Dear Abby, Dear Abby II
Last week we talked about Under Water, a youngish investor who was bemoaning the whack to his investments. Given this silly market, Under Water is probably now Belly Up, not an uncommon position in bear markets. Some call it capitulation, the turning point, or resignation. I call it the “Hell with it” model where everybody sighs, gnashes teeth and finds something else to do until the majority of people realize that the sun will come up tomorrow, to paraphrase a really bad musical.
But the danger is real. Not that the sun won’t come up but that bad economic times carry real risks with job loss being the big one. Since we have had record employment until recently many people are not familiar with job loss. For simplicity purposes, job loss is when you get fired. Money doesn’t quit going out but it quits coming in.
You really can’t control it completely just as you can’t control the nonsense going on on Wall Street. But you can react both before it happens and after.
Step One—make yourself invaluable. This won’t do you much good if you work for a firm that lays off people basis seniority. This is also known as the LIFO strategy—Last In, First Out. If you work for one of these types, you may want to consider a job change just because you will never get anywhere until you are old and gray. Or fired anyway because companies like this have a tendency to disappear. Back to invaluable. Invaluable means you get the job done. In times like these, you have to get the job done well, on time or ahead of time, and with a smile on your face.
Step Two—bail out the boss. Unless your boss is a total jerk (to be addressed next) and idiot, he or she needs help. Bosses figure out the things are going to get tough and cringe. Go and offer your services along with suggestions on improving the business.
Step Three—if you work for a jerk and idiot, now may be a good time to look around before things get really bad because you may be the first one to go in a real downturn. Samuel Johnson said nothing concentrates like a hanging. That goes for job loss as well. Concentrate, look at your options, evaluate your skill set and figure out who might want it more than the jerk you work for now. Also, look for who is hiring and figure out how to change your skill set (training, college, on the job) to get that job.
Step Four—Put things in perspective. I was rocked to my socks on this the other day. I volunteer at the USO at DFW and our site looks out over the boarding areas. A man stopped, looked inside and came in. It was hard not to notice a missing arm, a hook on what was left of the other arm and a huge scar running across his face. A smiling face, in fact. He said he wanted to thank us for all we did for our young men and women. We were speechless—he was thanking us. If this guy can be thankful after what happened to him in a war forty years ago, a financial crisis is nothing to jump out the window about.