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The Axeman Cometh – Dealing with the Loss of a Job

The Reaper - Job LossMonday started as a typical work day for me. It was a beautiful March day, warm, sunny and one of those days that you wish you could be home, working in the yard or just enjoying a nice break in the weather. I got my wish and was able to go home. The ax man wasn’t coming, he came. After lunch I sat down with my boss in his office and called the HR person that was responsible for our team. Our HR representative gave me the “news”, explained  that my job had been eliminated and that they would pay me through the end of March. After that a generous severance package would kick be given to me.

Losing a Job

To be fair, I already knew this was coming. My boss (I won’t names of co-workers or employers) has been keeping me in the loop as things progressed over the last four months. His hands were pretty much tied, he knew what was coming but wasn’t privileged with the who or until last week, the when. We both suspected that because of my salary and the set of responsibilities I currently had, that I was a “high Profile Target”, We were both right.

In a way it’s a relief, I haven’t been happy in my job since last year when our roles changed. So going out with a package isn’t a bad way to go. Luckily I’ve been hitting the job market locally and have a complete and up to date resume ready. (If there are any professional resume writers out there and you want a pet project shoot me an email).

The Good

My boss and I have a long standing relationship going back several jobs and years. Knowing what was coming, he reached out to several of his peers within the company and did some job hunting for me. He was able to put me in contact with an organization that was badly in need of skills that I have. I spoke to them and we came to a mutual agreement that I would be a good fit (even if my skills were a bit rusty). The only potential problem is that they are tightening up their organizational structure as well. Opening up a job for me is going to be a battle but the management team there is going to the mat to try and get it done. I give it about a 70% chance of success.

The company will pay me through the end of the month; with the severance package I will have a solid paycheck until the middle of May. They have also agreed to pay my full bonus which is due in May so I’ll be covered financially until August. That should give me plenty of time to either start the job with the other team, find a new job, or become self-employed. Blogging income doesn’t count; I need to keep the lights on! So in August, if I still haven’t found a job, the emergency funds will begin to be tapped.

The Bad

My age and income level and will definitely work against me. I have good solid experience in my field but quite frankly, most companies can hire someone out of school and train them, or promote a junior level person up have them do what I do for a lot less. It’s brutal but it’s a fact. If I stay with this employer, the new job will be at a lower band and I’ll probably have to accept a cut in pay. I suppose that’s better than nothing but it’s still a hit. It’s a hit that I’ll have to accommodate into my long financial plans. Debt elimination will be impacted as will my ability to contribute into my 401k account. I guess there’s a bright spot there as I we will have less of our income in a higher tax bracket. (I have to really stretch to see the bright side in that.

The Plan

First and foremost is finding another job. Whether with my last employer or with a new one, having a source of income is critical in this phase of my financial life. Unfortunately, I am not financially independent. I have a plan to get there, but it will be a sometime before I hit that state. My resume is up to date so I don’t have to worry about that. Here are some of the things that I’ll be doing in my job search.

  • Reaching out to old contacts – The “Network” is extremely important in finding a job. the last time I was laid off it only took three days before I had another job lined up. That was purely because of the network. I went down my contact list and called everyone that was even remotely able to help me find a job. I didn’t really realize the true value of the professional network until then.
  • Linked in – Linked In has turned into the “go to” place to find jobs. It seems that most companies of any value post their positions there. I can usually find two or three jobs there that are a good fit. I’ll be keeping an eye on recently posted jobs on linked in and applying as they come up. The other Internet resources that I’ll be scouring pretty heavily are Dice and Monster. Both of them usually have pretty good listings of available jobs.
  • Local Companies – Living close to the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina has its benefits. RTP is a hot bed and center of technology as well as pharmaceutical companies and other Industries. I’ll be going through all of them, starting with the largest and working my way down to the smallest.

Going Forward

There are quite a few things I need to do to prepare for an extended period of unemployment. I know that at my current spend rate I can last fairly easily into August. That’s not taking unemployment into account which will help extend the period into October (although I hope to have a job by then). Even if I find employment quickly, I’ll probably have to adjust to a lower salary, so I need to plan and get used to that NOW.

MY 401k will be the first adjustment. I’ve already reduced the rate to the minimum that will insure that I at least get my employer match. When I get a new job that will be where I start at. As my financial life balances out I’ll add to that as I can. Luckily I’ve got a fairly healthy balance in my retirement accounts so although that will be a setback; it’s not a total disaster for me.

I started the process to refinance my home a month ago. Hopefully I should be able to close by the end of this month. That will bring my mortgage payment down by $300 a month. I’ll be paying less on my mortgage than if I were renting my home so that will help.

We eat out far more than we should. That stops immediately. In the past, my wife and I have easily spent at least $300.00 a month on eating out. If you think that’s a lot it is, but try feeding four young adults ages 18 to 20 and you’ll see how much even cheap food can cost! Other than the occasional “Dollar Menu Burger” that’s going to stop. We’ll be eating at home. My wife started the her coupon efforts last month and we are already seeing the benefits of that. I plan on posting some “March” results in early April to share with you. The amount of money she is saving on groceries is considerable. Thanks Hon!

