Since I may be unemployed soon, or making a good deal less money than I do now, I’ve been thinking a lot about money and lifestyle. It’s been stressful being in limbo about my professional and financial fate. Three months of not knowing if I will have a job, or if I do how much of a drop in pay there will be…and there’s still no end in sight. See previous post about seeing a counselor.
The other day something occurred to me: I have never been unemployed as an adult. Not since my twenties, which doesn’t quite count.
That lead to yet another reinforcement of what I know on many levels. I have had a very lucky, very privileged life. I know it on an intellectual level, but hadn’t really stopped to appreciate it on a purely practical one as it applies to work and money. That is mostly because I have been in the very rare position of not having had serious problems related to money in my life.
The last time I was unemployed was decades ago. I was briefly unemployed at 21 when I moved from Poitiers to Paris. Ask me about being an illegal sometime. Does that count? I was still technically in college. Then again briefly when we moved from Paris to Oklahoma City in 1987. The last time I was ever unemployed was in 1990 when I started working at Legacy. I was 26 years old. During that time I wasn’t single, which makes a big difference in the perception of how urgent it is to find work. If there are two of you, it’s easier.
This is the first time I contemplated the possibility of unemployment as a single woman, and I think that is a big part of why I am so stressed out about it.
Like most of us I was underemployed during my twenties and early thirties, but once I went into IT that changed. I’ve had health insurance for decades without interruption. I own my own home. I have a pension, retirement savings, life insurance and a fairly impressive net worth. I have parents who have also done well in life, so I may even inherit some money.
Although I sometimes worry about how I will get things paid for, I’ve never really had to be concerned about making ends meet. Not really. It was stressful during my last divorce when I wasn’t sure I’d be able to afford the house, but it worked out. I have always been able to have a roof over my head, food, and utilities. Sometimes I’ve gone without extras like cable, but generally speaking I have done very well professionally and I’ve always tried to put money away in case of an emergency.
If I do become unemployed, I guess that would be an emergency.
Even then, I have more of a cushion than the vast majority of people. I have savings. I’ll get a severance package, and take away hundreds of hours of unused vacation time pay. If ever a person was ready to be unemployed, I am that person. It doesn’t make it easy, but I could probably survive for a year or two just on the severance, vacation time and savings and that’s not even taking unemployment into consideration.
If I get a roommate or two? My mortgage wouldn’t be as much of a financial concern. Or I could rent out my house for more than my mortgage, move in with my folks and live on my severance package and savings until I retire and my pension and 401K kick in. Or sell my house, move to Nebraska, buy a house for cash with the equity and do whatever the fuck I want to do for a living.
Options abound, because I have been prudent, lucky and privileged. What’s my point? That I’m a spoiled bougie bitch who should quit complaining about stress? Well, yeah. Kind of.
If I had not benefitted from a family who made sure I got an education, if I had been born in a different place, if I had been born with a mental disability, if any leg of the foundation of my life had been yanked out I could be in a different place right now. My supportive family, my education, my ability to learn pretty much anything. My inquisitive mind. My race. Good luck. Living in a relatively prosperous state. All of those things are crucial.
I might be concerned, but am I panicked? No, because I’m prepared and because even if the very worst of every possible thing happens my family wouldn’t let me be homeless.
I have the ultimate privilege in that I have people who love me who will always catch me if I manage to fall in spite of everything I have done to prevent it. It is the biggest blessing I could have, and a lot of people have none of the things I try not to take for granted.
My loved ones will catch me, I know, but I still get exhausted just trying not to fall.