I’ve been blessed with never having to file for bankruptcy, but I’ve come awfully close to running out of money. When I left active duty from the US Navy in 1992, I was college educated, had 8 years of great leadership experience and was accustomed to being in charge of missions where if you make a mistake… people die. Much like today, the economy in 1992 was in a recession. Despite all my best efforts, I could not land a job before my separation from the navy, and it was well over a year before I finally found a job… as a file room clerk. During this time we went through all our savings and were living on vapor (as the jet jocks – pilots – would say in the Navy as they were low on gas while flying over the endless ocean).

Of course, lack of money caused all sorts of problems for me… both internally… and externally. It was a tough time for my marriage… my self-esteem… my self-worth (pardon the pun). But… I did make it through this experience and here’s how I did it.

  1. Realize that this is just part of life. It happens. It happened to Donald Trump… so you’re in good company.
  2. Realize that it will end – as long as you don’t give up.
  3. Get Help. Don’t be shy… go get unemployment if you lost your job. Check out your local and state resources to see what is avaialbe to you. I didn’t file for unemployment for over six months, and then when I did, the state clerk who was doing her job said I didn’t qualify because I voluntarily left the navy. Go figure.
  4. Change your spending habits. Cut back wherever possible – NOW! Don’t wait until you have to. Try to extend your cash for as long as you can. I didn’t do this, but if you can’t control your spending, cut up your credit cards. As my dad taught me…. never… ever… charge what you can’t pay back at the end of the month. Your credit card is there for convenience, not for a loan.
  5. Change… Change… Change. Folks, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the world is changing. GM, Ford and Chrysler should have saw it coming 30 years ago. They chose to stick their heads in the ground and look where it got them. If you are in a profession that is no longer valued, change your career track. Your country does not owe you a living. It owes you the opportunity to live a fruitful life. You have that opportunity. Buckle up and take advantage of that opportunity. If you really are at $0, you have nothing to lose (literally) and all to gain. For me, that meant going to Haldane to get some perspective on what I was doing and to explore what other options I had. I thought I would end up in the defense or airline industry. I ended up in Healthcare and IT.
  6. Do whatever it takes. For the first three months of my unemployment, I pounded the pavement, but didn’t have any income. Looking back, I would recommend that you get something part-time right away to bring in some income and give you a sense of self worth. Holiday season is here, and although the economy is pretty bad, there are probably some stores who will be hiring seasonal help.

I eventually worked as a telemarketer (please forgive me!) and did data entry for a few weeks at a law firm. My entry back into the workforce… as a file clerk for a 22 year old at an HMO. A rather long story in itself. Bottom line, despite my college education, experience as a US Navy Lieutenant, and age (I was 35)… I ended up working in a file closet the size of a small pantry, and my immediate supervisor was a 22 year old secretary who was a high school graduate. But… it was what I needed to do and eventually led to my promotion within 6 months back into management.


I could write volumes on my experience… but know this.. you will survive. The Japanese have a word called Gambate (Gaum-bah-tay), that means hang in there… with spirit. It means don’t give up. Press forward… Move on. Conquer.