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They say, “It’s not your fault you’ve been laid off”, “It’s not about you”, “Dust your resume off and start applying for jobs right away”, “Take a few days to breathe.”, Take a week.”, “Jump right back in there!”. A lot of those articles do nothing but create panic and a sense of urgency to “fix” the problem of not having a regular 9 to 5 job. Even more so if you’re an over 50 worker with a long job history. This post is a practical guide for chucking the 9 to 5.
Note: If you love what you do for work and intend to search for a new job after you’ve been laid off before your severance runs out, this article probably isn’t for you. But I do have a nifty Layoff Planning Checklist in my resource library to help you get organized to get back into the workforce. The access form to the library is at the bottom of this page.
I’ve also written an existential blog post about whether taking a leap of faith is the right thing to do for everyone. Is Failing to Take a Leap of Faith Really A Failure?
Some of the following, however, might give you some food for thought about planning for your future. There are tons of articles on the internet about being through a layoff, reduction in force, organizational restructuring, whatever your particular company calls it.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Don’t Panic!
If you’re in the over 50 club and have a job history with the company that foolishly let you go, you’re probably sitting in a better financial position than your younger brethren to deal with this change of events. If not, you still have some years to work at another company and build your financial picture into something that will better support you (see Note at the beginning).
Either way: Don’t Panic.
As an older worker, you’ve grown your 401K. Your kids are either out the door or will be soon. You’re most likely feeling like you’ve spent the better part of your life working and unless you really, really loved your job, the thought of retirement has probably started to reach in and massage your brain. Doubtless, you’ve had random thoughts about traveling or relaxing or hobbies you want to start or revisit.
To me being laid off is synonymous with retirement if you’re within 10 to 15-years of the minimum age. I’m not talking “sit on your butt” retirement. I’m talking “escape from the 9 to 5 grind and stretch your wings” retirement. The kind of retirement where you’re not necessarily making a huge salary, but you are doing something fulfilling and worthwhile.
I’ve been there. My job felt like it was making my soul flat, that’s the only way I can describe it. The prospect of being a full-time blogger makes me feel light and happy.
Don’t Panic. The Universe really is on your side.
Life, The Universe, and Everything
On September 1, 2017, I was laid off from my company. It was the latest in a whole line of layoffs that the company has had since I started working there. I was totally expecting it this time. There had been a lot of warning signs: deposit slips coming in the mail instead of electronically, getting locked out of systems I needed to do my job “because of maintenance”, a reorganization of our unit that left a lot of us scratching our head at where we’d been moved to, and the list goes on.
Big corporation, outsourced HR and a lack of common decency will always make for a badly handled layoff.
I was thoroughly delighted to head out the door. I’d had my office down to the bare minimum for MONTHS, I’d taken anything personal off my laptop, and I’d gathered up all my contacts and resources to see me through. If I could have, I would have done cartwheels in the parking lot.
Yes, there were a few threads of panic but they weren’t large or lasting. But I had a plan. Well, at least I had a plan to make a plan.
A Plan, Like a Towel, is the Most Massively Useful Thing in the Universe
Some people are ahead of the curve and start planning for retirement in their late 40s, early 50s. If this is you, my hat’s off to you! You probably don’t need me but hang on anyway and see if I can come up with something new for you. Get my Pre-Retirement Checklist to see what steps you can take now. The access form to the library is at the bottom of this page.
So, you’ve been laid off. Now what? Do you have a plan? Yes? No? Layoffs do not happen in a vacuum, there are usually warning signs months before the event happens. Sort of like a volcano, you’ll feel some earth tremors at the very least before the explosion. Still, some of them erupt quickly after a long silence.
Assess your finances first, this is key to all other activities. This will tell you if you’re financially secure enough to explore some options. If they show that you have a resource cushion to get a business off the ground or find other employment that suits you, welcome to early … sort of … retirement.
