How to Put a Bullet Through the Head of Job-Loss Anxiety

pinned insects
Cubicle prostitution is a dreadful thing. But we all fall for it.

Why is that? I’ll tell you why: we follow in the footsteps of those who go before us. Those sensible, everyday people who get up for work, pay their bills and take the family to Florida every year.

Those sensible, everyday people who drive the Audis and Volvos. Who live in the house hunkered down outside the city in a subdivision better thought of as urban sprawl.

Those sensible, everyday people who rattle on about better pay, better positions and better benefits…

Ironic, given they’ve sold their souls in some measure.

Does Everybody Hate Their Job?

For every person who says they love their job in a certain organization there is a person who hates it. Unfortunately, they’ll probably never leave that job. Yet, they are afraid they are going to get fired or laid off.

If you’re like most Americans, unemployment scares the daylights out of you. Why wouldn’t it: you’re burdened with luxuries of middle-class America.  Home loan, a car note or two and college savings to worry about.

And don’t forget you want to retire some day. All things you need employment to accomplish.

But have you ever wondered why you need those things in the first place? If you think about it, it’s actually those things that make you fear losing your job. Your expenses, and not unemployment, is what causes you anxiety.

What do you do about it? Here’s five ideas to get you started. They’ll help you put a bullet through the head of job loss anxiety. How do I know? Well, I’ve done two of them and working on the other three.

Enjoy and let me know what you think in the end.

1. Eliminate debt.

Pay off your car note, drive used cars [never buy brand new] and sell your cars rather than trade them in. If you have a credit card, pay it off every month. If you can’t do that, get rid of it.


Next, pay down your mortgage. Or simply sell it or rent it and move into a rental. You may be forsaking equity for the time being if you sold your house, but really, in this market, can any of us truly think about equity?

2. Reduce expenses.

Tone your monthly expenses WAY back. Ruthlessly evaluate the things you spend your money on and eliminate those things that you can live without.

If you can’t find the courage to do this, then you will forever fear losing your job. What’s worse: losing Direct TV or losing your job? When you don’t have all your money going out every month that little pink slip doesn’t mean nearly as much.

3. Save profusely.

Shove all that money that you were wasting into some type of investment. Look for good advice from credible consultants. You could buy gold coins or rental homes. Bonds or CDs. Stocks or just pile it up in your closet.

If you haven’t noticed, rainy days come. And they come often when you least expect it. If you’ve got your own little Fort Knox in your basement you’ll never fear the pink slip again. In fact, you’ll probably laugh at it.

4. Quit your job.

This is obvious but I’ll say it anyway: when you don’t have a job, you naturally don’t worry about losing it. Instead, you worry about getting another one. But don’t do that just yet. Work as a freelancer for a while. You know you’ve always wanted to. I did and finally took the plunge. It was among the best decisions of my life.

And here’s the deal: if you struggle for six weeks or six months and hate it more than working for some one else, then go get a job. At least you won’t be tormented by that little voice that says “You should work for yourself.” You’ll know it’s not for you.

5. Never retire.

The story goes that T. C. Boyle was sitting with a friend who brought up the topic of retirement. They’d been flipping through some photographs spread out on his friend’s glass coffee table. Boyle got rigid like a pointer and rifled through the photographs. He spotted what he was looking for and with both hands held the photograph in his friend’s face.

“This is when I retire.” The photograph was of a coffin.

I’m disgusted by the retirement mentality,which basically means a person is living for the day he retires. He might as well already be dead, because that’s what he is if he’s waiting for his life to really get started.

Here’s my advice for you on retirement: find an occupation that you love. When you do, you won’t think about retirement. You’ll be too busy enjoying yourself. In fact, like Boyle, you’ll probably worry about dying too soon. How’s that for ending the fear of losing your job?

Your Turn

Got any advice for people who are anxious about unemployment? Who may already be unemployed? Are you working for the man but dream of being a freelancer? What’s stopping you? Let me know what you think. Leave your comments below. Brutal and all.

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  1. Tracy says

    I recently did 1-4 and never plan to retire. It is not fun being unemployed right now, but I am no longer miserable.

  2. says

    Great 5 points Demain. in 1990, I gave up a safe management job in South Africa and started on my own as an small manufacturer and export trader. Had a wild ride for 4 years, traveled to some exotic (and dangerous) places, made a nice chunk of money, got the obligatory big BMW and a few other toys. Then lost the whole bundle almost overnight, when civil war broke out in my two biggest markets leaving me with huge debts.

    Jobs were scarce so I moved to Zimbabwe, started consulting, then another small food packing business. Sold that, put the proceeds into a farm, had a good few years then lost that when the government decided it didn’t want any commercial farmers. They put me in a police cell for a few days to help me decide to leave my farm.

    Moved to Canada with 2 suitcases and no cash, reluctantly found a job in farming, but started learning how to make money on the internet.

    After a heart attack last year stopped the farm work, I am at last back to being self employed, happy to be responsible for my own destiny and to take my chances on an insecure income.

    I know that if I could survive losing everything twice in Africa, I am not going to starve in the first world.

