The Joy of Getting Laid off from your Job

A few weeks ago, I got a call from an old friend. He was a coworker at a company where I used to work as a software engineer.

“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).

  • Executioner August 27, 2011, 8:32 am

    In the not too distant future, when I decide it’s time to give up my current job, I can only hope that layoffs are in the mix. It would be great to get severance pay for a few months instead of just leaving voluntarily and getting nothing extra.

  • Weston August 27, 2011, 9:35 am

    Don’t have a comment on this particular posting. Just wanted to take a minute to let you know that I’ve been a subscriber since the week that you started this blog. You wrote beautifully then, and you are still doing so all these months later. Great work. Please keep it up..

    • MMM August 27, 2011, 11:06 am

      Aww, thanks a lot Weston. You can post that comment anywhere you like ;-). I had no idea how long these articles would keep coming out when I started, but so far, there is no sign of them stopping!

  • Yabusame August 27, 2011, 1:34 pm

    I’m in a similar situation to your friend, except I’ve opted for voluntary redundancy, rather than being pushed.

    I’ve been doing the same thing, for the same company, for 15 years. When the opportunity came along I knew I had to take it or I’d still be there until I finally retired 25 years hence.

    I’m getting 15 months salary as I look to change careers from IT to medicine (hope to become a Doctor). Got a long way to go but it’s exciting.

    • Steve August 7, 2018, 6:53 pm

      Hi Yabusame!
      This is from 7 years in the future..
      How did you go, did you make the switch to medicine?
      I’m hoping you’re just about ready for Residency :)

      As someone who made the jump from Engineer to Doctor, I’ve never regretted my chosen path.

      Don’t forget to keep asking “what’s next?”
      Many doctors consider medicine to be a “terminal career”, feeling trapped by the money, debt and having no other skills.

      I’m now looking for “Career #5”, especially since “deaths waiting room” started coinciding with a permanently rotating ER shift roster.

      I’d love to hear how things have turned-out!

  • Wilhelm August 27, 2011, 2:01 pm

    What a blessing in disguise for your friend; it’s good to hear that he is in a financial position to become an indepentent man. I’ve been reading your blog (amongst others) for a while now and been doing some ‘independent thinking’ of my own. I had the awakening a couple weeks back and have since found that grinding it out at work gets increasingly difficult every day. The self-motivation simply isn’t there anymore and I feel almost foolish as try to muster up the energy to do any one of my many once critcal (but now obviously futile) tasks. It’s even somewhat depressing to think of the time and money I’ve wasted living a moderately lavish lifestyle. I don’t remember where I heard this, but someone once described sitting in front of the TV at night when you’re exhausted from a hard day’s work at a job you hate, as ‘sitting in death’s waiting room’. That’s sad but true for me and many others that I know. I’m such a wage-slave.
    \negativity off\
    \positivity on\
    Time to grow a pair, accept that history is exactly history, and decide that I’ll no longer sit here wallowing in my own shit. I’m thankful to be living in the real world now and seeing things more clearly now than ever. Now I just have to refocus what drives me at work. I have a nice ‘stache-building salary, so no plan to ditch it now, but since I’m no longer focusing on climbing the ladder, I must realize that my job is now a means to early retirement, to spending more time with my kids, to improving my marriage, to getting closer to extended family, to become healthier, and to simply LIVING life. Your blog in general has provided me with both the awakening AND a plan for righting my path. Your old friend was fortunate to have received such good counsel. I’m sure he got off the phone with you with a feeling of peace that he’s never had before.

  • Kathy P. August 27, 2011, 3:59 pm

    Think how different this recession would be if every one of the folks who have lost their jobs had had a decent ‘stash to fall back on. The silver lining to the current economy is this, I think: lots of folks who still have jobs have received a wake-up call. They’re busy digging their way out of debt and building a ‘stash. It’s one reason things are stagnant right now (they’re no longer spending like they did), but in the long run it’ll be better for all.

    I hope.

