I am unemployed. I got a call last week from my company telling me they were doing more downsizing and I was the next to go. This is the sixth time this year they’ve let a bunch of people go.
As a personal finance writer, you could reasonably expect that I have a big enough emergency fund to weather this storm. Three to six months living expenses is the standard advice, after all. But, woe to me!, I have only one month living expenses saved up. From past experience, I know it takes about three months to land a new job. So we’re praying for a miracle this time.
If you don’t have enough in your emergency fund to survive three months without a paycheck, might I suggest you make that your top priority? Whether you know it or not, your job is probably as precarious as mine. You could lose your job in a heartbeat, and then be left to wonder how you’ll put food on the table. Do yourself a favor. Scrimp and scrounge until you have an emergency fund (and don’t forget to check under the couch cushions), and then don’t spend it except in an emergency.
There were several times in the last year when I was tempted to put some feelers out, to see what other jobs might be out there. But somehow this always seemed wrong to me, like I was being disloyal to the great job I already had. I am now no longer worried about loyalty.
If you have a job, realize your job security is only as strong as your company’s ability to pay the bills. If they’re having trouble paying the bills you can expect them to start cutting expenses, and employees are expensive.
If you are an employer and discover that one of your employees is checking out the job market, don’t fret. That employee is just being sensible. Unless you have reason to believe otherwise, that employee is probably not unhappy, but just trying to stay aware of what’s going on out there.
So now here I am, a week into unemployment, soon-to-be-penniless, with only a couple leads to go on. But here’s something else I’ve learned: something will come up. If you’re unemployed, just realize the one who knows when a sparrow falls to earth knows you need a job. If you stay optimistic, you’ll save yourself a lot of ulcers. You’ll also be in a better mental state to evaluate and take advantage of any surprise deals/offers/ideas you run across. In the words of the immortal philosopher, “Don’t worry, be happy.”
This article originally appeared in the September 3, 2008, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.