04 Jun 2020

New opportunities after redundancy

Being made redundant in mid-life can be challenging.

We hear too often about older job seekers missing out on jobs they are well qualified for. But redundancy can be a silver lining that opens up unexpected opportunities.

One Nelson couple faced an uncertain future when Ron* was made redundant before he turned 50.

Looking back, it gave them the freedom to live a more intrepid life, combining work and travel in different parts of the world. But it wasn’t all plain sailing. 

Straight after the 'Don’t Come Monday' news they cancelled a two-month European coach tour they had been looking forward to. 

Instead of a coach tour, the following year they backpacked around Europe for 6 months with travel companions half their age. Initially skeptical about making it work, they found the experience immensely rewarding and stayed in youth hostels or low cost hotels.

A young backpacker in Spain said, “I wish my parents would do this!”

Contrast that with working for 6 months on the plush estate of a best-selling author in rural England. Being adaptable Kiwis, they combined housekeeping, gardening, chauffeuring, walking dogs, feeding chooks and handyman duties. 

Not many Australians know their own country as well as this intrepid Kiwi couple. They covered 58,000 km visiting every state in their 4WD and caravan. For over a decade they spent three months each winter tackling another Australian outback adventure. 

So how did they manage it?

As a qualified mechanic and a primary school teacher, they took on casual work including relief teaching, driving, picture framing and seasonal work in pack houses. 

Before the redundancy, they had worked hard to acquire several rental properties over two decades. They cleared overgrown sections and refurbished interiors before putting rentals on the market which were snapped up quickly by tenants.    

On one of their trips, they admired a garden accessory they thought would sell well here. They were right. They produced wooden planters for 14 years from their garage workshop and sold them at weekend markets all around the country.

Now in their 70s, their adventures continue with frequent campervan trips around the North and South Island visiting family and friends, sometimes joining up with groups like Probus. 

As they say “You make your own luck” when setbacks strike.

You might not be as lucky as this couple, but here are some tips for transitioning from a secure income to changed financial circumstances (planned or unplanned).

Tips for others

- Keep up to date in your line of work to stay relevant with transferable skills. 

- Stay active and take care of your physical and mental wellbeing. 

- Maintain business and social contacts and let your friends know if you are looking for work.

- Consider a working holiday in New Zealand to combine seeing more of our beautiful country with earning an income.

- Be flexible about what you do, including part time or seasonal work, to open up more possibilities. 

- Put aside some savings starting early, which can come in handy for all sorts of things.

* Real names withheld for privacy


Mary Somervell

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