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Work & Purpose

How to Prepare For a Job Loss or Survive One

10 tips to be ready financially, mentally and emotionally


(This article previously appeared on NerdWallet.com.) 

There’s no question that losing your job can be scary and difficult. These 10 suggestions can help you prepare for a job loss financially, mentally and emotionally — or survive one if it happens:

Before a Layoff

1. Pay off as much debt as possible  A layoff is easier to manage when you have virtually no bills. In the event of a job loss, ideally you’d have to cover only basic living expenses such as utilities, gas, insurance and food. Of course, if you don’t have much notice, it will be difficult to make this happen right away.

So do your best to pay down your debt and aim to be completely debt-free. The only exceptions, if necessary, are your mortgage and perhaps a car payment. Aggressively attack all your other bills and pay them off as quickly as you can. Online resources like PowerPay.org provide tools to help you strategically eliminate debt.

You’ll want to schedule as many medical appointments as possible while you are still covered under a health insurance policy.

2. Save as much as you can  Develop a spending plan or budget that will allow you to save as much as possible. Typically, I advise people to have at least eight months’ worth of expenses in a savings account for emergencies. But if you are expecting a job loss, you may need much more than an eight-month emergency fund. Save, save, save, and then save some more.

3. Update your resumé and LinkedIn profile  Spruce up your job history while you are still employed. Once you begin your job search, it will be easier to network with an established profile. Ask your LinkedIn contacts for recommendations.

4. Make medical appointments You’ll want to schedule as many medical appointments as possible while you are still covered under a health insurance policy. If you have any pending medical procedures, get them done now. In addition, find out your company’s policy on unused sick and vacation time. Take, or save, it accordingly. For example, if it’s a “use it or lose it” situation, you’ll want to use the time to get your financial house in order. If you will be compensated for the remaining days, save this money to supplement your income once you’re no longer employed.

After a Layoff

5. Learn a new skill  Increase your earning power by exploring your interests and deciding on an alternative career. Having another skill will not only provide more options for you, it will do wonders for your self-esteem. If you can’t find another job in your current field, your new expertise will give you another way to financially support yourself.

6. Reduce your cable bill  Contact the provider of your home phone, cable and internet service to see if it has any specials that will reduce your bill. Consider bundling services or eliminating features you don’t use regularly. For example, instead of the full-tier cable package, reduce it to a lower-cost package or purchase streaming service through providers such as Roku, Amazon or Netflix. Many households don’t have a landline phone, so perhaps this expense can be eliminated as well.

7. Change to a cheaper cell phone plan  Many cell phone companies offer reduced rates in exchange for a two-year contract. However, some companies such as MyFamilyMobile (powered by T-Mobile) offer plans as low as $25 per month for unlimited text, minutes and data without a contract.

8. Apply for subsidies  Many organizations offer their services on a sliding scale; their costs are based on your income. Your local gym or YMCA or your child-care provider may have this option. Do some research to see which services in your community offer a sliding scale or other subsidies based on income. If you do lose your job, apply for any reduced fees or subsidies for which you qualify.

9. Begin an exercise regimen  It’s easy to become complacent and discouraged when faced with job loss. But if you become unemployed, exercise and socialization will become critical. An exercise routine will make you look and feel better, which will allow you to meet new people. If possible, apply for a gym membership discount based on your new, reduced income.

10. Network, network, network  Contact your local Chamber of Commerce and get a list of the networking opportunities in your area. Some social websites also provide links, resources and calendars for networking events. Design a business card, even if it specifies that you are seeking a new opportunity. You never know when it could come in handy to help you land your next job.

By Roslyn Lash
Roslyn Lash is a financial educator and coach at Youth Smart Financial Education Services in Winston-Salem, N.C.
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