29 January 2011
Life After Layoffs: The Up-Side of the Down Economy

Getting laid off or accepting a lower-paying job can be a real shocker. The same goes for scaling back and budgeting down.

But, like any other life-changing event, there is an upside to the down economy. It may require a little soul searching, but the recession and its aftermath represent a real opportunity to re-evaluate and re-imagine our lives — both personal and professional.

In the spirit of the half-full glass, consider these opportunities:

You can reinvent yourself. When you’re no longer getting your identity solely from a job, you have the opportunity to become something entirely new. Typical of the downsized or underemployed is the entrepreneurial soul who sets out as an independent consultant or temp while sorting it all out. When inspiration and opportunity strike, the result can be a satisfying new business or career path.

Everything is on sale. Struggling retailers are slashing prices as consumers hold back. Sales of new cars are at their lowest levels in 25 years, and carmakers are doing all they can to get buyers onto the lots — from incentives that are averaging $2,600 to a wider-than-ever selection of different auto and vehicle loan plans. Hotels, cruise ships and airlines are using aggressive discounts to fill empty beds and seats.

Frugality is en vogue.  Claiming you can’t afford it is the new way to get out of everything! You now have a perfectly acceptable excuse when that boring couple suggests a night out. And on those nights that you can swing dinner out, the waitress may just spare you the eye roll when you order water and ask to split an entree.

You have more leverage. When the economy slides, negotiation rules the day. Labor is cheap, and companies are willing to haggle for your business — from house painters and carpet cleaners to veterinarians and karate instructors. Take advantage of the buyer’s market to meet needs that were once unattainable.

You’re probably saving more. A silver lining to the recession? It may just be that households are spending less and saving more. Americans are spending, on average, 95 percent of what they earn. Pre-recession, they spent over 100 percent of what they earned. Build some financial security into your household budget so that it can withstand unexpected car repairs, a cut in hours and even unemployment.

You can set new priorities. Capitalizing on a career lull, you might just rediscover the joy of time spent with family and friends or take a long-deferred vacation. This might also be a good chance for a long, hard look at your career choices (people tend to fall into jobs instead of waiting for the one they really want). If so, now may be the time to build a new network of contacts and train for a job you’d really like.

Finally, blogger Susan Goldberg notes that in order to make themselves more marketable in a down economy, young people are getting their tattoos removed – as mothers everywhere rejoice!

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