Friday, December 27, 2013
A case of 2 Layoffs!!
I do have to do a tiny bit of back story, but not too much. I think most of us expect that when we graduate from High school, and move out of our parents’ house, we will have everything they had, and more, ONLY instantaneously. Well, I have to tell you, we were pregnant teenagers (ok, just me, but we were obviously in it together) coming out of High School, and boy did we have an even BIGGER “chip on our shoulder” to do that, because now we wanted to prove that we wouldn’t be complete failures, like many were telling us we were going to be if we kept the baby and got married at such a young age. Alex and I graduated Monday, and got married Friday, because of money. LOL, actually that’s just what we love to tell people. We had already been engaged, and were planning to get married in November of that year; however, when we found out we were pregnant, and that Alex could make 3 times more during his military training if we were married, we quickly upped the date, and that was that.
Fortunately, Alex was also so amazing at Auto Cad, that while in High School, he had already been working for a Civil Engineering company through his teacher, which allowed them to hire him fresh out of school. He worked there for quite a while, and we really didn’t think he would ever leave, even though we were specifically taught that our generation wasn’t expected to be at the same job all their lives, like past generations, plus he bumped heads with some of the people he worked with. Being the youngest in the company, it was assumed that he knew the most about technology too, so he was given the opportunity to start learning some IT. Through this he did form a relationship with the owner of another company, who would come in and do IT work with him on occasion, and that person was the owner of the company he works for now.
Now to the first layoff. We really didn’t see it coming. We had taken the Financial Peace University, but really hadn’t applied any of the principles. We went away for a weekend leadership conference for a business we were in at the time, and came back the next day to a pink slip. WOW!!! Total KICK IN THE FACE!! We had NOTHING saved, and no idea what to do!!
We did at least have SOME good things happen:
• Alex got a severance package (Thank God, that truly was the only thing that saved us);
• His PTO (Paid Time Off) was also cashed out; • And of course we got some unemployment;
• Furthermore, we weren’t paying a lot in rent at the time, because we were “house sitting” for some friends who were away for a year at a job up North. BUT man, we were truly not prepared, and pretty ignorant as to what to do:
• We didn’t know to put our kids on state health insurance; So of course, Byanca broke her arm adding an astronomical medical bill, and when we did get a job, we got it JUST in time for them to tell us, “you make too much money for us to write this off” at the hospital.
• We didn’t know to sign up for food stamps;
• We decided to have Alex take a whole month off, because we had $3000-a HUGE chunk of money in our eyes back then. I know, I know-we were still such children. Now don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed that month, but looking back, it probably wasn’t the best idea.
• And finally, we were completely desperate, when Alex did finally start REALLY looking for a job, which caused us to make our decision too quickly.
We can at least say that when Alex did start looking, we were very excited about how marketable he had become with both his AutoCad experience, and his new IT schooling and experience, so that part was nice. He did get several offers, and because we were so frantic after a couple of months of living on the low pay of unemployment, we made a quick decision, and though the company he chose was a nice one, when we look back, we wish we had decided differently for a couple of reasons:
1) The pay WAS the highest offer, but it was in Portland, and we had never paid Oregon taxes before-WOW, what a shocker. Even though we were making more hourly, we were losing money, BIG TIME in taxes!! AND we couldn’t vote over there!!
2) He had had an offer from the company he now works for, and if we had taken more time to consider, we would’ve picked that one, which would’ve put him further ahead in seniority now, plus put him in his new chosen career sooner.
I wish I could say that this put us in the right mind about finances, but it didn’t. We did decide not to buy a house, but when we quickly needed to move, we ended up in a very expensive townhouse that we really had no business being in. We also took on a car payment on a sports car for Alex that we both enjoyed. And we really didn’t pay any attention to what we were spending. Alex was making a ton of overtime, and we were making so much more hourly, that we figured we could just do whatever we wanted. This was right around 2007, and the housing market was just starting to slow down.
