If I'm not mistaken there's only really one main reason that any of us want financial independence, and that's to have complete control of your own time without any concern whatsoever, regardless of what other people want you to do or think you should do.
Yes it's nice to think about early retirement or know that you're able to sustain your standard of living for many years to come with what you currently have, or to be able to make decisions that wouldn't be possible, or would be risky, if money was tight.
But when you really boil it down it's so that you or I can say "no" when someone, such as a boss or a client, is asking us to do something we'd rather not do, without offering enough compensation in return to make it worth it.
Now you might be asking why anyone would even say "yes" under such circumstances in the first place, but let's face it, most of us have gone the "extra mile" or done the extra work to be a "team player". That's not a bad thing and typically those who have never done a bit extra will often find themselves lacking in opportunity or progress in the first place.
So there is a case for doing the extra but only if it's worth it, otherwise we might see the following scenarios and responses:
Can you give up your weekends to complete some extra work requirements that the client suddenly has, without any extra compensation?
Can you take on extra responsibility at work to cover the lack of staffing, but without getting the raise to cover the additional workload?
Continue to pick up the slack from someone else in the company since everyone is accustomed to you being a hard worker and the slacker being a slacker?
You get the picture and in the past week I had my own opportunity and pleasure to simply say "no" when I was asked to give up some of my personal time for work, without enough compensation (in time or money) on offer to cover what I would have to personally give up.
Note: I didn't actually say "F**k You". We might like to think it but maintaining self conduct always has its benefits. Plus, a pure and simple "no" can be much more impactful in many ways.
So what happened?
Christmas is approaching fast and I have about a week left before I wrap things up for the year in terms of work. It's fairly typical for me to save up quite a lot of annual leave and use them towards the end of the year, and this year has been no different.
The extended time off gives me a real chance to unwind since I work pretty hard at my job (Is this a paradox considering I write about FIRE?) and it's also the time where I take stock of what I managed to achieve compared to the targets and goals I set at the start of the year.
This is the much needed "me time" that helps me prepare to dive into the new year with renewed energy and motivation, so needless to say that the higher the quality of that time the better it will be when it comes to the bigger picture.
So when the higher ups at the company I work for asked me to attend a customer meeting that was in the middle of my annual leave, at 10pm no less (to align with the customer's time zone - which I don't normally have a problem with), I said "No."
Now it should be noted that I didn't say "no" immediately, I actually said I would attend under the following condition:
I get to count the day of the meeting as a working day, meaning I could carry that day of annual leave into next year, but the only thing I'd do is go to the meeting. I wouldn't actually be doing work during the day.
Unsurprisingly they didn't want to accept that and instead just wanted me to "finish that day an hour early" to make up for the hour attending that meeting later in the evening.
And that's when I said "No."
Now obviously what they're hearing is that I'm asking for a day in exchange for an hour's work, which under most circumstances should result in a "wtf" moment. But in this case I felt a little insulted that they would consider that hour for me to attend the meeting to be equivalent to simply finishing the working day an hour early.
As things stood, once I go on annual leave I can fully unwind and put my feet up in the knowledge that I don't need to think about work until the new year. As mentioned before, the quality of this time has an impact on the coming year and to me this is exceptionally important.
By wedging a work meeting, no matter how short it may last, into the middle of my holiday it not only interrupts that downtime but it diminishes the quality of the holiday days leading up to that moment. There would be preparation needed to be done since I'm not the sort of person to just casually turn up to a meeting, and the existence of the meeting would loiter in my thoughts until it was done.
That means that when I "start my holidays" it doesn't actually fully start since there's still a cloud hanging above. I'm sure most of you understand where I'm coming from here.
So that's why I came up with my condition and didn't feel like it was completely "bonkers". They may not have gone for it but in my opinion it was a completely fair offer.
What happens next?
Quite simply, I finish up my work for the year and go enjoy my holiday without any concerns in the world. Next year's goals are for next year and I'll be raring to go once the time comes.
Could there be consequences from my saying "no"?
Well, I did have the annual leave booked in so I'm well within my right to refuse. But that doesn't mean I won't be seen in a dimmer light going into the new year. Nothing may ever happen, but that doesn't mean it can't.
But here's the real question: Am I concerned?
Not at all.
In the past I would've felt pressured or been concerned about not taking the meeting because I would think that it might affect my career or opportunities. And let's be very real here, it would be silly to assume there is zero chance of a spiteful moment occurring based on my choice.
But the beauty of having a degree of financial independence is that I'm no longer shackled to the unfavourable position. I can refuse, knowing full well that there could be a consequence, yet not needing to be that concerned about it.
It's the first instance in my life where I've actually realised in full that I have "F**k You Money".
What's the take away from all of this?
So I know this article has been a bit of a story from my life based on a real encounter that happened just this past week but I think there is a valuable key lesson or insight that can be shared with you all.
The ability to say "no" this time isn't something that happened overnight. I didn't have a momentary burst of courage, a flare of rage (though I did feel somewhat insulted), nor did I suddenly cross the threshold where I hit my "FI number".
For this one instance of a "no" there has been countless instances in the past where I said "yes" unwillingly.
Obviously I have said no before but not under such circumstances. Often there's been reasonable flexibility and re-arrangements, but when push comes to shove it has always been me that's had to give ground in the past.
That ability to say "no" is the result of a long, yet focused journey towards financial independence; clear budgeting, disciplined spending and consistently investing for the long term.
We call it "financial" independence because it involves building up the money so that we have the financial means to live our life, but the true value that is unlocked is actually within our own time and not within our bank account.
But make no mistake that the value of our time starts off low, and we are often forced into accepting or agreeing conditions that are clearly weighted in favour of someone else just because we aren't financially in a position to refuse without consequences that affect us.
As the value of my time becomes further unlocked there will only be more occasions where I can, and will, question if the time that's being asked of me is really worth it from my own perspective and not just theirs (whoever they may be).
And as you (the reader) continue on your own path towards financial independence, I hope that the story from this article can help you realise the same. Retiring early, doing whatever you want, and not needing to worry about money are great reasons for working on financial independence that we all probably share.
But add the ability to simply say "no" to your list.
Believe me, the taste of it is as sweet as can be and I can already feel my upcoming Christmas holiday being more relaxed than ever before.