Just seven years ago we were in the same situation. Family of five, unemployed, and wondering how we were going to make ends meet. Our kids were 1, 3, and 5 and all home during the day so I couldn’t work, either. After six months of job hunting, unemployement wages, food stamps, and government healthcare, my husband found another job, and it was a great fit. A couple years later, my husband was promoted, and I started working part-time from home. Our income grew, and perhaps so did our complacency.
Perhaps we took high salaries and good living for granted. Maybe we thought this wouldn’t happen to us again. When my husband was laid off last month and offered two months severance, I still believed we would be okay. His skill are exceptional so I figured he’d find another job quickly. I assumed my work would step in and offer me more hours. I convinced myself if we hunkered down a bit and watched our spending we could make that severance stretch. I continued to delude myself.
When the severance check came in, it was taxed at 40% instead of grossed up. My work couldn’t offer me more hours. Weeks went by and the tens of jobs my husband applied for didn’t pan out.
Now, as we watch our bank account slowly dwindle, our stress and fear levels continue to grow. We gripe at each other and snap at the children. We worry how we will be able to pay our mounting bills and buy gas and food. How will we pay our mortgage? Will we have to sell our cars? Our home?!
When I was growing up, my parents worked the same job for forty-some years before retirement. In only 15 years since graduating from college, I’ve never worked for a place longer than three years. My husband’s longest was his last job at seven years. Is this how it is for our generation? Roaming from job to job, with no long-term career security? Does that speak for our work ethic or our employers? How do we view the next twenty-some years with confidence that we can hold down a job, live comfortably, pay for our children’s college tuition, or make it to retirement some day? Are we destined to spend every year wondering if this will happen to us again? And what kind of example is this setting for our children’s future careers?
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