With thousands of people losing their jobs across the country, many are worried what to do next. In a recent online discussion, one such worker wondered how to manage her probable layoff.
The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., resident wrote: "I am in a really tight spot right now. I am employed with a firm that is having financial trouble. It is likely that my position will be eliminated within the next six months. The job market is really tough out here, and I will have to take a drastic pay cut. Do you have any suggestions for helping me stay afloat until the dust settles?"
When you're faced with a layoff, it's time to do things differently. For example:
- Start cutting your expenses right away. Unless you have another job lined up, you've got to attack your budget like a sushi chef chopping fish. I understand the urge not to disrupt the status quo. But things can turn bad financially quicker than you think.
- If you suspect you may be laid off, this might be the time to line up a home equity line of credit, says Sheryl Garrett, founder of the Garrett Planning Network Inc. "But this goes with a big warning," Garrett said. "Do not use this unless it is absolutely necessary."
- Take advantage of all counseling, career seminars or outplacement assistance.
If your employer isn't offering assistance, go to www.careeronestop.org, which is a U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored Web site that offers career resource information. Click on the link for "People and Places" and then go to "One-Stop Career Centers." Among many other things, the centers offer help with writing a resume.
"A lot of people don't take advantage of these free resources," said Kim Rhim, executive director of The Training Source Inc., a Maryland-based nonprofit employment training and job placement assistance program.
- Immediately start looking for a job as if the search were your full-time job. And don't be too proud to get a "JOB, as in a 'Just Over Broke' job," Rhim says. "Take a sustainability job." That's the type of employment that will at least pay for the basics - rent, food, utilities. Rhim recommends accepting a position with evening hours to leave your days free to look for the type of work you really want.
- Stop contributing to your retirement plan. Having a cash reserve trumps retirement planning during this time. Resist thinking that if you run out of money down the road, you can tap your 401(k). That's a costly move. You'll be looking at a penalty of 10 percent for an early withdrawal, plus you have to pay income tax on the money.
- Make minimum payments on your credit cards as soon as you know you're losing your job. Again, you need to save as much cash as possible.
- If you are getting severance money, don't invest it. If you are getting a lump sum as part of your layoff, put it in the highest-yielding savings account or money market account you can find. This is money you may need in the short term so it's unwise to risk losing it.