Unexpected Work Transfer And An Upside-Down Mortgage Create Sticky Financial Situation

In a secure profession that very rarely requires people to relocate, John made what seemed like a pretty solid financial decision. He and his wife bought a house. He tells Consumerist that this seemed like a great idea until his employer transferred him (involuntarily) across the country. He left behind his wife, who works in the same field but was not transferred, and the house, on which he is upside down. This has left the couple in a nasty financial situation they never anticipated. He wonders: can the Consumerist hive mind offer him any wisdom?

I work for the Federal Government. Not military, though I was formerly in the military and I do the same job for the Gov’t that I did while in the military. I’m hesitant to say exactly what it is because it’s a niche occupation and I’m trying to stay anonymous. Suffice it to say it’s a highly technical and specialized job that does not exist in the civilian world; the only two employers for it are the military and the Government, so my situation can’t be fixed by simply quitting and finding a new employer. My wife also works in the same specialty.

I’ve always been good about saving money and being reasonably frugal. I started a Roth IRA when I was 18 and have tried to max it out to the greatest extent possible. I also made it a point to save as much as possible in a normal savings account, knowing that I wished to one day own a home.

My wife and I bought our first house about two years ago. I used almost all of my savings plus the one-time $10,000 Roth IRA non-penalized withdrawal for first-time homebuyers for a sizable down payment (I realize some people don’t agree with this strategy, but I’m not looking to start a debate on that. My question is about something else).

Things were great for about the first year and a half. However, four months ago, my boss informed me that I was being transferred to a different facility about 2,000 miles away. My wife was not going to be transferred. I got about a week’s notice. Involuntary transfers are not common in our career field; they’re pretty much unheard of. It’s not like being in the military. People usually stay were they are for their entire career, so there was no way for me to see this coming and it would not have been reasonable for me to expect that it might happen.

So four months ago, I had to move across the country from my wife and the house I’d worked so hard to save up for. I’ve been renting in my new city (which is not cheap; I’m by no means in a luxury apartment; I’m sub-letting a room but the cost of living in general here is extremely high) while still trying to pay the mortgage on my house where my wife is living 2,000 miles away. To add insult to injury, I was not given relocation expenses, so I had to incur a significant debt in order to move all my things out here, find a new place with first & last month’s rent, etc.

I was originally planning on trying like mad to get a transfer back home, and I started working on this from day one at my new facility, but it has become clear to me that a transfer home is not going to be a possibility, nor is a transfer for my wife out here. When I was naively hoping that I would be able to get back home, I figured I could just grit my teeth, tighten my belt, and make it through it, but now that I know there is no way for me to get back home, I really can’t afford to keep doing this. With the income of me plus my wife we were able to pay the mortgage when we were living together, but it’s not a possibility for us to pay for the mortgage/utilities plus my rent plus utilities for both places every month. We just don’t make that much, and over the past couple months I’ve begun falling behind in my payments.

So I have a few options:

1. Quit my job. As I mentioned, my job does not exist in the civilian world, so it is not possible for me to just try to find another employer. I don’t have training or experience in anything other than my current career field, and I know that with the fierce state of the economy right now there is a very real possibility that I could be unemployed for years, which would cut our income as a couple in half. It would not be possible to pay our mortgage on only my wife’s salary, so this is obviously not an ideal choice.

2. Try to sell the house. The problem with this is that the house is now upside down. Even though we didn’t buy at the peak of the real-estate bubble, over the past two years the value has come down significantly and I would not be able to get nearly what I paid for it. That didn’t bother me back when I was living in my house because I was planning on living there for at least twenty years, but now it is something that must be taken into consideration. Also, it begs the question of where my wife would live if we sold the house. My wife does not have any family in the area that she can move in with.

It is *not* an option to allow a foreclosure. Besides the plethora of standard problems with that, I have something else special to take into consideration. The work that my wife and I do requires a high security clearance, and that level of clearance cannot be sustained if one has a foreclosure on their record. Not only would it be financially devastating, but a foreclosure would cost both my wife and me our careers.

As you can imagine, this is causing quite a few sleepless nights for me. I feel like I did everything right but I’m still being punished. I’m terrified that all the money I took so long to save up for my house will be for naught.

Do you or your readers have any input?


Edit Your Comment

  1. KillerBee says:

    Quit your job and look for something in a related field. In a highly technical job, surely those skills can transfer to something similar in the private sector.

    • MuffinSangria says:

      Agree. While he may not find a job in his exact field, many technical specialties can be transferred to other jobs. Add having security clearance, that is worth it’s weight in gold. Private companies are always looking for people with clearance because then they do not have to pay the huge cost of getting it. Also, he may find a similar job at a government contractor. Finally, do you really want to work for someone that will separate you and your family with a weeks notice and not compensate you for the move (it is tax deductible, but not the same)?

      • Endgame says:

        Wow, I’m taking another track here. Who did you Piss off or who did your wife piss off, or third who has the hots for your wife.
        I’m guessing that you’ve already explained this situation to your superiors and if they are giving you no option of moving back then somethings up.

        I’m guesing inteligence, maybe an E.T. interogator

    • kc2idf says:

      Alas, I have to agree here.

      What you do for a living needs to pay for living.

      My suggestion would be to look at your household from a business perspective.

      Take your income and your wife’s, and your expenses, and work out the household equivalent of a profit/loss statement, and project it into the foreseeable future. Then repeat it with your salary and your job-related expenses removed. Will you be better off employed or unemployed? Or maybe working entry level somewhere? Take that into consideration.

