I am in a situation with a part time, temporary position and poor health (such that working FT or more is not very advisable). As a PT employee, I do not have healthcare coverage or any "guarantee" of employment (not that anyone does, in the US). I was "let go" many years back after being a good employee with specialized knowledge for more than 10 years. I then created and ran a charitable retreat center for 10 years, but had to leave. Now I have no assets and only a few thousand dollars in the bank.

I am wondering if my previous experience of being let go (when the company was bought and liquidated) and also having to leave the business I put everything in to has left me feeling vulnerable and unsafe to having my employment disappear again? What would be the best approach to handling this feeling of insecurity? Is it valid?

I ask also because the trend in the US is for more and more people to be "contract" workers, with no employment status, and so to have to determine and handle their own healthcare, retirement, etc. This is a big change. As well, I read an article which says that 60% of people in the US have less than $1000 in savings, making loss of work a disaster in a time when finding new work can take 6 months. What is a good approach for this vast number of people to take in the future?

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    I'm not sure what you are asking. "too frightened" is inherently subjective. If your attitude makes you unhappy and does not plausibly improve your prospects, it is unlikely to be a productive attitude. If you channel your fear into productive channels-- building up an emergency fund, diversifying your skill set, networking with other people that do the same thing you do, it may be valuable. Jan 13 '16 at 0:31
  • @JustinCave I have had trouble building up an emergency fund due to medical expenses. Few other people do what I do (I am an Instructor), I do not know how to contact them. I am looking at ways to do freelance things like technical writing or editing, technical training or other instructional services. It just makes me feel like I am trading a life of being nervous at one job for constantly being nervous about finding and keeping multiple new opportunities. I am tired.
    – user37746
    Jan 13 '16 at 0:35
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    Unfortunately, this is quickly getting outside the parameters of this site. It sounds like an issue that really should be discussed with a doctor, a psychologist, a financial planner, etc. Presumably, as an instructor you have some access to the college's mental health services. Jan 13 '16 at 0:43
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    By the way, "what use is her promise when we are not married yet" makes me think that you really shouldn't be marrying this person or have a very warped idea of how healthy relationships are supposed to work. Marriage is not a welfare system...
    – Lilienthal
    Jan 13 '16 at 10:37
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    I understand your concern. I've worried about what I'd do if I lost my job for pretty much my whole life. But I don't see what sort of useful answer one could give to your question as worded. Anyone who says "no, there's nothing to worry about, there's no way you could lose your job" is just wrong. But beyond "yes, there is valid reason to be concerned", what else can we say? Are you really looking for suggestions on how to improve your financial situation? Job skills? Get psychological counseling? My inclination is to talk to you about trusting God. You need a more specific question.
    – Jay
    Jan 13 '16 at 18:18

But the job I have is so singular and unusual that I have trouble imagining finding something else that would work for me.

Am I being too frightened, or is my fear well-founded?

There's no way to tell if the foundation of your fear is correct or not.

While it can be profitable to have specialized knowledge, in the long term I don't think relying solely on "singular and unusual" knowledge is a good thing. In today's working world, things change rapidly. Technologies go in and out of style, are replaced, and are replaced again.

Tying your entire working life to one set of specialized knowledge is almost sure to cause problems at some point in time. As you have already experienced, no matter how good you are, you can be replaced.

I believe the best course of action is to be a lifelong learner. Cash in on your specialty, but keep your head up and see where things are going. Be ready to change with the times.

The days of one-profession careers are over for many. I had multiple distinct phases to my professional life, going from Mainframes, to Personal Computers, to Web, to Mobile technology jobs. I think we must be committed to expanding our knowledge base continually, or risk being left behind.

So if your fear is that your particular specialty niche may be going away, I think that's reasonable. Eventually, all niches go away.

Try not to be too frightened. Instead try to find out what you can do to stay ahead of the ever-changing work landscape. In the long-run, you'll be better for it.

