I Was Laid Off

I Was Laid Off

In 2011, a few months after signing the sale and purchase agreement (S&P) for my new home, I remember watching the film “Company Men”.

The film was about a shipping company going through a downsizing exercise and how it affected the employees.

One of the lead characters in the film played by Ben Affleck was laid off and he struggled to accept his fate. He found it extremely hard to inform his family and to let go of his lavish lifestyle.

It took him months of adjustment before he canceled his golf membership and sold off his sports car and family home.

It was not a horror film, but it was scary enough for me. The thought that one day I may lose my job, my house, and my self-respect was horrifying.


In my 16 years of employment in various companies, I have witnessed and heard of colleagues being laid off. Sadly, it’s pretty quite common.

There is nothing pleasant about it and every time it happens, I’m reminded of the film, and I’ll start wondering if I’m next in line.

One thing I have realized, there are two aspects to it when discussing layoff. One is from the company’s perspective and the other is from the employee’s perspective.

From the company’s point of view, it’s just business, nothing personal but from the employee’s point of view, it is always personal. I can imagine how anxious one can be when the future is uncertain.

I guess all these understanding and witnesses may have unknowingly prepared me mentally to face the day when I’m asked to leave.

And true enough I was laid off at the end of February 2023.

The Plan and Action

This feeling that one day I’ll be laid off started brewing in me when I was in my mid-30s.  Back in 2019, I wrote a blog post titled “When It Goes South: Losing Job, Stress, Housing Loan”.

And since the Covid 19 pandemic, this feeling just grew stronger. I just felt I should have a survival plan if I were to lose my job.

I needed to feel I’m in control of my uncertain future, both mentally and financially.


From a mental perspective, internalizing the film and the experiences of other co-workers helped me to figure out how I should behave when the news is delivered to me.

I understood in most cases, it’s the higher management that makes these layoff decisions, but the news will be delivered either by my immediate manager or by the Human Resources department.

There was little point making a fuss to either of them since they were merely the messenger.

I should be respectful and if I was required to complete any pending work or hand over my work to other team members, I should do them properly and not half-heartedly.

I acknowledge the importance of leaving the office on good terms and not causing any issues with immediate team members. After all, the employment world can be a small world and I might cross paths with them again in future employment.

I also realized I should not feel sorry for myself and play the victim card. I’m not the first to be laid off and I doubt I’ll be the last and chances are I might be laid off again in the future. Who knows?

It’s best to accept the decision and start working immediately on my next action plan of updating my resume and my profile on job search sites and reaching out to recruiters and ex-colleagues.


Before I go on further, I must admit that I’m grateful that I wasn’t laid off during the pandemic. I doubt I was ready to survive financially back then.

And I must also acknowledge that I was lucky to be able to capitalize financially during the pandemic.

The lockdown, low-interest rate, reduced employees’ EPF contribution, and the moratorium introduced by the government helped me to build up some cash reserves.

I was quite disciplined as I did not spend or invest in these surpluses. I just kept them aside and I’m glad I did. Cash will always be king during testing times.

1. Emergency Fund

I took up the idea of building an emergency fund seriously since the beginning of the Covid pandemic.

Having an emergency fund will allow me some room to take a breather and decide on my next career move. I won’t feel desperate, and it will avoid me from making wrong decisions and taking wrong actions.

Click to enlarge the image.
Image retrieved from Brian Feroldi’s newsletter “How big should my emergency fund be?”.

I referred to the above image as a guideline for building my emergency fund. By the end of February 2023, I had a comfortable amount to fall back on.

2. Expenses

The saying “income is temporary, expenses are forever” applies here. I was well aware my expenses will remain constant whether I’m employed or not.

However, how much I spend on expenses will always be within my control. I consciously started reducing my non-essential expenses and at the same time controlling my total expenses from growing further.

As usual, other expenses did creep in, but overall, I managed to gain some level of surplus and have the uncomfortable but necessary experience of cutting back expenses.

3. Planning for a worst-case scenario

Besides saving up for an emergency fund and cutting back on my expenses, I built a financial backup plan in the event of a worst-case scenario. Below were some of the plans I had in my mind.

1. Ensure two years’ worth of mortgage payments are saved up in EPF account two.

2. Temporarily stop my monthly investment but remain invested. The idea is not to touch the investment value unless necessary.

3. Utilize existing cash value accumulated for personal insurance premium payment.

4. Unsubscribe from underutilized streaming and media subscriptions.

Hopefully, none of these will come to fruition but I’m just glad I have mentally prepared for it.


While I was prepared mentally and financially for a layoff, I didn’t expect how the news affected me emotionally.

It took me a week or two to fully accept the current reality.

A few days after receiving the news, at least a couple of times I woke up abruptly around 4 am and was wide awake.

I wouldn’t say I was depressed or anxious, but my thoughts would simply kick into an overdrive mode planning for the future. I guess that’s what uncertainty does to you.

And there was another instance when I had a glimpse of my retirement, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

For the past 16 years, I had a standard routine of clocking in and out and an identity of an IT professional. There was a sense of purpose. The fact it was taken away from me did hit me hard.

The loss of purpose made me realize, planning for retirement is not just about money but an existential one too.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I have to say I appreciate this experience. I had a lot of other insights that made me learn more about myself and I believe it will help in one way or another in the future.

Financially, I did receive a decent severance package. That plus the emergency fund I had to save definitely helped to cushion the blow but losing the company’s insurance coverage was a minor blow.

Then there was the scary experience of walking into the tax office.

I also appreciate the fact I had good ex-colleagues and recruiters helping me to secure a new job. The below tweet simply summarizes this point.

And lastly, just an observation. When I broke the news to some of my close friends, most of the employed friends felt sorry for me. But a couple of friends running their own business greeted the news by saying “don’t worry, one door closes, another opens.”

I honestly admire the life outlook of business people. They see things differently and that makes me slightly envious of them.

Youtube – Firing Scenes

Besides Company Men, there were other financial films such as “Up in The Air” and “Moneyball” that have scenes of companies downsizing and employees being fired.

Some of these film clips are uploaded on Youtube and you can find them below. 

Film: Moneyball

Film: Up In The Air

Film: Company Men (due to age restriction, click on “Watch on YouTube” to view the video)