Coping with loss (of many thousands of dollars)

October 18, 2006

I’m not a rich man. I’m not poor either. I’m also not unique in my predicament. I’ve been stuck in a job for the past few years (has it been five years already?) — for a couple of reasons, but with real consequences.

I like the people I work with. I even like the work on occasion. The problem comes in the form of compensation. Let me preface further discussion with the following; I know there are a number of things I can do to change this. There are also a number of reasons that I haven’t.

Here are a couple of them:

  1. As I stated before, I like the people I work with (No, I’m not blowing smoke up anyone’s ass here).
  2. The health benefits are excellent — This is important when you have three children.
  3. I seem to lack some “testicular fortitude” with the boss.
  4. I like having an office (with a window and a door). It’s a nice space.
  5. In many ways I prefer a small company (although this isn’t all it’s cracked up to be).
  6. I’m not interested in another “job” — my next move is working for myself, making my own decisions.

It’s also been years since my last pay increase. I’ve supplemented things in a number of ways over the years. I’ve overspent on credit cards. I’ve refinanced the house to pay off the overspending. I’ve eBayed things on a number of occasions. Ang has gone back to work — which has the additional benefit of giving her a bit of sanity (in, quite literally, one of the most insane places). I’ve done some hit-and-miss side-work after hours — and even been paid for it a couple of times. I’ve planned and continue to plan on bigger and better things moving forward, but the reality is that I’ve shortchanged my family of between $20,000 and $30,000 in salary over this past five year period — figuring in only Cost of Living Increases, and this lower wage position.

My salary bubbled up along with other technology folks in the late nineties — to a point that wasn’t maintainable — so I took my 26% pay cut in stride after the Plural layoff. It sucked, but it was a reality I understood. I also figured it would get better. It hasn’t. In real dollars, I’m making 9% less now than I was in 2001 — at the already reduced salary. Figure in more dramatic 26% initial cut and I’m now making 68% a year of where I would have been.

Let me reiterate, that I know I am not alone, but that only takes the edges off of the pain.

Want a real big number? I’ve missed out on over $160,000 if the bubble hadn’t burst and I had just done a good enough job to get the bare minimum salary increase. It’s not as big a number as those seen by the truly rich, but it’s much, much bigger in ways that really matter.

Like most Americans, I’d have probably just spent it all on hookers and blow. Right?

So I’ve become a real bargain shopper. I dig thrift stores — I found an amazing number of like and brand new shirts the other night for about $5 each. I like to find ways to simplify. It’s amazing how this “slip down the ladder” has changed my perspective on what is important. I still have pride. I’m much more comfortable with who I am. I couldn’t care less about how big my television is — I don’t watch TV. I don’t care that my car is 11 years old — in fact it’s a fact I revel in. It’s economical, paid-for, and a blast to drive. I smile every time I climb in. I don’t go out like I used to. I’d rather grab the camera and find something interesting to shoot or hop on the bike than head to the bar. I spend countless hours coming up with ideas for new products. I fill Moleskine after Moleskine with jottings and story ideas. I continue to work towards a better life.

Oh, but that’s all so boring!

My wallet’s not as fat — by a long shot, but I’m not bored.

One Response to “Coping with loss (of many thousands of dollars)”

  1. Ted in Asia Says:

    A bit late getting a reply out to this thread, but just found your site and going through the pages, relating on many issues.

    This one however truly struck a timely chord.

    Received an email last night from a business associate who was let go after 12 years, 2 moves, 2 “Support the Corp” pay reductions, 40yrs old, replaced by his 22yr old assistant he had been diligently training over the past 6 months…at 1/2 his salary.

    Duh…sometimes we stand so close to the wall we cannot see the writing upon it.

    15 years ago I was downsized and left stranded in Asia & it was the best thing that ever happened to me, not saying it was / still is easy, terrifying, humbling on a daily basis.

    You survive, find a path follow it for awhile and nourish yourself with the security it provides then strike out and create a new path for yourself.

    What caught my eye in all of this was your comment: “I spend countless hours coming up with ideas for new products.”

    While it might seem frivolous, each one of these possess the seeds of a different path.

    I wish you luck on your journey.


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