Imagine financial freedom—life without any worries related to money. Perhaps you envision yourself hiking the Andes, or living on a small farm in France? Or, maybe your dream is as simple as kicking back on a beach without a care in the world.

The one thing that can spoil the fantasy? Your boss showing up on that beach, badgering you about signing your timesheet. This was your private domain, and yet, somehow, other aspects of your life are being dragged into it.

How can you keep them out? Become independent—and when it comes to your employer, that means establishing financial independence.

Financial independence

How on earth do you declare financial independence from the person or place that you are financially dependent upon? It’s the million-dollar question.

You may not be able to do it immediately, and for the time you’ll have to get used to flowing with the whims of the labor market, or your boss’s moods.

But you can free yourself, with time and discipline. It requires planning, patience, and some careful budgeting, but eventually, you will no longer feel sick at the thought of losing your job, and might even welcome the day you get to quit.

Read more: How To Declare Financial Independence.

What does becoming financially independent from your employer mean?

When discussing independence from your employer, it’s important to note that we don’t necessarily mean you have to quit your job—you might like your job! Rather, you want to develop enough financial independence so you can leave your job when it suits you. It’s also wise to save up enough so you can handle layoff or other unexpected job loss with stride, and if you’re in a toxic work environment, be able to leave.

According to industry data, 85% of workers are actively “disengaged” while at work—so, it’s safe to say that most people probably want options and security.

Getting to that point, though, isn’t easy.

The first step: Build a buffer

Almost all of us go to work because we need a job. We need a paycheck to keep food on the table and to pay the rent. This is the crux of the employer-employee relationship, and it’s rooted in your dependence on the employer for that paycheck

So, how do you create some separation or leverage? It all starts with building a buffer. That often means building an emergency fund that contains between three and six months of expenses.

That fund is your first line of defense—it’s a moat that buys you time and security should an unexpected illness or layoff happen.

Read more: Five Reasons Why You Need an Emergency Fund.

Note: You can download Stash to kick-start your emergency fund. Turning on Auto-Stash will help you save automatically.

Continue building

Once you have your emergency fund in place, start thinking about long-term goals. Eventually, you’re going to want to use your savings as a financial crowbar to wrench out more space—or independence—between you and your employer.

After you have your emergency fund in place, you’ll want to make sure you have other accounts to supplement it.

Here are some perspective next steps toward becoming financially independent:

  • Open an investment account—Investing your money can (typically) keep your money from being eaten up by inflation, and earn you a return.
  • Open a retirement account—IRAs and 401(k)s are two popular retirement vehicles. There are important differences between the two, and penalties for withdrawing your money too early. But they’re potentially important if you hope to retire—or become truly independent.
  • Stay out of debt—Your financial buffers can be undermined by debt, so do what you can to get out and stay out of it. There are different techniques and refinancing tools you can use to gain some momentum, too.

Contributing to retirement accounts, investment or brokerage accounts, and keeping your debt in check will help put you on the path toward financial independence. If you want to put a price tag on it, experts recommend that you have somewhere between $1 million and $1.5 million saved up to retire.

The simplest way to get started

Most people become financially independent from their employers when they retire. You can get started saving for retirement on Stash.