      Next, consider whether or not you should take this opportunity to diversify. As of this moment, it is clear that your job owns you, not the other way around. If one of you were to bail out and start a different career, for a different employer, you will reduce your household risk exposure.

      Finally, I would dig into that upside-down mortgage, if it is feasible to do so. That’s a pretty substantial risk, I would think.

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      If you already have a high security clearance, the opportunity for you to get a high paying civilian job, which may or may not require you to return to school or acquire some new certifications, is good. CIOs can make a lot of money.

    • teke367 says:

      I have to agree. I understand that perhaps the job doesn’t exist in the private sector, but how many jobs don’t translate to at least something?

  2. KillerBee says:

    “I feel like I did everything right but I’m still being punished.”

    BTW, this is the way the government treats most of the middle class. Welcome to the club.

    • Tim says:

      I was going to say “in before the government employee bashing,” but you beat me to it. Congratulations.

      • SonicPhoenix says:

        He’s not bashing the government employee, hes bashing the government by saying that it screws over the middle class just like it’s now screwing over the OP.

        • hansolo247 says:

          No, it screws over the middle class that makes the right choices.

          The middle class that are a bunch of financial idiots get taken care of.

    • drburk says:

      Middle class go read the figures on average fed salaries. I’d love to earn half that.

      • sleze69 says:

        Q: What’s the most common job in the private sector?
        A: Retail Clerk

        Q: What’s the most common job in the federal government?
        A: Engineer (mechanical, electrical, chemical, etc)

        Q: Who makes more money in the real world, an engineer or a retail clerk?
        A: Engineer

        Although the average fed makes more than the average non-fed, they do more professional jobs. If you compare apples to apples, private contractors make WAY more than their government counterparts. The big advantage to being a fed is their benefits (health/pension) and job security.

        But back on track, this guy should have demanded Permanent Change of Station assistance.

  3. GMFish says:

    over the past two years the value has come down significantly and I would not be able to get nearly what I paid for it

    Learn about sunk costs.

    • andrewe says:

      I’m not sure why you would want to stay with an employer that:
      – Gives you only one week notice about a cross-country transfer.
      – Does not provide a relocation allowance.
      – Does not care that the transfer will cause significant personal and financial hardship.
      – Will put you in a financial position where you may lose your security clearance and thus your job.

      Have you tried talking to higher-ups in the company rather than just requesting a transfer? I assume that there are not that many people that can do your job. Can you not use this to your advantage?

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Maybe no one making the decision realizes the actual situation. I would appeal to the right parties about it.

      • dragonfire81 says:

        The higher ups likely don’t give a shit just like anywhere else, they just want OP to shut up and do his job.

    • Buckus says:

      Did you not read? He owes more on the house than he could sell it for.

  4. Hotscot says:

    I sympathize but many people face issues like this every day, at least he still has a job.

    Sell the house, take the financial hit or quit and stay. (Or rent it out?)

    Either way be together with your wife…it’s not worth anything to be apart.

    I find it hard to believe, given that he needs clearance, that his employer is so callous…

    • NaOH says:

      Yes, I too am flabbergasted that the government isn’t the warm, caring, cuddly organization I had always thought it to be…

    • BluePlastic says:

      In order for him to be with his wife, one or the other of them would have to quit this job. They are really between a rock and a hard place.

      • Hotscot says:

        It’s true..he has hard decisions to make. It really isn’t easy but from my perspective being with my wife would be worth the most.

    • RogerX says:

      The “at least he still has a job” comments come quickly from people who lost a job or live in fear for theirs, but it’s overused by employers to abuse employees.

      I was told this line several times over the course of interviewing for a new (better) job, and still went from one IT job to another with little issue. I’m thankful, but also, I made a fortunate choice in going into IT 15 years ago.

  5. Knossos says:

    Rent out the house?

  6. pantheonoutcast says:

    “I’m hesitant to say exactly what it is because it’s a niche occupation and I’m trying to stay anonymous.”

    Translation: Wetworks.

  7. hymie! says:

    Find a new job.

    I don’t mean to sound flip, but the facts seem pretty simple. You and your wife work in a career where there are two employers. Your employer wants you in city A and your wife’s employer wants her in city B. It sounds like you need to decide which two of these three things are the most important:
    * your career
    * your marriage
    * your wife’s career
    and give up the third.

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      Yep, it’s a classic “rock and a hard place” situation. The other option is to try to wait it out and suffer the hardship, hoping that something will give.

      Really, looking at the situation from a wider perspective, it seems that either he or his wife inadvertently or otherwise, really pissed someone off. I find it hard to believe that there was no other person that could have been transferred with obviously less hardship.

      • BBBB says:

        “I find it hard to believe that there was no other person that could have been transferred with obviously less hardship.”

        In some niche fields there are few people with the qualifications (especially the clearance). Usually, most of the people are locked into positions controlled by other managers. Then there is a large delay and cost of transferring someone who might need a clearance or have the right level clearance, but with the wrong agency plus the time for the new person to learn the job.

        The bosses might not care and/or might not have any other good alternatives.

        I’ve been in situations like this (but not so severe) – It hurts when your only alternatives are poor, bad, and horrible.

    • Rachacha says:

      Absolutely. A good marriage can survive a period of time being seperated, and it will live on the hope that you will be able to join together again and continue your life together. This relocation seems relatively permanent, and it does not appear as if your wife will be relocating anytime in the near future so you need to ask yourself who is more likely to be able to change careers and start the job search in the other city. I would suggest that the OP look for employment in the area that his house and wife are located in, and the wife looks for employment in the city where the OP is currently living (or where you would prefer to live).

      The only other option would be if you hate your wife, give her the house, stick her with the upside down mortgage and file for divorce.

