Job Loss: First Impressions (Joanna)

You've Been Severed

As we mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago, May was an interesting month for us. Actually, this whole summer has been an interesting whirlwind of insanity. But May is when it all started — when we were blindsided by Johnny’s job loss.

For me it was a typical Monday morning of working and tending to Baby Girl. Johnny had gone into work early for an all-staff meeting that he’d been stressing about over the weekend. “I think there’s something up, Jo. I have a bad feeling about this meeting,” he’d repeated half a dozen times over the weekend. Each time I’d nonchalantly replied, “No, I’m sure you guys have just won a new client or something. Don’t worry until you know for sure.”

A few minutes into his meeting, Johnny texted me: Welp, layoffs. They will be sending out emails this morning.

And then it was a waiting game. And four hours later, he got the email saying that he’d been laid off, along with 20% of the staff. He’d been hired in the last year, and so he fit the criteria for the chopping block. Johnny called me and said he’d be home soon.

I felt jittery. All I could do is pace. I didn’t know what to think or feel — all I could really think about was Johnny. How was he feeling? When he got home, it was clear we were both in shock. We knew it was a big deal, but both of us were pretty emotionless. We immediately began discussing what our next steps would be — clinically, mechanically. We thankfully had a good emergency fund. And so we decided we’d take whatever time necessary to figure out Johnny’s next full-time gig. Maybe it was time to say goodbye to the advertising industry — the late nights and lack of work-life balance. We would be okay. And we had each other, which was really all that mattered. We fell asleep that night feeling good.

When I woke the next morning, I felt sick to my stomach. Johnny didn’t have a job. He didn’t have a job! I couldn’t support our family on my own. But, no. It’d only been one day. I needed to calm down. Everything would be okay.

The next few days were more of the same internal freak outs and mental pep talks. The weirdest was realizing all these purchases I’d planned and that were within our pre-layoff budget had to be nixed. Aside from groceries, we’d decided to initially freeze all of our other spending. Even Chick-fil-a is too extravagant? This is bad. We’re poor. I’m rather prone to dramatic thoughts. I took walks around the neighborhood with our baby girl and willed the stress to dissipate. I mentioned the news to a few family members casually, hoping to exact the least reaction possible from them. I felt so sorry for others who had lost their jobs. But Johnny and I were different. We weren’t those people who other people felt sorry for, were we? It was humbling. And I had a new-found respect for money. It is a very, very necessary commodity. Never would I take for granted our incomes again.

After a couple of weeks, we settled into our new life. Johnny woke up each morning, showered, got dressed, and went to the computer. He freelanced and applied for jobs almost eight hours each day. Johnny had freelance income and almost two months’ severance, so our finances were better than we’d initially thought.

At some point through it all, Johnny and I began to appreciate the new perspective we’d gained. When other people go through a job loss, we’ll know just what they’re feeling. I’d be more than okay if we never go through this process again. We realize our situation wasn’t nearly as hard as others who have gone through a layoff. We feel very fortunate that we were debt-free, that we had an emergency fund, and that Johnny was able to get a new job within a couple of months. And when we focused on all that we did have (our health, each other, a beautiful baby, loving family, and all our basic needs), our job loss didn’t seem so bad after all.

Those are my thoughts, folks. But Johnny will be sharing his firsthand experience very soon, so stay tuned!

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  • Reply Jordann @ My Alternate Life August 6, 2013 at 8:02 am

    Job loss is something that I fear tremendously, thanks for reminding me that it isn’t the end of the world!

  • Reply sarah August 6, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Glad to hear it all works out in the end! I lost my job in June and while I felt (financially) okay for a month or two, I am starting to feel the need to stress out about it pretty soon. As soon as it hit AUgust, I started to get really worried.

  • Reply Laurie @thefrugalfarmer August 6, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Oh, Joanna, this was us 3.5 years ago, minus the e-fund and plus lots of debt. It’s a scary feeling when you first become one of those people you thought you’d never become: the unemployed. But you’re SO right: family and being together is what really matters. The money will come, one way or another, and you’ve learned that part well. 🙂

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 12:35 am

      Thanks, Laurie! We are glad to be out of the woods with unemployment. We definitely learned a lot from the experience!

  • Reply Becky @ RunFunDone August 6, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Maybe this is ridiculous, but I think it’s just really horrible to lay someone off with an email! For goodness sakes! Have some respect and look them in the eye, tell them you’re sorry, etc! I hope that in my career I never have to fire anyone, but if I do, I will look them in the eye, talk to them, etc.