    Despite the hardships at times, I celebrate taking that step into independence back in 1990. I have had a more exciting life than most people can imagine in their wildest dreams. I don’t regret it for an instant.

    My advice for others, if you know what you want to do “Just Do It” and make sure it’s fun enough so that you can do No.5 Don’t retire.

  3. says

    “… which basically means a person is living for the day he retires. He might as well already be dead, because that’s what he is if he’s waiting for his life to really get started.”

    I know a lot of people who are (waiting). In fact one of them is very close to me. Hates his job… has for year… and will continue to hate it until he retires in about 5 years. For years, he’s thought about taking the plunge and working for himself–or even finding a better job, but I think it scared him too much.


    I know it’s tough, because I’ve done it and although I made great money for about 11 years working for myself, I’m now I’m in a position where I’m not. The economy killed my main consulting job and now I’m making pennies a day building something of my own. I know that it’ll pay off, but for now it’s tough. Especially since I have twin toddlers to look after. My husband, who also works for himself, left a very nice job to do his own thing, so there’s a waiting game involved when it comes to his income flow, too.

    Anyway–I guess what I’m saying is that things can be tough, even when you take the “right” road for yourself. But I think that a positive attitude can make all the difference in the world when going through hard times. That, and, like you’ve written above, cutting all the fat & reducing your burdens. It’s times like these that make you realize that you really don’t need (or enjoy) a lot of your overhead.

    It makes me sad to hear the stories on the news these days. People committing suicide over job losses. Murdering their families. Sometimes all it takes is stepping back, putting things into perspective and taking some wise actions to realize that all will be okay. Losing your job is NOT the end of the world.

    Thanks for the post. :)

    – Jennifer

    • says

      Thanks for the thorough reply! And I’m so proud of you and your husband. It’s not easy living on less, but it’s a lot more calmer…at least that’s what I’ve found. What a wonderful story.

  4. says

    Wonderful. Especially: “I’m disgusted by the retirement mentality,which basically means a person is living for the day he retires. He might as well already be dead, because that’s what he is if he’s waiting for his life to really get started.”

    I quit my job after teaching elementary school for twenty years. Sadly, I moved around a lot and never built up ‘retirement’ money by staying in one school system. I was too busy moving around and seeing new places. On the day the principal screamed, “These are weapons! Never allow your students to bring rock collections to school” at me in the hallway, I knew I was done. I stuck the proverbial fork in my own self, yes I did. That was three months ago and I’ve spent the time writing stories and honing my craft as a writer, which is what I love to do most of all. (I truly wish I could afford you, but alas.)

    So many people have jobs in order to afford to keep working at their jobs. Money is very tight, but I feel I’ve regained my soul.

  5. Cheryl says

    I am glad I found your post and writing Demian! I was anxious and on the verge of tears as I see my career-job of 20 years at a healthcare system get cut hour by hour and I will need to relocate away from friends and family to keep doing what I love…..nothing available in my region doing my specialty. I already did the stages 1-3 and I have been trying to get private home clients… least until I am ready to plunge and relocate. Being single is rough through these times.
    Doing what I love is best done in a hospital clinical setting though.
    Your points are great though…..gave me some come up for air time:))

  6. says

    I just came across this post and it was a real shot in the arm. I began my career as a journalist, then took a long detour through corporate America until I came face to face with the realization that life has GOT to be more than making a profit for “The Man.” In a space of two weeks, I left my high-six-figure job AND my unhappy marriage and moved to the Gaza Strip, where I returned to my roots and began blogging and writing for various news services. Three years later I am a much happier, adventurous person, but (back in the US now to re-connect with my daughters) have reached a bit of a financial crisis. I was considering selling out and going back to the grind, but you have inspired me to stay true to my new direction and make it work!

    • says

      That’s an incredibly interesting blog … your life, too. 😀 Let me ask you a question: do you think there is a connection/correlation between the rise of women in corporate America (in general, the pursuit of equality with men) and happiness? Hope that doesn’t come off wrong, but I’m interested because yesterday I was listening to a podcast on Freakanomics about the decline of happiness in woman since the 1970s (but the rise of men’s happiness) … which is parallel to the rise in equality. Your mention of “three years later I am a much happier, adventurous person” triggered the thought. I’d love to hear what you think.

      • says

        Hey Demian. Yes, to a certain extent I do see a connection. I am reading a book right now called “The Breaking Point” about midlife crisis among women. (I’m about to write a blog post about it…I thought I was unique, and now I see clearly that I am not!) Increasingly, women more than men are getting to the point when they are burned out by work and parenting and seeking greater meaning. The book says it is also partly due to women’s greater income and independence, which allows them more freedom to seek different directions. In my case, when I read the book, I recognized that I fit into several different profiles — an Adventurer and Lover who experienced my crisis as a “Sonic Boom”! LOL. (This is the first blog post in which I talked a bit about that:

  7. says

    It’s a tough topic, Demian. Sometimes, one needs to have faith … even when scared spitless. One thing for sure, though, the American Dream has grown beyond cubicles and compromise. It’s about the union between Freedom and Responsibility … pick up one end of the stick, and you get the other.