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The Toughest Questions For Me To Answer

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Ever since I've stopped working at my day job, everyday conversations with friends have gotten difficult. You don't notice the number of times that people nonchalantly as how your job is going - until you are jobless. It's as if they are saying, "How are you doing?", without expecting to get a long, detailed answer. However, the last few times I have been asked that, they have been quite surprised.

I really don't know how to answer the questions of "How's Work?" or "What do you do?" I try to say, "I was asked to resign, but I was looking to quit anyway", but people assume that to be a negative life circumstance. I start to hear things like, "I'm sorry" and "Wow I didn't know..." You'd think that someone close to me just died.

The next question is the all-too-obvious, "How's the job search going?" How do I tell them that I'm not looking for another job? I tried that with one friend and he seemed ready to check me into an psychiatric hospital. I can't tell them about my alternative income or my blogs and remain anonymous. I realize I must sound like I spend my days wallowing in a Cheeto powder mess watching TV.

I haven't told my mom about my job situation since she'd have the same reaction as my friends. She'd probably offer to try to help out risking her own retirement income. Is there anyway to break people's preconceived notions that you must have a job?

Posted on October 29, 2007.

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29 Responses to “The Toughest Questions For Me To Answer”

  1. Brandon says:

    I have noticed that so many Personal Finance bloggers wish to remain anonymous. I have not read all of the archives, but the impression I get is that you do not say anything so very personal that you must remain anonymous. I mean, I quite understand not wanting to post your full name and address on this blog, but letting your friends know that your pseudonym is you doesn’t seem so dangerous. Obviously, it is your choice, but I just don’t really understand it.

    I feel the same way about most of the other bloggers that remain anonymous.

  2. Laura says:

    I think that you can’t change people’s perceptions until they have a personal example of someone successful. You might give them a vague answer without revealing what you’re going to do. Just don’t take their ignorance to heart.

    I wish you well with this ‘good’ kind of problem.

  3. Jazmin says:

    Perhaps the easiest answer is that nicely vague ‘I thought I’d try my hand at some freelance opportunities’.. or something equally vague about what it might be. Freelancing/consulting/contract seems to be the current norm (at least in my area) and wouldn’t even raise a blink.

  4. guinness416 says:

    If you don’t want to mention the blogs why not say you’re doing freelance writing. That’s what this kinda is anyway, right?

    But other than that, just tell the truth. The more men who just come out and say that they’re stay at home dads or work part time or that their wife’s the breadwinner the better, in my opinion. Being shady about reponses just makes you look ashamed of the situation.

    My husband has been a home husband working minimal part time projects from home since he got laid off in July. In our experience, people are more jealous and curious than anything else. But they can certainly see we’re loving our new lifestyle, however long it may last.

    And I think you should tell your mum! You don’t want her to find out by calling the office and hearing “he’s been gone for 6 months”!

  5. plonkee says:

    I’m with the ‘freelancing’ option. Or just say that you’re taking an extended break. Do people really want an in depth answer? Oh, and tell your mum – it’ll only look out worse if you try to hide it.

  6. dong says:

    I’m with guiness, I think being as honest as possible is the best approach. Of course sometimes being vague about “freelancing” can lead to more questions. That said I think just saying you’re taking time to evaluate your next step should be enough… I mean it’s not like you need the income urgently…

  7. You set up an Inc.
    You can then say you run your own company and say it does internet marketing.

    Your blogs can still remain anonymous

    But I guess it is not that much of a prob to find an answer, or is it?

  8. Lazy Man says:

    Thanks for the help guys. I will definitely tell my mother. I’m just trying to figure out how to say that I stay at home.

    I like the freelancing idea. I can’t really claim to be freelance writer. I don’t think that people would understand how that’s possible for me. It’s just not the personality that they see.

    I think I will also lead with the contracting explanation. That’s very honest as I do a few side projects as a software engineer.

  9. JoeRiv says:

    You could always tell people that you’re between jobs and just looking for the right one. That way, you don’t lie and you don’t have to give them too many details.

  10. escapee says:

    This IS a tough one! Just tell them that you are independently wealthy like Paris Hilton! That should shut them up.

  11. Ernesto says:

    With time, it will get easier.

    What I really mean is, after this has happened to you several times, you’ve tried a few different vocations (including starting your own businesses) and you (and your wife) have had a few life changing events, it will get easier.

    I’m always mildly amused by the Silicon Valley based software people and their financial blogs; Please keep blogging, I’d like to see how your financial plans hold up to a stress test.

  12. Patrick says:

    Dang… I’m late to the conversation as usual – I can’t reach your blog from work. :(

    Anyway, I was going to say the freelance or contract work comment as well. It is the truth, so you shouldn’t have a hard time saying it. Dancing around the details… that’s another story!

  13. Brip Blap says:

    Tell people you’re selling drugs – that’ll shut them up.

    Actually, I’m with Guiness416 – just say you’re taking a sabbatical, which is the truth, right? You’ll get a new job eventually, maybe, but for now you’re just getting in touch with your inner Mike Lowell.

