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Kay: Those facing financial challenges can still find rewards

This may seem hard to imagine, but many people’s careers and lives have changed for the better since the financial crisis began. Take Elliot. Well before 2008, he was not a happy camper but didn’t know it. This money manager who made gobs of dough for himself and others working most days and nights for 30 years, also spent family vacations calming nervous clients by phone back in his hotel room.

“I justified it saying it was for my family. But it was for me because it was never enough. I was doing the only thing I knew – make money, the most important benchmark in life.”

When his personal assets were cut in half and his business fell apart this past September, he feared his financial hit would break up his marriage.

“I expected my wife to be furious, to say, ‘You moron, I can’t believe you did this!’ But she said, ‘The money’s not what’s important, you are.’

Elliot feels richer than he’s ever been. “Money doesn’t come first anymore. The stock market doesn’t determine my mood. My new philosophy is put money in perspective, stay on track with goals, be home with the kids and be compassionate to my wife.”

Thomas Wallace of Matawan, N.J., worked nights and weekends for 13 years in restaurant management.

“I thought I was happy,” he says.

He lost his job and at 35 is “living like a college dorm kid,” working at a printing plant and barely covering bills. By the end of week, “I’m totally mentally and physically burned out but happy because a couple hours a night I get to create artwork” – something he’s always wanted to do. Making greeting cards, a comic strip – one recently published by a magazine – “makes me proud.”

He spends more time with friends “who believe in my dream. I don’t make much money, but I give myself small goals. It’s thrilling. I have gained confidence in myself.”

Josh Estrin could read the writing on the wall and left his job as CEO of a national health organization. When he interviewed and was hired as dance and drama instructor at a private school, “I gave my two-weeks notice and now go to work in sweat pants, tights and a big smile. The joy of the arts has awakened in me something that had been dormant for far too long.”

He took a 60 percent pay cut, has “real friends again” and sleeps soundly.

Novelist turned mortgage broker William Hazelgrove says he “finally broke through and published that elusive fourth novel, ‘Rocket Man.’ You can’t ask for more out of a downturn than that.”

When Mark Hayward’s contract as a consultant wasn’t renewed, he and his wife decided to “open our dream business in the Caribbean. We now run a small B&B, Palmetto Guesthouse, in Culebra, Puerto Rico.”

There are also folks like Brandon Mendelson, who with his wife will begin “hitchhiking, driving and couch surfing across North America to fight breast cancer on behalf of the 1 in 8 Foundation.”

Laid off from his job as a computer network engineer, Ron Dilbert started Single Parent Power, an organization supporting single parent families. A woman in New York said that because of financial tightening she and her ex-husband are sharing a sitter for “our common child and his baby with new wife, and his new wife and I have a closer relationship because we communicate almost daily.”

No doubt, this is a financially challenging time. But it can also be one of those times to stop and notice what’s been missing and make your work and life richer than ever before.

Andrea Kay is the author of “Work’s a Bitch and Then You Make It Work: 6 Steps to Go From Pissed Off to Powerful.” Send questions to her at 2692 Madison Rd., (POUND)133, Cincinnati, OH 45208; www.andreakay.com or www.lifesabitchchangecareers.com. She can be e-mailed at: andrea@andreakay.com.

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