We discussed the other day our accountant who has been unemployed for three years and is now 50. We have heard about the dramatic drop in income, about living on cheap food, the problem with one of the two teenage sons (not a happy thought), the selling of cars, and living off benefits including the £400 a month from JobSeekers Allowance. That’s a lot and must be because both husband and wife are getting it.
When I was first unemployed the Jobseekers allowance was an insult and a humiliation; turning up at the Jobcentre every fortnight, going through a hopeless ritual with someone sitting behind a desk who checked you had filled in your card correctly. Both of you knew it was a farce. They had nothing to offer.
I dutifully recorded every job application I had made, and every enquiry over the telephone cold-calling for an interview. The longer it went on, the more soul destroying it was. Psychologically I got through it by thinking in my old charge-out rate terms. I got £60 a week for twenty minutes humiliation every fortnight, which if I thought about it was £360 per hour. That as a pretty good pay rate. The trouble was it was only £60 a week at the end of it.
At the beginning of my unemployment my lovely wife of only a few months was still working. I was prepared to do anything and my only consolation was that when I was made redundant I still had most of a year’s gym membership paid for. I spent a fair amount of time in the gym which kept me sane.
In the end it sunk in that I was not going to get a job without having worked at something since my last job. Also. I needed some money urgently. I was not getting anything more from the State. I wonder if for people like the Daily Mail accountant, there is a benefit trap which discouraged him from doing some sort of work even if it wasn’t accountancy? I had no such disincentive to work. I had no money coming in, my wife was finding her work more difficult physically, and I hardly married her to live off her earnings. I was the big breadwinner when we met. She might have thought she had “bought a pup” if she had been a less lovely person than she is. Of course she has supported me every step of the way, including financially at one stage.
As you know, I started a business and the rest is history. Except of course it is a complicated history in that firstly I thought it would help get me a job working for someone else, and then I realised that I never wanted to work for someone else again.
My advice to the unemployed accountant and to anyone in that situation is to make an effort to start some sort of business he can do from home. It is all very well complaining about eating cheap food (but the accountant’s chicken casserole to last three days sounds fine and a bit of curry powder will vary it by day three) but what about doing something? That something may be the current experience that gets him a job if he still wants one. Otherwise the business will bring some self-respect, provide some income he can say he earned rather than drew from the State, and may help him plan his future even if that future isn’t the one he was planning just over three years ago.
The new business may be different from the work he did as an employee. If not very different at the start, it might evolve. Mine has.
No more sob stories
I wouldn’t say it isn’t tough finding that employers don’t want us with all our skills. It
is their loss, though. If we sit at home and mope we won’t improve our situation. That is a reality, not some sort of pep talk.
Cheap food? Been there and done it and you can live very well on cheap food, and even have a better diet. Old car? Yes, so what? Forget about the status statement and be practical like the rest of us.
Our 50-year-old accountant was featured on a TV programme which I missed and which is no longer available on-line. I hope his writing a book will bring him some money. Has he started a business? He should. I just hope he gets on his bike. We have, haven’t we? What did you do?