Sometimes firings or layoffs come out of the blue—you go into work one morning, thinking everything is fine, and then…blammo. Other times, you kinda know it’s coming. Maybe things aren’t going so well with your company or your industry, making layoffs a painful inevitability. Or maybe things just haven’t been going well for you personally, and you know it’s just a matter of time. Whatever the case may be, if you can see the writing on the wall and you want to make sure you’re preparing yourself, how do you tackle your immediate financial future?
Don’t make huge purchases if you can avoid it.
If you’re thinking of buying a house, investing in a friend’s startup, getting a new car, or whatever, reconsider your timeline. If you lose your job tomorrow and have to spend months on a job hunt, will you be able to afford this big extra expense? If this is something you can put off for at least a few months while you regroup professionally and financially, defer the investment.
Know your state’s unemployment policies.
Knowing what you’re going to get, unemployment-wise, will help you stay on top of your bills in the aftermath of getting fired.
Come up with several different budgets.
You probably already have some kind of a general budget in your life, but this is a crisis budget. Identify absolute necessities (like food, utilities, rent/mortgage), and make sure you have enough money to cover those first. The most important thing in your crisis budget is being realistic.
It’s also helpful to come up with a few different scenarios for your budgets. For example, Budget A is the on you use if you’re unemployed for two months, with severance and unemployment. Budget B is the one where you’re unemployed for six months or longer, with severance and unemployment. Budget C can be the wildcard, if you’re unemployed longer, or don’t have severance or unemployment. If the axe hasn’t fallen yet, it’s important to consider all the different scenarios you might be facing, and plan accordingly to make sure your bills are covered.
Get rid of unnecessary expenses and bills.
Think about what you actually need in your life, and what are the “nice to have”s. Do you need cable, or could you get by for a few months with some kind of Netflix + Hulu combo? Do you go out to dinner or do takeout several times a week, when you could just as easily cook? It’s time to put serious thought into the costs that can be reduced or canceled.
See if you can modify your bill payments.
Some of your bills are likely non-negotiable, like electricity or food. Others may allow you to modify your payments based on financial hardship, like student loans. For any bills you’re currently paying, it’s worth the research to see if you can modify your payments on a short-term basis, if possible.
Don’t panic and stop paying bills.
The instinct can be to stop and hoard all the money, because the future is uncertain. And while you may be able to ride out the short-term pain of being late on bills, you’re seriously endangering the financial health of Future You. If you can make payments on schedule, do. You want to avoid future repercussions for your credit and finances if at all possible.
Getting fired is traumatic and scary, but even if you know it’s coming, it’s essential to keep calm and prioritize your personal finances so that you can help yourself get back on track (or stay on track) as quickly as possible.
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