  8. Aaron Anderson says:

    Yep, life isn’t fair. I feel your pain… You make it sound like you’re in a highly skilled, one of a kind poorly paying job. Perhaps it’s time for one of those huge changes in life… If you’re that skilled, you can find another “technical” job (unless you’re in love with your job; more than your wife)

    Manage a department, a store, something. Change things around in your life. Move to a new city WITH your wife. Move in with a relative for a few months while you get your footing, etc.

  9. Minka says:

    The problem seems to be the moving costs and additional rent. The solution is finding additional income to offset those costs.

    1. Rent a room in the house you own.
    2. Move further away from your new office to a less expensive rental. Accept commuting as a second job.
    3. Rent the home entirely and your wife moves into a more affordable rental.
    4. Liquidate all savings to sell the home. (Decide if perserving your employablity is worth the financial sacrafice.)
    5. Sell anything you can. Cars, books, etc.
    6. Use savings to retire any debt to improve cash flow.

  10. usernameandp says:

    Your family comes 1st. Do you live to work, or work to live? Employment is a mean to an end. If it starts to threaten your family & home life, then what’s the point. Who knows, threatening to quite might even make them reconsider…

    • hills says:

      I totally agree – to me, the bigger issue is that he has been relocated away from his family – that’s not okay! And he’s expected to live like this indefinitely?! Sorry OP! Hope you find a solution.

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      That may be a popular opinion, but some of us find that making a living and following one’s career dreams are more important than a relationship, especially if there are no children involved. If a compromise is unreasonable to one party or the other (like my partner’s current refusal to move more than 30 minutes from her family when mine lives 10 hours away), then the relationship was a learning experience and perhaps a heartbreak, but no more than a closed chapter in life.

  11. Thyme for an edit button says:

    Is there a way you can quit and get unemployment? You might consult a lawyer about that possibility and if there is some sort of “good cause” to quit provision that applies to you and your situation.

    You might also look for a career counselor to help you figure what other jobs you can do with your skills since you may not be as stuck/limited as you think you are.

    • rho says:

      I agree. If you haven’t already, you need to consult a lawyer specializing in employment law. Depending on your contract (and other circumstances which you’ve been a bit vague about), you may have a case for constructive dismissal.

    • sonneillon says:

      Depends, but I think he would have had to have done it shortly after they asked him to move. Especially if they do not give him relocation expenses and per diem.

  12. FatLynn says:

    Ask the bank for a short sale? It’s not a good suggestion, but it’s the only one I can come up with.

    • LightningUsagi says:

      Agreed. Distant job transfers are one of the hardship reasons that banks will do a short sale. If your wife can’t transfer immediately, find a smaller place that she can rent in the meantime while you try out other options to get back in the same city.

  13. FatLynn says:

    Ask the bank for a short sale? It’s not a good suggestion, but it’s the only one I can come up with.

    • humphrmi says:

      Depends on the state, he didn’t say, but a short sale often results in a credit hit. The bank writes off the difference, and registers a write-off on your credit. It’s not as bad as a foreclosure or bankruptcy, but it’s bad enough.

      • ARP says:

        Yeah, and if security clearance is his job ticket (for the time being), its difficult to do.

        Like others, I would suggest you try to save every penny you can and consider a new career. We don’t know exactly what you do, but there’s has to be some transferability of skills. Even if its lesser paying, you can move back home.

  14. spazztastic says:

    Tell your wife to quit her job…

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      It honestly sounds like they were better off in the original city. All in all, it sounds better for him to quit than for her.

  15. XianZhuXuande says:

    I wish I had better advice… but in a highly skilled specialized field you should have other employment options. They may not be as enjoyable or may not pay as well, but you should still be able to make a good amount. Why that angle? I can’t imagine accepting a situation that separated me from my wife and family (i/a) like this. Not for financial reasons, of all things, *when* there are alternatives.

  16. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    If there truly is no option for you and your wife to be in the same city working, then the choice is pretty clear.

    Get a divorce.

    Just kidding! You need to make it clear to your employer and her’s (which seem to be the same one essentially) that you two need to be together or one of you quits. It’s that simple, because that kind of relationship just won’t work. Neither of you will be happy.

    After you come to that crossroads, they will either cave or one of you need to find a new job.

    Given the cost of living issue, sounds like you might need to bite the bullet and move home and seek a new job.

  17. ElleAnn says:

    I thought that moving expenses were covered in all cases of involuntary transfer in federal government jobs. Have you thoroughly discussed the situation with HR personnel?

    Also, have you talked to real estate management companies about renting your property out? I have friends in a very similar situation (though their move was voluntary) and they are recouping most (but not all) of their expenses when their place is rented out.

    • Rachacha says:

      I don’t think it is mandatory and I could not find any reference on the OPM or GSA regulations (although if the government needs specific skills at a specific location, they cal pay for travel and relocation expenses and offer a relocation bonus http://www.opm.gov/3rs/fact/RELBONFS.asp. Even if relocation expenses were typical, it should have been something that he discussed with hus supervisor BEFORE he relocated, at this point he is out of luck as he lost his bargaining chip (he has already relocated).

      Many years ago I was asked to relocate to the other side of the country. I advised my employer that I was not opposed to the idea, but I wanted certain things in return. They were not willing to meet me in my list of requirements, so I declined and we each respected the other’s decision.

      • Bibliovore says:

        He’s lost _a_ bargaining chip, but not the only one. If he’s seriously considering quitting, that’s a bargaining chip in and of itself for potentially getting himself transferred back, his wife transferred to the new city, or enough extra money to relieve some of the current stress and give them more leeway to find one of them new employment if necessary.