Should my period of unemployment extend be long enough, I will apply for unemployment  I’m not proud of it but I think that I’ve paid into the system long enough that I should be able to take advantage of the safety net it provides. Hopefully, I win’t have too!

Debt elimination temporarily goes into a stasis mode. Minimum payments will be the order of the day, at least until a new job is on the Horizon and I’ve got a handle on creating a new budget around my new Salary.

There are a few minor categories in my budget that will basically be put on freeze. The entertainment “envelope” will get locked, as will the maintenance envelope (for minor home repairs, etc). Individually they are not much but when added together, they will help reduce my “burn” rate. Whatever is already in those budgets will be part of the money’s I draw on should I get to that point.

One thing that I will start doing is to start advertising my services as a handyman. I’ve got the tools 🙂 ! If I can supplement the money coming in with a few side jobs here and there then it’s worth it!. I’ll also look into a few side hustles I’ve been contemplating, if any of them work. I’ll post an article on them and .

I’m mentally prepared for this but it’s still a shock. Even knowing that it was coming hasn’t prevented the knots in my stomach and the worrying. I guess that’s normal and to be expected. One thing you can definitely expect is some updates on how this goes! In the interim, If you know of any positions in the Raleigh Durham area for a seasoned Technical Manager, give  me a shout!

 

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John Schmoll is a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. He's passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes so that they can live lives free from the shackles of debt and empowered to make their money work for them. You can check out his other sites: Frugal Rules, for ways to improve your financial literacy; and Sprout Wealth for tips on different ways to make more money. John has been featured on Forbes, Lifehacker, Yahoo Finance and US News & World Report and more. If you're wanting to grow your blog, check out my blog coaching services to see how I can help you take your site to the next level.

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57 comments

  1. So sorry to hear of your job loss Jose, though it sounds like you have a great attitude about it. It looks like you have a great plan of attack which I know is vital in addition to the attitude. I love the idea of doing some handyman services on the side as a means to bring in a little more income, you never know what that could turn into.

    • If push comes to shove the handyman service could turn into a small business. AS Pauline said, with four kids in the late teens I could build a handyman empire! 🙂

  2. I’ve never been one to sit back and pluck at what passes by. I’m more the “grab the bull by the horns” type. Hopefully this will end up being just a minor setback.

  3. Sorry to hear that Jose! Fingers crossed on the potential job. I also hope your mortgage refi comes through, it will be much harder to try again if they know you are out of a job. Time for a thorough review of unnecessary expenses, and with four teenagers you can build a handyman empire!

    • Lol, so true! My son has often said, :Dad, why don’t you build decks for a living”. I may have to start doing that! If I lived in Guatemala, I’d knock on your door and try to sell you on the concept of a better handyman than the one you have. 😀

  4. Jose,

    Sorry to hear about this. At least you had an open dialogue and new it was coming. Make sure your severance really isn’t just the mandatory WARN Act companies with over 100 employees need to pay.

    Please read the article, When A Severance Isn’t A Severance (http://www.financialsamurai.com/2012/10/10/when-a-severance-package-is-not-a-severance-package/)

    Fight the power and good luck!

    Sam

    • I read the article, thanks for pointing it out to me! I’m in NC so I don’t think WARN applies to me. They are giving me two weeks for every year, job placement assistance and all my benefits continue free for one month after my last official service date. The Cobra thing is interesting. I may try to leverage that and see if I can squeeze that out of them. An interesting piunt is that my Company is based in NY, I’m wondering If I can invoke the WARN act and get more severance?

  5. Sorry to hear about you losing your job, but it sounds like you’ve got an excellent plan to get yourself back into the employment game asap. Great post!

  6. I’m sorry that you lost your job but it sounds like you are making all the right moves! You’re right that eating out is so expensive. You will save a ton of cash if you stop!

    • It will definitely help, I’ll have to make the kids the Eddie Murphy version of the big mac. If I remember right it was two pieces of toast, a slice of green pepper and a patty. 😀

  7. Good luck finding that new job! I’m not in your field but from my own experience, employers are looking for people with experience and seem to be less willing to hire people fresh out of school that they have to spend time to train. Hopefully the experience will work for you and you won’t have to take a pay cut!

  8. Agh, that’s rough, but at least you had warning and time to prepare yourself. Bringing in a bit of money using your handyman skills sounds like an excellent way to help bridge the gap, too!

  9. Great post. This can be so devastating to whoever loses a job and those around him or her. Thanks for your insight.

  10. Wow, I am really impressed with your attitude about the whole thing. Even if it was expected, it is a blow. It sounds like you are being proactive. Sitting around feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t help. although I would allow a little of that just to blow off steam. Good luck. I bet you will find something soon.

