I recently I lost my grandmother. It’s been a really hard time and it’s really sad. But today, I don’t want to talk about her. I actually want to talk about how my pursuit of financial independence and frugal living has impacted my ability to grieve.
We don’t make space for grief in the U.S.
There is no federal law that guarantees paid time off for bereavement, including funeral time. Right now it’s a sad time, nationally speaking. 1,117,054 Americans have died from COVID. And 72% of Americans either know someone who died from COVID or was hospitalized because of COVID. Several of our peer nations, including France, Japan, and New Zealand all do have guaranteed paid time off for grieving. But here in the United States, only three states guarantee that same thing.
The Fair Labor Standards Act, the foundation of US labor policy, does not require employers to provide paid leave, including vacation time, to convalesce or time to plan or attend a funeral. In the United States, just three states have passed their own policies. Oregon requires employers to provide 12 unpaid weeks of leave, two of which can be used for bereavement after the death of a family member. Illinois offers two weeks of unpaid bereavement leave, but only after the death of a child. Maryland recently extended its flexible leave act to require that employers who offer paid leave allow it to be used for bereavement. So even the states that do offer this don’t really offer it right. It’s under very specific circumstances that you are allowed to have mostly unpaid time off to feel sad after the loss of a family member or a loved one.
Since I work for myself, I took four days completely off work after my grandma passed. And that’s a luxury that most Americans do not have. It’s a luxury that I have only because of the fact that I do work for myself and the specific ways that I’ve structured my business.
Frugality has helped me have time to grieve
I’m also a very frugal person, I have designed my lifestyle so that I don’t need very much money month to month to pay all of my bills. And I’m not someone who gets a lot of joy out of shopping. So spending money is not one of my primary hobbies. This is not a judgment on anyone who does like shopping, I’m just expressing it’s not really my jam. Frugality is my preferred way of living. I like having clothing swaps and getting my clothes for free. I like calling companies to negotiate annual fees and to negotiate down my bills. This is just the way that I want to live a simpler approach to our kind of modern hectic world. Frugality also means that since paying off my debt, I have been able to sock away money in my savings and investments at a faster rate than your average American. For example, last month alone, I made over $375 in interest just from my cash savings.
This nest egg that I have built for myself means that if I need to take four days off to grieve, I can take four days off to grieve and I don’t have to worry about becoming homeless, not being able to pay a monthly bill or my business collapsing around me. It also means I can spend money with a level of freedom that a lot of people can’t. This is a huge privilege and I acknowledge it.
I was able to spend over $200 last minute to buy a flight home to attend my grandmother’s funeral. And that flight did not in any way compromise my financial health. It didn’t put me into debt. It didn’t mean that I couldn’t pay another bill this month. And it didn’t make a huge dent into my cash savings in my life. My personal preference for frugality and my entrepreneurship have allowed me a greater level of personal living flexibility and when it comes to grieving it has allowed me the time and space to be able to sit in my sadness.
We should be allowed time off to grieve
This is something that every American should have access to. And honestly, it’s a national embarrassment that we don’t we are the richest country in the world. We should be allowed to take time off from our grind and to be able to feel our very human feelings.
I plan to continue working towards financial freedom. I am so happy with the way my life looks now as opposed to my life at 24 and 25. When I did have debt when I was low income when something like a $200 flight would have absolutely broken my budget for the month. I enjoy the security that financial freedom or at least pursuing financial freedom right now affords me, but it’s something that I wish that every American and frankly every person could have access to.
If you’re more of a visual learner or want to hear more, I talk about my upbringing and my road to FIRE in this video: