At the beginning of 2020, I was excited to start applying for jobs after my six-month paternity leave was over in June. After eight years of unemployment, I had done everything I wanted to do. Now with two kids, rising living expenses, and the possibility of a downturn, finding work would be the responsible thing to do.
My focus was on being a full-time dad to my daughter during her first six months after birth. Constant sleep deprivation is no fun. After six months, I planned to look for work in the tech, media, or finance space in the SF Bay Area.
Although I had anticipated a downturn, I thought I would have more time to prepare. Further, I did not foresee us purposefully shutting down our economy to combat an invisible common enemy.
The coronavirus has already negatively impacted our family so much. I was looking forward to working in an office for 12 hours a day and participating in happy hours with colleagues again. Alas, my dreams have been put on indefinite hold.
Staying Unemployed For Longer
After September 11, 2001 happened, all I wanted to do was quit the finance business and relocate to Hawaii. I dreamt of working on my grandfather's small fruit farm, picking mangoes and papayas to eat and sell, and then going down to the beach with my surfboard during the afternoons.
But fate intervened and a headhunter called my VP, who handed me the phone. One thing led to another and I ended up at a new firm with a raise and a promotion. At age 24, it was hard to pass up. Hawaii would have to wait.
The 2008-2009 crisis helped clarify my desire to leave finance, but just as I was about to hang it up in 2010, my company decided to give me a pay raise to stay. Consequently, I suffered through the one more year syndrome.
It felt like every time I wanted to leave, something always pulled me back in.
Now in 2020, as I try to leave the unemployed life behind to better take care of my family, the Financial Gods have decided to shut me out from gainful employment. It's like some sick joke!
If you're also considering getting back into the labor market after an extended period of unemployment, maybe now is not the right time. Here is what the Financial Gods are telling me.
Advice From The Financial Gods
* Don't crowd out the job market. With unemployment skyrocketing, trying to get a job is crowding out people who may be in desperate need of a job. Even though you have a family to care for, don't be so selfish. So do other people. Instead, continue donating your time and money helping people.
* The return on work effort has drastically declined. During good times, the work you put in usually meant a positive return. In a bear market, all you'll be doing is working and trying to keep your company afloat. Worse, you might simply be costing the company money as the overall economy overwhelms the company's business. There is tremendous social and political pressure for companies to not let go of employees during a lockdown. However, you know that CEOs would instantly lay off millions more if there was no backlash.
* Treat your kids equally. With a lower return on effort at work, you should re-channel your effort onto your kids. The first five years of their lives are crucial. Why were you willing to dedicate three years to take full-time care of your son and only six months taking care of your daughter full-time? Treat them equally, especially now that preschool is closed indefinitely.
* You're going to get angry working mainly for money. Since you've already lost so much on your investments, you're only going to get pissed off that you're spending so much of your time at work trying to recoup your losses. Once you then start thinking about all the time away from your kids, is when you'll start getting depressed.
* You're going to neglect Financial Samurai. The more time you spend at work, the less time you will have to spend on Financial Samurai. Treat the bear market as a quarantine period where you can write more content that can help more people during troubled times. When the upturn inevitably comes, people will appreciate you having been there for them and likely help you grow Financial Samurai even further. The time to build your newsletter subscription is now.
* You're not broke, yet. Sure, your investments might be down in the dumps, but they are still generating enough passive income for your family to survive. Worse comes to worst, you can always sell down some principal to pay for life. You haven't touched any principal since you left work in 2012, so maybe it's about time. Stop being so frugal. The point of saving so much all those years is exactly for times like these.
* Staying unemployed is a relative win. You going from having 100% freedom to working at a job you don't 100% love means that you are losing. In a bear market, if you keep on living your normal life, then you haven't let the bear market negatively affect you. Only your mind is getting messed up by always following the news. Therefore, in a way, you get a relative win by doing nothing.
* You have to back up your talk. You said that you won't be rioting in the streets until your net worth declines by 30% based on an estimated 70% decline in the S&P 500. Given the S&P 500 still has a long way to go before it hits 1,015, waving the white flag now is premature. You've consistently done what you said you would do. Don't break your consistency now.
* Good things are created during downtimes. By going back to work, you are giving up your creativity for something that has already been created. Use this opportunity to come up with a new product or a new process to ensure life is even better in the future. It's hard to know what will come out of your mind, but you will surprise yourself if you keep at it. Keep on working on your X Factor.
* You increase your chances of spreading sickness. Unless you find a day job that allows you to work from home 100% of the time, going back to work will increase your chances of getting a cold, a flu, COVID-19, or any number of things. Given health is way more valuable than wealth, so long as the coronavirus is around without a vaccine, you are putting your family at risk. Let your children's immune systems grow stronger.
* Change your financial independence number. Based on what you already have, you are a fool for thinking that accumulating an additional $1,500,000 will make you happier. You are already capable of paying for everything your family wants or needs with your existing capital. Always shooting for more and more, however, will only make you miserable. Desire is the cause of suffering. Get out of the trap and finally learn to be completely satisfied with what you have.
Stay Unemployed Until The Good Times Come Back
Just as the good times don't last forever, neither do the bad times. It is precisely during bad times that we should try to enjoy life more. Letting a bear market ruin our lives is infuriating. Let's not allow it!
It is ironic that it has taken a bear market to keep me from finally giving up on going back to work. During a bull market, it was the pull of greater riches that became harder and harder to resist each year I was unemployed.
Now that everything is in tatters, I no longer have the desire to trade my time for money any longer at a traditional full-time job. Instead of pursuing more money, I will simply work with what I've got and appreciate more of the things I already have.
If you have recently lost your job, unemployment benefits have increased due to the CARES Act. You will get an extra $600 per week on top of your normal unemployment benefit for the next 4 months. Total weeks of unemployment benefits is up to 39 weeks (26 weeks from state, 13 additional weeks from this new bill).
File for unemployment ASAP!
A Silver Lining Of Staying Unemployed
As I come to the end of this post, I realize something funny. Maybe I'm not an early retirement failure after all. Given the coronavirus is shutting me out of the workforce, this means I should be able to retain my 8-year early retirement membership card.
The world has a strange way of keeping you in place, no matter how much you want to change. Why not make some lemonade instead.
If you don't hear from me for several days, it'll probably be because I was apprehended by the Internet Retirement Police. If I am, after a couple of days of verbal abuse, I will relent and admit that I'm just an unemployed father trying to make a better life for my two young children. You know, like exactly what I've been saying in this entire post.
Whatever happens, the journey is what we all live for. Let's make the most of whatever crappy circumstance we find ourselves in!
Important side note: For those of you looking to get laid off to do something new, try and get laid off in the beginning rounds, not the last rounds. The people at my firm who got laid off during the 6th and 7th round got 80% – 95% less severance than the people who got laid off during the first couple of rounds. Employers desperately want to lay people off but are afraid of the backlash. Therefore, you have more negotiating power right now.
Update 2021: I don't ever plan to go back to work, even if I can work from home. My kids are growing up quick and I'll just find a way to make more money online. Once there is her immunity, it's back to early retirement life for me!