I've been reminded this week of the importace of something referred to on some blogs as "FU money". It's pretty self-explanatory - it's about not living paycheck to paycheck, but having an emergency fund that means you are able to step back from a job when you need to.
A friend of mine is struggling at work. The long hours and unreasonable demands are pushing them to their limits, leaving them stressed, sleep deprived and utterly drained. It's a vaguely familiar spectre, reminding me of my time in consultancy where - however interesting the work and fun the colleagues - I felt like work had to take precedence over everything else. This is not ideal. Work is good for us, but no job is worth getting burn out.
I am extremely lucky to work where I do. I adore my job - I wake up and I look forward to getting into the office. Some of that is because the work I do is so interesting, varied and challenging - but a lot is because I work for a supportive employer who wants me to do well. My boss tells me to go home when I'm in late, instead of reprimanding me for coming in late. My extra hours are logged and I can take them as time off in lieu. I get a good day's work done and then I go home, and then I repeat the cycle. When something happens - my mother's surgery, for instance - my team recognise that anyone can answer the email, but only I can sit in A&E, so they tell me to be where I need to be, and not to worry about papers and deadlines. This is worth more than a top-drawer salary to me.
But I do remember - and see - what it is like to work somewhere that has to squeeze you like a lemon for the business model to function. I don't want to take my current circumstances for granted - I want the choice to be able to say "FU" if I find myself there again. I already have the comfort of a good savings cushion, and the confidence of being able to live on a low income. This gives me a peace of mind, and today I am really valuing that.