  • I was not even replaced. They simply didn't need my skill-set in their future plans, and whole groups of people (with varying skills) were let go along with me. They bought the company to get the customers, then built a new product. I guess I am more worried about that scenario than not staying current. You can't stay current if the entire company goes away.
    – user37746
    Jan 13 '16 at 0:55
  • What do I eat until then?
    – user37746
    Jan 13 '16 at 1:08
  • OK. I am trying to temper my fear. It is not a case of specialized knowledge, it is the situation: I am paid a lot per hour, so I do not have to work many hours, which is good because I am depleted. I have no assets, a 20 year old car, a few thousand dollars in the bank, and am alone. The margin is very thin. I would pray, but I don't hold with that anymore. I guess I will seek some other way of changing my thoughts.
    – user37746
    Jan 13 '16 at 1:40
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    "I am paid a lot per hour, so I do not have to work many hours" - there's your answer. Work many hours for a few months until you have a safety net in the bank, then relax. Jan 13 '16 at 8:51
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    Ok, but you said you don't HAVE to work many hours. Any reason you can't take a backup part time job to get extra cash, even in a McDonald's, don't need to make up full time hours, but every penny helps. Sounds a bit like your looking for reasons not to go forward, I'm sure you feel bad, but believe me any step forward will help you get past it. Been there a couple of times myself, you just need to dig in and do what you gotta do. I kept busy enough not to dwell on it. Jan 13 '16 at 15:36

At any time, for good or bad reasons, my job could vanish.

But this is true of everything in life. Isn't it? All the health and wealth ... everything is quite fragile in the end.

Things are certainly unpredictable, but you need to develop a healthy balance here. You need to realize that even though your job-security might not be as stable as you'd like, you're going to do your best anyway. You're going to do those things that improve your general job security.

And what are they? It's strong education, strong work ethic, and good integrity. You need to have a good foundation.

So that if something happens , you are quite strong. Even though you can lose this job, you have ability to easily find another. Or even make your own business.

I was just reading this piece online which may help you a little.

  • I had my own business for 10 years after the scenario that I described. I got burned out and had no healthcare coverage, and needed surgery. I found another job, but not easily. It routinely takes 6 months to find another job, and in that much time I would be long out of money. I was "quite strong", but it took a lot out of me those two times. Thank you for your link, on a quick glance, I agree with all those points. But if I am on the street, with no healthcare again, it won't count for much.
    – user37746
    Jan 13 '16 at 0:59
  • I guess the point of my question is that "strong education, strong work ethic, and good integrity" or any other set of strengths that one could have are not proof against all problems. I am saying that I have been down the road you are stating, and I still hit the wall. So: reasonable fear or just drained-and-burned-out fear? How do I convince myself if my fear is unreasonable?
    – user37746
    Jan 13 '16 at 1:07

The cure is to make sure that your knowledge and your ability to fill a position at another company stay up-to-date. Having a bit of savings doesn't hurt either, and a life style where you don't have to spend money is nice as well. (If you lose your job, you can stop going out to very expensive restaurants, but it's much harder to stop paying your mortgage). Nothing is forever.

It's also worthwhile making sure that your job is not in too small a niche. For some time both my wife and I had jobs where nobody else in the whole of the UK needed someone with the same experience. That's the kind of job you want to avoid.

And go with Bobby Mgferrin's advice: Don't worry, be happy. Worrying doesn't achieve anything, it just makes you feel bad. Instead be happy and act: Learn new technologies, do whatever it takes to be in a good position when the day comes and your job is gone.

  • Yes. I do not have a mortgage or a car payment, and all my possessions fit in my car in a single trip when I started this new career. Most of them still would, and the rest are yard sale items that I could throw away. I have seen people sitting on the curb with their things and no car and no money. But hey, why worry about that happening?
    – user37746
    Jan 13 '16 at 15:11
  • The point is - worrying doesn't help you. Do what you can to improve the situation.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 13 '16 at 17:07