kyoto is his wife's hometown. When I asked why he doesn't just look for a job in Kyoto he said that he couldn't find a similar job in Kyoto...
Worker #2 works in New York and his family lives in Toronto. The only reason behind this family separation arrangement is because of visa issues. Worker #2 is not American so he's being sponsored by his company to work in the USA. Unfortunately, his wife and son were not part of the sponsorship in the original offer and he has been trying to get them added to the sponsorship for the last 3 years. Worker #2 tries to drive up to Toronto every couple of weeks to spend time with his family but admits it's hard to be living apart from his family.
Worker #3 works for a giant tech company. He's from Europe and is pretty high up on the corporate ladder. Recently the company had a re-structure and he was told to re-locate to California for minimum 2 years to look after part of the company division. Because his kids are in high school and university, his kids and wife decided to stay in Europe. His wife will be visiting him in California regularly but he probably will only see his kids every half year or so. His family is visiting him for 3 weeks in September and he's ecstatic to see them as he hasn't seen them for 4 months already. Unfortunately he's scheduled to fly over the US for a number of important business meetings during those 3 weeks. He doesn't want to leave his family in California while they're visiting so he's trying to rearrange these business meetings.
Worker #4 used to work in California while his family lived in Vancouver, Canada. He would fly back to Vancouver on the weekend to spend time with his family. He would then take early Monday morning flight to California to start his work week. He spent close to 5 years doing such travel arrangement during the tech boom. When he worked in California, he missed a lot of upbringing of his kids as they were quite young at that time. Although he did spend the weekend with his family, it was just not the same as spending time with them on a day-to-day basis. He's really glad that he now works in the same city as where his family resides now.
I have no doubt that living apart from your family is hard to deal with. When I heard these stories, part of me always wondered what made these people accept such arrangements. Why do these people let work dictate their lives? Is it because they do not want to lose their current jobs and feel comfortable in their current jobs, hence for accepting such living & traveling arrangement? Does the thought of looking for a new job cause anxiety? Are they doing this arrangement because their jobs pay well and they cannot afford to lose their jobs?
How does this relates to being financially independent at all? To me, financial independence is about bringing freedom and options in our lives. If work was to ask me to relocate and that Mrs. T and Baby T could not come with me, being financially independent means I will be empowered to say no. I can say no because I have options. I know that we will be fine financially and we can do whatever we want. We are not limited to accepting the relocation request/demand because we needed the money from my job to pay for our expenses. Having the freedom and options to determine what we want is so powerful, it enables us to determine when, where, why, and how we want to do with our life. Of course I can always say no even when we're not financially free, but that does come at a cost. Turning down relocation may mean I may lose my job and as a result we may need to tighten our belts when it comes to finances. I might be also forced to find another job in a short period of time to bring in income to our household. Having pondered for a bit on this potential situation, I'd say that whether we're financially independent or not, I would never accept such work relocation offer, knowing that I would then need to leave Mrs. T and Baby T behind and live by myself for a period of time. Living in different cities as my family is never an option for me.
Being financially independent has a lot to offer and it always bring a smile to my face whenever I think about it and knowing that we're one step closer to this goal of ours every day by investing in dividend growth stocks and receiving dividend income on a monthly basis. When it comes to work, being financially independent means that work can no longer dictate what my life is going to be like. Rather, I get to dictate what I want to do with my life. Shouldn't this be something that we should all strive for? Why are some people always so worried about their job situation? Why do some people let work run their lives? Shouldn't it be other way around? We should not be defined on what we do for work. Isn't it funny that when you meet someone for the first time, one of the first few questions seems to always be "what do you do for work?" If you're a lawyer, a doctor, or an engineer, you automatically get a certain type of treatment; if you're a janitor, a truck driver, or a gardener, you get a different type of treatment. Does this make any sense?
All the examples above are men who decided to relocate for work. Would women do the same thing, leaving their kids and husband behind? When this situation happens to a man, people would say that he is dedicated to his work; when this situation applies to a woman, people would say that she is selfish and doesn't think about her family. Why is it much more widely accepted for men to leave their families behind for work but not as accepted for women to do the same? Talk about equality!
When it comes to decisions in life, there are always options whether we're financially independent or not. Relax, there are always options. The options are always unlimited, as long as we're open to them. Too often we think there are no options because we force ourselves out of the options and we're not open to them, we simply don't see them. We need to open ourselves to options and stop seeing only the limitations. When we do that we may end up with an option that is completely different than our original preference. We might actually end up doing something we really love instead of just doing a job for the money...
And that's what makes life so interesting. 🙂