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Facing Life's Challenges: Unemployment and Relocation of our Family

Financial Journey (featured column)
submitted by Karen Kuebler

I've learned that our life journey is very unpredictable and somewhat of a smorgasbord. Some days you can plan what will be served, and other days you are facing lots of new choices and options you hadn't prepared for.

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When my husband was notified during the summer of 1983 that he would be out of a job the following spring, we were overwhelmed. Especially because my husband had been with this company for 28 years and planned on working there until he retired. This was the good old days when a person could spend their life working for one company. The world certainly has changed. It did help that we had several months to think about it and prepare for the actual event.

That summer we took a week of vacation to visit my husband's parents in San Diego. While there, we noticed some beautiful model homes advertised in the newspaper. We always enjoyed visiting model homes for decorating ideas, so while we were out and about, we dropped by to take a look.

The unexpected happened. We fell in love with one of the models! I mean, I was at the point where I was visualizing where the couch would go, knocking out the built-in pantry for our Hoosier, measuring to see if we could fit the dining room table and antique sideboard in the dining room, etc. Isn't that what stressed out people do? Visualize moving and running away from it all?

Our in-laws were thrilled at the prospect of us living closer and were *more* than encouraging. The conversation went something like this: (Husband) "Well, I guess I could look for a job in San Diego as easily as I could in Silicon Valley. The only major problem would be qualifying for a home loan without being in a job." The in-laws: "Oh, that's not a problem. We've been looking for a place to invest our money. We'll invest it with you. You're trustworthy." (Me) "Hmmm... I don't know what to do. This is moving too fast for me. I sure love that house though."

We drove back to Silicon Valley unable to talk about anything else. Not being risk-takers by nature, the thought of moving 500 miles without a job was somewhat terrifying. At this point we had paid off our credit cards. Thank goodness, since about this time we were into double-digit inflation. Remember when money market accounts were earning 16% interest? Mortgage rates were also double digits. My husband's parents offered to loan us the money we would need at 11% interest.

The housing in Silicon Valley was so outrageously priced, that we would be able to move into a much nicer brand new home for the same amount we could ask for our 30 year-old home. My in-laws also offered to provide 'an interest only' loan during the time we were getting settled. I still had 1.5 years left of school before I would graduate. It was at that point that we hoped to pay down the principle of the loan at an accelerated rate.

We arrived home still in a state of flux and shock. Our boys were going to summer camp in two weeks. While they were in camp, we took another trip back to San Diego to check things out more thoroughly. The next phase of the building development was scheduled to be completed the following June. This was the same time my husband's company would be closing, and the boys and I would be finishing up the school year.

After a week of research, we decided we really liked the area, the employment market had a lot of potential, and the school system was very nice. I still can't believe we did this, but before we returned home we had selected our lot and signed the contract to buy a new home in San Diego the following spring!

At this time, we still did not have a significant amount of savings. We knew that my husband would receive some severance pay, which could help us out for a few months while he looked for a job. He also had worked at the company long enough that he would receive some retirement in a lump sum. This portion would have to be invested in a rollover IRA to avoid penalties.

We still had not made any clear plans for retirement. We did not have any goals in writing, and nothing specific in mind as to how much we would need to save. We thought it would be nice if we could plan to pay off our mortgage and retire about ten years after I graduated from school. But it really was more of a dream floating around in the vapors.

We hadn't specifically planned what we would have financially in ten years, let alone where we would be in two years. We sort of figured it would all work itself out. The one thing we had become *very good* at was living on a shoestring budget! We knew we could get by in a pinch, and we knew we were resourceful. We were woefully lacking in *planning* skills at this point in our journey.

We returned home, fixed up our house, and put it on the market in September. It sold in January, which was highly uncharacteristic of the housing market at that time. We didn't want to move until June, when the new house was scheduled to be complete and the children and I would be finished with school. This actually worked out fine for the buyers. They rented the home back to us at the exorbitant prices they had to pay for their new mortgage.

June was quickly approaching and it was getting close to time for us to move out. We had set a firm date with the buyers of our home. The home in San Diego was months behind schedule. We started getting very nervous. We had no idea where we would go or where we could stay. We had 20,000 lbs. Of *stuff* to move! Not exactly a set-up for moving into an apartment temporarily.

What followed was one of those remarkable stories that make you believe the entire experience was 'meant to be.' I believe that most events don't happen by accident in this life. We have more control than we might sometimes believe if we choose to *act* rather than *react* to some of life's events.

My husband was involved in helping close down his company facilities. This brought both the good and the bad. The bad was watching a once thriving enterprise reduced to a bare shell of a building. The good came from the experience he gleaned in the closing of an operation, and the relationships he built.

The operations were being transferred to two other plants in different parts of the country. He developed a great relationship with the movers who were transporting all of the equipment and other belongings. This worked out to be a real blessing for us when we decided we were going to move to San Diego. After the company closed, my husband contacted the moving company and they quoted a fantastic price to move us if we did our own packing.

That took care of one huge item on our list. Now, what to do about where were we going to live. We decided to write a letter to the builder of our new home. We didn't have a clue how the builder would respond. We explained that we had been working with them in good faith when we negotiated the sale of our home and made our plans to move to San Diego. They had promised a move-in date of the first of July in our contract. We said we would be out on the street in two months because they had delayed the start of building by four months. We explained we really needed their help in making this work.

We were more than a little surprised when we received a call from the owner of the company! He asked how they could help us and what we needed from them to make this work. We told him we needed a temporary furnished apartment in San Diego to live while the home was being completed. He agreed to find us a 2-bedroom furnished apartment (that would take two cats) since we were not in a position to go apartment hunting 500 miles away, and also agreed to cover any costs associated with securing and renting the apartment.

We said our belongings would have to be put in temporary storage and we would be charged for two moves and a monthly storage fee. He agreed to pay for the move into storage and would pay for the monthly storage fees. I know...this sounds like the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella! He agreed to pay for all out-of-pocket expenses that we would not otherwise have incurred if the building of the new home at been on schedule. The housing market wasn't doing well because of the high interest rates, and they weren't selling as quickly as they had expected, thus the reason for the delay in the building.

We learned some valuable life lessons during this leg of our journey. Life doesn't happen through random accidental events. We are given challenges, and we can choose to *act* or *react* to them. Fear can often hold us back from taking action. We had to learn just how important it is to overcome our fears. Once we are able to let go of fear, we can move forward and experience the life we are meant to have.

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