How One Family Survived Unemployment, Part One

This is a two-part series on how Catherine and her husband, Tim, survived Tim’s unemployment.

Two Job Losses Back to Back

After the birth of their first child, twenty years ago, Catherine gave up her job at a hospital to become a stay-at-home mom while Tim worked as a supervisor at an office furniture store.  However, by the mid 1990s, Tim saw a continual, progressive decline in the business that accelerated when the two owners retired and sold the business to a man fifteen years younger than Tim.  While the previous owners had been financially conservative, the new owner was a spendthrift.  That, coupled with the decline in the economy, led to the company’s bankruptcy in November, 2007.  Tim, as the general manager, had to let all of the employees go and sell off all of the remaining equipment and office supplies.  By December, 2007, Tim was out of a job.

Since he had seen what was coming a few months ahead of time, he had resumes circulating and was overjoyed to slip right into a new job on January 1, 2008.  The family did not have employer-sponsored insurance coverage until February 1, 2008, so they bought catastrophe insurance for their family of 6 at a cost of $400 a month.

When Tim’s new job abruptly ended in April, 2008, he was devastated.  To work for one company almost all of his life only to see the company go bankrupt and then to be let go from his next job after only four months was just overwhelming.  He fell into a deep despair and some days even had trouble getting out of bed.  His job was his identity, and he felt lost without one. 

Catherine Joins the Work Force Again

Meanwhile, now that their four kids were growing up and their youngest was ten, Catherine decided to enter the work force again.  While she had worked in the healthcare field before marriage, she hadn’t kept up her skills while she stayed home and raised the children, so she couldn’t go back to that field without retraining.  Originally she planned to go back to school, but when Tim’s company began having difficulties, she instead took a job as the lunch lady at her daughter’s school.  She worked from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and served lunches to the kids and helped clean up.  She earned $12 an hour.

A few months later she took on a second part-time job working every other weekend for 16 hours as a CNA in a nursing home.  She earned $13 an hour here.

When Tim was laid off the second time, the family lived for a while solely on Catherine’s earnings and the unemployment Tim received.  Meanwhile, Tim’s despondency continued; he often was too depressed to leave the house let alone apply for jobs.  Catherine became concerned yet didn’t know how to help him. 

The situation for the family was getting dire until a family friend told Tim, “Look at this time as an opportunity to explore the landscape, decide what you really enjoy and what you want to do with your life.”  Something clicked for Tim, and his despondency lifted.  He began to sail, which he had loved when he was younger.  He took yoga and loved that it mellowed out his uptight nature.  He took the time to network and join LinkedIn.  His positive attitude helped in his job search, and while he would never say he enjoyed unemployment, he did learn to embrace where he was in his life, with or without a job.

Part Two will be posted next week, when I will reveal how they survived and what changes they made to their lives.

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  1. I look forward to reading part two of this. I wonder what they meant by “survival?” Did they keep their home? Did they remain married? Did Tim’s depression lift? Unfortunately, in today’s world, not everyone has “survived.” All around us, I personally see many who have lost jobs, homes, savings, and hope.

    This is one of the problems I have with financial planners such as Dave Ramsey. If we give them money and subscribe to a certain financial plan (theirs), we can avert financial disaster and calamity. If we have enough savings, enough insurance, enough financial savvy, we can outwit any financial problem. This is not true, and they know it. What if 2-3 years pass by and you are still unemployed or underemployed? What if the major breadwinner is seriously ill or dies? What if you have a child with an expensive, chronic illness?

    Have I had financial calamity? Yes, we have and we lost everything! But we “survived” because we walk by faith, not by sight. We know that everything that befalls us in our lives is for a reason. We do the best we can on that day with the knowledge that is given to us and leave the rest to God. That is not to say we are not prepared with the resources that God gave us. We both have college degrees, and my husband has an MBA. Our four children are all college educated. But ultimately, we know that “survival” depends on resting in the living God, who controls all. Do not be mislead by those who claim to have all the answers if life. They don’t!

  2. Isabella, I don’t understand the bash on Dave Ramsey. He doesn’t guarantee that his plan will block you from any and all challenges in life. And he’s an incredibly faithful Christian. He just believes – as I do – that we must take personal responsibility and plan for contingencies as best we can, with emergency funds, life insurance, etc. Most people are in debt and have no emergency fund at all! If you are debt-free, have cash in the bank and good insurance, surely you are better off than if you don’t do these things!

    Also, there’s just no reason to be without income for 2-3 years. Mow some lawns. Clean some houses. Sell stuff on eBay. Do something – don’t just sit around waiting for God to drop a job in your lap. He’s busy. And he helps those who help themselves.

  3. It would be great to have a collection of these kinds of success stories. I think a lot of unemployed people would really benefit from seeing from others like them what it takes to get to the light at the end of the tunnel.

    • Good idea. It would also be interesting to compare the different stories and see what people did to get through it.

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    • No, it comes from someone I know personally whose family struggled through this and was willing to sit down with me and share her story.

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