Last week things at work took a huge shift; a majority of my colleagues signed union cards and filed their intent to vote on organized representation with the National Labor Board.
I’m not going to debate the idea of union vs. non-union work here, but as a jack-of-all-trades whose position is impossible to classify, organizing is not in my favor at all. The two most likely outcomes I see are either a strict narrowing of my duties and a pay decrease of about 50% or an elimination of my position.
The entire union process, as I understand it, can take 6 weeks to several months or even years to complete should it be voted in. This means for us an undefined period of uncertainty followed by a potential large cut in pay.
The Wife and I sat and talked several times since the announcement and have decided to shift into emergency mode. Our current, and final, debt stands at $13,000 and we were on-track to pay it off by the end of the year. Instead, this month I sent in the minimum payment and put the rest (what would have been our “snowball” payment) into our savings or emergency fund.
Readers know we have a small, $1,000, emergency fund that has saved us and kept us going for nearly 18 months of this journey to become debt free. With the potential elimination of my position or reduction in pay we are going to boost that emergency fund up as high as we can until my employment is stable again.
But what is stable? And how high is high?
If the vote fails and things settle back to “normal” at work we will immediately pull everything but $1,000 out of savings again and throw it at the debt. We will have lost barely any time and will pay just a couple hundred more dollars in interest.
If, on the other hand, my career ends up changing either by taking on a new role, changing companies or starting up an entirely new venture, then “stable” may be defined as simply regular and reliable paychecks we can count on again.
The Wife is willing to take less risk than I am so she leans toward 6 months of living expenses while I am okay with 3 months. So, of course, we will compromise and do 6 months [sic]. We are in complete agreement on what to do if we hit that number and we still find ourselves in job-limbo: we will start throwing extra money at the debt again until either the debt is gone or work is stable.
I am amazed how clear it becomes when working together with your spouse with both of your priorities in-sync. It does not remove all fear from an uncertain situation, but it gives you control over the part of your world directly in front of you. “The power to change the things I can.” That alone puts the fear of change into perspective and puts logic and reason in charge instead of emotion.
What this financial plan has really created for us is a fantastic set of tools for communicating with each other and understanding each other’s needs. By focusing on our finances regularly we were able to see an on-coming train and prepare for the safety and security of our family with enough time to get through just fine.
Plus I have tremendous faith in The Wife as a woman, wife and mother, and she reciprocates that faith in me. There is no doubt at our house that something will be killed and dragged home every day.
Time to go find my cheese.