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How to Survive a Job Loss

June 20, 2016
Personal Finance
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By Roslyn Lash, AFC 

Learn more about Roslyn on NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor

There’s no question that losing your job can be scary and difficult. But if you are fortunate enough to have some warning, you can take some steps to soften the blow, whether layoffs are at the rumor stage or already under way. These 10 suggestions can help you prepare yourself financially, mentally and emotionally for a challenging time.

Before a layoff

1. Pay off as much debt as possible

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 of your other bills and pay them off as quickly as you can. Online resources like provide tools to help you strategically eliminate debt. A job layoff or pay reduction 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 get rid of debt now.

2. Save as much as you can

Develop a spending plan or budget that will allow you to save as much money 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 as much money as possible. Save, save, save, and then save some more.

3. Update your resume 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

While you are still covered under an insurance policy, schedule as many medical appointments as possible. If you have any pending medical procedures, get them done now to take care of yourself. 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, but 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 services on a sliding scale, which means that 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. If you become unemployed, exercise and socialization will become critical. An exercise routine will make you look and feel better and will allow you to meet new people. And remember, if possible, apply for a 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.

Roslyn Lash, AFC, is a financial educator and coach at Youth Smart Financial Education Services in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.