As a Washington, D.C. area resident, the most recent government shutdown, where thousands of government employees and contractors lived weeks without paychecks, forced me to ponder the question, “Am I prepared to handle a sudden layoff or loss of income?”
For many of us, the reality is that a sudden loss of income can devastate our livelihood. That stress multiplies if you fear a layoff may be soon. The good news is you have time to take proactive steps today to make sure you’re financially ready for the worst. Here are a few steps to take in preparation.
Invest in an Emergency Saving Account
Throughout life, unexpected expenses are bound to pop up from time-to-time, whether it’s a replacing a flat tire, hiring a plumber, or dealing with a medical scare. These unplanned costs are exactly why having emergency savings is helpful when life causes you to pivot.
Experiencing a layoff is definitely a situation that warrants tapping into your emergency fund because, let’s face it, your bills won’t stop just because your income does. If you think a layoff is on the horizon, it’s a good idea to increase your savings as much as possible. To do this, review your budget and think about ways to cut your spending. And, if possible, try to save enough money to cover any necessary expenses for three to six months–the average time it will take to secure another job.
Create Your Bare-Bones Budget
Chances are you have a budget set up that allocates funds based on your needs, wants, savings and debt. But have you thought about how much spending you need to survive?
When times get tough, it’s important to develop a budget that solely focuses on maintaining your needs–housing, food, basic necessities, and transportation–and recognizing that the other areas of your budget, like savings, will take a short-term hit.
Make Your Debt Manageable
Paying off debt and loans can always be a financial and mental stressor in your life. But when you’re unemployed, managing these stressors with be tougher to manage. If you’re able to do so, create a plan to pay off your debt and proactively avoid letting it accumulate. The two easiest plans to follow are paying off high-interest rates first or using the snowball method: pay the smallest debt first and using those added payments to target larger debt.
That said, if a layoff is imminent and you don’t have enough emergency savings saved up to handle three to six months’ worth of expenses, now is not the time to pay off debt. Instead, use the money to allocate for future expenses. It may not be ideal but prolonging debt payoff can be a solid choice when you need to cover your bare-bones budget.
Consider a side hustle
If you’re passionate about something outside of your job, it might be worth exploring the possibility of a side hustle to diversify your income–whether it’s freelance writing, selling crafts on Etsy, or driving for Lyft. These extra opportunities for income can help ease stress if your income disappears.
Network, Network, Network
Okay–I get it. Networking is often the cliché you’ll hear from a variety of professionals. But networking works. According to a survey by Performance-Based Hiring Learning Systems, 85% of respondents found their job via networking. Securing a new position often boils down to who you know. Leverage your free time to meet new people, attend networking events, join professional groups, and even staying in touch with old colleagues. These different groups can pay huge dividends if you face a situation where you need to find a new job.
Unfortunately, layoffs happen and often without warning. So, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you feel that a job loss is on the horizon, it’s worth taking the time embrace these steps. It’s never an easy situation but you’ll be better prepared for whatever comes your way.