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The Pitfalls of Living off Severance Packages

The severance package is supposed to shoulder the financial shock of unemployment. However, for many laid-off workers, it also provides a false sense of security. Take the example of Paul Joegriner. Since he was laid-off as CEO of a small bank in March 2008 and with it his $200,000 pay was gone, he hasn’t worked since. His lifestyle including that of his family remains in comfort though due to savings and the severance pay.

He has been offered several jobs, all below what he used to earn. He decided to decline in the hope of landing something better. Mr. Joegriner, along with countless others in the US, may be classified as members of what is described as the “severance economy”. These are the individuals who used their severance pay to maintain their old lifestyles. Most lost their jobs in 2007 and 2008. Up to now, many remain unemployed.

Michelle Patterson was working for a publishing company when she was laid-off in January. However, she wasn’t concerned at the start because she has $20,000 from savings and severance combined. Eating out, drinking coffee at Starbucks, and paying for beauty treatments inevitably took a tool on her finances. A few months later, there still wasn’t any work, her condo already in the market for six months had no buyer, and her money is almost gone.

Like Mr. Joegriner, she had to take drastic cuts on her spending. Ms. Patterson doesn’t go to fancy salons anymore neither does she go to Starbucks every day. Similar to others in her situation, she doesn’t find it easy to adjust from a $140,000 to unemployment. However, Ms. Patterson muses that she should have cut her spending earlier.

Lawmakers have extended unemployment benefit for up to 20 weeks but t is expected to run out by the end of the year. 1.3 million Individuals are still depending on it. In addition, companies have trimmed severance packages from 21.8 weeks to 12.5 weeks salary. Some are even eliminating it altogether. Certain sectors including the auto and the financial industry have borne the brunt of the damage. Changes in the industry may mean that the eliminated jobs will not come back; the standard of living of its workers might take a permanent hit.

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Category: Personal Finance


One Response

  1. [...] economy. Productivity is wasted while government expenses just keep on getting higher. For example, unemployment benefits have now been lengthened to 99 weeks. The government is pressured to keep on extending this to keep [...]

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