So, here we are in early March realizing what we all had hoped to avoid has happened – sequestration is here. A furlough may be just around the corner for Department of Defense civilian employees. As most have already heard, this equates to an approximately twenty-percent cut in pay. For many civilian employees, this is life changing and stressful. We are going to have to re-think the near future.
As an Airman & Family Readiness Center staff member and master resiliency training instructor, I believe I have a way to cope with this furlough and come out stronger in the end. I would encourage others not to dwell, but find good in the situation, concentrate on your finances, better yourself, and use local resources if needed.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you to put on rose-colored glasses; going through a furlough is going to be a challenge. A furlough is going to take us out of our comfort zone, and we can’t change that. Take control where you can, and don’t dwell on what you have no control over. If we are given a furlough notice, we have no control over that, and we will not be productive if we get stuck on the negative aspects. Put things in perspective; your pay will be cut back, but you are still employed and this may only go until the end of the fiscal year. Focus on the good in the situation. It’s there if you open your mind and look. Prior to searching for the good, you should concentrate on your finances as a twenty-percent cut will take some adjustments.
Whether you use a budget or not, it’s probably time to start. Your budget will allow you to see your current and projected financial situation. Once you have a visual of your projected budget, you will know how you need to live with the pay reduction. If you see you won’t have adequate funds, you can begin adjusting your budget, determining your needs versus wants and setting new limits that work for you. For me, this will be the perfect opportunity to cut out the cable television that I have and know I don’t need.
If you share finances with someone else, they will need to be part of the discussion. If you have a family, these is the perfect time to talk about your situation to make sure everyone, including children, are aware of and can contribute to a budgetary solution. If a budget adjustment still leaves you financially short, you may want to begin writing down ideas to help you earn additional money such as a garage sale or part-time job.
If your budget adjustment suffices, use the time off to better yourself. There are probably multiple ways you can better yourself, if you have the time. Maybe this is the time to update that old resume; if you are looking for part-time work it will be needed. What about working on that education you have been meaning to finish? I plan on setting aside a couple hours to increase my physical fitness; time is not an excuse during my furlough days. This could be a great time to increase your spiritual fulfillment. Spending quality time with others would probably enrich our lives. If we plan out our time to be productive, we will have positive growth from an unwanted situation. Personally, I am going to plan a trip to “Someday Isle,” where I can work my “Someday I’ll do” list.
If all attempts to successfully overcome the furlough don’t work out, it is important to know what resources are there for you. First and foremost, let the A&FRC be your most valuable resource. Although A&FRC is made up of mostly civilian employees who will be part of this furlough with you, we also know the importance of support agencies and resources. Whether you need on-base or off-base assistance, we can help make the connection for you. Take a stress management class, see our military family & life counselor, look into assistance from the Federal Employee & Assistance Fund (FEEA) or use a community resource. The resources are there for you.
Remember, take control where you can, and don’t dwell where you have no control. Take a good look at your finances, and make adjustments as necessary. Better yourself during your time off, and use your resources if times seem too difficult. We will all get through this together and be stronger for it.