Monday, February 19, 2007

Partitioning Resources

IN DISCUSSING THE UPCOMING WFMU fundraising Marathon with my mother yesterday, she inquired how much I planned to give. I gave her the figure I tend to write in the pledge-amount box each year, and she reacted with surprise. "Don't give that much! You're going to be out of a job!" she said.

It is advice I intend to ignore. My check to WFMU is the one check I enjoy writing all year. The amount for my annual pledge will be equivalent to what my parents pay for 4 months of cable TV service and AOL. They get a million channels they never even watch. By contrast, I listen to WFMU constantly. I don't usually place my pledge money in such terms, but dollar for dollar, I get unparalleled value.

Although nobody truly wants to be without a steady employment income, I have never been in as good shape as I am now to weather joblessness. Last year, I ruminated about reshuffling my 401(k) money into my current employer's account and redistributing it for better diversification. I did both. I also put my smallish cash hoard to work with fixed-income investments to earn a bit more than the cent per month my checking account pulls in. I was already maxing out my contribution to the 401(k) fund before I got the layoff news. Once that hit, I opened a new Excel table in my finance file to track my spending and eliminate any waste. I found there was little and minimized the rest. I am in no debt, I have a functional car, and I don't intend to move just yet.

At this point, I envision being at the job until the bitter end, taking my severance and retention bonus, and concentrating on the job hunt at home, where I won't be bailing water out of the sinking ship with my boss and craving the train ride home. Unemployment will offset my COBRA, and I'll bank as much of the severance as I can until I snag a job. Our mutual nightmare is that they ask us to stay later, say through April. (I have a couple of plans in mind to thwart this, most notably approaching those who would make such a decision and telling them, on March 15, I wish to sign the severance agreement then and there.) They've already tried to send my boss to the outsourcing firm in India so she can attempt to unfuck their problems firsthand. She refused, to her eternal credit, having her March and April occupied more with her graduate thesis than any desire to extricate the department from the quagmire it's already in. Dipping into unemployment is worth my escaping the dead-end, head-against-brick-wall frustration of training these fools in the basics of typesetting and print preflighting.

The last thing I am worried about is running through my savings during my job hunt. My parents are sweet people, and justly worry about my welfare, but as expenditures go, my investment in WFMU's future is an investment in my own present. From few aspects in my life do I derive as much enjoyment as I do from its programming, its voluminous archives, and its exemplary, widely linked blog. What money I devote to this cause comes back to me manifold. Unless I become a successful freelancer, nothing so directly "pays" me. That's a potential point of overlap; in describing my Wednesday visit to the station to volunteer, my boss and I agreed that contact with such a diverse pool of talented minds could also provide business opportunities. You never know who might need some Photoshop work or proofreading done.

I simply need to pick a direction and move there with power and confidence. If I can weather downturns in said confidence, especially once I'm out from under the cloud hanging over the tattered remnants of my department, I will eventually find something worth doing that generates income, both retirement and fluid. Regardless of when that happens, WFMU is welcome to a chunk of it in just a couple of weeks.

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