Wendi Nelson, 36
Wendi had just taken a Web-management job when her husband, Bill, 43, was laid off from his analyst position with an Internet company. "The pressure on me to succeed was tremendous," she says. One of their biggest concerns was health insurance. The couple and their four kids, now 22, 16, 5, and 3, had been covered by Bill's company. Wendi's new place offered the benefit, but the fee was, she says, "ridiculously high." COBRA, too, was cost-prohibitive. Finally, they found coverage through eHealthInsurance.com, though they had to take a high-deductible policy.
Bill immediately started sending out resumes. When nobody responded, he tried applying for more junior spots. But then, thinking about the future, he realized he wouldn't be content forever with a position less challenging and lucrative than his former one, so he decided to go back to school. He's now studying full time for a B.S. in computer information systems. "Some of his tuition is covered by a government program," says Wendi, "and he bought books and supplies with tax refunds." Bill purposely set up his class schedule for late afternoons and evenings so he can take care of the children during Wendi's work hours. The older kids and a family friend fill in some of the gaps, and Wendi arranged to work from home three days a week.
To make ends meet the couple cashed in some of their retirement savings and cut back on extras. "We do homemade gifts," Wendi says, "or I shop when there are huge discounts. We reduced the grocery bill by eating simpler fare like mac and cheese and building the menu around what's on sale."
There are times when the role of sole breadwinner, along with the day-to-day balancing act, can feel like a slog to Wendi. But overall she's optimistic. "Bill's outlook is so much happier now that he's going to school," she says. "He still sends out resumes in between classes. He says his car is his office. But he's not as upset about rejections because he knows he'll have an upgraded skill set in another year that will make him more marketable. We went from feeling like victims to being proactive about our situation."
Tackling problems together has an upside for the whole family. "We've found that having fewer luxuries isn't a deprivation," Wendi says. "It actually means more time together. I'm so grateful for the closeness and strength we've gained. We're banking memories. No one can take that away from us."Turn Around a Job Loss