Losing your job is like a big punch to the gut. At first, it’s hard to process, but then your head starts spinning. What will I do for work? How will I pay my bills and put food on the table? What will my family do?
Taking a deep breath is a good first step. After that, it’s time to put a plan into action. Many of you could be experiencing this right now, given what the world looks like today.
In this article, I’m going to lay out how to financially prepare before and in the midst of a job loss.
As I said, this will be a big shock to absorb. Give yourself some time to realize what has happened. More than likely, you’ll go through the 5 stages of grief.
One of the first things you should do is apply for unemployment. There might be some hoops that you have to jump through, but one imperative item you need to confirm with your old employer is that you were let go and without cause. Resigning or being fired for cause disqualifies you from collecting unemployment.
Set money aside for taxes. Unemployment does not withhold FICA taxes or state income tax (if applicable). If you normally receive a refund, you might get a reduced refund or none at all. Plan accordingly.
The next step has to do with severance. If you were let go or fired without cause, your company will, most likely, offer it to you. It isn’t required by law, but most companies do it. Take severance home and review it closely. Don’t sign right away. Once you’ve reviewed it, take it back and negotiate.
Starting looking for a new job right away. It does not pay to wait. All jobs are first come first served, set get searching as soon as possible.
Be picky, but pick up a job of some sort that will provide you with some cash flow.
Is now the time for a career change? Have you been dissatisfied with your industry or line of work? Do you have the skills and/or qualifications to make such a change? These could be questions to consider.
With regard to any debts that you have outstanding, call your creditors and see if they will let you defer payments, or at least make reduced payments, for a while. Also, make the minimum on your debt payments. Having cash available for other necessary items is more important.
Relentlessly cut expenses and review your budget with fine-toothed comb. Again, cash flow is your friend in your new situation so the more liquidity you have the better.
Pad your emergency fund. Obviously, this is something that needs to be done before you lose your job, so it’s imperative that you listen. Common advice is to save 3-6 months’ worth of expenses. If you’re self-employed and are responsible for payroll and other business expenses, it’s prudent to have 6-12 months worth saved.
HELOC? That stands for Home Equity Line of Credit. Is that something you are able to do? Is that something that you want to do? A HELOC turns the equity you’ve accumulated on your home into a loan.
Life and disability insurance are very important coverages to have, but a just loss and loss of income could derail those coverages. There is a rider that can be added (waiver of premium) at the time of application so your policy stays in force while you are unable to make payments. *Be advised: this has to be done when you sign up, not after the fact.*
Healthcare is another important item to take care of. First off, if you have any appointments you were waiting to schedule, do it now before your coverage changes. The next step is to find a suitable replacement for your current coverage. This could be taking your spouse’s insurance, finding new coverage on the marketplace, or signing up for COBRA.
Avoid dipping into retirement savings – this should be your last resort. Retirement savings accrues most effectively when you leave it alone. That’s when compounding works the best. Not only that, withdrawing funds prematurely will subject you to income taxes and an early withdrawal penalty.
Do you have 401(k) loans? If the answer is yes, you’ll be required to pay that loan back in its entirety in the next 60 days, otherwise, it’ll be considered a withdrawal. Again, taxes and a penalty.
Make a decision on what to do with the old retirement plan – Do you roll it to your new employer, roll it to an IRA, or leave it with the current institution. If you have a lower account balance, your HR department could require you to transfer it or cash out. Each company is different.