Sunday, November 15, 2009

Adjusting to Life after Losing a Job

Laid offI was reading an article about people who failed to adjust their life after losing a job.  The article focuses on those who thought they could maintain their lifestyle because they got a severance check from their former employer and failed to realize that they might be unemployed longer than they expected.

It was hard for me to read the article because it is irksome to me to read about people who do not understand the reality of their situation.  It is especially bothersome to me to hear that people act this way in this country where most people have little or no money saved to deal with emergency situations.  Getting severance is a gift.  Few people have the "right" to a severance package.  Most employers provide them as a way to make all the parties involved feel a little better but they rarely if ever have to dispense generous severance packages.

I guess I just do not have a lot of sympathy for people in these situations.  I might if these people immediately cut their spending to the bare minimum to make their savings last as long as possible but none of these people did that.  They all decided to ignore the situation and continue to live as if nothing serious had happened.  I compare this to my own situation of life without a job.

I quit my Microsoft Job in September.  I was officially on payroll until the end of October but I stopped working at the end of September.  I simply used my vacation for that last month.  Despite the fact that I chose to leave, I had enough savings to last several years at my then rate of consumption, I still had a paycheck coming in, and my wife had a job that could cover all the bills, I started to immediately watch my money the day I gave notice.  Why?  I had no idea how long I would be out of a job.

My original idea was to take at least six months off.  That didn't happen because I have a problem not working and the uncertainty drove me nuts.  But despite my very safe position it was just prudent to not spend money the same way as I had before.  I was more careful about anything I bought.  We ate out a lot less.  We canceled plans that would cost us too much money.  I then look at my wife's position when we first moved to Washington.  She did not have a job lined up when we moved.  I made more than enough money to support the both of us but despite this she decided to get a retail job just to bring in some cash.  It wasn't great work but it paid and she wanted to make sure she brought a little something home just to get used to the idea and not feel too "safe".

Perhaps all of this was "easier" for me to do because I made a conscience choice to leave my job so I got to do it on my terms.  The psychology of it does not make much sense to me since I would think that having the situation forced on you would make the problem more immediate and urgent.  But I suppose there are those who would rather avoid the situation than tackle it head on.

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