What to Do Before You’re Fired

SkyscrapersThis week I discovered that 15 bread-winners have lost their jobs in the last week. They all attend my church. An announcement was made in class asking us to notify the church of any job openings that could be forwarded to these folks who are now unemployed.

Then, yesterday, as I checked in on my Digg profile, I came across this: “The Great American Jobs Machine Is Conking Out.”

The article reports that in January 2008, the job market shrank by 17,000 jobs. This is not a lot relative to the total number of jobs in the U.S., but it may indicate we are truly headed into a recession.

Which leads me to ask the question: What is your contingency plan in case you lose your job?

For anybody who has debt and loses his job, a $1,000 emergency fund probably isn’t going to cut it. You’ll burn through that in a week or two. And collecting unemployment isn’t really a contingency plan either.

Here’s what I recommend: Develop marketable skills.

What interests do you have? What skills can you develop that are easily marketable?

While I was employed, I continually thought about what I would do if I was laid off or lost my job. Which is why I practiced my copywriting skills quite a bit in my spare time even though I was employed. I figured if I lost my job, I would be able to become a copywriter at another company or even go freelance.

As it turns out, I became a freelance copywriter, which is what I still do to this day.

Another option I had filed in the back of my mind was going to work for a car dealership. I figured it would be easy to get a job there and it would have a good earning potential, especially since I have some experience in sales and marketing.

Other skills that are highly marketable besides copywriting are: selling, marketing, and anything that has to do with growing a business.

In a recession, companies want to know what they can do to grow… to start moving in the right direction again. If you are a person who can spark this growth, then you will be in demand.

I’m sure there are other practical skills that are in demand like accounting, supply chain management, computer networking, etc. But I don’t have any experience in these areas.

The point is, work on improving you so you will be more valuable to the company you currently work for, as well as companies you might work for. In this way, you can insulate yourself against the effects of a recession and a possible job layoff.

Besides focusing on tangible skills, don’t forget to focus on intangible skills as well. For instance, your leadership ability, your attitude, and your influence with others.

Personally, I have purchased and listened to many audio programs from Nightingale-Conant. They specialize in creating personal development programs about almost every subject you can think of. Some of my favorite programs are by Tony Robbins and Brian Tracy.

If you are currently employed, I suggest you spend time working on both your tangible and intangible skills. That way you’ll have an edge over other employees if you are forced to look for another job. If you get an audio program from Nightingale-Conant, you can listen to it every day on your drive to and from work.

And, as always, reduce your debt as much as possible right now, while you have a job, so you aren’t in crisis mode should something unexpected happen–a job loss, pay cut, economic recession, medical emergency, etc.

Dealing with Medical Bills

Medical BillsAt what point does a bill become debt?

I was wondering about this yesterday as I called on my outstanding medical bills from the birth of my third child in November 2007. The bills range from 45 days to 65 days late right now. Some of the medical companies have threatened to send my bills to collections, etc. It’s mostly just intimidation tactics, and I’ve ignored them until now.

I’m finally able to deal with the medical bills because now I’ve paid all my taxes, which was a huge burden. I’ll be completely done with them on February 8 when I file my personal return. (I have to do a corporate return and a personal return.) But taxes had to come first. I simply couldn’t even look at the medical bills until I paid my taxes.

So this week I spent a lot of time calling all the companies to let them know money was coming soon. I also asked each company if they had what’s called a reduced “self-pay” rate. My wife and kids have health insurance through Kaiser Permanente, but Kaiser no longer covers child birth. This meant we had to pay for the entire pregnancy and delivery out of pocket. So we did everything “self-pay.”

Anyhow, most medical companies offer an insured rate as their “standard” rate. The assumption is that everybody is insured. This insured rate is substantially higher than the self-pay rate, usually by 25% up to 33%.

As you might already know, we paid the doctor bill last May. It was ~$2,200. Then we paid the hospital bill in November. It was ~$3,500. These are the bills that remain:

Medical Bills

As you can see, I’ve saved over $500 so far, just by calling each company to see what kind of terms they can offer me. Bill #4 is pending approval for the self-pay rate, so there will probably be another reduction there. Bill #5 didn’t offer a self-pay rate, but did offer low monthly payments without interest. So I paid $50 just as a stop-gap. I’ll probably pay the whole thing within a couple weeks.

Let me tell you, paying for a pregnancy and delivery out of pocket is not fun. You never know how much it will cost, when the bills will arrive, what the bills are even paying for, etc. It’s just the labyrinthine nightmare that is medical care in America circa 2008.

On a positive note, God has blessed my freelance copywriting business these last few weeks. I’m booked solid and can’t even think about taking on more projects until at least three weeks from now. So that’s a good thing. God is amazing. He’s always making sure I can pay my bills, even when it seems impossible.

How I Paid Off My Mortgage in 38 Days

Toy HouseYou’re probably expecting that I’ll reveal a “magic bullet” for paying off your mortgage fast. And I will. But it’s probably not the magic bullet you’re looking for.

The simplest way to get rid of your mortgage is to… sell your house. Use somebody else’s money or credit to pay off your mortgage.

This is what I recently did.

Why did I sell my house? First and foremost because I believe God told me to sell my house. I felt He would sell it in less than two weeks, despite the poor real estate market.

So we stepped out in faith and signed a contract to list the house on September 4, 2007. The house went on the market the next day.

Boom!

We were flooded with showings. We got 14 showings in 10 days. That’s a lot of showings, especially when you’ve got two young kids and your wife is eight months pregnant.

Anyway, immediately after the 14th showing on the 14th of September, we received an offer. The 14th of September was a Friday, so our negotiations weren’t completed until Monday, September 17th. That’s when we had a written contract instead of a mere offer.

Now, there are some interesting details here.

Based on Biblical numerology, the number 14 is the number of deliverance. So after the 14th showing on the 14th day of the month, God delivered us from our mortgage.

Furthermore, on his writing about the number 14, Ed Vallowe says it often appears with the number three. Fourteen is the number of deliverance or salvation, and three is the number of resurrection. Vallowe writes in Biblical Mathematics:

Israel was DELIVERED from the plague in Egypt on the FOURTEENTH day. THREE days later they passed through the Red Sea, where is a figure of RESURRECTION. Then they sang a song unto the Lord. In that song, they said, “The Lord is my strength and song, and He is become my SALVATION.” (pp. 108-109)

Interesting that we got the offer on the 14th of September, then the signed contract three days later on the 17th. (Seventeen is the number of victory.)

What’s more, we sold our house for $242,000. Fourteen times three is 42.

It gets better…

The person who bought our house is named Dorothy Sweet. The name Dorothy in Greek means “gift of God.” To sell our house, God literally sent us a “sweet gift of God.”

For now, my wife and I are renting a house and saving about $100 a month over what we were paying to own a home. The house we are currently in is about 30-40% bigger than our old house. This is because the rental market is depressed at the moment and it’s easy to get a lot for your money.

Now our rental is east of Jordan Road in relation to where our old house is located. God not only did all of the above, He also carried us across “the Jordan” to the Promised Land.

Isn’t God amazing?

If you’re tired of paying your mortgage (literally “a contract unto death”), then consider selling your house. You can save money renting and get more space at the same time.

Note: We closed the sale on our old house on October 12, 2007, which means we paid off the mortgage in 38 days from the date of listing. Hence the title of this post.