I’ve talked about this topic a few times before, but I think I really need to explain the importance of having your finances in a good place. Our personal problems are going to stay with us when we show up to work, there’s just no way around that. Yes, we are told to “check our bags at the door”, but can we really do that with the overwhelming stress of our personal lives lingering around in our head?
The problem with financial trouble, is that it puts a mental and sometimes physical barrier up that prevents you from thinking about anyone but yourself. Why do you think wealthy people build hospitals and schools? Because they have the means to do it and they aren’t worried about their personal financial situation. It’s really hard to be generous when you’re needing help.
So where does this come into play in the world of EMS? Allow me to tell my story:
Having no money or food wasn’t always the end of the world for me. After all, the local hospital fed us lunch and breakfast for free and many of the hospitals in the neighboring city provided all kinds of snacks and meals. You can say I was quite the connoisseur of the free EMS handouts. However, forces much stronger than my resourceful skills made sure that I never came anywhere near any of the hospitals. By 2 pm I was starving. My partner sensed that something was wrong and offered to buy me lunch. I lied and told him that I wasn’t hungry.
At one point in the late afternoon, I arrived at the station just in time to see a tow truck pulling into the employee parking lot. My heart sank. I knew for sure he was there to take my car. After all, I had been ignoring the bank’s calls for weeks. My spirits were lifted a little bit when I realized he was just using the driveway to turn around. Still, I knew it was coming and seeing that truck gave me a level of self-disgust that I had never felt before.
2 hours later, my phone shut off. Fortunately I was able to sweet talk Verizon into giving me 3 more days of service with an empty promise to pay off the entire balance by the weekend. Of course, I did this while hiding in the back of one of the ambulances in fear of one of my coworkers hearing me.
The final straw was getting a call from the local courthouse to inform me that if I didn’t pay my traffic ticket off within 48 hours, a warrant would be issued for my arrest.
I lost it.
I cried, I prayed, I begged, I did everything I could hoping that God would snap his fingers and make this horrible situation go away. What I didn’t realize, is that he was doing just that.
How It Carries over to Our Line of Work
After reading the above story, where do you think my head was? Do you think I was genuinely concerned about the problems of my patients? Or do you think I was on auto-pilot? I wasn’t just on auto-pilot, I was was doing a terrible job. Auto-pilot would have been an improvement.
As I experienced so many times throughout my career, I simply can’t be the best medic that I’m capable of being when I can’t see past my own problems. It’s just not possible.
3 Things You Can Do Right Now
Paying off bills, becoming debt free and planning for the future are all essential to achieving financial peace, but they take time. Getting your finances in better shape doesn’t require paying off all of your debt. You can get organized and eliminate your financial stress RIGHT NOW. Try these 3 things TODAY and I promise you that you will see a significant improve in not only your work performance, but your overall attitude in life.
Get on a written budget:
There is no prerequisite to budgeting. All you need is a piece of paper and something to write with. Figure out how much money you have on hand and start dividing it into categories. Get out a calendar and write down all your due dates for bills. Knowing exactly what’s going out and when it’s going out will eliminate more stress than you could possibly imagine. Trust me on this, it was a major turning point for me.
Take out cash for essentials: Don’t let credit card payments and other bills prevent you from eating. Every time you get paid, pull out enough cash to cover food and transportation costs. One of the biggest causes of stress is not knowing how you’re going to pay for your next meal. By doing this, you no longer have to worry about that unexpected automatic payment eating up money you needed to survive. This HAS to be your number-one priority. If you do nothing else to better your financial situation, do this.
Set money aside for good deeds:
Every heard of karma? OK, maybe you don’t believe in it, but I can assure you that being generous and giving every now and then will change the way you look at life and money. It will also directly affect your performance as a paramedic. This doesn’t have to be much. Try setting aside $25. If that’s too much, try $5. Try buying your partner a cup of coffee, paying for a random stranger’s meal or just give it to someone in need. I am a firm believer that things come full circle. When you start doing acts of kindness for others, it will come back to you.
An Exciting Announcement
OK, so this isn’t in context with the article, but I need to get the word out. I have started 2 free financial wellness groups. One on Facebook and one on Google Plus. It’s really simple and it’s free. If you’re looking for a support system as you work towards achieving your financial goals, then get in touch with me so that I can add you!
I’ll be posting motivational messages, money management tips and answering your questions EVERY DAY. It’s a great way to get like-minded people with similar goals together in one place. We’ll be holding each other accountable, lifting each other up, sharing knowledge and answering questions.
If you’re interested in joining one of these groups, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below. Let’s take action today!
I currently live and work as a paramedic in North Texas. I've been involved in EMS since the age of 18, and have essentially spent my entire adult life doing what I love. My passion is helping my fellow first-responders achieve successful and rewarding through healthy minds, bodies and wallets. I love talking to and meeting new people, so please don't hesitate to reach out and say hi!