  • Jenn August 27, 2011, 4:00 pm

    I’m on a similar path. Great/interesting job but exhausting politics and lots nights/weekends impacting family was making me a stressed out mess. Your blog has been an eye opener. After realizing the net income taking into account taxes, childcare, crazy expenses from being tired all the time… It was a shock to.see what we were really left with to further our goals. I’ve been ‘mustaching’ for several months and it’s been so empowering. Gave notice…7 more weeks of work… Severance would have been nice but sanity is better… There are many part-time/temp gigs I can do to fund my ‘mustachion’ life and way enhance our family time. What a difference!

  • Jo August 28, 2011, 3:29 am

    Very topical for me – I think the politics at work is turning against me and I will be laid off in the next few months. Sadly we are not quite FI – not in the style that I would want, but thanks to mustachian-style thinking over the past few years we have low costs and quite a ‘stache to fall back on.

    As ever, a great article. It is great to have a community of people who positively reinforce our chosen path – rather than the wage slaves that I know mostly in the real world. Keep it up!

  • Kathy P. August 28, 2011, 6:03 am

    A question here: The people I know who have retired (regardless of age) all say their expenses dropped like a rock after they stopped working – even more than they expected. Sometimes by up to half. I’m wondering if any of the early retirees here have experienced this. And where do all the savings come from? Most of the folks I’ve heard this from say they can’t put their finger on it; they’re just spending *much* less after retirement. Mr. MMM? Anybody?

    • MMM August 28, 2011, 7:34 pm

      I agree, Kathy!

      It would seem that a standard early retiree would immediately have their commuting mileage drop, which would cascade into gas, maintenance, and insurance savings, and even let a 2-car family drop to one car easily. Then the several-day-per-week business lunches are dropped, and your clothing budget might shrink as well. My wife said that without realizing it, she was dressing to impress her coworkers (or, at least was embarrassed to wear the same outfit repeatedly to work) during her own office worker days. Once she quit that gig, she started dressing for herself instead, which involves mostly wearing a few favorite clothes around the house, and only getting fancier when it’s time to go out for some Adult Fun. Also, tasks that might be outsourced in a busy working household, like housecleaning, lawn care, cooking, home maintenance, etc., would now come back under your own care. You also have time to do your grocery shopping more carefully, saving further cash… the list goes on…

  • Weedy Acres December 22, 2013, 6:23 pm

    I have been relieved of my employment twice in my life and both times it was a great blessing. In both cases I had reached a point where I knew I wanted/needed a change, and the layoff was just the kick in the pants I needed to go forth and do what I was already mulling over in my mind but had not yet bit the bullet on because corporate American salaries can be so addictive.

    I will say that the key to making a job loss not traumatic is to have a ‘stache acquired from living well below one’s addictive corporate salary and thus seeing the so-called loss as an opportunity.

    Time number one I took a 6 week low budget trip to India, masqueraded as a laid off office worker to temp agencies to try out my target career from the inside and then went back to full-time MBA school.

    Time number two, ten years later, I spent a few months building a killer deck and then found a small business to buy and grow into the future behemoth it will become.

    All made possible by living small, the MMM way. Discipline brings freedom and options, Brother Of The Facial Hair.

  • Rollie October 16, 2014, 1:11 pm

    LOL – mind in the gutter… first 5 words of the title of this, made me think it was about something else…

    But yes for the record I have mostly been very excited and happy each time either one happened!

  • Greg November 22, 2015, 10:14 am

    As always, nicely done post. But I can’t help but think that your friend was coming from place of incredible advantage and privilege. To have all of those things (‘stash, expenses under control, 20 years of salary, severance pay) and spend even a minute fretting is just a curious thing. #firstworldproblem I would say. Lucky him.
    I’m not being a complainy-pants here, just because I haven’t run my life like he has, it’s just seems to me (from the perspective of where I am now) that he is in a most wonderful place.

  • Jigisha September 6, 2018, 11:02 am

    Fully agree that layoffs or as corporates like to call it ‘rightsizing’ can be a blessing in disguise, especially when there is a safety net built up along the way and the stock market run over the past 8 years has made it possible for some. One of your earlier posts about corporations and the 3 layers of sociopaths, clueless, losers, hit me between the eyes. When your colleagues tell you that you look very happy in your last weeks at work, it was because I was happy to leave a toxic, dysfunctional environment (which unsurprisingly, people start to share the same feelings with you in your last days). Embrace the potential new roads!


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