The Financial Safety Net

All of our working lives, we have been advised to have up to 12 months of savings set aside in the event of being laid off or losing a job. This is great advice, but I would like to expand on that thought. This “safety net” can be extremely useful if you find yourself in a less-than-ideal work situation and you want to be in control of your own destiny. That’s what happened to me.

I have had a good career so far—lots of challenging and interesting opportunities, incredibly intelligent and talented colleagues, and positive and encouraging mentors. I made a job change recently to expand my knowledge base. I was excited to work with a new group of bright individuals and gain different skills and expertise. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be a good fit.

I didn’t realize the situation wasn’t working for some time. There are always hiccups during the first year or so of a new job as employee and employer get to know each other’s personalities, work styles, and quirks. It takes time to get the rhythm going. However, there came a point when it became clear that something was wrong. I am not a confrontational type of person by any means, but when it became obvious that things were not going well, I scheduled time with my manager to discuss what was working and what was not. It became very clear that the situation was not going to improve (it would only get worse), so after discussing it with my spouse, we decided it was best for me to leave the company immediately.

To say I thought I would ever be in the position of leaving a job without having another one in hand would be an understatement. I pride myself on being a hard worker who is trustworthy, able to work with many types of people/personalities, and who never gives up. In many ways, I felt like a failure, but sometimes you need to leave a negative environment for your own well-being. Without overtly realizing it, I had been planning for this scenario for years.

My family and I live a comfortable life. We have a nice house, our cars are paid for, we take a vacation every year, and we go out to dinner every week. Our children have their needs and many of their “wants” covered. We have been fortunate enough to be able to set aside a safety net so if we found ourselves in a less-than-ideal work situation, we would have the financial freedom to retreat, recalibrate, and restart.

Although this is not a perfect situation, knowing that I have some money in the bank gave me the ability and confidence to walk away and start fresh.  As a CPA, I am fortunate to have varied skills and can take my career in a number of different directions. I view this experience as a bump in the long road of my career path. I am anxious to get back on track and am excited to see the direction my career will take next.

Here are a few “safety net” tips and tricks I’ve found most helpful to prepare for situations like mine that you just can’t predict:

  • Set up a separate bank account and put aside funds from each paycheck. If you have this set up as an automatic draft, you will not “miss” this money. Even if you can only set aside a small amount each pay period, stick with it—it will add up over time.
  • If you receive bonuses or commissions, set aside a certain amount in a separate bank account (similar to the above). It will make you feel good to help plan for your future.
  • If you need to borrow from this “slush fund” for an unforeseen circumstance (e.g. car or house repair, medical expense, etc.) make sure to repay it as soon as you can.
  • Think long and hard when making expensive purchases. Sure, we deserve to treat ourselves to a great vacation, an expensive dinner, or a new piece of jewelry—we work hard and should reward ourselves—but keep the splurging to a minimum.

This piece was written by an NCACPA member who wishes to remain anonymous.