I had lunch this week with several of my former coworkers. All of them lost their jobs the same day as me (14+ months ago now)(!), or in a subsequent round of cuts that's taken place since then.
All of them were long-serving (10-25+ years) employees in their late 40s/50s. All of them are well-educated, highly qualified, hard-working people. Most of them have families & mortgages. They want to get back to work. They NEED to get back to work.
It's been 14 months. None of them have found jobs yet.
Much of the conversation revolved around job search stories & tips. (The consensus was that employers are being extremely picky, searching for the elusive perfect candidate who ticks all the boxes on their wish list -- not just some, or most. Nobody gives you the courtesy of letting you know that you didn't get the job, or providing a shred of feedback on why. Automated systems and HR suck; networking is critical to getting your resume in front of an actual human being who has power over hiring decisions. And yes, maybe there's some ageism at work, too.)
Since I'm not looking for a job (& probably won't be anytime soon), I stayed mostly silent. Once again, I felt guilty that I've managed to get off relatively scot-free, compared to my peers. (And worry that I haven't made the right decisions, and will wind up being a bag lady & eating cat food when I'm 85.) What makes me so special, right?
And then I remember: Oh yeah. The reason I can do this is because my daughter died before she was born (and I was never able to have another baby), and we were able to sock away the money we would have spent on our family towards the goal of an early retirement. Even when that retirement happened a little earlier than we'd planned, we'd done enough of the right things that we'll be OK.
But I'd still rather be looking for work, if I could have my daughter here.
Think anyone would want to trade places with me, if they knew all the details? :p