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 12:38 am

      Agreed, Becky! Johnny’s experience definitely showed us a lot in how NOT to lay people off. It was downright horrible.

  • Reply Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies August 6, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Sounds like you guys were in it as a team, which says a lot about the strength of your relationship. No blaming, no fighting just support and a lot of what are “we” going to do next. I think that’s probably more rare than it should be. =)

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 12:43 am

      Thanks, Mrs PoP! Having a joint outlook on our finances definitely helped when Johnny got laid off. It was “our” situation, not just “his” situation, which I think really made a big difference!

  • Reply Tara @ Streets Ahead Living August 6, 2013 at 10:11 am

    My fiancee has been laid off twice, each time for thee months, while we’ve lived together so I know how scary it can be. But like your husband, he worked hard every day applying for jobs and eventually something came through each time.

    I’m so glad it worked out for all three of you, although I’m sure the stress was not fun to experience. And who knows, maybe getting laid off was meant to happen as you all were supposed to move. Life works in mysterious ways.

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 12:50 am

      Thanks, Tara! It really is crazy how life works out. Now that we’re all moved and Johnny is at his new job, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  • Reply Executioner August 6, 2013 at 10:54 am

    This was a motivating factor for me and my wife to get our personal finances in order over the past 5 years. We each went through multiple rounds of layoffs (and survived) but got tired of the constant worry that accompanied each event. We wanted to become less dependent on employer income to meet our needs.

    Although we’re not yet financially independent, we are much more able to weather a long period without a paycheck. Now that we’ve paid off our mortgage and built a nice cushion of savings and investments, I look at the prospect of layoffs much differently. The fear/worry has been replaced by indifference. Hopefully in a few more years we can step away from our jobs completely.

    Good luck to you in your transition to the new life out west.

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 12:53 am

      Thanks, Executioner! Glad you and your wife were able to grow from the curve balls that life has thrown at you! Way to go on being prepared for anything that comes your way.

  • Reply jrm August 6, 2013 at 11:08 am

    I know those feelings and can completely relate. I was out of work for 4 months and was able to live off my unemployment (my expenses were very low). It took about 6 months in my new job to say “you are ok, you are ok.” Glad you are on the other side.

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 12:57 am

      Thanks, jrm! We’re glad to be on the other side of it, too. And Johnny really loves his new job, so we’re happy how things ended up.

  • Reply Mo' Money Mo' Houses August 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Being laid off sucks, but you guys did the right thing by staying positive, and that’s so great that Johnny already has a new job!

  • Reply Michelle's Finance Journal August 6, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    One of the biggest reason I want to be debt free is my fear of lay off. My hubby, back when we were just dating, was laid off for one day. It was the company’s mistake, but since the team disappeared, he still had to apply and interview for a new position. It was only for a day, but still very scary. It’s great that you guys have it together at such young age.

  • Reply Grayson @ Debt Roundup August 6, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    I survived through 3 cuts during the financial crisis and that was enough for me to push harder to make sure I was getting my finances in order. I pushed hard through it all and it made me a better person. This was a great reminder of what can happen, but what you should focus on.

  • Reply Emily August 6, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    It is so refreshing to read how you prioritize. Family and your marriage at the top, the rest will fall in to place. It takes work of course, but unemployment really puts life into perspective. Glad everything worked out well so far and hoping for the best for you! I love reading your blog since we are tackling our own finances. Keep up the good work!

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 1:01 am

      Thanks, Emily! We’re glad everything worked out, too. I think we are stronger because of it, and Johnny likes his new job better than his old one, so that’s pretty great, too.

      Way to go with tackling your finances!

  • Reply EcoCatLady August 6, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Well, I guess I have a bit of a contrarian viewpoint on these sorts of things, because I tend to view things like layoffs as cause for celebration. It’s not that I wish hardship or suffering on anyone, I just tend to equate hardship and suffering with jobs as opposed to the lack of one!

    I guess my general advice in this area is to live beneath your means… as in WAY beneath your means! I know that’s not always possible, but in a real sense, money in the bank means freedom. And the more you’ve got saved, the more freedom you will be able to enjoy.

    By the time I quit working (at age 39) I was living on less than half of what I made… and my first two post-employment years I worked so hard that my income doubled while my expenses went down even further.

    If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend reading the book “Your Money or Your Life” by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. It really changed the way I looked at money and allowed me to enjoy a life that I thought only wealthy people could have.

