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Blessing in Disguise

Sanjib Saha  |  December 17, 2019

IN OCTOBER, while I was visiting family in California, I got a text from an old friend, Tass. He had lost his job.

Tass and I were close buddies in college, but we lost touch. After completing our undergraduate degrees in computer science, I started working, while Tass pursued a business degree. We soon ended up in different parts of the globe. Many years later, we bumped into each other at an airport. I learned that Tass had moved abroad to start his own offshore business. We exchanged contact information, but soon lost touch again.

This past summer, Tass emailed me to say that he was moving to the city where I live. We got together soon after his arrival and spent an entire evening catching up. Tass’s startup had been a thrilling business adventure, but it had also drained his finances. He moved back to the U.S. in search of a fresh start.

Tass needed to get his finances back on track—quickly. He had his own retirement to worry about, plus college costs for two teenagers. He took a well-paid management position. But after many years of self-employment, he didn’t adjust well to the corporate world. A few stressful months later, he called it quits and returned to his software roots.

Tass brushed up on his coding skills and started chasing six-figure programming jobs. He worked mostly out of state, leaving his family for long stretches. His latest job as a senior programmer brought him to my city.

In the weeks following our reunion, I started to worry about Tass. He missed his family. I found it odd that he moved out of state just for a fatter paycheck. Tass had credible qualifications, wide-ranging experience, and a proven reputation for hard work and self-discipline. He could easily get a decent-paying job close to home. Financially, his out-of-state work made little sense. Though his pay was higher, most of the excess was offset by the cost of a second home and travel. I also wondered whether Tass took into account the higher taxes he paid on his extra earnings.

His new employer was in the middle of a merger. Tass seemed unconcerned about the possibility of restructuring and job consolidation. He was convinced his new job was secure—until he was told otherwise.

Tass was shocked. But he quickly regrouped, reworked his resume and started job hunting. When I returned from California, we met up, and I again broached the topic of whether a decent-paying job in his hometown might be better than a higher-paying job elsewhere. This time, Tass paid closer attention to the math. The net savings from his last job, after taxes and all additional expenses, was far lower than he originally thought.

By working closer to home and saving more in tax-deductible retirement accounts, he could cut his living costs and his tax bill—and increase his monthly savings. Staying home would also give him additional time for freelancing.

Within a matter of weeks, Tass got a job offer from a company in his hometown. He promptly accepted and relocated back home, to the delight of his family. I miss him—but I think, for Tass, getting laid off was a blessing in disguise.

A software engineer by profession, Sanjib Saha is transitioning to early retirement. His previous articles include Bonding With BondsMeasuring Up and It’ll Cost You. Self-taught in investments, Sanjib passed the Series 65 licensing exam as a non-industry candidate. He’s passionate about raising financial literacy and enjoys helping others with their finances.

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