[clickToTweet tweet=”‘A Plan, Like a Towel, is the Most Massively Useful Thing in the Universe.’ ~ Patricia www.thezenintrovert.com” quote=”‘A Plan, Like a Towel, is the Most Massively Useful Thing in the Universe.'” theme=”style1″]
Leaves Aren’t Legal Tender Anymore.
Take a deep dive into your finances. Time to crack out the spreadsheets and figure out what your financial picture looks like.
Take your time. This step may take up to a week or more.
- Start a spreadsheet or if you have Quicken or QuickBooks work with their budgeting tools
- Assess your monthly bills. Set up a budget with all the necessary bills including your once or twice a year obligations. Don’t forget about non-essential expenses. Figure those in as well.
- Speak with a Financial Planner about your 401k and other investments. They can project what your financial picture will look like when you’re eligible to withdraw money from your investments. This will show you if you’re on track for the security you’re looking for in retirement.
- Look at all sources of income. You: your severance check, your savings, and any side jobs if applicable. Your spouse: income, hobbies, side hustles. Add those to your spreadsheet.
- If you’re 55 and over, you may want to think about paying off your house or eliminating other debt, there is an IRS exception to the 10% tax penalty on early withdrawals from your current 401k. IRS Topic No. 558 covers this.
- Assess your skills and interests and start thinking about ways to make income from them.
- Consider healthcare expenses if your spouse doesn’t work or if their plan doesn’t adequately cover dependents.
Run the numbers forwards, backward and upside down. Look at every possible logical scenario and combination of events. (i.e. Spouse retirement/loss of job; spouse full time employed/you part-time; both of you getting laid off – with severance; paid off the house; healthcare outside of an employer; etc.)
Remember the world is an abundant place waiting for you claim your part of it. Be positive.
“Freedom”, He Said Aloud.
~ Zaphod Beeblebrox
At this point, with all the number crunching finished, you now have a go/no-go decision. What do your numbers tell you? Do you have enough resources to see you through a quest to find happy and fulfilling? Do you need to pick up part-time work or do you have a comfortable cushion? If there is no cushion and it’s time to hunt for a full-time position. Then I have a Post-Layoff Planning checklist for you AND a Pre-Retirement Checklist in my resource library so you can start planning your 9 to 5 escape. The access form to the library is at the bottom of this page. If you have that cushion, then on to the next step!
Think about your all your job skills. Do they translate into a part-time or a freelance gig? Could you use your skills to start a consulting business on the side? Companies that may not want to take the “risk” of hiring over 50 workers may welcome your knowledge on a contractual basis. I find that the idea of not wanting to hire older work ridiculous. We are a storehouse of knowledge, we’ve built up infinite amounts of patience through raising kids, and we’re looking for some appreciation until we retire. We also tend to appreciate our new jobs more and don’t take them for granted.
Could any of your skills be used to volunteer for a non-profit? Volunteering could lead to connections that will turn into a nice part-time job or it could lead to satisfaction of helping others.
You also need to look at ways to keep your mind and your body active. Your local recreation district or community center will have many classes to exercise both. Join a health club, walk with neighbors, walk public parks and open spaces. Go to, or join, a museum, botanical garden or even the zoo.
The whole wide world is out there. What do you enjoy: art classes, college classes (a lot of universities have adult education and senior discounts), hobbies, clubs, travel, cooking, dancing and so much more to try and enjoy!
Investigate, dip your toes in and find something fun!
Time to Hitchhike the Galaxy, Don’t Forget Your Towel!
Being released from a company isn’t necessarily a stressful event unless you make it that way. It is your biggest opportunity to finds soul-fulfilling work. It might be the universe signaling that you can execute a course change and start a new chapter of your life. You can make this time between employment and the rest of your life meaningful and enjoyable. Happiness is a choice and the Universe will always give you what you ask for, so ask for positive things.
Happy Travels and Good Luck!
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