Weathering a Financial Crisis That’s Close to Home

An unfortunate reality of difficult economic times is that layoffs and cutbacks become business as usual.  And economic crisis or unemployment can throw even the best functioning families into emotional turmoil as nothing before it has.

With the current unemployment rate at 7.4% ( plus an untold number of people underemployed and out of the workforce altogether due to having given up looking for suitable employment, it is quite likely that you or someone close to you is affected in some very personal way, such as living with an entirely different set of financial standards than you’ve been used to.

While the financial struggles can be profoundly problematic, the emotional side of a financial crisis is just as difficult. For example, there’s often tension and hostility in a family towards the one who’s unemployed, if he or she is seen as responsible for being unable to maintain the old standard of living.  Additionally, other family members become responsible for taking on more of the financial burden as well as providing emotional and moral support to the beleaguered breadwinner and other family members.

If this is a crisis that speaks to you, here are some tips to help you weather the storm:

Remove the blame-The main emotional culprit of relationship and family breakdowns during a financial crisis is often blame; either blaming the family member perceived as responsible or self blame if you conclude that it’s your fault. In reality, you may not even know the real reason for losing your job (for example, your company can be reorganizing, or trying to find a way to avoid providing healthcare to employees).  But even if in hindsight it clearly was the result of something your actions could have prevented, blame will only fill you with negativity and stifle your ability to problem solve and put the crisis behind you.

Work as a team- Economic crisis is a time that couples and families operate best when they stick together and work as a team to find solutions to the problems that are under your control.  I have seen cases where a breadwinner feels too ashamed even to make their own family members aware of the job loss (but eventually this will come to the surface, so  better sooner rather than later).  If all family members are able to talk frankly about their feelings in a safe environment, it will be much easier to become unified and move forward.

Don’t panic just yet-When you’re consumed by negative emotions, it can be pretty difficult to be competitive in a tough job market and land  the position you want. Collect your thoughts, calm down, and start thinking about your options.  Without the negativity, you may even find that the job loss can be a blessing in disguise and an opportunity to take a next step in your career that was not available in your last position.  Many people have told me that they surprisingly found a job loss—initially seen as a disaster—to be just the excuse they needed to connect with a job related passion they’d been ignoring, which morphed into their next job or business opportunity.

Once you’ve handled these emotional obstacles, you’re more than ready to tackle the logistics: put together that solid resume or business plan, do your networking, work on arranging interviews, and —what I believe is most important— make a major move toward creating the life you really want. In the process, you and your family might find yourselves coming closer together in a way that survives way past that time when this crisis is a distant memory!

Four Things For New Graduates To Consider Before Accepting Their First Job

In his classic book Oh, the Places You’ll Go, the great Dr. Seuss said “Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!” This epitomizes the excitement new graduates experience as they pick up their diplomas and eagerly set off on their new career paths. But this sentiment can quickly turn to discouragement with the realization that launching the perfect career is not as easy as you may have thought; and perhaps your college degree doesn’t smoothly transition into the job track that’s best for you. Many new graduates have accomplished something great educationally, but feel stuck when it’s time to find their own career path. Here are some important ideas for getting your mind in the right place and gaining a clearer direction when thinking about your future:

Work backwards-When people ask me for career advice, one of the first things I typically ask is “where do you see yourself in five years, ten years, and perhaps even ultimately?” When looking for a first job, this is something a lot of people forget about, since it feels so far away and less urgent than getting a job now. Once you’ve come up with a picture of what your whole career might look like down the road, you can consider if potential job opportunities will contribute in a positive way to that greater goal. For example, if a current job opportunity is not as lucrative as you’d like, but it’s a stepping stone to a more long term goal, it might be a better choice for you than one that merely pays a little more money right now.