  18. Bativac says:

    Since you can’t allow it to be foreclosed upon, your only option seems to be to continue to pay the mortgage. This seems like a situation where there is no good solution. You can’t sell the house because even if you did, where would your wife live? Because you can’t have a foreclosure on your credit report, you are forced to continue to dump money into the house where most of us, in a similar situation, would probably have walked away.

    I hate to say it but sometimes something just really sucks and there isn’t a good way out of it.

    (As an aside, my company often transfers people, but they absolutely take spouses employed with the same company into consideration.)

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      that only works until the money runs out, which seems to be looming in the near future

  19. Minka says:

    We should consider if the OP is permitted to disclose his skills to a private employer. Security may not allow that and it would be determental to a new position.

    To the jokester that suggested wetwork.. that wouldn’t really be a single-city, never expect to relocate kinda job.

    My guess.. some kind of code-breaker.

  20. Murph1908 says:

    Knowing a little about security clearances and trying to gets jobs that require them, I would think your best bet would be to quit your job and look for another.

    From what I understand, job applicants with security clearance in hand are more attractive to potential employers. Even if your specialty doesn’t exactly matcht the new job, your experience and your clearance could get you in the door somewhere else.

    Even if in the door is for a lower salary than you are currently making, consider if it’s more of a hit to your budget than paying rent and utilities on a second place. Don’t forget the cost of travel to be able to see your wife once in a while.

    And who knows. If you are a good, intelligent employee, one of 2 things are likely to happen:

    1. You will excel in your new job, and move up the ladder quickly after becomming familiar with the new technology/tasks you are working on.

    2. Your employer will back down, and let you transfer back.

    Unfortunately, you may have missed out on being eligible for severance and unempoyment. Had you turned down the transfer, it could have been considered an involuntary termination not due to your actions.

  21. Abradax says:

    If your field is so technical and specialized, tell your employer you want a transfer and let them deal with either granting your wish or training your replacement.

    If it is at all possible to save the cost of training and the downtime of getting a new guy up to speed, they will work with you.

    Else, technical skills transfer to new areas very well.

  22. nikfish says:

    If you’re going to give notice, explain the situation first to your employer.

    Yes it’s your problem, but it’s also theirs.
    They have a need to fill, and their choices are:
    a – You in your old location.
    b – You in your new location, as well as filling another spot in the new location with your wife.
    c – Someone else in your new location.

    c may be their choice, but they may actually choose a or b. You never know.

    • Dean says:

      Yeah, and they were really concerned when they arbitrarily shipped him across the country.

      He has no responsibility to give them notification and I would advise against doing so unless there is a clear benefit for him. They know they are taking a major risk by transferring any employee that distance without leniency.

    • Dean says:

      Yeah, and they were really concerned when they arbitrarily shipped him across the country.

      He has no responsibility to give them notification and I would advise against doing so unless there is a clear benefit for him. They know they are taking a major risk by transferring any employee that distance without leniency.

    • Dean says:

      Yeah, and they were really concerned when they arbitrarily shipped him across the country.

      He has no responsibility to give them notification and I would advise against doing so unless there is a clear benefit for him. They know they are taking a major risk by transferring any employee that distance without leniency.

  23. areaman says:

    It is *not* an option to allow a foreclosure.
    Not only would it be financially devastating, but a foreclosure would cost both my wife and me our careers.

    Have a talk with the person at work who can answer this question with 100% certainty:

    If I do a rational default, will my career and my wife’s career here be over?

    Then the OP will have solid information to work off of. The OP paints himself into a corner. It’s like the letter/email was written in a depressed haze.

    Also reminds me of what Warren Buffet said recently, “Too often a vast collection of possessions end up possessing its owner.”

  24. LightningUsagi says:

    Agreed. Distant job transfers are one of the hardship reasons that banks will do a short sale. If your wife can’t transfer immediately, find a smaller place that she can rent in the meantime while you try out other options to get back in the same city.

  25. Tallanvor says:

    A “high” security clearance is a valuable asset in and of itself. If you’re in a technical field, you can probably find related work at companies like GD, Raytheon, or a related company. The idea that only the “military and the Government” (they’re the same thing, by the way) do that type of work is BS. –The amount of classified work that is farmed out is astounding.

    • humphrmi says:

      Glad you posted it, I was about to. I’m looking for a job too. I’m always seeing job postings like “Security Clearance required, any technical skills” etc. Private industry is clamoring for cleared staff to work on government contracts, and they’re willing to take people who don’t necessarily have the exact skills they need, and train them. A buddy of mine went from the U.S. Military to HP to Accenture in a matter of a year, each with promotions and pay increases, because of his clearance. And that was at the height of the economic meltdown.

    • GuJiaXian says:

      GD = Global Dynamics?

      • SharkD says:

        General Dynamics.

        The 5th largest defense contractor on Earth.

        They make: tanks, armored vehicles, submarines, destroyers, cruisers, gatling guns and Gulfstream bizjets. (And they used to make the F-16, until they sold that division to Lockheed Martin.)

    • midwestkel says:

      My thought exactly, if he has a TS or TS/SCI and knows how to work a computer then he can get a job at another government contractor. We are assuming that he has a DOD clearance though; if it’s some kind of corporate clearance I’m sure that would help get you another job with other companies.

  26. esarge says:

    You’re in a nasty situation and it will remain nasty until you take serious steps to fix it – and you must fix it.
    Unfortunately, from what I can tell then all options require some sacrifice. Oh well, welcome to real life.

