Worst case scenario

I find it strangely comforting sometimes to contemplate what I’d do if I lost my job.

The very first step I’d take is try to pull together a patchwork of jobs to get some income coming in – and I definitely would have a couple of industry starting points from which I might get a few hours a week. And depending on the circumstances, freelance work for my company might also be an option.

I wouldn’t qualify for unemployment, so I suppose we’d tighten up our already firm belts even more in regard to food and entertainment. That’s because I have a partner, and too much in savings (I *think* you have to be down to your last thousand or so but I could be wrong on that). Which leads me to ask – do you think it’s right to collect unemployment, if you could, even if you didn’t need it?

That aside, I would seriously consider taking some time out to do some extended travelling, depending on my bank balance and T’s work situation. It’s not my preferred MO, but in a situation like that, I might just change my mind.

Otherwise, I’d be reaching out to contacts at my previous company, and throughout the industry at large. It’s a small field, so I know someone at most of the major players. I might contact some editors directly, and if I was thinking about changing tacks, possibly approach other organisations that interest me (in banking, education or more generally creative endeavours beyond publishing).

Given my interest in money and personal finance, it might seem like finance writer would be a logical next step. Women’s mags often have a money column (usually done by one of a couple of media-savvy financial coaches), Diana Clement’s Herald column sometimes yields interesting stuff but by and large is pretty unexciting – interest.co.nz‘s personal finance editor Amanda Morrall probably has the most interesting job. But to be honest, most topics have been clubbed to death and trampled all over. I’m much more interested – and always have been – in personal journeys. Maybe I could brainstorm potential approaches during my funemployed days.

I’d also definitely consider two things I would not have a couple of years ago: opportunities in Wellington, because the city is just so darn cool, and contract jobs. I used to think of fixed-term contracts as offering no security – but really, if they paid well enough and the work was right, contracting can make for a decent lifestyle and afford you more time to travel.

Do you ever consider what you’d do in the event of a job loss? If you were eligible for unemployment benefits but didn’t need them, would you take them?

22 thoughts on “Worst case scenario

  1. In America it doesn’t matter how much money you have; if you worked for more than 7 months and got laid off, you can get unemployment benefits. Unless you’re still making money. So you’d have to have some sort of part time work to be ineligible.

    I would totally take it, regardless of whether or not I need it.

  2. I also find contingency planning comforting. For the first time in a long time I would be ok not working for a while. I think I’d like to finish remodeling my moms house first. Then when the weather got better, travel…a lot.

  3. Unemployment is different than welfare. As long as you are working for an employer (not freelancing), you qualify for unemployment. I also think most people don’ think it is “wrong” to collect even if you aren’t down to your last savings. That is what it is there for – insurance that you don’t have to destroy your savings while you find something new.

    Is it really so strict in NZ? Surprising!

  4. You can get unemployment in the US, but you have to have under $3K of assets to qualify for welfare.
    Definitely don’t think it’s wrong to utilize government assistance (doing it now…) especially since you’ve put in money for years to it.

  5. I’m not sure how it works over there but in Canada EVERY working person pays EI (employment insurance) deductions from their paycheque. So I’ve been putting money towards EI since I started working at 14 – so heck yes, if I was laid off and qualified for it (which I would if I was laid off) I would collect it even if I had enough in savings or a partner that worked to get me through!!!

  6. I also find it really calming to plan for the finacial “worst case scenario”.

    When I was younger, I worked at some menial jobs where the employees are at the mercy of their lower level managers, and can get fired at a whim with little to no legitimate reasons. I’ve been let go this way once, and I guess that was enough to make me always fear this possibility. Not that I forsee such a change in my future *knock on wood*, but planning for the possibility of unemployment, and knowing that if I didn’t have a steady income for a while, I’d get by, is extremely comforting to me. It’s nice to know that my fate is not entirely at the mercy of one organization or employer alone.

    1. I first learned about ‘at will’ employment when reading Ask a Manager. I find this shocking! I suppose that’s the boat casual workers are in, more or less, but those in full time jobs should always have a contract for protection. NZ recently introduced a law where workers can be let go for whatever reason in the first 90 days, but beyond that, they are covered.

        1. In America, the health system is broken. Had to be said!

          It’s not like there is no help available. It’s just not as easy as people think it is to get, despite being a “welfare state”. And at least there are no time limits on the benefit, though every so often the pollies start talking about cutting off unemployment after a certain amount of time (that wouldn’t be very popular, though).

          I definitely think our unemployment system could be improved, seeing as it’s funded by our taxes. T very nearly didn’t get unemployment when he was jobless and I was studying (and there was no way I could support us both on my income at that point). Yet if I’d dropped out of uni and managed to lose my part-time job, then we’d both qualify for unemployment. Ridiculous.

          Also, from what I’ve seen on blogs, it seems that not everyone in the US qualifies for unemployment either after a job loss.

          1. You do if you were laid off (rather than “fired for cause”), which can be a source of argument between a worker and a company. If you work for yourself, then no, you don’t. There also might be some restrictions on you must have worked for X months (i.e., you must have paid into the system).

            The time limits are not too bad, at least in a normal economy, and in the recession there have been extensions made to the normal policies… I don’t know what to think about this. Having never been in that situation, I’d say if you can’t find work for 6 months or a year, maybe you need to look in a different industry or location.

            Only give to people really in financial need is a different (though very valid) philosophy. I had never heard of this – but learned something new! At first glance it seems like it would punish people for having cash savings, but at the same time, it could save a lot of money for the state. And better help those truly in need.

  7. In Canada, I paid into my EI.. so I am darn well going to use it :P

    In the US, I think I’d be doing the same thing — paying into unemployment benefits, so I’d collect it too.

    It’s always good to have a Plan B.

  8. Ditto to what my fellow North Americans said. Here in the US, unemployment insurance is insurance, not welfare. It would be like not taking the life insurance settlement if your spouse died because you could already pay off the mortgage.

  9. If I lost my job, I would use my free time to work on personal coding projects and play more sports for a month (that’s what I call relaxing). After that, I would probably start to go crazy, so I would work through my extensive network to find a job with another company. I’m not really concerned about finding another job.

    I have reserves set aside to cover my auto, renter’s, and health insurance deductibles, as well as six months of my regular expenses including yearly items that funds are set aside for monthly. I would probably adjust my budget slightly since for example, I wouldn’t need to pay for lunches out, and transfer the amount necessary from my reserves account to my checking account each month.

    I think that my biggest concern would really be health insurance. I guess I would just pay cash cost for birth control for several months or maybe consider COBRA.

    Having a contingency plan and an amazing cash reserve always makes me feel less stressed and not remotely chained to my job, which is a great feeling!

    I would definitely take unemployment insurance if I was able to get it – that would make my reserves last longer and then I would have less to build back up after I find another job.

  10. It just occurred to me reading your post that I completely forgot about unemployment benefits! I’ve always planned as if I wouldn’t have them, but since I’ve paid into the program, I would sign up for what I have earned.

  11. Why wouldn’t you qualify for unemplyment? In Canada you only need (I think) 26 weeks of employment to qualify.

    I am always afraid of losing my job (in the back of my mind) which is why I think that I’ve always had more than one job… If I were to lose both of my jobs now, I would live off of my savings while I looked for a new job. Ideally, I would get a job at the same level that I have now but, if not, I have no problem restarting at minimum wage and working my way back up

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