Utilize your role models– Ask yourself who is/are the person(s) I admire the most in my field or my favorite mentor(s), real or imagined—in the area I would most like to make my best contribution(s)? What do or would these mentors inspire me to do? If your mentor is available in the flesh, you can obviously ask directly for a perspective about his/her own career course and yours; but, even if this is merely someone you know only by reputation (for example a business owner, an iconic professional in your field or a successful musician whom you don’t have access to) you can use your image and knowledge of this accomplished virtual mentor to help you map out your long term goals. Then work backwards. What could you do to put your career on par with theirs over the period of time you’ve set?

Tap into your passions-When you chose your college major, you may or may not have considered what you’re truly passionate about. So consider this. If you could spend your career doing anything in the world without regard to the money, what would you be doing? Make a list of at least five things that answer this question. Then focus on job possibilities that allow you to be conducting your career according to those passions you’ve identified.

Know what motivates you-Lastly; acknowledge what typically motivates you to do your very best. Sources of motivation vary from person to person and different jobs offer unique motivators. Choosing a first job that offers incentives that speak to you and your particular personality style is important. For example, some are motivated satisfactorily by financial compensation, while others need to be creative or in a position of power or leadership to feel motivated and do their best. Some need to be surrounded by likeminded coworkers, while others need to be in an environment where the tasks are self-initiated. What have you liked or disliked about past jobs or internships (even small summer jobs) and why? What has motivated you to achieve non-work related accomplishments in your life, like doing well in school or at athletics, for example? Take the time to evaluate what really moves you to do your best, before you accept a first job.

When you’ve zoomed in on where you are going, the path to success can be illuminated. Then use every resource at your disposal. So, in the words of Dr. Seuss, “ be sure when you step, step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.”

Retirement Planning for the Psyche

Many times throughout the years, I have observed anecdotally that people have a higher risk of mortality shortly after retirement. And there’s even some empirical evidence of this. For example, in a study of past employees of Shell Oil, the mortality rate was significantly higher for subjects in the first 10 years after retirement at age 55 compared with those who didn’t retire until later ( Of course, it’s possible that these statistics might be somewhat skewed by the fact that people with preexisting health issues may tend to retire earlier. Nevertheless, I have seen several people in my clinical practice “crash” psychologically after retirement; and the reasons are clear.

When you’ve been looking forward to retirement for many years, financially and emotionally, there is probably a lot of anticipation. Perhaps, you’ve been happily looking forward to a newfound freedom to pursue the things you did not have time to do while you were working. It’s likely that the first few weeks will be exactly what you expected they’d be. But after a month or two, you might find yourself feeling bored, unfulfilled, and most commonly—without a purpose and in need of a new challenge. After all, you’ve spent the better part of your life creating an identity around your career and when that is no longer part of who you are, you may be surprised to feel a very unexpected and difficult void.

Retirement, indeed, is the time to do the things that you didn’t have time to do when you had to spend your day making a living, but it’s not that simple. Sure, you can take the golf lessons you never got around to or go on a vacation or two you’ve planned, but retirement could— and for many needs to— be a time for more than that. It can be about elevating your life from a place where you were busy juggling your roles as a working person to one where you can tap into to your true passions. This might be in the form of taking courses to learn something new, volunteering to do something you love to do for a cause you believe in, starting a new career or business doing something you really enjoy (many people do happily this when they retire), teaching or mentoring someone. If you’re able to give back as you pursue your passions, this can add an even greater dimension of fulfillment to your life as a retiree.

When the high expectations of life after retirement fall short, it can lead to a myriad of difficult feelings you may never even think to associate with retirement, not to mention difficulty in maintaining a positive outlook about the future. So with these thoughts in mind, what could you do to have your life completely and absolutely on track for the fulfillment you expect after you retire? Make a list of whatever comes to mind. There may be some items you have listed that will be above your means. So when your list is complete, choose those things that you could actually do with your present resources. Chances are there is a passion or two waiting to be fulfilled. And as many have discovered, that’s the secret to a long and satisfying retirement.

Once you identify your true calling in retirement, it can truly be a fresh start for you. You may even be surprised at how much life has to offer when you are doing what you’re passionate about. You will feel motivated, challenged and best of all, find a renewed zest and purpose in life. And this is a great window into life at your highest potential!