Wednesday, May 11, 2016

At A Crosroads

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 plumber/electrician/HVAC

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
Return to engineering

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
Stay at home dad/Make a run at blogging full time

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


  1. Ciao PIP,
    How strange, or how peculiar, I am being cut on Friday... Pretty much same situation, but with no kids. I am totally relieved under some points of view, and I am already on the look for other opportunities (although in Italy the job market is quite dead).
    It's not easy but unfortunately it's what life put us against at this turn, so we have got to face it :).
    I wish you all the best of luck of course and I hope that the setback it's just minor and will not affect too much the saving plans that you are documenting.
    Ciao ciao

  2. Thanks for sharing JC. You 2 will come out stronger from this and it's definitely a blessing in disguise. Usually at these points in our lives, when the going gets tough... the tough gets going. I wish you 2 the best.
    Do it up whatever you decide. Take care buds.

  3. Hi PIP,

    I am so sorry to hear about your layoff. It is never easy to lose a high paying job.

    On the other hand, I think you are better prepared than many others, because you have a nest egg that could cover approximately 10 years of living expenses. You can further stretch this out because you will likely get some severance, unemployment, blogging income and your wife will likely work as well.

    Unfortunately I am not in the Texas area. I am hopeful that when things bounce back, you can find another high paying gig. In the meantime, it is smart for you to explore your options.

    If it were me, I would always go for the thing I am most passionate about, and where there is a decent chance of at least covering the shortfall between passive income and expenses.

    I wish you good luck my friend!

    Best Regards,

  4. You were wise to plan ahead for something like this. You are in a much better position now than most people who lose their job. With your work ethic, I'm sure things will work out well for you and your family.

  5. I find that in most cases, when one door closes another opens. Sometimes that second door doesn't open until the first has closed. Hopefully this will be the case for you. It's exciting and scary at the same time.

  6. Hi JC -- so sorry to read about your layoff!

    You present several options with pros and cons and it is clear you've been giving this a lot of thought already. It sounds to me like your decision is somewhat entangled with what your wife would want to do. Would she be happy swopping "stay at home mom" with "stay at home dad"? (And, would you be, too?)

    I our case, I don't think either of us would have been entirely happy swopping those roles. But that's just us.

    All the best in making your decision! As DGI points out, you're better prepared than many others in this position. Also, I'd encourage you to take his advice: go for what you're most passionate about!

    Take care

  7. Congratulations buddy. Because you planned turned what could have been very painful in to an opportunity!. I'm sure it would have been less stressful if it had happened in July, after the babino, but you'll be great either way. I really enjoyed talking through opportunities with you in early March, and will be happy to do the same when you are ready. You guys are in our thoughts and prayers :)

  8. My sympathies regarding your layoff. I'm also a firm believer in things happening for a reason. All your readers know you have the skills and drive to succeed in whatever path you choose to pursue.

  9. Sorry to hear about the layoff, JC. But you seem very well prepared and have been waiting and planning accordingly. Some very interesting career change plans laid out here and will be interesting to see where things go.

    Good luck with the upcoming major changes in the lifestyle and let me know if I can help in any way.


  10. Hi,
    i am in the same boat almost very similiar, even with baby part,we are expecting a second one in November.Goodluck for both of us.

  11. You should connect to the Slowly Sipping Coffee couple -- they are also in oil in Houston, and Mrs SSC is currently working on changing fields.

    Sorry about your layoff, but sounds like you're good with it. We're starting to get to the point where we're crossing our fingers for a layoff, well really for the severance package, but it also feels like bad karma to wish for that. :-) Good luck making some big decisions these next few months!

  12. PIP,

    Man it's been tough down here in Houston the last year or so! I agree with how you feel! I still have my job, but it is a grind coming to work and seeing everyone stressing over business. It sounds like you have things pretty well planned and I have no doubt that you will bounce back! Keep fighting!


