3 Truths About Being Laid Off and in Debt

Between 2014 and 2017, as the price of oil plunged, more than 100,000 oilpatch employees in Canada lost their jobs. Unfortunately, the bulk of them were in Alberta.

Oil prices have improved since then, but they’re still volatile, and many of the oilpatch jobs that were lost during the downturn aren’t coming back. Despite talk of economic recovery in Alberta, and encouraging signs like lower unemployment rates, many Albertans who were laid off are still looking for work. Others gave up searching and retired early or switched industries, often starting over at entry-level positions with much lower wages.

Don’t lose hope

It can be easy to start accumulating debt when you’re unemployed, underemployed or just making enough money to pay your mortgage and bills every month. As you see your credit card balance climb, your situation can start to feel hopeless—but it’s not.

The more you understand your situation and your options, the quicker you can reduce or eliminate your debt. Here are three important lessons to keep in mind.

1 – Optimism is good, but blind optimism can hurt you.

Optimism is healthy and can help you overcome rough patches in your life, but you have to be realistic too.

If all signs are pointing to ongoing uncertainty in the oil and gas industry, it may be time to expand your job search to another industry or sector, or go back to school to train for a new career. Even when certain statistics point to growth, you need to pay attention to the headlines for your industry and make sure you have the full picture.

For example, Alberta’s labour force statistics for August 2018 show lower unemployment in the province overall, compared to the same time last year. Statistics for the oil and gas industry in particular also look promising, with more people working in August 2018 than in August 2017. And yet your company isn’t calling you back to work and your bills keep coming. Why?

The fact is that employment statistics fluctuate month to month, and one significant political, economic or legal event can shift the landscape significantly. Take the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion as an example. Months ago, the project seemed like it would go ahead, creating thousands of jobs in both Alberta and British Columbia.

That all changed when Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal ruled at the end of August 2018 that the expansion can’t go ahead without further consultation. Thousands of people who were already employed to work on construction of the pipeline—and others who were hoping to get long-term employment—are now in limbo.

It’s important to stay informed about what’s going on in your industry and the likelihood of finding work in your preferred area. When you’re armed with good information, you can make better decisions about your next steps. This also holds true for your financial well-being.

2 – Time isn’t your friend.

Albertans are pretty familiar with the boom and bust cycles of the oil and gas industry. Because the province has been through this cycle before, it can be tempting to think “things will change soon enough” and adopt a wait-and-see approach. But if you’re waiting for oilpatch jobs to return while you continue to accumulate debt on your credit card, you should know that time is not on your side.

Missed payments, late payments and not making at least the minimum monthly payments on your credit cards are all actions that will lead to more debt. You will be charged late fees for not making at least the minimum monthly payment on your accounts, and those fees will begin accumulating interest, just like the other unpaid charges on your cards.

Your credit card provider may also hike the interest rate on your card in response to your missed payments, which is one of the most common ways that people find their debt spiralling out of control in a short period.

3 – Getting out of debt is possible.

It may sound improbable, but there are legislative options available to protect you from your creditors and reduce or even eliminate your debt. The easiest way to start is by booking a consultation with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee, the only professional that is regulated and licensed by the federal government to administer consumer proposals and personal bankruptcy. These professionals can assess your current situation and provide you with practical and effective debt resolution strategies.

If you live in the greater Edmonton or Calgary regions, or northern Alberta, Faber can provide you with a consultation — no charge, no judgment and totally confidential. Contact us today to book your appointment.