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My Unemployed Life

David Gartland

I HAVE BEEN FIRED, downsized, restructured and laid off 10 times in my life. The first time was at age 16, when I worked for a McDonald’s-like hamburger joint, and the last time was shortly before I turned 70, when I was working for an insurance company as the manager of regulatory compliance.  

I can’t blame this on discrimination. I’m a white Christian male, five feet 10 inches tall, college educated, and of sound mind and body, so there are no obvious reasons for my lack of consistent employment. Instead, it seems my employers simply didn’t like or need me.

My goal in life has been to be rich. I will hold off providing reasons for choosing this goal, but needless to say it was my goal. It’s this goal that has provided me with the fuel to keep going after every interruption in my employed life. I never let my frustrations after each termination prevent me from picking myself up, dusting myself off and moving on to the next job. This process wasn’t always easy, but it’s what I did to keep going.

I’m telling my tale less to benefit HumbleDollar’s readers directly, many of whom are retired, but rather in case their children or grandchildren encounter similar misfortunes in their life. If you have family members who lose their job, you might suggest my strategy for not getting too discouraged.

One of the best pieces of advice that I got in my life came from a guy I worked with, Steve Devito. Upon hearing me complain one day about some negative situation at work, Steve said to me, “Dave, all you can do is keep on keeping on.” That sage advice hasn’t just stayed with me throughout my career. It’s also influenced my approach to life in general.

This, I believe, is the key to success: Never give up. Winston Churchill is credited with saying just that during the World War II bombing of London. If you give up, it’s over. If you don’t, there’s a good chance you’ll get what you want.

In his book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill uses the phrase “burning desire” when discussing goal-setting. Think of this as your “why” for doing something. The bigger your “why,” the easier the “how” will be that’s necessary to achieve your “why.” My “why” was money.

It also helped that I’m not a spender. Spending has never been a temptation. This allowed me to save a decent amount of what I earned, even if those earnings were frequently disrupted. In turn, I studied investing, and arrived at a saving and investing plan that I could stick with no matter what.

Despite my frequent bouts of unemployment, I managed to achieve my goal. I can now enjoy the fruits of my labor, doing something my father never got the opportunity to do, which is to retire. Thanks to my and my wife’s Social Security benefits and our four small pensions, I know that—no matter what I do or don’t do—money will be automatically deposited into my checking account each month. This has allowed me to enjoy my new life. I recommend this sort of predictable income stream to all who are looking to slow down and enjoy what life has to offer. 

David Gartland was born and raised on Long Island, New York, and has lived in central New Jersey since 1987. He earned a bachelor’s degree in math from the State University of New York at Cortland and holds various professional insurance designations. Dave’s property and casualty insurance career with different companies lasted 42 years. He’s been married 36 years, and has a son with special needs. Dave has identified three areas of interest that he focuses on to enjoy retirement: exploring, learning and accomplishing. Pursuing any one of these leads to contentment. 

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