Losing My First Job Was The Best Thing To Ever Happen To My Finances

Unlike many of my slightly younger friends, I was lucky to have graduated from college a couple of years before The Great Recession.

Despite being relatively inexperienced and living in a new city without a professional network, I was able to find a full-time job almost immediately after completing a summer internship in Nashville.

I was working in the marketing department of a classical record label, and like many entertainment industry jobs, it was challenging. Armed with a newly earned degree in classical singing, I felt like I had landed my dream job while working to promote an unpopular — yet deeply important — genre of music.

Much to my horror, I was laid off a mere six months into the position, with only two weeks of severance pay. I remember the shame and humiliation I felt driving home from work that day, and worried about how to break the news to my friends and family back home.

It took a good friend to extract me from the depression-induced pile of dirty clothing and junk food wrappers that had accumulated around my bed after a couple of days.

He treated me to some fish and chips with a pint of beer at a local Irish pub and ordered that I stop feeling sorry for myself. Immediately. It was tough love, but I was ready to begin searching for a new gig by the end of that weekend.

I was fortunate to re-connect with a local temp agency, which eventually led to my next opportunity in the concert business. Despite being paid hourly as the company's temporary receptionist, I'd often come in early or stay late to be certain that I had fully completed the projects that had been assigned to me. My hard work paid off and it wasn't long until I was promoted.

Fast forward to three years later. I had just purchased my first home and benefitted from the government's handsome $8,000 first time homebuyer's tax credit. Another co-worker, who had just purchased a condo, asked me how I was planning to spend this generous infusion of cash. Brand new furniture, bathrooms renovations, or landscaping?

“I'm planning to save the entire thing,” I explained, pointing out that it would be immediately funneled into my emergency fund.

He sipped his whiskey disapprovingly and murmured something about how “no one's job at our office was safer than mine.”

Regardless of how well I performed or how much my boss liked me, I knew from past experience that no position is ever guaranteed. Plus, it's naive to blindly believe in any type of company loyalty.

I've protected myself from layoffs or burnouts by consistently living below my means, saving as much money as possible, and now, adding side hustles to further pad my income. I'm also focused on finding ways to generate passive streams of revenue.

Discovering that I am dispensable, at the age of twenty-two, was one of the most important lessons that I have ever learned, personally, professionally, and financially.

Readers: Have you ever lost a job? How has that affected your finances?

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Discussions — 15 Responses

  • writing2reality January 12, 2015 on 8:06 am

    I can certainly relate to the lack of security one feels after losing a job. Since that point, my focus and productivity at work has never been higher. Additionally, the drive to become self-reliant and above the need for an income is also soaring. Pursuing the path of investing and generating passive income from other sources is now a passion and my top priority.

    Best of luck in this New Year.

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach January 12, 2015 on 8:06 am

    I dodged many layoffs at my time at the video game company until finally one day the whole company was bought out so there was no one left. That was my last full time job, so yeah you are smart to think no one is safe. It’s not about doom and gloom, just about protecting yourself, which is smart! Good job!

  • Mel January 12, 2015 on 9:23 am

    I’ve been lucky enough to never lose a job, but I feel like choosing a life in the arts set me up to be more frugal and responsible. I was just discussing emergency savings with a friend and she thought mine was excessive. I was like, excessive? It’s only got half of what I want to have in it! You never know what the future holds – especially working in entertainment. I just feel like the rest of America is starting to get a taste of what that life is like too.

  • Lauren January 12, 2015 on 9:53 am

    I’ve never been let go from a job, but I did get out of dodge before my position was eliminated at a job I loved. That was in 2008, just as the recession was really starting to hit. I think having experienced that, it showed me that you really can’t get too comfortable anywhere these days. Job security at one company is pretty much a myth. You made such a smart move saving that money!

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde January 12, 2015 on 10:58 am

    Having worked in finance through most of the 2000s thus far, I have certainly see my fair share of friends and colleagues get laid off and the initial response from all of them is that it’s the worst thing in the world. However, I have seen with every single one that the lay off has led to either a better job down the road or a better appreciate for life or some combination. I am so happy that your first lay off was a good one. 🙂

  • C@thesingledollar January 12, 2015 on 8:18 pm

    I’ve never been straight-up fired, but I’ve had a number of jobs disappear on me. Some were planned (I knew last year’s was a one-year position) and some were not exactly (when I worked in theater, you knew the show would close eventually, but the exact timing could be a big surprise.) I definitely don’t expect anything to last indefinitely.

  • Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income January 13, 2015 on 7:30 am

    I worked at a TV station and we just took the weekend newscasts from #3 to #1, but we got bought by a new company that mandated 10% cuts. The GM brought in the weekend team and gave us a heads up he was going to the executives to cut the weekend shows which were 10% of salaries. This was my first job and could not believe someone would dump weekend newscasts, especially since we were number one in the market. The GM went to make the pitch and then the executives fired the GM for having such a stupid idea and saved the 10% with his salary. My job was saved, but from that day I learned I am always dispensable even if I am producing top results…you never know so always keep an eye out and be prepared with updated resumes and always be networking even if you don’t plan on leaving your job.

  • Amos @ Modest Money January 13, 2015 on 7:53 am

    Interesting learning your experience. Its a matter of protecting yourself from the expected. Otherwise you might end up being disappointed when it happens.

  • Zee January 16, 2015 on 1:19 am

    For me getting laid off was also an eye opener. I had already bought a house at that point so I had monthly payments I had to make but no income. I think that’s when I really got into personal finance. I learned to live completely off of what I received from unemployment checks and I realized that I was spending money on stupid things that I didn’t need.

  • FinanceQA January 18, 2015 on 7:59 am

    Sometimes, it takes a long time to realize that we are dispensable and it can be a tough world to live in. Although I’ve never been laid off (so far), being unexpectedly sick with high medical bills was an eye opener for me that I needed more savings. I wasn’t able to work on my side gigs right away and my meager emergency fund was depleted. Now, I’m working hard on saving at least six months of living expenses.

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  • Broke Millennial January 14, 2016 on 2:43 pm

    Sucky experience, but amazing time in your life to learn the lesson to save. The best part is that you didn’t victimize yourself in your next gig and work incredibly hard to be as indispensable as possible. And the tough love, I always love a good tough love story.

    • Kate Dore Broke Millennial February 1, 2016 on 8:37 am

      Thanks, Erin! It was a tough, but incredibly valuable lesson. And, honestly, I’m pretty lucky that it happened early on. I didn’t have as much to lose then. And it opened the door to bigger opportunities.

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