The novel coronavirus has eliminated jobs in less time than it takes to read this sentence. Many of those jobs were going away anyway, but COVID-19 sped up their demise.
For real radio people, the phrase “you haven’t really worked in radio until you’ve been fired at least three times,” taught many of us how to deal with a sudden loss of income.
13 Lucky Years
I moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1984 to take over as general manager of WIIN/WFPG radio stations. At the young age of 32, I was promoted to my second general manager job; a job I would perform successfully for 13 years, until one day the stations were taken over by new owners.
Shortly after the closing, I learned that one of the owners would now become the new general manager, eliminating my position.
I quickly learned that I would receive no severance pay, that my job was ending immediately and that my company car had just turned into a New Jersey Transit Bus if I needed wheels.
My new home with its hefty mortgage was manageable with my former income, but not with an unemployment check.
While searching for my next radio management position, I traveled to a radio conference in Phoenix, Arizona. There I met another radio general manager who had also recently lost his job through a change in ownership. We were in the same situation, except he wasn’t as stressed out over landing his next position, as I was. Here’s what he shared with me that I never forgot.
Live Below Your Income
He told me as he advanced in the radio business, working in larger markets, and increasing his income, that he and his wife bought bigger houses, better cars and added lots of toys to their lifestyle. Each time when another job would end abruptly, he would become panicked and stressed out about quickly finding his next job. But when he moved to Phoenix, he told his wife that they were going to buy an affordable home and adopt a lifestyle they could manage, even if this job ended tomorrow. This time, they would live below their income and “build a rainy day fund.”
Why Don’t We Save?
Dan Ariely is an Israeli-American professor and author. He serves as a James B. Duke Professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. Recently a reader of his Wall Street Journal column asked “Many people I know have lost their jobs during the pandemic, which made me realize I needed to set up an emergency savings fund. But my job is secure so far, so it hasn’t felt very urgent to put money in the account. What can I do to make sure I contribute to my emergency savings every month?”
Dan told his reader “research shows that we are much more likely to save money for a specific personal goal than simply because it’s the right thing to do. The better way to look at this is to calculate how much you need to pay your mortgage or rent for three months, or to buy food for your family etc. When you think of saving as protecting those you love and meeting particular needs, you are more likely to commit to making regular contributions.”
I did something very similar after landing my next position, with the caveat of making the saving part, automatic. I calculated how much I would need to live and then directed the remainder to be automatically direct deposited into my “rainy day savings account.”
Sleep Like a Baby
One of the worst feelings you can have as a parent is not having the finances to take care of your family.
The change in my spending/savings habits gave me real peace of mind and I have slept like a baby ever since. I never felt like I was making a sacrifice either, as I would learn that life isn’t about acquiring more and more things, the secret to enjoying life is learning to appreciate the things you already have.
“What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
-from Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince
Pick a Profession, Not a Job
Just as important as financial security, is your health and well-being. For that, you need to be employed in something where you can’t wait to get up every morning.
If you want to become really good at something, you’ll need to spend years honing your craft. Malcolm Gladwell says it takes a person 10,000 hours to really master something, so you better love what you’re doing.
Cleveland radio air personality, Michael Stanley, passed away this week. He wrote a goodbye letter to his WNCX listeners that said in part, “it’s been said that if you love your job then it’s not really work and if that’s really true (and I definitely think it is) then I have been happily out of work for over fifty years!”
I too was fortunate to have found a profession I made into a lifelong career and have enjoyed for over 50 years. Just like it’s important to live below your income level, it’s just as important to spend your days filled with doing things you’re passionate about.
Today, writing this blog and volunteering as a radio personality on a non-profit radio station continues to be my joy and hopefully provides mentorship and entertainment value to others.
Life is not about the destination, for it’s the same for each of us, it’s about the journey.
Enjoy your journey.