I am a huge fan of The Office. I’ve probably watched through the whole series about eight times on Netflix! It’s my go-to programming in the evening when I’m cooking, cleaning or otherwise occupied when I can mostly only listen. Well, it just so happened that I recently rewatched the episode “Money,” in which Michael is basically a poster child for what not to do in personal finance. But this time around, I was struck by his girlfriend Jan’s behavior. Jan had been fired in the previous season and had moved in with Michael and was basically spending him into the poorhouse. I realize that in my funemployment I have been trying to basically do the opposite of everything Jan does in the episodes that chronicle her unemployment and the demise of her relationship with Michael! Even though the situation might look similar at first blush, I am nothing like Jan. 🙂
Jan was fired; my funemployment was anticipated.
Jan was unexpectedly fired, moved in with Michael the same night, and started depending on him for money. While I won’t go so far as to say Kyle and I planned for my funemployment period, we could see it coming. We’ve been discussing how to transition out of grad school and into our next jobs since our engagement 4.5 years ago. We have adapted our plans as things have come more into focus, and realized a few months ago that I would finish working before Kyle had his job in a new city lined up. At that point, we decided together that I would have a few months off to pursue my own projects – it was in no way spur-of-the-moment!
Michael and Jan don’t talk about money; Kyle and I are totally open.
In “Money,” it is readily apparent that Jan and Michael are both spending far more money than he earns and really racking up debt, yet Michael is reluctant to discuss it with Jan. “I don’t talk to my girlfriend about money,” he states. “It is rude, and unsexual.” When Michael is finally forced to tell Jan that her spending on his credit cards has nearly bankrupted him, she immediately turns it on him, saying “Where exactly did your money go? I don’t understand how you can be so irresponsible.” Kyle and I not only talk about money openly, but we keep fully joint finances, share a Mint account, and document it all here on the blog! There’s hardly room for miscommunications with our readers, let alone each other! We are a team with our money and careers, with everything being “ours” and have never blamed the other for a poor choice.
Jan’s main activity is spending; I’ve taken over the chores and I’m trying to earn money.
In the first few episodes of Season 4, Jan appears do be doing a lot of work on Michael’s condo (or the contractor she hires are), but not much around the condo. Michael says, “Jan made me breakfast this morning. Well, she bought the milk.” In direct contrast, I actually am cooking breakfast for Kyle nearly every morning. 🙂 I’m trying to break him of his cereal habit and the only alternative he’ll accept is omelets!
Kyle and I used to have a fairly equitable split in the chores department – we each cooked for ourselves and had certain tasks we were largely responsible for. While Kyle was working on his dissertation, I took over more of the household chores and errands, and when I was writing up he did the same for me. Now that he’s working and I’m not, I am again taking over most of the household stuff. So I’m not just cooking for both of us (breakfast and dinner), I’m also straightening up, doing laundry, cleaning, running errands, grocery shopping, etc. I basically want to free up all the time Kyle used to spend on household stuff so that he can devote it to working on our websites. 😉 Except he’s still in charge of taking out the trash – ick!
We know that Jan isn’t bringing any money in during her unemployment, as Michael says that she no one has bought her candles and she earns $0 per year. Even though I don’t have a full-time job, I’m still working part-time. My online efforts may continue to bring in peanuts, but I also have a contract job for which I get paid per assignment and I’m taking on as much work as they’ll give me.
Jan sleeps in late; I’m getting up before Kyle.
After eating breakfast and feebly trying to convince the camera crew that he is happy with his situation, Michael peeks in on Jan sleeping and remarks, “She probably won’t be up for a few hours.” Now, I’m not one to knock sleeping in late, especially as that is part of the grad student lifestyle. But in my funemployment I find myself waking up earlier than ever! I’ve always woken up slightly before Kyle, but these days it’s more like an hour and I’ve already accomplished one or two things by the time he gets up for the day. I think this one is really going to be a point of pride for me in my funemployment – I don’t want it to seem to Kyle like I’m lazing around.
Jan spends freely; I’m trying to be economical.
To explain his high credit card debt to Oscar, Michael says, “Jan has my credit cards, and she’s using them as if I’m made of money, she thinks I’m a human ATM machine.” Part of this is due to their communication problems, but Jan is also making no effort to be thrifty, as she bought a new Porsche, is renovating Michael’s condo, going to yoga classes, and drinking a lot. While I haven’t made major efforts yet to reduce our spending, I am working out at home and meal planning and we’re not going to eat out unless I can fund our restaurant budget. I should make a plan for reducing our expenses further before October hits with our reduced income.
Jan has no plan to work again; I’m ready to apply for jobs as soon as possible.
We never see a discussion between Jan and Michael or anything that indicates that Jan has a plan to move on from this phase. Eventually, when Jan and Michael break up, she does go on to get another corporate job. But while they are together, there was no end in sight to their misery. While I’m happy for the break I get right now, I think in a month or two I’m really going to be chomping at the bit to apply for full-time jobs! I don’t want this funeployment to turn into plain old unemployment once I burn through the projects I want to do. In fact, I already applied for a fellowship that will be for three months next spring and gave my resume to two companies at a career fair I attended recently.
Jan and I are similar in some ways, though.
1) I definitely want to put on a few awkward dinner parties this fall!
2) Jan is trying her hand at being an entrepreneur with her candle business, and I one of my funemployment activities is to work on our websites and write a couple ebooks. They both sound like rather harebrained schemes!
What is your image of an (f)unemployed partner? What TV or movie characters do you really, really not want to become, even if you are in a similar situation?
Thanks to OfficeQuotes.net for making getting the dialogue from these episodes so easy!