Financial Strategy Planning after Job Loss
It's nice to think you'll find another job within a week or so of losing one, and perhaps you will. Chances are, however, it will take longer than that—maybe much longer—to find a job you want.
For that reason, it's important to take some time to strategize your finances. The first thing you should do is to realistically assess your situation.
Figure out exactly what income your family has. This shouldn't include an emergency fund or severance pay that you've put away but may include the following:
Income of spouse/children
Interest from saving accounts
Dividends from investments
Income tax refunds
Next, make a list of all the bills you're responsible for paying, and compare that balance against your income. We've already discussed the areas in which it may be easiest for you to cut expenses and save money, so be sure to consider those. If you think you're going to have trouble making your required payments, however, consider these strategies.
People over 40 are protected from employment discrimination based on age by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. If you feel that you were fired, or are not being hired, because of your age, you can contact a lawyer or find out more about the act from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It's on the Internet.
If you have a mortgage, you may be able to renegotiate payments so that you'll pay less each month until your regular income resumes. Of course, this will extend the overall life of your mortgage but perhaps can help you to avoid a current problem.
If you're paying rent and think you're going to have a problem making the payments, talk to the landlord before you run out of money. People are more likely to be sympathetic if you explain your situation, rather than simply not paying what you owe.
Discontinue direct payment of bills from your checking account. While this is normally a convenient service, discontinuing it at this time will allow you more flexibility in deciding which bills to pay at specific times.
Discontinue automatic payments into investment accounts, college savings, or whatever. You'll need to meet your bills first.
Check the yellow or blue pages of your phone book to see if there's a consumer counseling agency in your area. These agencies often offer their services for free or at a nominal cost.
Check with the utility agencies with which you deal about a budget plan that may lower your monthly payments.
If you have a cash value life insurance policy, you may be able to borrow money from it, if necessary. Ask your insurance agent for more information.
Consider taking a temporary job in order to generate more income. Remember that even if you're getting unemployment pay, you can still earn up to 40 percent of your unemployment benefits without penalty. If you're earning $300 a week in unemployment, you can earn up to $120 in salary.
If you plan carefully, chances are you'll pull through a period of unemployment relatively unscathed. Don't think, however, that you can continue to live in the same lifestyle that you did while you were working.
More on: Family Finances
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in Your 40s and 50s © 2002 by Sarah Young Fisher and Susan Shelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.