  13. PIP, first time comment, long time reader. I gotta say you really lay it out there. Very few bloggers do that so I commend you. There are some blogs that just concentrate on investing. I like that. There are other blogs that mix investing with personal. I like that too. However, to mix the two, you have to be really, really be open and the genuine nature of the blogger has to really shine thru otherwise it seems contrived. Your genuine nature always shines thu.

    Congrats on your second on the way. I often wondered if you didn't bury yourself in your blog after Luke. It seemed like your posting really increase shortly after and I never would halve thought I would have had the strength to be like that after a loss like that.

    Anyway, you seem to have made it thru so I wish you all the best. I have been laid off, 2008. I know how it is. It is scary. However, as you mentioned, it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened at the time. I have since gone on to much bigger and better things. So shall you.

    Good luck.

  14. Tough break! I think you will come out OK. I'm in Houston but I don't know any of those fields. I've only been an accountant/budget monkey. I do know some of the community colleges in Houston have LVN programs. You can do nursing with just a two year degree. With your engineering education, you could probably complete the program part time in a couple years. If you are intent on getting into healthcare space, with minimal training overhead.

    Will be following along to see how you make the best of it!

  15. Thank you for sharing your situation and thought process around how best to move forward. I went back to school to retrain after retiring early from a completely unrelated field. My main suggestion is that you try to meet with folks working in the new career you are considering and get their point of view in terms of hours worked, burnout rate, level of boredom, job considerations, etc. Ask them to go for a coffee or lunch. It may open your eyes and provide some food for thought.

    Best of luck to you. Look forward to reading more about your journey.

  16. PIP, Long time reader who works for HAL's biggest competitor (SLB) here in Houston. I'm in a similar boat of wondering each day if I'm going to get the call from HR. you mentioned pros/cons for going into the Nursing field. For a similar amount of schooling/training, you should also consider becoming a PA (physicians assistant). Better income potential and similarly high demand to nurses. This is the exact path I've been considering in the event I get laid off...

    Just some more food for thought.

    Best of luck with the "little visitor" you are expecting this summer! Make sure to enjoy that time.


  17. Kudos for sharing so openly your story. It sounds like you have the right attitude to make the right choice at the crossroad! Good also that you planned a head and have the cash build up to continue for a while.

    Congrats with baby 2.

    Amber tree

  18. I'm sorry to hear about your layoff, JC. But it may well be a great opportunity to do better! For what's next, you could also hit 2 birds at the same time doing part-time in say nursing + financial services... or else. Best of luck and courage!

  19. It's interesting how life can throw its twists and turns. Perspective is the best friend you can have. Last week at my job I was told that I would be forcefully moved into a new department that has been struggling to get going. This move comes with no pay bump but with loads of new pressures, forced over time, and a strain on being able to take any sort of vacation. While I'm not happy about the move as I've pretty much mastered what I do in my current role, it's good to be given perspective from your post. It could be worse - I could be laid off completely. Or, as you say, I could simply be in a worse situation - constantly fearing IF i'd be losing my job soon. Sad to hear the news for you but it sounds like you've got a good head on your shoulders and that will most certainly take you far in life.

    -Dividend Reaper

  20. Sorry to hear about the layoff but on the bright side you have been adding to your cash reserve. See this as an opportunity for your next chapter of life. Yes you're at a crossroad but perhaps take some time to think what you want to do next and you'll be happier in the future. Good luck.

  21. Sorry to hear that. It seems like you have some options open to you and you have the right perspective on the situation. I think you will be fine as you have the right attitude and a supportive spouse. I am also going through the same thing. My last day at my firm was April 30th. I wish you the best, hope it is as easy a transition as possible for you. Good Luck!

  22. Is there a chance you go HARDCORE with your online persona/blog? If you have the "time" while you look maybe dedicate X amount of hours to building the site? If you ever need any help (first step would be to convert to Wordpress - I'd be more than happy to help).