    • Thanks Kim! I’m not one for self-pity. I figure that the sooner I get my stuff together, create a plan and follow it, the better off I’ll be in the long run!

  11. Well, that is a kick in the pants Jose. If you want to send me your resume, I know a few companies that might have some interest. I will need to see you skill set, but it can’t hurt. Good luck with the search.

  12. Jose, we went through this same scenario 3 years ago, so I know where you’re coming from. It was tough too, on Rick, emotionally, even though we knew it was coming. You guys have got a great plan in place, though, so you’ll make it through. And one thing about your age: there are gems of employers out there that realize the value of a dedicated, experienced employer. After 7 months of searching, we found one of those gems and they saw the value in Rick’s commitment to his job and in his knowledge of the biz. Subsequently, he’s done real well in 2.5 years, and is finally up to the pay he was at when he was laid off by Former Employer. Hang in there, guys, and just lean on each other. You’ll be just fine. 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind words Laurie! I really appreciate them. I was laid off in 2009 and quickly found this job, I was lucky then and hope I’m as lucky now. I’m doing a lot of reaching out and some of the feedback I’m getting is pretty positive, so hopefully It won’t take to long to land on my feet. Thanks!

  13. Sorry to hear about your job loss Jose, but I’m happy that you have a plan in place to deal with this transition. Getting the ball rolling so quickly is great and I hope you get what you’re looking for in your next job.

    • Thanks Elle, Hopefully it won’t take long to find something. This area is pretty good and is flush with tech jobs so I’m sure I’ll find something, it’s just a matter of wht level I can find a job at!

  14. Refinance as fast as possible. The bank won’t like your income line once the job ends….

  15. That’s rough Jose. I’m really sorry about this adverse event. You’re a good guy.

    But I am so glad to hear about the fact that you have a great plan. Even down to re-aligning personal finances (e.g. re-financing). I don’t know how unemployment and health insurance works in the US but I hope there is a system to ensure its continuity. If you’ve got your health and good health insurance, you and your family are going to be just fine.

  16. Sorry to hear of your job loss mate. Even though you had a heads up it’s still a shock when you get the news because your fears are now validated. I’m sure in the back of your mind you were hoping that it wasn’t going to be you. You likely went through a million scenarios as to why it would be or why it might not be. You sound like you have a good head on your shoulders and you WILL find a good paying job that you love. It may be this potential one with a 70% chance and you are right some money is better than no money. Just keep your options open after that. Network like crazy, let people know you’re on the hiring block waiting for the best company to come in a swoop you up! Be positive. Thanks for sharing and keep us in the loop!

    • Thanks for the comments! It was a shock and even though I knew it was coming, the day after I got th news my stomach was in a know the entire day. I’m definitely hitting the networking though!

  17. Sorry to hear that Jose, hope the other job comes off. If it doesn’t you seem like an industrious guy, I’m sure you’ll make something happen!

  18. Sorry to hear about the job loss, it’s always a rough situation. It sounds like you’re pretty prepared and have a good plan. Good luck finding something new, hopefully we’re reading a post about it soon!

  19. Jose, I wish you the best of luck, you have the ambition and the determination and I promise it will work out. If nothing else, maybe your site will continue its growth and help pay the bills too, I know I will continue to read! Good luck, if I hear of anything in Raleigh I will be sure and pass the word along.

  20. Sorry to hear about the job loss. The upside is you have a rock solid plan, I have a fraternity brother who just lost his job and he doesn’t even know what he’s going to do tomorrow let alone in the next 2-3 months. I believe you have the right attitude and will definitely get something lined up in the near future.

    I have just recently started getting into LinkedIn and it’s a social media tool that I believe every professional should have.

    • Linked in is extremely powerful as a professional social media tool. I’ve reconnected with folks from waaaay back in my career. In situations like this, every professional contact you have can be the lead to the job you’ll ultimately get (I hope so at least :)). Thanks for stopping by!

  21. I’m glad you have a severance package available to you. What a tough time. I’m sorry you have to go through this.

    • It isn’t the first time and probably not the last (although if there’s ever a next time I hope I’m a lot closer to financial independence than I am now). Hopefully it won’t take too long too find a job.

  22. Instead of condolences, let’s buck the currents and offer you best wishes for the new opportunities that are sure to come your way: handyman, deck builder, part-time consultant to your industry. There’s a good number of senior people in my industry that have come back as part-time consultants.

    • Andrew, Thanks! I don’t want condolences. I want opportunities and am the type to go out and make them for myself if I have too! Which I will! Thanks for stopping by.

  23. No sorries required! This may be an opportunity for bigger and better things down the road. Sometimes you need a kick in the a$$ to get the engine revving again! I’m hooking up with some nice potential opportunities thanks to this (via the network).

  24. I guess we all have major stress points in our lives, some are handed to us involuntarily, others are self created to some extent (I’m really good at that). How we deal with the stress is the single most important thing that matters. I’m lucky in that I can take things at face value and not get emotional about them.

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