Crossroads, n. - An intersection of two or more roads. A point at which a crucial decision must be made that will have far-reaching consequences.
The downturn in the oil field over the last 1.5 years has been covered extensively. The unfortunate downside to the boom and bust cycle is that it comes with big hiring sprees during the upswing and unfortunately lots of layoffs during the downswings. Unfortunately, right before our trip to Nashville I got the call I had been expecting.
Well, kind of. There was a bit of suspense since all I was told was that I needed to come in for a "meeting", but I wasn't too surprised with the topic when I showed up the next day. After all I've only had about 3 meetings during my almost 6 years working there so it was pretty easy to read between the lines.
While many people might feel regret, betrayal or anger from a layoff, I felt none of these. The biggest emotion that I felt was relief. The down cycle has been a weight on my shoulders not knowing if I would be spared from the next round of layoffs or have my number called. No longer do I have the doubt or worry of whether I'll have a job the next day since that question has now been answered.
It's been interesting to see the reaction from our friends and family since many of them feel much worse about the situation that either my wife or I. We're glad to finally have clarity on the situation and determining where we go from here.
Timing is Everything
There's almost never a good time to be laid off; however, this one does come at both a good time and bad time. Although I'm a big believer in things happening for a reason and at the right time.
This layoff comes at an excellent time for us financially. Over the last 6 months or so we've been building up cash reserves because we had been walking a very thin line in terms of financial safety. Since the start of the year we've been able to raise some serious cash reserves and are now sitting on around $60k before including our FI Portfolio and the principal behind it. The majority of the cash came from the previous back pay settlement with my employer as well as a sizable tax refund, a decent severance package and some savings thrown in as well. Compared to where we had been over the last 1.5 years we're in the best shape we can be in to figure things out financially.
I can honestly say that I probably wouldn't have quit my job until we were much further along on our journey to financial independence. Unfortunately that probably would have been at least 7 years from now. There's very few jobs that have as little requirements as long as things are going smoothly that pay as well as my job did which is one of the big pros for my job. However, that came with the really big downside of being away from home for extended periods of time, sometimes over a month. Since we're expecting our second child in July I have to say this is a big relief to figuring out the balance between work and being a father. Family should always come first and now it can, even if it came about in a different way than I expected.
My wife also knows what she wants to do. Our plan was for her to be a stay at home mom and for me to continue working; however, I never really felt a calling for what I was doing. My wife does. I know she's at a bit of a crossroads herself because she wants to be a stay at home mom, but was also not looking forward to having to quit teaching to do so. Although after everything that happened with our son Luke she knew that was a step she would take if we could do so financially. We should be able to do so although the roles might be reversed. She has the quickest road to securing a job so we have an income source coming in since schools are hiring for the next school year as we speak and she would also be able to continue with her calling of educating children.
I have to make the obligatory Bone Thugs N Harmony reference so take a break and listen to this 90's classic.
Where do I go from here?
So we're definitely at a crossroads and we're not really sure yet what path we will choose. I'm in the beginning stages of figuring out what's next on my plate, but I do have a few options in mind for where our journey might go and wanted to list some of the pros and cons for each of them.
Nursing/Medical Assistant/Medical Technician/Respiratory Therapist
I remember as a young kid talking about how I wanted to be a doctor although as I grew up I never really felt a draw to the field. That is until we had to deal with all of the issues that went on with our son Luke as he battled for his life. Even while going through everything I kept toying around with the idea of doing something in the health care field.
- Be a career that actually makes a difference
- Possibly more flexible hours than a traditional 9 to 5 job
- Would allow for further education/certification to advance in career
- There are at least 2 big hospitals and some satellite clinics being built within 15 minutes of our home
- A growing and stable industry that shouldn't be subject to wild fluctuations in employment
- Would require at least 6-9 months of education to earn the requisite certifications
- Starting out the pay would be a big decrease which would require both my wife and I to work
Ever since going through my first layoff in early 2009 I've been interested in all aspects of personal finance and investing. Heck, I even started this blog in order to share my own thoughts on the subject matter.
- Likely more flexible work hours as well as the possibility of working from home
- Several financial services firms within a 15-20 minute drive from my home
- Possibly the career path I'm most drawn to at this time due to my interest in finance
- Would allow me to help people with their finances providing emotional satisfaction from my job
- Once established my income should allow my wife to be a stay at home mom
- Would require education/certification/testing in order to earn significant money, although I could work in the meantime
- Would likely require at least 2 years before having a large enough base to support our family on my income alone
- Doing financial related topics as my day job as well as keeping up with the blog could lead to burnout
It's pretty obvious at this point that technology is firmly entrenched within our society and should only continue to grow as time goes on.
- A growing although more volatile field
- Salary range after a few years should be enough to support our family on my income alone
- More flexibility in regards to industry selection. Every industry uses technology in some form so there would be highly transferable skills across industries
- Would require extensive education that would likely come with a steep learning curve since I'm essentially starting at zero
- Like long hours to establish myself in my career
Technical skills such as plumbers and electricians can't be outsourced since they require hands on training, experience and you have to be present to do the work.
- High demand fields although they would be subject to fluctuations in the economic cycle
- Useful skills to reduce household costs and improve DIY skills
- High potential of being my own boss within 5-10 years
- Would require at a minimum a technical school education in order to begin working in the field
- Would be sub-optimal working conditions/hours and would require me being on call which I hated
- Manual labor can put a big hurt on your body/health which is vital
My college degree is in civil engineering and for the last 7 years I've done pretty much nothing with it. I'm still interested in the field, although not necessarily what I was doing previously.
- Would put my educational background to use
- A regular work schedule with many places offering 9/80 work schedules providing 3 day weekends every other week
- Starting off pay should be enough to support our family on one income
- I feel it would be difficult to get into the field due to my lack of recent relevant work experience
- I previously left the industry and never really looked back, although I would look to a different segment of the very broad civil engineering spectrum
These two go hand in hand since one would allow for the other. I'd love to be a stay at home dad although I know it would be a lot more work than I expect. Add to that trying to be an entrepreneur would just make things even more difficult.
- Would allow one of us to be with our child every day instead of putting them in day care which would negate a lot of the benefit of the second income source if both of us are working
- The potential of the internet is huge and it's very easy to scale any projects
- Blogging/writing is a great work from anywhere income source
- Get to be home with our child every day
- No schedule or deadlines which I know would be difficult for me to deal with especially with a baby that also would follow no schedule
- Finances would likely be very tight while until my blogging/writing can provide at least $10k per year of extra income
- It would delay us reaching financial independence
Our plan was for my wife to be a stay at home mom while I continued to work. Well, like the saying goes "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." So our entire plan has been thrown up in the air with no idea where we'll be when everything settles.
Although much like my first layoff back in early 2009 that taught me a lot about personal finance and led me down the dividend growth investing and the concept of financial independence, I feel that this one has plenty of lessons in store and opens the door to all sorts of possibilities.
There's no telling where we'll end up and how things will shake out over the coming months, but I see the layoff as a blessing in disguise.
I'm going to ask for some help from all of you too. If you happen to work in any of these fields, especially if you're in the Houston area or Texas, I'd love to get your take on them as far as schedules, hours, flexibility, potential starting incomes, typical work days...
Have you ever suffered a layoff? Relief can be a wonderful thing? Have you ever been forced into a decision which just provided you freedom?
Image provided by 2nix via FreeDigitalPhotos