    Americans are so insane about their work. I couldn’t tell you how many times my friends have asked me since I started doing contract consulting “when are you getting a REAL job again?” It’s just annoying. As far as the blogging, nothing to do about it if you’re going to remain anonymous. No-one is going to believe you are freelance writing if you haven’t ever mentioned it before. Tell them you saved up a lot of money beforehand and you’re living off of it. Or say you’re living off your credit cards…

  14. Can you be kind of honest and tell them you’re making money online by blogging anonymously? (And then refuse to tell them the name of your blog, of course. I can see how that could lead to a sticky situation, probably depends a lot on your personality. My husband could probably do it, but not me.) As for your mom, just tell her you’re prepping to be a stay-at-home-dad. She’ll be so thrilled about the prospect of grandkids, she’ll forget to leap into panic mode.

  15. Dee says:

    I don’t understand the anger here, giving suggestions that will “shut people up!”

    We all ask about each others’ jobs naturally. It’s not a hostile, malicious inquiry. I think the wrong position to take is a defensive one.

    A few weeks ago I’m sure you were one of the “how’s your job?” question askers.

    Just be polite and honest. No one needs a detailed explanation and there’s no reason to take this time to unveil your online identity if you don’t want to.

    People are surprised because for someone to just not be working is, well, surprising.

    A simple answer, “I’m freelancing,” etc. will suffice for most people. I also like the “I’m in between jobs” situation. Adults understand this type of situation. Anyone who responds negatively or with an insult isn’t someone whose opinion matters anyway :)

  16. WTF?

    I missed that post on you quiting your job. anyway, check out my blog tomorrow around lunch time for a surprize ;-)

  17. The Div Guy says:

    Why not tell everyone you have quit your job to sell items on eBay. It would be a great conversation starter.

    Brandon – I don’t want my friends and family to know how much money I have and I don’t want my coworkers to know I have an investment blog. I work at a non-profit and it would not go over well if my coworkers knew about my money situation. This is why I am an anonymous

  18. Foobarista says:

    Just say something like “I have a startup web media property and it’s already profitable”! It has the saving grace that it’s actually true…

  19. Lazy Man says:

    The follow-up question is always, “What is it?!?! I want to see!” That’s the problem.

  20. Investing911 says:

    What do you mean, YOU DON’T HAVE A JOB?!!?

  21. Nickem says:

    If I was in the same situation, I would tell my friends that “I came into a goodly sum of cash. My wife and I have agreed to not discuss it as it is a personal matter. Meanwhile, we are doing quite well are blessed to be able to re-evaluate our lifestyles. I am sure that you can understand our situation.”

    Mom would be delighted, I am sure.

  22. Lazy Man says:

    Nickem: That’s a great idea. Unfortunately, my mom would want me to fly home every month to see her and our finances wouldn’t allow for that. It’s a pretty slick plan though.

  23. bluntmoney says:

    Hm, I don’t get why this is a problem. If you’re working but not employed, why not just say “works going good, I work for myself now”. If you’re not working, say that you’re volunteering or staying at home or whatever it is that you’re doing.

    I didn’t work for several years, and I didn’t mind the “how’s work?” type questions. What I did mind at first were people who followed up with “Why don’t you get a job?!”. I’d just tell them the truth: I didn’t want to, and didn’t need to. Eventually I realized that what actually irritated me was my OWN belief that maybe there was something wrong with not “working”. I got over that ;)

  24. Lazy Man says:

    Bluntmoney, I don’t want people thinking that I’m lazy or anything like that… Oops, maybe it’s a little late for that :-).

  25. My typical response is: my business is doing fine thank you! :) Oh, that would be the case when I leave the job. Actually Lazy, I’m on the fast track to leaving now. I have begun plans for the next 6 to 8 months and have set some things in motion to make this happen. Haven’t felt more relief in a while. My plan is to study new skills that my spouse has suggested I do in the tech field so that:
    (a) I can either help him with his own business where he needs those technical skills or
    (b) I can do freelancing work as well whenever I decide to get a contract position.

    The key is to be able to make enough to try to build up to our current cash flow. I look forward to this challenge. In 8 months time, I should be out of my old job.

  26. Bernard says:

    Same here, totally agree with The Digerati Life.
    But sometimes will reply something like this “I’m not doing well recently”…
    Surprise right? The reason I do this sometimes just to create abnormality, and when people heard this, they will ask me ‘oh why?’

    And this is the time where you can break you ice easily…sounds good?

    cheers from,
    Bernard

  27. Samantha says:

    I also agree with The Digerati Life.

    In response to when people ask you what you do, I think “I’m an investor” or “financier” would be adequate. Or even “financial consultant” thanks to this blog. (As a military brat, I have that same hesitation when someone asks me where I’m from. Hahahah!)

    Regarding being honest with friends and family: I think it’s important for financial bloggers to keep a bit of the veil of anonymity between friends and family. That gives the bloggers the freedom to discuss very personal experiences without offending/worrying when exposing private thoughts and experiences as examples for their readers. To me, this is the best part of the financial blogs I have been reading (many of the ones by those commenting in this thread, btw). The “here’s what I did” and “here’s where I went wrong/did well” personal experience part of the writing is what speaks to me as a non-financial blogger reader. What I read in your blogs becomes part of my inner conversation with myself regarding finance. The more of your personal experience you are willing to share, the easier it is to insert your “voice” into internal conversation. If keeping that privacy/anonymity veil is what is required to make the finance bloggers be comfortable sharing that experience, then I selfishly encourage you to continue to do so.

    And that’s my long-winded post for today!

  28. Samantha says:

    Oh, so sorry…I didn’t realize this was an older discussion. (My feed reader reset and I didn’t check the date.)

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