Professional Development

How to get your finances in order if you’re about to be fired

preparing for a layoff
Written by Michael Hoon

Sometimes you see the warning signs coming—you got a bad performance review, or your coworkers are being laid off left and right. Whether it’s the business itself showing signs of budget cuts or just a gut feeling you have, if you’re worried that a layoff is coming your way, now is a smart time to get financially prepared for when you need a cushion to fall back on.

7 steps to preparing yourself for a job loss

Spend time job-browsing each week

Knowing what companies are hiring and what opportunities are available now can help you later on down the road. It takes about three to six months to find a new job after a layoff, but if you start researching your next best job now, you can get closer to the three-month mark or even beat it.

The better prepared you are for finding your next job, the better your financial situation will be. Keeping an eye out for openings of a company you’d love to work for will help you get in the right routine before the pressure is on. Even searching potential part-time opportunities to help keep you afloat as you find a full-time position could be an excellent option. And if your company has any networking events, take advantage! Get started on making a connection now so you don’t have to worry later.

Budget now

For some, it’s enough to make ends meet with steady employment. If you don’t like spreadsheets or math, or spending time on your budget, get over that quick. Being aware of how you spend your money can be eye-opening, and simple changes can help you stretch your dollars. Analyzing your spending habits and challenging yourself to spend less—whether it’s eating out less or making your own coffee at home rather than buying on the way to work—can help you prepare for a job loss so you are aware of the amount you need to cover the essentials.

Start an emergency fund (if you don’t already have one)

Your finances should be more than a matter of simply paying your bills on time—ultimately, you want to be able to save for the future. But not everyone is in that position yet. Even if you live paycheck to paycheck, try to pay into an emergency fund a little each week, like it’s a bill you owe to your future self. Future you, suddenly caught without a functioning hot water heater, will thank you.

Get what benefits you can now

Does your current job offer dental coverage? Go see the dentist now before you’re hit with a layoff. Same goes with your primary physician. Get a routine physical done before you potentially lose those benefits.

Many jobs also offer career advancement opportunities, or other perks like a Health Savings Account or 401K matching. Figure out how you can get the most out of these opportunities now. If your company offers severance pay, calculate that into your budget to see if it will be enough to keep you afloat for several months.

Build a new revenue stream

Assess your skills, and explore opportunities for side gigs. Some ideas are freelancing, being an Uber driver, or bartending, but there are many ways to make extra cash each week beyond your current job—even if you simply want to sell stuff you no longer need on eBay. Finding small ways to earn extra cash will help you save more, and if you do get laid off, you will have another source of revenue to fall back on—and another opportunity to build upon.

Target your debt

Being in debt means you’re paying more for something than you should because you’re paying interest over time. Many people have crushing student loan debt, credit card debt, or mortgage payments to make each month that can be hard to tackle when you’re laid off. There are temporary fixes, like deferments for student loans or transferring credit card debt to zero interest cards, but ultimately you need to make a plan to pay it off. Even consider looking at refinancing or discussing potential payment reduction plans with lenders—because the longer you delay actually paying, the more you end up owing over time.

Research unemployment benefits

Unemployment benefits will differ by state and by job and can be difficult to navigate, especially while you feel the emotional and financial effects of job loss. Learning the rules a little before you’re hit with a layoff can help you prepare. Even simply figuring out what amount of money you’ll receive can help you target the budget you’ll need to stick to as you search for your next job opportunity.

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About the author

Michael Hoon

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