“Hey man, I’ve secretly become a Mr. Money Mustache reader over the last few months. And now it looks like I need some advice from MMM myself, because the company is shutting down our whole department and laying off every single employee there. What should I do?”
What I said was, “Congratulations! You should celebrate!”
I can see how a layoff seems scary, because it is messing up your stable life and taking you out of your comfort zone. And for folks who have not yet embraced a Mustachian lifestyle, it could even cause some financial problems, because you might have large monthly bills and only a small ‘stash to survive on.
But scary monthly bills were not the pressing issue for my friend. He had held this job for almost twenty years, raking in a solid engineering salary and living only a moderately lavish lifestyle. And when this particular company does layoffs, it always gives you an extra six months’ pay for good measure, just as a way of showing it is a company with integrity. So although he hadn’t planned specifically for an immediate retirement, he at least knew no collection agencies would be knocking on his door in the near future.
The problem was just that he didn’t know what you were supposed to do when your job disappears. He had been shaken out of a comfortable snooze and all of a sudden was forced to start doing some independent thinking and making some plans.
“Oh, whoa, what is going on here. Do I start applying for another job? Do I want another job? Do I have enough savings to live off without working? If I don’t work, what will I do with all my new free time?”
All around him, his coworkers were awakened as well. They were all the same people I used to work with in the early 2000s. Some of them dusted off their resumes and fired them out – and got hired immediately at other high-tech companies in the area. These people got fresh exciting jobs where the learning starts anew and the energy level is high, with the bonus of higher salaries, and the “double salary” for six months from the layoff package. Some others may still be looking for work, but with a large safety cushion of cash backing them up.
Others decided that they had spent enough days in the office and were ready to try their hand at the rare sport of Early Retirement. I’m proud of these people, because they are about to do some real learning again. Exploring new fields of study, meeting loads of people they would have not otherwise met, taking care of things that had been put aside for “someday when I have time”.
I believe that life has much more to offer us than doing the same thing every day for the majority of our waking hours. But I’ve read that our brains change if we keep ourselves locked into routines as we age. Over time, people become addicted to the routine of work, and eventually that’s all they know – it becomes impossible to let go or really experience anything else.
This might sound scary to some, and comforting to others. All I can say is, I sure as hell don’t miss my own comfortable job, and Variety is the Spice of Life. I’m not suggesting that everyone go out and quit their jobs today, but I am suggesting that once you can afford it, you should give it some fuckin’ serious consideration.
For cautious people who have had the same job “a little too long” (which I’d define as ten years or more), but just never end up quitting because it is too cushy, a layoff just may be the best thing that could happen.
As for my friend, I think I convinced him to have a go at being an Independent Man. We discussed the finances a little, and it looks like his ‘stash will be plenty to provide a comfortable lifestyle that more than keeps up with inflation, forever. And he is slowly peeling off the layers of cobwebs that had caked on over those 20 years in a cubicle, and coming out blinking into the bright Colorado sunshine. Congratulations, brand new Mustachian!*
(*he really does have a mustache, lending even more weight to this story).