Doug had it all, and then lost it all—or so he thought.
“This is your 30-day notice,” his boss told him. “We’re downsizing.” Looking down and twirling his pencil, he added, “It’s nothing personal.”
At first Doug felt shock—then disbelief. And it was, indeed, personal. How does a 56-year-old mechanical engineer who has designed airbags and dashboards for 20 years create an interesting résumé? This couldn’t be happening—but it was happening, and right before the Christmas holidays.
“I’m finished—ruined. What will I do?” Doug lamented. “I have a family to support, a house to keep, kids in college, bills to pay.”
I have heard many versions of this story throughout the years, and perhaps you are experiencing one of them right now. Whether you’re facing unemployment or underemployment, a debt crisis or property loss, here are seven basic principles that can help you to minimize your loss, maintain your sanity, and move forward with courage.
1 Create a budget. Preparing a budget will help you to become aware of the ways you’re spending money, how much you owe, and where you need to cut back. Free online budget generators are available for this purpose. Curb or cut credit card use, and pay off as much debt as you can. Organizations such as CredAbility, a consumer credit counseling service, can help you negotiate payment plans with creditors.1 Crown Financial Ministries has a network of trained volunteer budget counselors who may be able to assist you in this process.2 Place a priority on saving, not spending. Look for deals, discounts, day-old bakeries, and “do-it-yourself” guides. But remember that spending, even when there’s a sale, depletes your funds!
2 Keep working. In this economy, even if you have a job that you hate, keep working. Be thankful for the work you have, but pursue other ambitions, education, or training on the side. If you’ve lost your job, your new “work” is to find another one. It may take time to overcome the trauma and shock associated with your loss. You may need some time to evaluate your situation. But don’t take too much time—the bills keep coming. Dedicate six to eight hours a day to finding job listings, creating contacts, nailing down interviews, and developing leads. Perseverance, patience, prayer, and creativity are key.
Doug, the dashboard designing engineer, eventually landed a job transporting cancer patients from hotels to treatment centers—a new line of work that gave him personal satisfaction in spite of a lower paycheck.
“I wouldn’t go back,” he asserts. “We live more frugally, but I have found a new purpose and joy in this job—with less stress.”
3 List personal assets. Itemize your personal strengths, positive traits, and abilities. Create a short résumé that highlights your specific abilities or traits that match the job you’re applying for. Abilities you may not have used on a prior job may be useful in a new line of work.
4 List property assets. This may be a good time for a garage sale or even downsizing your home. Collectibles such as old coins, stamps, and antiques have redeemable value. Consignment shops or online sales sites are good ways to sell valuable but nonessential items. Consider other items you can redeem or sell as need dictates, such as stocks, insurance policies, vacation properties, or extra cars.
5 Discover available resources. Check bulletin boards that post positions at grocery stores, libraries, community centers, churches, hospitals, city hall, and online. Use those sites to post your own services or items for sale. At your local library or social services agency, check out government grants for retraining. What business ideas do you have? What service needs are obvious in your community that you could meet and make a profit doing so? Search for opportunities to barter services for goods. Most important, connect with family, friends, associates, and church members who can lend emotional and spiritual support, business and legal guidance, and financial and practical assistance.
6 Maintain your health. When Doug lost his engineering job, he “kept his sanity” by going for a 10-mile bike ride every morning. “It helped me to focus my thoughts, fight depression, and maintain a sense of control,” he says. His wife stopped buying expensive prepackaged food and watched for sales on fresh vegetables and fruit. She used more dried beans, brown rice, whole-grain cereals, and potatoes to prepare inexpensive, healthful meals. Managing stress and staying strong require regular hours for sleep, connecting with family and friends, and maintaining a routine of personal grooming and chores.
7 Trust God. In troublesome times, remember that God is still sovereign. He can defeat impossible situations, and He has solutions. It may be difficult to remain calm in a crisis, but God is able to relieve your anxiety, reveal today’s plan for you, and renew your future. Believe what God’s Word says, and don’t base your outlook on emotions. You may feel out of control, but nothing is out of His control. Be faithful in returning your tithe and offerings, and He will be faithful to you—perhaps in unexpected ways. Claim the promise: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life” (Ps. 138:7).
Hope and courage are the hallmarks of forward progress, and God will help you develop both as you face your challenges.
Leroy Bruch, C.P.A., is treasurer of the Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. This article was published November 17, 2011.