Monday, May 16, 2011


I'm unemployed - at least not employed at a traditional job.  In fact, before and during my last pregnancy I was an independent IT contractor.  I worked at home, alongside my husband.  It was great, but quite impossible to do after we had our little guy.  We decided that I could write and/or go to graduate school.  My husband is super-supportive, luckily has a good job, and shares my same sense of frugality - so we can live just fine on one income. 

Up until four years ago, I worked full time at a children's hospital.  I worked there for 16 years.  I started at the bottom doing clerical work after graduating in a recession with an English degree and ended up doing software development, project management, and other nerdy things.  By the end, my boss and I joked that if he fired me, I could live just fine on Unemployment and my savings for quite a while.  We had the impression that Unemployment paid 70% of your previous salary.  We were wrong.

My ex-husband just recently lost his job.  He filed for Unemployment.  He used to make quite a lot of money.  Last week I was annoyed when he told me how much and rolled back the footage in my mind of all the times I asked him for just a little help here and there with expenses for the kids, expenses he was required to pay according to our divorce agreement.  I normally absorbed the expenses to do the right thing.  I assumed he wasn't making that much.  And he often said, "I'm strapped," when I did ask.  I saw the look on his face - he wanted to shove the words back into his mouth last weekend when he told me his previous salary. 

Today, I looked online to see what the amount should be - the amount he told me he was getting from Unemployment didn't make sense.  The amount was not close to half of his previous salary.  What he said checked out online.

I recalculated it for us - in case my husband loses his job, which is a reality we walk with every day.  $543 a week or something like that.  Yikes.  We live under our means intentionally and don't have a car payment or carry any credit card debt, but that amount would barely cover our mortgage and utility bills in a very normal non-snazzy Ohio neighborhood. 

I told my husband.  He laughed out loud.  Then he joined me in echoes of "Oh crap." 

Now, my husband isn't planning on losing his job.  One never does.  But the way things are right now, that could happen to anyone.  We like to plan - we are computer nerd folk who have spent years disaster planning and managing risk at work - it's engrained in us.  Or maybe it's just in our DNA or a result of watching our parents and their employment situations during rough times.  Whatever it is, we both like to prepare.

So we did the math.  We came up with a disaster plan that we both agreed on.  We came up with ideas of how we could mitigate the risk, how we could cut back now, how we would manage paying for health insurance if that happens. 

Now, we didn't spend hours on this or obsess on it.  It was a 15 minute adjustment to our mindset including a plan on how we would handle it.  I think it's cool we disagree on so many little things but always agree on the big ones. 

We brought our kids into the conversation gently - not to scare them - but to share with them our misunderstanding about Unemployment, our empathy for their dad, and how we need to cut back anyway since the child support will likely be lowered soon.  My 4th grader had some excellent suggestions fueled by his involvement cleaning out the pantry (see yesterday's post) - he said something like, "We don't need to buy as many snacks.  And we should finish the cereal that's opened before we buy more," and pointed to the boxes of cereal still on the kitchen table.  I agree.

He told me his ideas for how he could help raise money.  I told him his stepdad's idea:  we could sell Legos for $10 a pound at the end of the street where the neighborhood kids do lemonade stands.   That would make a lot of money - my junior engineer has a lot of Legos.  His response:  No, it should be $20 a pound - I have a lot of special pieces.  He is so sweet.  We were just joking, but he was up for it if we needed him to help out.  I love that kid.


  1. It was a rude awakening for me as well. Luckily I am an ant like you and will come out OK. You guys will too. Good luck to your ex! And when you start the Lego sale let me know. Luv me some Legos!

  2. Thanks! The problem is his wife is a type 1 diabetic, and they decided they can't afford the cobra so they dropped her insurance - not good at all.

    Maybe I'll do a Lego post this week - my son's Legoland in the basement is pretty impressive - he keeps asking for more tables so he can expand it. :)