What would you do if you lost your job, but had to figure out how to keep paying the bills? Maybe you’re living debt-free and well below your means, which means that this event probably wouldn’t be a big hiccup for you.
You’d pick yourself up, dust off, and go searching for a new job with the comfortable knowledge that you’ll make it at least a few months before you need to start worrying.
But maybe you’re like most Americans and living paycheck to paycheck, so something like the loss of a job would turn your world upside-down. Did you know that a staggering 80% of us are living with that kind of stress?
I think all of us in that 80% bucket would react just about the same — fear, anxiety, confusion, and despair are just some of the emotions that come to mind.
How could I know that?
Because I’ve been there…but with one important twist: it was my husband, the sole earner in our family, who ended up without a job when he was suddenly and unexpectedly hospitalized for intensive cancer treatments.
Suddenly we were faced with the very harsh reality that we didn’t know how to bring any money in. I had no income as a stay-at-home mom, and we had no “plan B” for what to do.
Can You Lose Your Job Due To Illness?
In most cases, legally, no, you can’t be fired on the spot just because you’re sick. In my husband’s case I will say that technically, I suppose, he did still “have” the job. That didn’t assuage much of my fear though.
But when you walk in the hospital doors expecting to spend the night helping your wife through labor to meet your new baby, and you instead are told that you have cancer and can’t go home for an entire month, followed by 8-12 months out of work for outpatient treatments, well, you may as well plan on not having an income for a little while.
It was a good few weeks before we even knew if he could qualify for short term disability pay through his employer (and how much that might even be) because he hadn’t even been with the company a full 90 days yet. By some absolute miracle, he had just passed their minimum employment duration by two days.
Two days is all that stood between hope and a possibility that I still don’t want to think about.
Can You Lose Your Job On Short-Term Disability?
Generally speaking, you do have protections during the duration of your short-term disability, so don’t worry about that. But for us, fast forward to when short-term disability needed to convert to long-term disability, and the reality suddenly changed to yes, in a way you can lose your job due to illness.
While it wasn’t a direct loss because of his illness, the company decided to replace him due to business needs (he had, after all, not even been in his job three full months before he was diagnosed and hospitalized).
So why am I telling you all of this?
My hope is that even in what feels like the absolute worst moments of your life, whether you’re saying “I lost my job and have no money,” or you’re simply just done living above your means, you’d know that losing your job is not the end of the world and you are capable of picking yourself back up.
Yes, you can even keep making progress on your debts all the while–all it takes is a mindset shift.
What To Do When You’ve Lost A Job
If you asked everyone you knew what to do first and next, you’d end up with as many different answers. Speaking from experience, the mental strength part of things matters a LOT more than any small details do at the very beginning.
If you can make it through the first little while, you’ll definitely be able to make it through until things start to look up again. But here, I’ll give you five simple tips to get your chin up, feel in control of your life, and get back on your feet in no time.
1) Stop everything and breath.
Nothing is going to change in the next 24 hours, so stop and let the emotions flow. Sometimes getting it out can be the best way to clear your head and be ready for the next steps.
Process the circumstances surrounding your job loss, understand what could have been changed to avoid this scenario in the future. Give yourself a little grace. You’ll get past it and things will get better.
Budgeting is never a fun task, but there’s no way that it’s not the most important facet of adult life. The only thing worse than making a budget is finding ways to save even more money when it’s already bare-bones tight. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what you have to do right now.
Get rid of all streaming services, subscriptions you can do without. Buy cheaper foods, or consider selling your family’s second car if circumstances allow for that.
3) Look into ways to get any extra money you might be entitled to.
The specifics of this are going to depend on your specific scenario, but it’s still worth looking into. You might be entitled to unemployment benefits depending on the reason for your job loss. Also, you might be able to obtain severance pay in the event of a lay-off.
With our situation being medical, we were thankfully able to get some pay through disability offerings. The pay was low, but any money is better than no money when you have bills to pay!
Another option that we were awakened to was the existence of a financial aid program that our hospital offers, that covered both treatments and saved us money on most of his prescription medications.
I’m not sure I’d be able to write the same advice today if it hadn’t been for that program!
4) Get creative to design your own path forward!
This is the part of the recovery journey where things get exciting, and you might even find yourself with a sparkle in your eye when thinking of the possibilities. For many, this will include you designing a way to get back to earning a paycheck (including tasks like updating your resume and applying to jobs), while also taking advantage of the chance for a potential career path change as well.
We were absolutely blessed that an old employer reached out to us and offered him employment whenever he was eventually ready to return to work after the year or so he’d be out on medical. But we were also determined to not have a break in our debt pay-off efforts during this time, so we really buckled down and started to think outside the box for ways to increase our income above the small disability stipends and start to make more progress.
The first thing we did was go on a decluttering rampage. We sold things that were really just taking up space or collecting dust in our attic and basement. This made all the difference in being able to make the minimum payments on our debts, so progress didn’t halt!
As time went on, we started to think even more outside the box. Luckily we still had disability pay coming for some time. I was able to stay home to care for both the kids and my husband during this time. But we knew that it was only a matter of time before we would be pushing our luck too far.
5) Know that it’ll all work out in the end.
We started looking into options such as building an Etsy shop, a blog as an income source, and digital marketing. You name a work-at-home job; we researched it!
We took advantage of our situation as well as our backgrounds (we both studied marketing and entrepreneurship in college) and found options that worked for us to get started. You likely have a hidden passion or a useful hobby that can be turned into a profit. The hard part was getting the skill under your belt; the easy part is thinking of how to make money with it!
Just like with the first tip on this list, the last one is also meant to help you recenter. Take everything one day at a time, keep your focus on your path forward, and don’t ever give up. You have a better life waiting for you, but you need to start living it today.
During the darkest days of our ordeal, someone gave me what might have been the best reminder I’ve ever heard. I try hard to remember this every time things get tough again:
From a simple lump of coal, a diamond is born. All it takes is the right kind of pressure.
On your best days as well as your worst, I’d encourage you to always remember the same.
Roxanne LaManna is a mom, self-proclaimed book hoarder, and a homesteading hopeful. Her blog, For Another Time, is a little bit personal development and a little bit “country” lifestyle, with a focus on simplifying your life, finances, and mind so you can focus on your dreams and start living your better days, today.