    1. You’ve managed to get yourself into a risky life situation where you have few options for the careers of you or your wife. This needs fixing and is your most serious problems. One of the two of you need to find something else to do. If you are planning on ever having children then now is a good time to work out exactly how you would afford to do that – i.e. how would you live on one income. If both of you wish to stay working (with or without children) then one of you needs to retrain.

    2. Your job. Once you’ve figured out what your best career alternative is you could attempt to play hardball with your employer. The conversation would be along the lines of, “Living so far away from my wife is intolerable and must be remedied. Either you relocate us so we can live together or one of us is leaving.” You must, must, must be in the position to make good on this threat.

    3. Your house. Once you’ve made a decision about how you’re going to solve the problems above it will tell you where you’re going to live. Once you’ve done that then do whatever you need to do to fix the housing situation. I would strongly consider selling the house and attempting to get a loan from family to cover the difference. If that is completely not possible, and you wish to keep your security clearance, then you will need to move back to the house.

    Finally, you don’t have a choice about these hard decisions. Your only other choice is for you and your wife to split. You will not be able to stay married if you do not actually live together.

    I wish you all the best!

  27. Blueberry Scone says:

    OP, do you truly not know anyone who was in your profession, then quit? Because if you do, you might be able to see where they ended up and how they could take their specialized job skills to get into a new line of work.

    I really am sorry, OP. It stinks.

  28. smartmuffin says:

    If he’s in the military, how does he not know that this exact situation happened to pretty much every military member who bought a house during the bubble, and then was transferred out of the area?

    If you’re in a job where you know transfers are likely (particularly transfers you can’t refuse), buying a house is probably a bad idea. You didn’t “do everything right” if you bought a house without considering this possibility. Sorry.

    • Sammich says:

      He’s not in the military, and stated he’s not in a job where transfers are likely. From the article:

      “Involuntary transfers are not common in our career field; they’re pretty much unheard of. It’s not like being in the military. People usually stay were they are for their entire career, so there was no way for me to see this coming and it would not have been reasonable for me to expect that it might happen.”

    • ghostfire says:

      Wow. Way to not even glance at the article.

  29. tedyc03 says:

    If he works for the Federal government is he unionized? Is it possible to file a complaint with the union?

    • lizk says:

      It might be worth the OP dropping a line to his Congressional representative to ask them to look into it. There’s always the risk of backfire, but I don’t see many other feasible options.

  30. wenhaver says:

    I don’t know what you can do about your immediate financial situation, although looking for a new job back in your old city (as other posters have said, your security clearance will get you in doors you wouldn’t otherwise have been invited through) sounds like the first thing to do.

    If your field is really that out there to the point where you are simply unemployable elsewhere, look into going back to school and picking up a master’s degree or something in a broader field. Get new training to make you competitive. Putting all your eggs into one teeny-tiny basket, no matter how secure the basket seems, doesn’t seem like a great idea. You can often get through grad school in 12-18 months if you really push it.

  31. Sammich says:

    Start the job search. I’m not saying to quit just yet (especially with the current job market), but as others have said there must be -some- transferable skills even if it’s non-specific to potential new jobs. Currently holding security clearance is definitely an asset in a job search.

    Anything you find will stand a good chance of being lower pay at first, but if it puts you back in the same house with your wife the lower combined cost of living may well balance it out financially, and is priceless for work/life balance.

  32. Michael Kohne says:

    Have you looked into renting out the house and having your wife take an apartment? If it’s a small apartment it might cost less than you’d get in rental, and thus take some of the money pressure off. If that could get you through until the market rebounds a little, you might be able to get out of the house without having to spend yet more money.

    If money were not a problem, can you see yourself sustaining this marriage with the two of you separated? If the answer is no, then no matter what else happens, one (or both) of you is going to have a career change in the future.

    Now is not the right moment for that (if you can avoid it), but now IS the right moment for preparing for the change. Remember that you have a valid security clearance – even if your skills don’t match, the fact that you are already cleared gives you a big leg up at various government contractors. Getting clearances for people can be one of the hardest parts of the pre-employment process.

    You obviously can’t conduct much of a job hunt on the sly, but you can research other careers and potential employers. You can even take classes, etc to prepare you for a new career.

    Also, you should look into new careers for both yourself and your wife. The management involved here seems quite happy to treat you as hardware (is the Military managing your department by any chance?) to be shuffled around as needed without thought. It seems likely to me that they will do so again in the future, possibly to your further detriment.

    You need to get out from under these guys as soon as you can, before they make your life hell some more.

  33. HelloLinko says:

    I’ve been thinking about it for 10 minutes. I absolutely cannot think of a job, Government, or Military, that doesn’t have a similar job or similar skillets in the civilian market.

    Electronics technician? Civilians have that. Secret agent, spy, or assassin? Contract as private security. Surveillance? Contract as private security. Expert in some kind of technical field with any kind of trade? be a consultant for companies who do similar things in the civilian world.

    I’m sorry but I’m thinking the OP has been in his job so long he has some delusions of Grandeur. Your job simply cannot be that elite. No matter what it is your doing, without a doubt your skills are applicable somewhere outside in the civilian world, even if it’s a different job.

    So, I’d suggest sucking it up, quitting your job, moving back with your wife and beginning planning to use your specialized skills in a useful civilian job. If you honestly can’t think of one, then clearly your skill set would be very useful in a Consulting role, and you can make tons of money there.

    • WalterSinister2 says:

      He’s probably an air traffic controller. A job that is in the military and the civilian word. That is entirely government on the civilian side.

      John, if you are, there are companies that hire ex-air traffic controllers, notably defense contractors and civilian aviation firms.

