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And What Would You Do?

iStock_hire meYesterday, Nicole Wong, a reporter for the Boston Globe volunteered for a layoff.   Yes, you read that right.  Despite the sorry jobs numbers that continue to hit newspapers like hers — another 669,999 applied for unemployment the week of March 28 according to today’s data dump, that’s a 12 percent increase over the week prior  — Wong, who most recently wrote about travel but has in the past covered workplace issues in Boston and Silicon Valley took the fall so perhaps her colleagues wouldn’t have to.  Here’s a bit of what she wrote on her facebook post that then made it’s way to Poynter, where I found it:

This wasn’t an easy decision to make. I’ve loved working with all of you, learning from all of you, and having fun alongside all of you. I’ve loved covering the travel beat for the past 1.5 years, and I would have loved to continue reporting on that here for years to come. But I realized — after weeks of talking to worried coworkers and overhearing them fret to whomever happened to be on the phone — that at least it should be less of a hardship for me to find a job since I’m more mobile than my colleagues who have spouses, kids, mortgages, and more. (This is probably the first time I’m relieved to not even have a boyfriend or a house!)

And it wasn’t, she explained, that she didn’t know what she was doing, a notion she tidily laid to rest:

In the hours before I confirmed to the Globe that I still wanted to volunteer for a layoff, I was at a conference watching a senior economist from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and two travel industry researchers explain charts forecasting how much deeper we’ll slide into the worst recession since the Great Depression. And I’ve interviewed countless unemployed and underemployed people over the past few years while covering workplace issues in Boston and Silicon Valley, which was still suffering from the job losses following the 2001 dot-com bust. It’ll definitely be tough.

I’m left fairly speechless — in awe of this selfless young woman.  Not only the fact that she did it, but that she has the confidence to know that she’s got what it takes to land on her feet in this economy.  In any economy.  I know I couldn’t do the same now (then again, I have two kids and a mortgage.)  But I’m wondering about the rest of you.  Do you think she’s a saint?  Do you think she’s a nut?

And more importantly — since we can’t all take layoffs only when we believe we are ready for them, since most of the time the decision is made for us, are you prepared if the pink slip should fly in your direction.  Most people are not.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be on the Today show with the results of a new study of 1200 Americans from AARP Financial.  It reveals that nearly 6 out of 10 of us say we wouldn’t be prepared for a layoff.  And nearly as many wouldn’t have their ducks in a row if a host of other financial disasters hit.  What should you do just in case?
Prepare For The Worst – Be realistic. You may feel as if your job is secure. It may all be a mirage. With the economy in turmoil, your best defense is a good offense. If you are not networking, not polishing your resume, not considering a sideline business just in case, you’re kidding yourself.

Stop Spending – There is one thing you need to get you through a long and extended layoff: cash. The key is to raise some without raiding your retirement accounts, maxing out your credit cards, and depleting your home equity. That argues for doing the thing we’ve been talking about for weeks, beefing up that emergency cushion by taking an ax to all unnecessary expenditures. Jeff Yaeger said early this week you could save $20K this year by eliminating your cell phone and other major moves. You may not want to do it. You may have to.

And if it happens: Look into continuing your insurance at group rates, negotiating your severance package, whether or not you have to repay loans from your retirement plan and whether or not you can use accrued vacation time to extend your unemployment benefits.

The AARP financial folks have pulled together a helpful guide to this and other life crises.  You can find it here.

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