Corporate machinations have been in full swing at Mr. FIREDup’s workplace for several months. Senior leadership changed at the end of last year. His director left as a result, and in January of this year a perky, up-and-coming new director was hired from another company.
He was excited to see what perspective the new director would bring. Unfortunately things quickly went sideways. The new director was displeased with the work he was producing. It’s not clear to me exactly what went wrong. Did the new director’s creative direction not align with my husband’s? (The creative world is more nebulous than my world of numbers and spreadsheets). Did his personality rub her the wrong way? Did someone at a higher level have it out for him? Was he a pawn in a power struggle? Whatever the cause, my husband was coming out on the losing end. He was miserable.
It got bad enough that one day in February I told him, “It’s okay if you have to walk out one day and not come back.” (This is a pretty out of character thing for me to say.) By the end of that month, we knew there was a realistic probability that he might be asked to leave.
A Blessing in Disguise
Things had gotten better recently. Until yesterday, when I got a text from my husband saying he had been fired.
A range of feelings consumed me:
- Anger. Not because he was fired, but because he had not been treated with decency and respect by his employer.
- Empathy. This type of experience takes an emotional toll. I was worried how my husband was feeling about all of it.
- Relief. This feeling came to me later in the evening. This job was never a great fit for my husband. It’s probably a blessing in disguise that he was asked to leave, because I truly believe there is something out there that is a better fit for his talents and skills.
- Gratitude. I am thankful that we have had the means to save for a rainy day. I wasn’t consumed with financial worry when I heard the news. Because we have been living below our means for a long time, we have adequate emergency funds we can tap into if needed. For the short term, few financial adjustments will need to be made.
But I also don’t want to be tied to a job because it pays a lot, or have to work on someone else’s schedule for the next 25 years. Companies get acquired, managers move on, job responsibilities shift, and sometimes great jobs become stifling or downright horrific. Financial freedom means that either I or my husband can choose to quit a job if one of us lands in a bad work situation; or that we can weather the storm if one of us gets laid off. Working towards a financial freedom goal also means that we will have the flexibility to shift careers, work part-time, take a sabbatical from paid work, or start a business.
Because we knew this situation could be happening to us, I had already done some contingency planning in my head. What financial moves do we we make now and down the road, until new employment is found?
- My husband will file for unemployment. (Spoiler: it’s not a lot, basically enough to cover daycare.)
- I will add my husband to my health insurance.
- We can tap the emergency funds if needed.
- If necessary, we can reduce my retirement savings to the minimum required to get the company match, freeing up much more of my paycheck to flow to the bottom line. (This is not a change I am planning to make immediately.)
- My husband can pick up freelance work.
- We can take our daughter out of daycare. My husband could become a semi-permanent stay-at-home parent if necessary. Dropping the monthly daycare expense would free up a ton of cash flow. We love our daycare, so this is not something we would consider until other options had been exhausted.
I have always been the primary breadwinner in our family, so luckily this job loss doesn’t equate to us losing half (or more!) of our household income. And honestly, if we can’t figure out a way to live on my income for a while, then someone should probably revoke my financial blogger status; even with just my income, we still make more than the median income for our area.
The pursuit of financial independence isn’t just about being able to retire early. It’s about being able to weather the storms that life rains down on you along the way.
Would you be prepared if someone in your household lost their job? What other financial moves should we be making in the meantime?