      If you must be an ATC, or whatever other profession, consider trying to move to another country with your wife. If you have a spare room in your house, rent it out.

      If someone tried that on me “move to the other side of the country and leave your wife behind”, I would tell them “no, I can work for you here, or you can fire me, but I am not moving”. If they’re not bluffing, sue for unemployment when they fire you.

  34. Mercurio says:

    I do not understand why people allow their employers to treat them like serfs. When your employer says that they are moving you 2,000 miles away. You say, I cannot do that. The only solution is for you and your wife to both try to get jobs as quickly as possible in each other’s cities. Meanwhile, let your employer know that the situation is impossible and you will have to move on unless they can provide more compensation. In the meantime, cut the expenses, take in a boarder, and check into refinancing or a short sale.

  35. crashfrog says:

    If you’re really one of the very few number of people who can perform this job, then you need to leverage your rare qualifications.

    Quit your job immediately, then inform your former boss that he can contract your services as a consultant at ten times your former wage.

    That should be enough for your wife to quit, you to take a bath on the house, and relocate (if that’s what you want.) Also, you can make the same offer to the military.

    The notion that your employer can force you to work a job at a loss is pretty gross, and it’s a sign that you’re being dramatically underpaid. Pull the trigger, don’t flinch, and exploit the fact that replacing you is apparently all but impossible (if it wasn’t, they would have hired locally.)

  36. Cantras says:

    This is basically the reason I was born. The military couldn’t get it in their heads to transfer two married people to the same place, so any time off my parents accumulated was spent trying to conceive. Finally I got started and my mom got discharged. Not that that would help with this mortgage.

  37. energynotsaved says:

    I went back to school after the divorce. It is a financial struggle, but an emotional joy. Regardless of your age, there is a pretty cool world waiting for you when you step out of the comfort zone. If you don’t, your marriage is lost, your house is lost and, if what you say is true, your job is lost. New beginnings, perhaps for both you and your wife.

    Good luck.

  38. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    Do you need both jobs to maintain your house? What about opening as a business consultant, doing what you do already? Charge 10 times your hourly rate and make your family the priority. Also, you already have the clearance, that’s worth something even if you know nothing about a new field. DC IT companies will train anybody in IT if they have clearance.

  39. Terek Kincaid says:

    Sorry to point out the obvious, but clearly your boss doesn’t want you around any more. One week notice? No relocation expenses? No transfer for your wife? It’s a little hard to be sure since we don’t know what you and your wife do, but surely something could be worked out… if they wanted you around.

    I could see it for 3 different reasons:

    Professional: You suck at your job, but not so badly you can get fired for it. They want to encourage you to “retire” early. I know nothing about your or your job, I’m just sayin’.

    Personal: Your boss (or likely his boss) doesn’t like you, and is trying to get rid of you.

    Non-personal: Your boss’ friend’s son needs a job – your job. It’s nothing you did, but for some reason, you’re the one that needs to go.

    To reiterate: they don’t want you anymore. You’re never getting a promotion, you’re never getting a raise, you will never get the vacation days you want, etc. You are Milton from Office Space, stuck in the basement until you leave.

    Go home, and find a new job. Start farming, start an eBay business, whatever. Your career as is was, if it is truly that specialized, is proably over. Start fresh. The longer you fight, the worse off you are going to be (emotionally and financially).

    • keepntabs says:

      I was thinking the same thing, his boss doesn’t want him around for some reason. Or, did the boss offer to do the transfer to save the OP from the unemployment line?

      Also, the OP should go to his HR department, and inquire more about the relocation and area Cost of Living subsidy, because there are rules for federal personnel. I live in the Bay Area, and all of the Fed employees get extra for working here, and I have never heard of the government doing a permanent re-assignment without covering the costs.

    • misslisa says:

      That’s the most honest comment here – exactly what I was thinking. The OP is looking at this thing with blinders on, which often happens to people so mired in a career that isn’t in their best interest. Quitting this gig and moving on will be the best thing that could happen to him.

  40. NeverLetMeDown says:

    Seems to me that the issue of the house is pretty secondary. There’s very little in here about the issue of you and your wife living 2k miles apart, with no real prospect of that changing. If that works for you two, OK, but it seems like the house is less of a problem.

  41. misterfweem says:

    1) You need a sit-down with your boss at the new facility. Explain to them what you’ve just explained to the hive mind here. If you’re a valuable enough employee, you ought to have some leverage with them. Point out the contributions you’re making. Point out that they liked your qualifications enough they dragged you 2,000 miles from home to work for them. Then propose some kind of raise to help you with your financial situation. I too work for the federal government (via a contractor) and though I wasn’t dealing with a transfer at the time, I did pretty much the same thing I’m outlining here and I got a substantial raise out of it, more than I asked for, to tell the truth.

    2) If No. 1 doesn’t work, then look at your job and your wife’s job. Figure out which is of the most benefit to you and your wife together. Then either you quit your job or your wife quits hers.

    3) While you’re doing 1 and 2, put the house on the market now. Yes, if it sells you’ll have to take a loss — but it doesn’t sound like you’re all that happy now. Given the current housing market, it’s going to be on the market for a while anyway. At least if you’re advertising it for sale, you’re out there with the rest of the herd perhaps getting looked at. Stop focusing on the money loss and look at the lifestyle and quality of life loss you’re having in maintaining two households so far apart.

    4) Reduce expenses on your end as much as you can. I was contemplating a move a few months ago that would have had me 3 hours from home. We’re lucky enough to have a camper I was going to take with me for living space until matters were settled. It would have been not a fun way to live for a while, but it would have been doable. Check around with co-workers; maybe someone there is looking for a roommate or has a room they’d like to sublet.

