Recently, I received a LinkedIn message from a recruiter. I’m at the 5-10 year point in my career and earned a vital professional designation within the last year. From my end, this makes it a great time to make a move to increase my salary and pick up new skills. From the employer’s perspective I’ve got valuable niche experience and am relatively inexpensive.

But, I had to say no. The subset of the industry the recruiter represented is very high risk/high reward, depending on a mix of government contracts and contractor performance. I could do an amazing job, but if the billable hours aren’t there, there is no work for me.

I simply do not have the stomach to take this kind of risk right now. In order to make it worth my while, I’d need to ask for a higher salary than I think is reasonable, and stash that away to create a buffer for the inevitable lay-off. If I was still in a dual income household this potential lay-off wouldn’t be a problem. As it is, I’m terrified of the prospect. While I will always have a couch to sleep on and a meal with family, I do not have a safety net to maintain my current (modest) lifestyle.

Some of this is psychological baggage. I’ve been poor. Like, really poor. Housing and food insecure, with zero stability. Through a combination of luck and hard work I’ve managed to carve out a comfortable life. The impact of that struggle does not go away so easily. I cling desperately to this stability. I’m no longer poor, I’m simply kinda broke , and I’m intent on not sliding back.

This incident provided a real reminder of the opportunity costs of depending on a steady paycheque. Financial independence doesn’t have to be about retiring early, it could simply be your safety net to allow you to feel confident to reach for the stars.

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