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The Government Shutdown and The Extreme Importantance of Emergency Funds

  October 2

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Park RangerIf you’ve been reading my blog for a few years, you might know that I was a United States park ranger before I moved to Grenada. I was an interpretive ranger, which meant that I worked at numerous sites around Richmond, Virginia creating history programs and giving battlefield tours. It was really awesome.

I struggled so much with the decision to move to Grenada. I loved my job, and I loved my co-workers. It was really fulfilling, and sometimes I got free coffee when I wore my uniform into a gas station. 🙂

Back in 2011, I wrote a really quick post about how the government might shut down and how important it was to have some backup funds. At that time, we ended up being okay. Congress came to a resolution and prevented a shutdown, and work went on as usual.

As you probably know by now, they weren’t so lucky this time around, and I honestly feel so embarrassed for our country. National parks are open pretty much all of the time. I mean, we worked on Christmas Eve. They are meant to be there, open and available, as our nation’s greatest treasures. To me, when you’re looking at the enormously and awe-inspiring Lincoln memorial in D.C. and there are big barriers preventing people from going up to it, it makes everyone in congress look like a bunch of idiots (not like these WWII vets would have cared, since they busted through WWII monument barriers yesterday like ninjas.)

I know many, many more government workers are out of work right now at tons of different departments – hundreds of thousands of them in fact, so it’s not just the park service, but that’s what affects me the most. It just makes me really sad to see my friends, who are so devoted to preserving our nation’s history, have to go into work and sign papers agreeing not to be paid until all of this is over with. Furthermore, rangers are not paid high salaries at all. You would only agree to do that job if you really, truly couldn’t imagine yourself doing anything else, so it’s equally annoying that they aren’t being allowed to do it, even for two days.

I’m sure this nightmare will all be over soon, but more so than ever, I really and truly believe that the only way to make sure you  have consistent work, is to work for yourself. I didn’t always feel this way, but the only way I can personally guarantee that I won’t be fired, laid off, or forced to resign in the future is to completely rely on myself and growing my business. That’s exactly why I became self-employed, and why I’ve worked so hard to earn money online. I did everything from taking a blogging class, to spending money to upgrade my blog, and even contracting work so I could focus on growing my brand.

As always, I truly encourage everyone else to go ahead and build that emergency fund right now. It’s too important. Plus, it feels great to be able to sit down, pay your bills, and write a few checks without worrying about overdrafts and owing more money. Your family is too important. You are too important, so go ahead and start saving now! I feel like we’re still in very shaky economic times, and nothing is guaranteed, so do whatever you have to do to get a few months of your income saved away for a rainy day like the ones that are happening right now, today, for so many workers.

What do you think about this shutdown madness?

54 responses to “The Government Shutdown and The Extreme Importantance of Emergency Funds

  1. We both seemed to be inspired to write about emergency funds in the face of this shutdown 🙂 I was watching federal employees being interviewed on the news yesterday, worrying about paying basic expenses without their jobs, it was so sad. Back up plans are essential.

  2. Hopefully it won’t last longer than 1 month, which I doubt it will and there might be some back pay too for work not rendered. Could be a win win. Worst case, a 1 month vacay!

    1. That’s true, although at least the people I know who are affected are upset/worried about paying their bills and thus can’t really enjoy the idea of being on vacation. The last time it happened, they told us not to expect back pay (unless you were in the military) but hopefully it’s different this time. Definitely not an ideal situation!

  3. Great point here, Cat. It’s embarrassing that we find ourselves in this spot and I feel bad for everyone who is currently out of work, but the furlough wouldn’t be quite as bad if everyone had an emergency fund.

  4. I’ve only been briefly following being in Canada but like you said, madness. I dpnt know how they’re getting away with it. Singular minded rather thab thinking about the greater good of population total.

  5. Cat,you hit it ! Your last sentence says it all! Too much finger pointing,not enough solutions,so it’s really critical for all to have a fallback plan til our govt figures it out!

  6. You look so adorable in your park ranger uniform, Cat! 🙂 It is so sad that our politicians cannot do their job and work together. And it’s even worse that we – the people they should be serving – pay the price. I am a big proponent of emergency funds. I’ve seen how not having one can wreak so much havoc and from personal experience know how it can make a huge difference in times of crisis or change.

  7. Ya know, I am just astonished by the whole thing. I’m surprised that the government even has the power to just arbitrarily stop paying its workers because Congress can’t play nicely in the sandbox together. I heard something about them proposing a bill that would at least allow government employees to get paid in the meantime – un hello, yah I kinda think they owe it to their employees!

  8. Ugh, the whole shutdown pisses me off. It’s a failure of negotiation. Neither side has a proper view of their priorities, the first of which is to serve the public. A government shutdown is the antithesis of that priority.

