One of the greatest benefits of full-time work is getting paid whether you work or not. I miss that.
How awesome is it to paid when there is a snow day? How good does it feel when you’re out sick or injured for a week and the paycheck continues to roll in? When you’re sipping Mai Tais on the beach thanks to your four weeks of paid time off plus national holidays, life is pretty good!
Now imagine if you got furloughed for a month or more during the holiday or busy season. What a wonderful opportunity to spend time with the people that matter the most to you.
Although you miss the bi-weekly paychecks, you’ll eventually get paid once the government reopens for business. Almost all government workers got paid during the previous government shutdown. Expect the situation to be no different during the 2019 shutdown.
Now compare this work and pay situation with that of an entrepreneur or freelancer. If the entrepreneur doesn’t work, and if his or her employees don’t work, the entrepreneur does not get paid. Entrepreneurs don’t have a safety net as their full-time colleagues do. And therefore entrepreneurs must always have contingency plans.
In 2018, I got something worse than a furlough. I freelanced the entire month of October but didn’t get paid because the company I partnered with decided not to pay their contractors. But not to worry, the company paid all its employees for the work they did in October and provided 1-2 weeks of severance pay.
Freelancers like myself, however, got screwed.
So you see, if you are furloughed with back pay without having to work, life could always be worse. Therefore, it’s always good to focus on the positives and take every opportunity to do good.
In my case, I took my October robbery and decided to aggressively diversify my clientele. Further, I now insist on more upfront payment just in case. And don’t worry about me. I have plans to make them pay me what they owe.
Nobody swindles a Financial Samurai and gets away with it.
Productive Things To Do If You’ve Been Furloughed
1) Spend time with your family. The #1 complaint working people have is their inability to find work-life balance. It’s usually the case where the complainer is working too much and feels guilty about not seeing enough of his or her family.
Well now is the time to spend quality time with your family even if it’s for no other reason than you have nothing else better to do. When your kids flee the nest or your parents pass away, you will regret having not spent more time with them. Money truly compares in importance compared to family.
2) Do a deep dive into your finances. Most people set it and forget it when it comes to their finances. Use this time to discuss your budget, your expenses, your savings rate, and your financial goals with your partner or family members. Make adjustments as you see fit. Managing your wealth should become routine, like brushing your teeth.
After a tremendous recovery since 2009, you may want to spend more time protecting your capital. What a shame it would be to make so much money only to lose it all.
3) Start the side hustle you’ve been putting off forever. A furlough is a good reminder of how dangerous it is to depend on only one source of income. The key to financial security is to generate as many income streams as possible so that if one goes down, your team of other income sources can keep you afloat.
The average financially independent person has at least five different sources of income. Meanwhile, no one income source accounts for more than 40% of their entire income. It’s important to build new sources of active and passive income to truly be free.
4) Brand yourself online with a website. During times of uncertainty, you want to plant your own flag on the internet. The law of attraction dictates that if you put yourself out there, other people with similar interests will come.
Don’t let the big social media sites own your brand. They’ve already gotten filthy rich off you in the process. Build your own internet brand and get rich off yourself.
5) Take an affordable local vacation. Given you don’t know exactly when the furlough or financial troubles will end, you probably don’t want to take an international vacation or a vacation that is hard to get to. Instead, consider vacations within a five-hour drive so that you can return to work more easily.
6) Follow up with neglected friends and family. There is undoubtedly a long lost friend you haven’t contacted for at least a year because life gets in the way. Make a list of three people whom you used to have great relationships with and reach out. Use this time to meet up and get reacquainted.
Happiness is all about having a good network of people you enjoy and trust. If you want to increase your happiness, work on building your relationships.
7) Look for a new job. If you’re furloughed or your company is going through financial difficulties, you should probably aggressively start looking for new work opportunities before things get worse. A furlough of any kind means there is serious dysfunction.
Getting ahead of the curve will likely increase your chances of finding new work. Just like negotiating a severance before mass layoffs will likely not only garner you a bigger severance and more job choices.
8) Build a larger emergency fund. Most people shouldn’t feel too much anxiety during a furlough because most last no more than one or two months. Further, if you’re going to get your pay eventually, covering a couple months worth of expenses shouldn’t be that excruciating.
However, if you are feeling anxious, then it’s important to not only build new income streams, but also ratchet up your savings so you won’t feel the same level of anxiety during the next emergency. Bad things happen all the time, so it’s wise to have at least six months of liquid living expenses at any given moment.
9) Work on neglected house projects. Houses, cars, and machines tend to get neglected over time because we’re too busy doing other things. Use the furlough to fix broken items around the house, clean up the yard, change your house filters, clean the gutters, tune up the car, and grease those old tools. You’ll feel great catching up with all the deferred maintenance. You’ll likely save money in the long run as well.
10) Pretend you’ve retired early. If you’ve ever wanted to test drive early retirement life, now is the time to pretend you are retired. See how life is like without a steady paycheck. Record your feelings, good and bad.
If you’re feeling great during the furlough, then you just might be closer to retirement than you realize. If you feel incredibly anxious because of financial worry and you also don’t know what to do with your free time, you should probably keep on working.
Make The Best Of Difficult Situations
When we were growing up, we’d get three months of summer vacation and at least two weeks off for winter vacation to unwind. Once we started work, long vacations became a thing of the past.
Over time, we lose our physical and mental health. Stress starts building up inside our increasingly overweight bodies. Our minds start to deteriorate as we don’t give our minds enough time to reset through meditation and creative work.
Take advantage of a furlough. Use this time off to unwind.
Life is never going to go exactly the way we planned. But we can always take some action to improve our chances for a better life.
If I ever get the opportunity to be furloughed from a job with back pay, I’d use part of the time off to catch up with my family. Then I’d use the rest of the time off to aggressively look for more meaningful work with more stability.
I won’t be beholden to the government or to a single company for money. It’s just too risky not to diversify my income streams.
If You Want To Quit Your Job
If you want to leave a job you no longer enjoy, I recommend negotiating a severance instead of quitting. If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare, deferred compensation, and worker training. Since you got laid off, you’re also eligible for up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period.
Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing. Check out, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye, on how to negotiate a severance. I first published the book in 2012 and have since expanded it to 180 pages from 100 pages in the 3rd edition thanks to tremendous reader feedback and successful case studies.