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I Lost My Job

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Last week, on May 8th, Lazy Man and Money turned one year old. In that time I have received nearly 1000 e-mails, but none like the one I received on that day:

Hi Lazy man, tell me how do you create a blog to get help to pay my bills. I was recently layed off work because of budget cuts with a non profit organizations that I was working for and I just purchased a home, and would like to keep it. I have been applying for job but have not be successful just yet need some help. Thanks, [Joyce, the made up name that I will call her to protect her anonymity].

I don't possess the writing skills to explain how this impacted me emotionally. The desperation in the e-mail just oozed into all my waking thoughts. That night, I ended up getting about 4.5 hours of sleep instead of usual 6.5. I have mentioned this a couple of times in passing, but I've been pretty close to this situation. No, I didn't own a home, but I was nearly at the point where my checking account was down to zero. I would have had to start withdrawing from my retirement accounts to pay the rent. It was back in the dot-com boom in 2001. I went 2 years without finding steady work as a software engineer. I had found three or four short-term contract jobs during that time - the longest being one month. I had been employed at another company for three months, before they cut their headcount from 100 people to 6 (I had made the first several cuts, but not the last one). I was not one of the 6.

Here are some thoughts I had after digging up the pain of that experience:

It's incredible hard to have any kind of social life when your friends typically want to go out to a fancy restaurant. I remember one time getting invited to dinner amongst friends, and, in not one of my better moments, wrote a pretty scathing response, questioning why society dictates that we must go out and spend 10 times the cost for food at a restaurant (I still feel that way, but things change considerably when you have money in the budget for the experience). It was even harder trying to date.

If you don't have an income, there's a constant process in your head that calculating costs. With the dot com bust, everyone talked about "burn rates." And now it wasn't my company having a burn rate - it was me! Even today I count every cost. The skill I needed to get by back then, has become a habit that I can't drop. Today, I often annoy myself with ultra-frugal thoughts.

Everything can easily spiral downward leading you into a deep depression. Not having an income is terribly depressing in it's own. Not being able to do things with friends and getting angry at the situation doesn't make things better. Whenever someone buys themselves something nice, it draws resentment from deep inside. It doesn't get much worse than being alone and pennyless.

The story for me has a happy ending. I found a part-time job in the autumn of 2003 that paid more than many full-time jobs. In Feb. 2004, a contact from the old dot-bomb asked me if I was available to work at a new start-up. Knowing the people, I jumped on the opportunity and made more than average person, but still a disappointing salary for a software engineer. In the same month, I met a woman whom I would eventually ask to marry me. Last year, she got a big promotion to move out to Silicon Valley. As a software engineer, I saw my salary jump when we got out here as well. Now that things are moving in a much more positive direction, I'm taking action by trying to grow my alternative income sources. If put in a similar situation, I'll be much better equiped to handle it.

So what did I learn that I can pass on to Joyce... these survival tips.

Last updated on February 18, 2009.

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11 Responses to “I Lost My Job”

  1. I do not advocate keeping an emergency fund, but let me say that for some people it’s probably an excellent idea. You’re right – the desperation in that email made it painful to read.

  2. What a heart-renching email that must have been. I’m sure you’ll come up with sound advice to pass on, but to me, taht just reeks of desperation. It is excedeedingly hard to make legitimate money from blogging, and those who do ultimately end up mortgagiong the original quality of the blog in the first place.

    In short, blogging about finances is not probably not going to replace their day job.

    I’d suggest your reader sticks with it and keeps their head above water until a new job in their field opens up again.

    But by all means, tell them to please start a finanical blog regardless. Just don’t do it thinking it’ll be a prime source of income overnight. It may not pay the bills in the strictest sense of the word, but in terms of being an enjoyable pastime and increasing their financial IQ, it will certainly pay dividends.

  3. 1M to my name,

    Why don’t you advocate an emergency fund? What do you suggest to do for reserves then?

  4. I was in a similar situation after 9/11.
    my company’s founder was on the first plane to hit WTO and the company sank after that.
    In october they closed down the san diego office and laid off 250 people. I couldn’t
    find a job for 4 months. very depressing.
    I totally ran through my savings in those 4 months. I gave a couple of interviews
    in jan but nothing happened. I got so depressed that in mid-feb I stopped reading
    my email. around end of feb I got a call from the HR of a place I had interviewed.
    She had emailed me an offer and wanted to know if I was going to reply! I accepted
    their lowball offer immediately :-(
    but thats what desperation does to you. Its not a pretty place to be in. I promised
    myself, i’d never see a day like that again. should have atleast 12 months living
    expenses liquid at all times.