  9. And that really is the worst part. People seem to have this view of federal employees as lazy and slow, but every last one that I know is hard-working, intelligent, and taking a huge pay cut (compared to what they could get in the private sector) because they believe in public service.

  10. I hope they get back pay, but even then it might be too late for bills that wrack up interest or cars that get repoed. I’m so glad I have an emergency fund in case anything like that ever happens to my employer.

  11. This shutdown is a big testament of the importance of an emergency fund. No one knows how long this drama will continue and if you are sent home without pay, your family is screwed if you do not have an EF or other sources of income.

  12. I’m a furloughed fed and this sucks! We arealy had scattered furlough days over the summer and I transferred, so my savings was wiped out. I have a 0% interest credit card but have been trying so hard to get out of debt. 🙁

    1. I was watching the news last night and there was a WWII vet who was going on one of those free trips where they fly vets out to look at the Memorials and monuments in DC. I forget what the organization is who sponsors that. Anyway, he was in his 80’s and had never been there, and was very upset that everything would be closed. I think that’s a huge shame and I wish Congress could have seen the interview.

      That’s exactly why you need an emergency fund. No job is truly safe, so you are right that we need to depend on ourselves.

  13. I agree with your post and think that instead of not paying our federal employees (like yourself and Meghan) that Congress and their friends take a furloughed and then maybe they will actually get some work done. My boyfriend and I were discussing this tonight and it is amazing that WE elect this people then in a matter of a few years we are right back to where we were a few years earlier. They need to stop blaming each other, put on their big boy/girls panties and grow up and do their job. If it was anyone else, most of them would’ve been fired by now.

  14. I used to work at the NIH, which has also been partly shut down. The research side is “nonessential,” which is where I was and my colleagues and friends are. I’m sure most of them are stressed about not being able to work, not relaxing on vacation! It’s not even about the pay, really, it’s about the progress of research being stopped and time, energy, materials, and money being wasted by halting experiments. But the pay is also crucial if you don’t have that EF to tide you over. I generally think of my job (grad student) as very secure, but this is making me think about the securing of my funding in a new way.

    1. “Essential” is a legal term, which has nothing to do with the validity of the job or whether it can be eliminated. 96% of my agency is furloughed, and it couldn’t run on 4%. It’s actually not running at all – the political appointees make up that 4%, and there are a couple others doing a disaster grant. Comments like yours make me furious, Charles.

  15. I am saddened to think about all the people who NEED their paycheck to make a living. And who will not get it, because of the mess ‘the big ones’ put the entire country in. My heart goes to your friends and relatives who are in this situation, let’s hope it will pass soon and they’ll be able to again receive their much needed pay.

  16. I consider the U.S. government a total clusterf%ck of incompetence so it doesn’t surprise me. But, I do feel sorry for the workers who are currently out of a job. It isn’t their mess to fix.

  17. I’m Canadian so I’m watching the whole thing unfold – while still being unaffected. I think that the politicians should get their pay suspended as well, that might motivate them to do their job and actually govern for a change. Hopefully the families affected won’t have irreparable damage done to their finances.

  18. Great words Cat! I think federal employees often feel a bit more security in their positions (I know I would) as opposed to those in the private market. Regardless of where you work, though, unexpected things could happen. Who really thought the government would shut down? Probably not many. It’s so important to build up an emergency fund and to make it a priority. I’ve started to make it a priority and feel so much better even though I’ve just begun.

  19. Totally agree on the importance of an emergency fund. I see people saying they don’t need it and it makes me nervous for them. On another note, I’ve been thinking recently about the common sentiment that being employed is more stable than being self-employed, and I’m more inclined to agree with you that that’s not the case. Not everyone can do self-employment successfully, but if you can than I think it actually is safer because as you say, you’re in control.

  20. What a great post and way to put things into perspective. I’m still dumbstruck that memorials have huge barriers around them. What a terrible time for folks to have planned a trip to DC! One of my best friends is out of work. She’s a consultant in public health but her client is the CDC… Certainly is important to have an e-fund for a time like this!

  21. After dealing with the floods in Colorado and just too many moments when the sh$t hits the fan one can’t say enough how important it is to have an emergency fund.

  22. You’re right on the mark here, Cat. Trouble is looming, and it’s up to ourselves to make sure we’re prepared, just like you guys did during Katrina. The park ranger job sounds SO fun! My cousin actually does that close to here. I too, am sad that a bunch of grown men and women can’t come to a compromise. There’s no use in blaming one party, because they’re all responsible for working together to come to a compromise, but apparently, that’s not going to happen.

  23. I couldn’t agree with you more on every aspect. My husband’s office is furloughed, right now he is driving home to CA from DC. I’m with DHS, and a fee-based office, so I’m thanking God that I am still working and that I do have emergency funds. So sad, our parking lot here is BARE. I chose to be a public servant, however, I never counted on being treated this way since 2009. All the best to you.

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