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As you grow in your career, finding a new job can become harder and harder. One of the big reasons for this has to do with salary. If you think about it, when you first started working, you were open to just about any job and would happily take a tiny paycheck. But, as you’ve progressed in your career, your requirements have evolved.

One of the most challenging situations job seekers face is when they want to leave a job, but are financially unable to. There are two main reasons for this. First, the job seeker may live right up to their means. In other words, they may spend all of the money they make each month. Second, the job seeker may not have a safety net in the form of an emergency fund.

A job seeker with no emergency fund who needs every dollar to pay their basic bills feels trapped. The worst is when they’re being treated poorly at work – in a way that’s definitely not acceptable – but, they feel unable to change it. It can leave them feeling helpless, as if they’re being suffocated.

One of the best ways to protect yourself from feeling trapped is to do two things. If at all possible, scale back your fixed expenses. Then, take the extra money you’re saving each month and begin to put it into a savings account. That account will serve as an emergency fund. Ideally, it should have at least six months of living expenses in it. A savings account is recommended because it will be protected from market fluctuations.

Creating an emergency fund takes time and dedication. It’s not something you can do overnight, and it’s not easy. But, if you’re feeling stuck in a bad work situation, think about how much differently you might feel if you knew you had six months of living expenses in an account – just in case.

The benefits of an emergency fund can’t be overstressed. Having a backup plan gives you room to breathe, even if you never need it. And, that creates financial freedom. It gives you the power to walk away if you truly are being mistreated at work.

Along these same lines, when you land a new job that pays more, don’t immediately jump to increase your fixed monthly expenses. A new house or car may be tempting, but give yourself a chance to decide that you really like your new job first – and that they like you. The last thing you want is to have a job not work out, but you have new bills that require a higher income.

The bottom line is this. Things can (and will) go wrong at work. Any number of things could happen. You may get a bad boss. Your company may go through layoffs. But, if you manage your finances carefully, you’ll give yourself an out. And, in the end, you’ll create both breathing room – and emotional freedom – at your job.

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

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