  5. Len says:

    Hello Lazy Man,
    My story is long and I will try to make it short as possible. I joined the navy in February 1995 and served over 10 years. In May, 2000 I got married to a girl that would turn out to be a disaster in my life and my 3 children’s life plus my step-son.
    We never got along but I tried many different occasions. In the summer 2004, my now ex-wife started to live a different life style, one that involved drugs, alcohol and introducing her new acquaintances to my children. I later learned she was giving doses of children’s night medicine to my children to keep them sleeping so she can go to night clubs and party. This was happening while I was serving in the submarine force and was either deployed or worked over night at my command. Needless to say I found out a great many things involving her care taking of my children that resulted in our divorce and my gaining full custody until recently because I am now back in court fighting for them in a different state.
    I was asked to leave the navy and was honorably discharged in April 2005. The navy felt that I was not in a hardship situation so I was discharged but had to pay back over $24,000. I was homeless, jobless, and penniless. I had to move in to my ill mother’s home until something came along. I had a few things but the debt grew and I was digging in a hole I could not get out of. Not only 24 thousand dollars but since I couldn’t pay it quickly, they sent it to a debtor and I eventually had to pay almost 2 thousand more. This does not include the amount of debt my ex-wife created.
    January 2006, things were starting to clear up. Not drastically but in little increments. I found a new job that paid me in excess of 80 thousand dollars. Slowly but surely I was starting to make a small dent in my chaos. Things are now headed back into the chaos because I lost my job as of 18 May 2007. I am still in over 27 thousand dollars in debt and I just got out of court not long ago for another debt. A huge portion of my taxes was garnished, for the second year, for a debt my ex-wife created with my power of attorney when I was in the navy. I have a home and a lot of people depend on me and I can’t loose them, any of them. I know I can count my blessing but most of my problems were created for me and not by me. I need help asap. What can I do?

    Thank you,
    Len F.

  6. Traveling Mom says:

    This is a business you can get a tax write off work at home and get health insurance read my blog http://www.daniellemangum.blogspot.com
    look at the videos and read and learn what you need to do to be independent and work for yourself this business is great people making great money saving their houses and everything give yourself a chance.

  7. […] a serious note, I got a similar e-mail last May. It led me to write these tips. I am surprised that many of the tips still apply. That should go a […]

  8. Gina says:

    I have a different situation. I left the Air Force two years ago to pursue a career in something creative. Little did I know that the economy was going to do a nose dive. Not quite what I expected.

    However, I am going through school and about to graduate soon albeit a somewhat bleak outlook. But I’m still planning to keep my chin up and work on making money online.

    A little progress i the programs I’m in, but it’s a little slow going.

  9. TJ's_mommy23 says:

    I make money working from home with my 4 month old.. this would be the people to talk to if you want to make extra money… hope they can help you like they did me.
    good luck
    http://www.wahmjobfinder.com/opportunities

  10. ~T says:

    Losing your job is a very unfortunate situation for anyone. I know all too well and decided to turn my situation into a positive, influential one. While I’m able to get unemployment and supplemental income from my employer, I’m taking this time to not only be on the manhunt and find the right job with a stable future, but also do be creative with my time. I was working long hours and getting no credit for the time I was putting in, so although the situation isn’t ideal I’m making the most of my time at home – scrapbooking, catching up with friends, finding free stuff to do around the city, and even doing some creative writing to stay sane in these uncertain times. I’ve learned that saving money is essential because most of us are a paycheck or two away from losing everything. I had to revamp my budget and it was a reality check as to what I could realistically live off of (wants vs needs). There are a lot of helpful resources out there, you just have to tap into them and plead your case. People can be very understanding because there are so many of us that are unemployed these days. Many agencies are getting stimulus money, so goodle them and see if there is assistance available that you could use. Until then, keep pressing and pushing and with time something will come along.
    Check me out as I write about my encounters in the unknown world of unemployment.

    http://unemploymentalk.blogspot.com/

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