Twice last week I read articles about ‘funemployment’. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of it, and the more I thought about it, the angrier I became (I even sent an email to one of the ‘journalists’, but I haven’t heard back yet).
Apparently ‘funemployment’ is a term used for someone who is unemployed and instead of spending their days looking for work they are having the time of their lives: golfing, surfing, camping, traveling, reading and going to the beach. How can they afford this, you ask? Well, maybe they have saved some money and are using that, or maybe they are tapping into their 401(k), or maybe they accepted a lucrative buyout, or maybe their parents have a little (OK, lot) of extra spending cash, or as one of the articles suggest: they are using their unemployment checks.
Excuse me, but did you just say ‘unemployment checks?’
So, let me get this straight. You, as a reporter/journalist, just interviewed several people who have recently been laid off and they told you this? They volunteered that they are having the time of their lives, travelling, playing golf, going to movies, etc., instead of looking for work? And that they are ‘entitled’ to the unemployment checks? Hmph. I need to think about this again.
I think I understand the arguments for why you say these people are doing it:
“I’ve been working a long time and all my past employers have paid into the unemployment fund, and since I’m not unemployed by my own doing, I’m going to sit back and collect the money. Technically, I earned it and now I’m going to take it. The economy isn’t picking up yet anyway, so why not enjoy the time off while I have it? Things will turn around soon enough and I’ll have to go back to a cube-farm and spend all my days indoors again. Then, if I want to take some time off, I’ll have to use my vacation time and that’s not fair. I’ve worked so hard for the past few years and now I want a break. I want to enjoy all the things I didn’t do when I was working. It’s only $450 (in CA and WA, apparently) per week anyway, it’s only paying the bills, I’m not getting rich off it.”
Let’s break this down:
‘I’ve been working a long time and all my past employers have paid into the unemployment fund’ – That is true, all employers pay a percentage of taxes on their employees wages. Only a small percentage, however, and the balance comes from your state’s budget. I could be wrong, but I think California has been in the news lately for being close to bankrupt as a state. I wouldn’t consider it a good thing for someone to keep drawing unemployment checks off the state in that case. Where is your responsibility to your community and the well being of the great state you live in?
‘Since I’m not unemployed by my own doing, I’m going to sit back and collect the money’ – Partly true. Many times arrogance is coupled with entitlement. Meaning, that yes, you are unemployed, and while you don’t think it is because of anything you did, you could be wrong. It’s a lot easier to tell people, even yourself, that you are now unemployed due to the ‘economy’ or bad business decisions by your former employer. It’s a lot harder to be introspective and admit perhaps this had something to do with you. Set the ego aside and take a real good look at the situation. You can’t make any personal improvements if you don’t admit that you need them. Not to mention, if you are collecting unemployment, but not looking for a job, isn’t that constituted as fraud?
‘The economy isn’t picking up yet anyway, so why not enjoy the time off while I have it?’ – The economy may not be picking up yet, but people are still getting hired. Some estimates are that even during an economic downturn there is a 20 – 25% turnover in employees. If you don’t take advantage of even that small percentage, you may be missing out in the long run. If your dream job is something that comes around only in a blue moon, then you had better be on the lookout every day to see of one has come available. If you choose to spend your time golfing, you may miss this great opportunity. It’ll be a lot harder to explain an extended absence from the workforce when you do run out of savings and unemployment. Recruiters and HR staff know what the markets look like and can probably spot someone who has been taking advantage of their ‘paid leave’.
‘Things will turn around soon enough and I’ll have to go back to a cube-farm and spend all my days indoors again.’ – Who says you have to go back to the same thing you came from? If you are going to take advantage of anything, let it be the opportunity to explore other industries and careers. Instead of going back into a cube-farm, take a look at what you love to do and explore that. Love the outdoors? Work in Parks & Rec. Love working with/helping people? Work in retail or at your library. Think outside the box to find something that you will love and pursue that. If you have to call it a cube-farm, it’s not the place for you. Chances are you won’t excel in that environment anyway. Your spirit will be better in an environment where it can grow and thrive.
‘I’ve worked so hard for the past few years and now I want a break. I want to enjoy all the things I didn’t do when I was working.’ – Don’t we all. Seriously, use your time wisely and you can still spend a week hiking or camping or golfing. Plan accordingly and you may even be able to take two weeks off together and travel to Europe. Who knows? If your employer knows you are a committed, happy and enthusiastic employee they may make allowances. If you grump about you all the time and about all the things you are missing out on because you are working, your boss may not be so inclined to work with you. One more point, if you maintain a good work/life balance, you will not feel the need to give things up when you are working. There are many ways to create this balance, and what constitutes a balance can vary from one person to another. The important thing is to figure out what is important to you and to plan for it. And, yup, that is what vacation time is for.
‘It’s only $450 (in CA and WA, apparently) per week anyway, it’s only paying the bills, I’m not getting rich off it.’ – Only $450? That’s a lot of money. For some people, that is all they would have made in the week, not on unemployment. Unemployment is only meant to help you get by until a job. It should, in no way, take the place of a real paycheck. It should also, in no way, be enough money to pay all your bills and then some.
Where would the incentive be to get a job if you could live off unemployment? I’ll take the job over the ‘funemployment’ any day. While I do enjoy a vacation or simply time on my own, I still value a job and my contributions to my community. To quote Aaron Tippin: “If you’ll check out my paycheck; Well, you’ll see that there ain’t that much on it; But ev’ry single penny I’m paid, I got it honest.”