    You’re in a not so fun situation. Hope things work out for you.

  42. brinks says:

    Start looking for a new job back home. This won’t be easy, it won’t be quick, and you might have to take a pay cut. As plenty of people pointed out, the security clearance is pretty impressive and should give you a leg up on other applicants.

    You may love you job and be great at it, but. let’s face it, times are tough and lots of people are losing their jobs and having to settle for less. If it means being with your wife and in your own home, I’d say it’s worth it.

  43. ckspores says:

    I really can’t understand why you accepted a transfer with 7 days notice and no relocation expenses. Furthermore, I can’t understand why you seem somewhat complacent despite the fact that there is little chance the situation will change. Personally, if it could’ve been done by cutting budgets and taking a lower paying job I would’ve quit before the move and saved the money on relocation and rent. It is obvious that your employer (the government, shockingly enough) doesn’t respect you.

    While you’re at it, what happens when they decide that these “hardly ever transfer” jobs now require your wife to relocate to a different area and that forces you to pay the mortgage and rent for both of you? Just because it hardly ever happens doesn’t mean it won’t happen again.

    Finally, while I’m sure your career is specialized I doubt that you are not qualified to do anything else in the entire world. I’m sure you are capable of finding another job-even if that job forces you to take a pay cut. Really, how much money are you already losing by paying for rent?

    • RogerX says:

      Agreed. He sounds like he’s eliminated a lot of options by talking himself out of them using fear of the unknown.

  44. FiorellaMajumdar says:

    Wow, you’re getting hosed by your employer. Forced transfer without even a dime of assistance, and then placing you in a situation where the only logical option would result in the loss of your status that keeps you employed? Sounds like they’re forcing you out, but you didn’t get the hint. Rock, meet Hard Place.

    • ttw1 says:

      Exactly. Your employer knows your situation. A week’s notice, no relo help and your wife left behind all says your boss wants you gone, but doesn’t want the hassle of firing you. It’s a pretty standard ploy for getting rid of fed employees. So figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life and get to it.

  45. RogerX says:

    Somewhere in your “chain of command” is a person or persons who are screwing you. Whether it is deliberate (punitive or political) or unintentional (not aware of how the circumstances are impacting you), you need to find out who that person is and go above their head to make this right. They need to pay to relocate your or your wife, with the understand that if it doesn’t happen, you’re leaving.

    If it is as niche a field as you suggest, they will likely understand the risks of losing an employee.

    Based solely on your logical problem descriptions and possible solutions, as well as your description as “technical,” I find it doubtful you would have a hard time finding a job, even where you didn’t have the exact skillset someone was looking for. It’s amazing how a less-skilled, better-communicating candidate can easily take a job from a more-experienced one who cannot “sell himself” into the job with managers and HR.

  46. ninabi says:

    Is there anyone who would be willing to swap houses with you? I don’t know the city your house is in and the city where you are working and I do realize some locations are more desirable than others, but surely there are others who are upside down as well that may need to move to your location.

    That, or rent the house out.

    You really were placed in a rotten situation. No relocation benefits? Truly awful.

  47. damageddude says:

    Go see a headhunter in your hometown. You probably have skills that can transfer well to another field. Then when you get a new job, quit your gov’t job and don’t look back. I usually say don’t burn bridges but whoever transferred you doesn’t sound like a bridge worth keeping. It is insane you were transferred and your wife wasn’t when you are in the same field (I assume she works for the gov’t too).

  48. Caffinehog says:

    Talk to your boss, and to your wife’s boss. If it’s true that they need you there so badly that going home is not an option, and if it’s true that a foreclosure would end your career, then point out the obvious truth: Either the house gets sold with their assistance, you get to do your job from near home, or they won’t have an employee.

  49. ttw1 says:

    When the fed gov wants to get rid of an employee, they do exactly what they are doing to you.

  50. KenJason says:

    The Gov’mnt hands out security clearances like candy. They are expensive and sometimes take forever to get (that applies to everything the government does or handles) but hundreds of thousands of people have them. There are exceptions and waivers that apply to everything. Foreclosures are possible to have and still keep your clearance. Hard as hell to push through, and lots of paperwork, but possible. I have seen it done for higher than TS.

    Don’t lock yourself into thinking this is the only possible job for you with your skills. You are not thinking outside the box. If what you are doing is that specialized, you would be able to afford your house, unless you bought waay to much house for your income. There are other things to do, you just have to find them. A lot of places will consider you just for your clearance alone and will be happy to train you for their position.

    I suspect there is more to the story than let on.

  51. Jibkat says:

    Rely, you should be looking harder at the private sector. Baring that going out of the country and looking for work for both of you, another national government or the UN might be more willing to hire the both of you and keep you together.

  52. Pax says:

    My advice?

    Lawyer up.

    The government is basically conspiring to make you lose your home and/or your marriage. That’s unethical and immoral, and (especially in light of the insufficient advanced notice part) can’t be legal.

  53. badgeman46 says:

    John, I don’t want to out your profession, but I think you should look into the ERR. or Employee Request for Reassignment.

  54. nonzenze says:

    Rent the house

  55. CapZap says:

    You’ve got to do something different . . . One of you has to move if you’re going to stay married. The house will take years to appreciate to a level where you have equity and, even though you are fond of it, it’s still just a building that’s sucking you dry. You did the “right” thing when you invested in it and you aren’t responsible for the economic downturn. Pick which spot you would choose for your home, where you are now or where the house is. Then one of you needs to move to the spot you pick. If you move where you are, let the house go back to the mortgage holder. Your wife will have to find work as she can. Or, vice versa, you move back, find a job and keep paying on the house. Both of you need to consider alternative occupations.