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 1:04 am

      That’s awesome you’re able to live so far below your means. I’ll have to give that book a try!

  • Reply Daniel August 6, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Sounds like you guys were actually very prepared for this even if it wasn’t really on the radar. I’d be interested to hear suggestions for how to prepare if possible, and what you’ll do when Johnny is back at work to prevent (or prepare for) the shock from happening next time

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 1:07 am

      Thanks, Daniel. Those are great post ideas. We’d be happy to share what we would do in the future to help prepare for a layoff!

  • Reply E.M. August 6, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    This sounds like how I would react, even the dramatic thoughts. The first place I ever worked at went out of business, and because I was technically part time, I didn’t get anything for it. Luckily, I was still in college, living with my parents, and I didn’t really need the money. My managers got hit hard, as they were somewhat older and had families to support. When my dad lost his job, I felt the stress and panic from my parents, and it’s not a happy place to be. You guys handled the situation really well and I’m glad everything is working out!

  • Reply Jaclyn August 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    I was laid off last year and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone! So, what is the long term plan for your hubby? Has he identified what industry he wants to work in if not advertising? Thank goodness you both have an emergency fund, good luck!

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 1:12 am

      Thanks Jaclyn! For now Johnny isn’t working at an advertising agency. He is working for a company doing their marketing/branding. He’s really loving it, so I think he’s found something that’s a much better fit for now!

  • Reply Dear Debt August 6, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Being laid off is so demoralizing and hard. I fought with looking for a job for so long and I will never take for granted my income and job now! I love it and am so grateful. These experiences make you stronger, even if they are unpleasant. It’s temporary and things will get better. Glad they already did get better with Johnny’s new job!

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 1:15 am

      It was a really not fun experience at the time. But it’s definitely made us appreciate what we have now! Now that I can look back on it, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • Reply Rob August 6, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    Several years ago, prior to my retirement, I too lost my job (as part of an on-going series of mass layoffs by my then employer). Back then I encountered two types of stress:
    (1) surviving previous mass layoffs and not knowing when I might be next (we couldn’t make any future buying decisions back then due to the unknown)
    (2) my actual layoff, which lasted 7 months (I was in my late middle age back then and so I was unsure of my chances in the IT job market).

    Fortunately my severance package, the fact that my wife was still working, and that we were debt free helped us to cope but the fear of wondering if I would ever find a new half decent paying job was still ever present during those months. My mantra back then was: don’t give up hope.

    Suffice to say, all finally worked out well. I accepted a lower paying job, knowing that it would give me that extra time to search for a better paying job (which I found a year later). I also knew that it was easier for an already employed person to find another job than it was for an unemployed person to do so. After all was said and done, I was left with the feeling of being mentally stronger to be able to cope with being unemployed and didn’t fear it as much as I had prior to undergoing the experience. Just be financially prepared is the trick.

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 1:20 am

      Great to hear your story and insight on being laid off, Rob. It sounds like you handled your situation really well. I think Johnny and I are stronger after going through his layoff because it’s no longer the unknown, and it gave us a new perspective. And we can make sure to always be financially prepared for such situations in the future!

  • Reply Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life August 7, 2013 at 8:01 am

    It is so difficult not knowing what the future is going to bring. And of course the best thing for you to do is be prepared, which you guys were, so the storm was weathered! It’s good to know that despite a job loss, life does move on and things do get better!

  • Reply Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle August 9, 2013 at 9:36 am

    We have had 2 rounds of outsourcing at my work and both have been terrifying. No one has been laid off but many people have been cut from 5 days each week to 3. I don’t know how they are surviving.

    As a single person job loss is one of my biggest fears. You are both lucky to have someone who has your back and will so support you no matter what.

  • Reply Michelle August 9, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    When I read that Johnny lost his job I was amazed at how well you two held it together. You are a testament to good planning and working with your partner. Sending good vibes your way and I’m serious about Sundance. Will keep you posted.

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 1:22 am

      Thanks, Michelle! We had some rough days, but we got through it, which is all that matters. And we’re stronger because of it. If you do come out to Utah, let us know!

  • Reply Annette August 11, 2013 at 11:31 am

    for us it is very important that we manage to keep the same standard as now, when we are unemployed. I’m sick pensionist and my boyfriend works. right now, we ensure that spending is at a level that we would be in a situation with my boyfriend unemployed and my disability pension.with him unemployed and my disability pension, we only got $2618,41(17.000SEK) (were swedish)
    today we have almost $4928,76 (32.000SEK)
    important to know that you can get by!

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