Some of Alex’s largest clients at work were housing developers, and they were starting to see a slowing in purchases, in addition, they were having issues with their plans getting pushed through the city due to crazy regulations. Alex’s boss had to tell everyone “No more overtime.” I didn’t feel this hit right away, but that’s only because I wasn’t paying attention. I kept wanting to spend money, and kept wondering why Alex worked so much, and would never take a day off. Finally, one day, I called my man, while out shopping with a friend to just check in, and see if I could buy a pair of jeans I reaaaaaaallllllyyyyyy wanted. I’m not even sure why I called, I hadn’t truly been communicating with him about my purchases at that point, just spending on whatever whim, BUT I did. And I was completely humiliated when he said, “No babe, we can’t afford it.” He said it very gently, but made it clear that we couldn’t afford it. He later told me that that was the hardest thing for him to do. He hardly ever told me no. We both have such a love for spending, and we don’t care for confrontation, so those words barely come around to each other.
He took me aside not too long after that, and we had a “heart to heart” about our situation. He told me that we weren’t doing well, overtime had been cut, and we were over our heads where we were living. He was cashing in his Paid Time Off just to try to make the bills, and we still weren’t making it. I felt horrible!! I hated thinking about my husband trying to do everything he could to support his family, and still feeling like it wasn’t enough, and here I was just having a jolly ol’ time in my ignorance!! Spending, spending, spending!! We decided a long time ago that this marriage was going to work, no matter what happened, thick or thin, rich or poor, sick or healthy, so we were sticking it out!! We decided right then and there to take drastic measures. We saw the writing on the wall, in fact, we know the Lord made it very clear that we would soon be facing another layoff, and we knew in our current state, there was no way we could face it.
Our plan was to move back in with my parents for as long as we could ALL handle each other :-) My parents were very gracious!! And we were, and still are, very thankful for their willingness to help us out!! We were also very desperate, because we were spending so much more money than we made, that we didn’t have any money to put down on a less expensive place, and we really just needed to pull the plug and start over with our lives. We lived there for 3 months. Then we found a tiny little 2 bedroom, where we could have extra money to throw at our debts, and handle a lay off when it came. As we had anticipated, a year later, pretty close to the day of our life changing conversation, the layoff came. In fact, we asked for it, literally. Alex’s job was asking everyone to cut way back on hours, not enough to live on, but still enough that it would be difficult to look for a new job. Plus they asked us to take off both the week of Christmas and New Years without pay. We decided that it was time to seek out a new opportunity.
This time we were experts. Because we saw it coming, and had a strategy, we made good things happen:
• We were ready with a list of things we could cut back on to take our lifestyle down;
• We had $1000 emergency fund;
• We knew to sign up for food stamps, and health insurance for our kids;
• We had a great budget worked out (In fact, we were able to continue paying off our debts during our layoff-this was a part of our 2 year time for getting out of debt);
• And, our kids were completely on board with us, and knew our goals;
• We were barely stressed out. It was inconvenient-sure, and of course, we didn’t love having our lifestyle cut back, but I have to say, these were some of the most amazing times in our financial life.
• Most IMPORTANTLY, we didn’t have to rush to the next job. We had plenty of people offering ALL kinds of work, which we appreciated, and felt extremely loved and supported amid this time. However, we were able to wait it out, and truly make sure that we made a better decision this time around.
• Alex was also able to completely change careers. He decided to let go of his AutoCad career, and focus 100% in IT. This was a wonderful, yet kind of scary move!!
It’s hard to think that this was about four years ago now, in the Holiday Season, and I think we all look back at it as a great time. These were total NIGHT and DAY experiences!! This time, Alex went and exercised every day, and then was home for us after school, and we got to just enjoy him. We didn’t worry about bills. Everything was taken care of. Even Christmas was greatly blessed. We did tell everyone around us that we were only doing gifts for our inside family that year, and it was taken well, as the struggle that year was felt by everybody, and in fact, several people appreciated our honesty about it, and chose to do the same thing. We still had fun, and it was the year that made us decide we wanted our Holiday Season to be more about making memories, something we try to continue to this day, even though we get to buy or make gifts for others (we’re all GIFT love language people, so we enjoy giving).
I don’t share this to make us look good. My hope is that if you are going through tough times you will see that it is important to unite, and communicate!! I hope that this will encourage you!! If we can get it together with how screwed up we were, anyone can do it!!