In the midst of a global pandemic that has left millions of people unemployed, you may find yourself carrying the financial strain if your spouse lost their job. When your partner is declared redundant, laid off, or fired, and is unable to bring home an income that they used to bring before, it's bound to cause stress in your relationship.
An estimated 738,000 Kenyans lost their jobs to the COVID-19 pandemic across the 2020 calendar year according to data from the 2021 Economic Survey published in September.
Data from the report showed that the total recorded employment in 2020 declined by 4.1% to 17.4 million from a higher 18.1 million at the end of 2019.
At some point, someone you love will probably experience a job loss or has already experienced one. That alone has the capacity to put your marriage vows to the test. As much as there are resources that can help an individual cope with the loss of their job, what about the rest of the family? What about their spouse? What about their children? Because the loss of a job can be detrimental not only to the individual but also to spouses and children.
The aftermath of a partner's job loss can mean reconstructing your plan for how you pay shared expenses, the amount you spend together as a family, and many other monetary logistics that need to be sorted out. But first things first, how can you go about it?
Know Where You Stand Financially
Whether your spouse had the luxury of some advance notice of the upcoming layoff or it was just abrupt and they lost their job, you can start by making a list of all of your current household expenses together. Identify some of the expenses that can be cut immediately and adjust accordingly. With that done, you can use the money from the expenses that have been cut out to boost your savings or pay off an outstanding debt if you have any.
You can also ask yourselves these questions; how are our savings looking like? How much debt do we have individually or as a couple? How can we manage what we have? What’s the way forward with the finances that we currently have? What other adjustments need to be made in the family? These questions might help you to figure out how much money will be coming in each month through your spouse's income now that one source of the family’s income has been truncated. Then list all your outflows ie. rent, utilities, food, educational expenses, monthly subscriptions, etc.
As scary and painful as this may be, keep in mind that not knowing where you stand financially as a couple can cause even more stress and anxiety and cause you to make desperate decisions that might cost you in the long run.
Be Willing to Adjust!
A job loss is not the best experience. In fact, it's one of life's most stressful times and besides the financial anguish that may cause the individual, it can take a heavy toll on your family and spouse's mental well-being. Adjusting to the new status is necessary, but it might take some time to adjust to unemployment and a couple of other financial changes around your home.
Although it might be stressful to deal with income loss in the family and having to cut back on some of your favorite luxuries like DSTV subscriptions, or Wi-Fi cable. One of the best ways to get your finances under control is by adjusting to the new life. Make it easy for your partner who's experiencing the job loss by being willing to adjust to how things are at the moment. Have it at the back of your mind that it is only a temporary phase and when it’s over, you will go back to the life you were used to or even better.
Gear Up to Make Firm Financial Decisions
When a job loss occurs, especially if the spouse who lost his/her job was the breadwinner, you will realize that you can no longer afford certain luxuries that you used to enjoy. Now is the time to be cautious and economical. You might have to cut out on unnecessary family outings, impulsive buying, eating out, and many other activities that you were accustomed to.
With reduced or no income, have a sit down with your spouse to make a working budget and commit to it. Ensure that your daily, weekly, and monthly outflows can be met by the savings that both of you have, your spouse's paycheck, or other income sources that you have. Any financial decision that has to be made to ensure that you survive till your spouse's next job or source of income, be ready to make it and follow through to the very end.
Make Your Children Responsible
If you have children you can consider telling them about the job loss and how that will affect the family's spending depending on how old they are. This can help ease any anxiety they may have, especially if your family has to make a major change such as moving to a smaller house, changing their schools, or even moving to the countryside.
Understand that children take some time to process and they might even forget and begin pestering you with their wish list of candies and toys etc. Be patient. They may take some time to understand what's on the ground, but they later will. Be honest about the financial strain you are undergoing and guide them to be responsible enough to curb their desires till their father/mother finds another job.
Your children will definitely understand.
Find New Sources of Income
Before your spouse lands another job, you may have to find other sources of income that can help you earn some cash and give a boost to the family’s income.
Don’t hesitate to opt for a part-time job. It will not only help keep your finances intact but importantly, your spouse’s confidence and that of your family as well. A part-time job can also offer a sense of self-worth and provide a financial, emotional, and social cushion. You can take up writing, online tutoring, training, or even take up freelance jobs depending on your skills.
Help Them to Evaluate their Career Path
The loss of a job is also a good time to help your spouse think about where they want their career to go.
They don't have to start applying for other jobs right away. You can take some time to think about the aspects of their previous job. What they achieved, what you couldn't/didn’t, what they enjoyed, what they didn't, and then put into consideration what you'd both want your spouse’s next career path to look like.
If you can afford to not look for immediate work, now might be the ideal time to encourage your spouse to pursue their dreams, tap into their passions, talents, and hobbies.
Taking a Step
Many other people and families are going through the same experience of losing a job as you are. So you are not alone. There's no doubt that an expected or unexpected job loss can shake you and your family up. But don’t get worked up that the new financial stress will stay forever. It is just a passing cloud.
And who knows, it can also prove to be an experience that helps you both to grow and leads you or your spouse to a new and better job.