  56. jonquil says:

    I’m very sorry to hear this; it sounds like an intolerable situation.

    What I did when I had to move out of an underwater house (late-1980s Massachusetts computer industry crash) was rent it out long-distance. This slowed the drain on the finances, because even though the rent was less than the mortgage, the overall month-on-month drain was less.

    HOWEVER. Five years later we found out that the guy who was supposedly managing the place wasn’t, and we found this out when a visitor found water cascading down the stairs. Long-distance renting can have a spectacular downside. Your wife will need to ask for local recommendations for a management agency (who will take a cut of the rent) who can be relied on.

    Good luck.

  57. FaustianSlip says:

    With a high-level clearance, I think the OP could find something outside the government sector, probably with a contractor. It may not be the work he’s doing now, but a lot of contractor’s don’t care if you have a high enough clearance; getting those takes so much time and money that they want to snap up anyone they can get who has one. I’d probably start looking into that ASAP.

  58. shepd says:

    Here’s what I see:

    Your job is so specialized, you are married to it. You can either go through the pain of divorce now, or hope the other side loves you enough to keep you. If your wife suddenly said that tomorrow she’d move 3,000 miles away for no apparent reason and that she doesn’t care that it hurts you, would you stay with her? No. You need to expand your career and turn this crisis into an opportunity. Look for other work back home. You will find something of some sort, I am sure.

    Since your job isn’t something you can get elsewhere, that means that no other potential employees exist looking for it either (personally, I find it hard to believe that such a job exists, but that’s how you described it). That leaves the company in an extremely vulnerable position where they either have to do your bidding, or risk training someone from scratch.

    Once you get an offer in your hometown, you ask the company you are working for for every last one of those expenses you feel you are owed, and ask them to pay for the losses you would need to take on your home. Require they amend your contract so that if they screw you over again, they are going to pay for it, period. If they so no, leave tomorrow (Unless you can’t legally where you are–where I am, I can) for your new job. If they say yes, take the money, but look for other jobs anyways. They burned you and will be looking to burn you again, plus you don’t want to be married to any job unless you’re on the board of directors (or higher). If they give you the money, you should give them the opportunity to have you train your replacement, that’s only fair.

    As for this moment, you will need to rent your house out to make this work. Do not move your wife over if you follow my plans, because you will end up back in your house soon enough. Consider moving back your stuff in the meantime as well, except for the level of stuff you’d keep in a dorm room. Also stop renting an apartment for yourself and simply rent a room. You need to minimize the amount of money you are spending at your new location, and you need to be able to leave at the drop of a hat.

    BTW: They may want to have you train the new guy as a consultant when you leave suddenly. Remember that consultants charge on average 3x the normal salary they would get. And consultants that have to work far away from their home site have their meals and hotel stay paid by the person purchasing their services. And consultants are only available when they are not already engaged. In your case, you will require the new hire to come to your location for training. If they don’t like it, they can get fucked, quite frankly. You already have a good job with an employer that gives a shit.

  59. Milehimama says:

    I didn’t read through all 100+ comments, so forgive me if this is a repeat.

    1. Wife quits, moves to new city; rent out house and continue to make mortgage payments. Wife gets new job – even if it’s “below her” or not in her field, if necessary, to make ends meet, or wife becomes consultant.

    2. Husband quits job, moves back home. Husband gets job, not in his field, possibly even two part time jobs. Delivering pizzas will at least help pay the bills. Or, husband starts consulting company.

    3. Husband quits job, moves back home. Husband gets part time job somewhere doing something, and couple makes drastic changes, perhaps renting out rooms/taking in boarders, freelancing, starting a garden to reduce food bill, and uses his free time to cut every expense possible.

    MEANWHILE, couple seeks out short sale (which can take months) to get rid of the albatross of a house.

    • Milehimama says:

      a second option would be to live like this as a huge sacrifice for a year or so while one or both of you takes night classes and receives training in a new career, or fills in gaps in your education that would prevent you from finding a new career. You have way too many eggs in one basket if you BOTH can only work for one employer in the entire world. Where would you be if you had been pink-slipped, or fired outright?

  60. loueloui says:

    This happened to my wife and I except for a few small differences. We had purchased our house in 2006 about the height of the idiotic real estate boom. About a year later, I was fired from my job after 11 years of service. I am an engineer, and I too have a very specific skill set, and my field is VERY small.

    Soon afterwards I got an offer across the state for a job I really couldn’t turn down. It was much more than I had been making, but about 200 miles away. Luckily I had a very good friend I stayed with for a few months.

    Our choices boiled down to this: Either a short sale, deed-in-lieu, or foreclosure. Despite my extra salary we could not afford both a house, and an apartment.

    We listed the house, strangely with the real estate agent who originally sold it to us. It finally sold after several months for less than half we paid for it. We bought it for $193,000 and it sold for $85,000. The FHA kicked in some thankfully.

    I won’t lie to you and say this is a money making proposition. It’s not. My wife and I did everything right- nice down payment on a house we could afford, 30 year fixed rate mortgage, solid credit history, and employment record. Still we got soaked. It’s not easy when some slick developer went bust and is selling new houses in your neighborhood for $70K less than your 8 year old home.

    About the best you can hope for is to get out without a huge amount of debt, and most of your credit intact. I am guessing we lost about $40K in downpayment, improvements, and equity that just evaporated.

    Best of luck to you bro. Dark days ahead for sure but maybe some good ones further out. My best advice is probably ‘Don’t let it get to you.’ After all it’s just stuff.