11 Financial Moves to Make the Moment You Get Fired

By Tim Lemke on 8 March 2016 0 comments

Just about everyone goes through a job loss at some point in their lives. Hopefully, any job loss you endure will only result in a short time out of work, and minimal financial hardship. But even if you expect your time between jobs to be short, there are a number of things you should do right away to ensure you can make it through a stretch of time with no income.

As someone who endured two layoffs in the past, I can tell you that these steps will help keep you afloat until you land a new position.

1. Determine if You Are Eligible for Severance and Vacation Pay

If you've been let go from a job, employers will often provide severance pay based on the length of time you worked there. You may also be paid for any unused vacation time. The company should explain your eligibility for these funds upon your termination, but if not, make a point to check with the human resources department. In some cases, you may have to engage an attorney to fight for what you believe you are owed.

Companies generally aren't required to offer severance at all, but there are instances when you may feel you are due money for uncompensated overtime or other reasons. Just keep in mind that benefits may vary depending on if you were fired for cause or laid off through no fault of your own.

2. Assess Your Emergency Fund

Now is the time when your savings will come in handy. If you've followed the advice of many personal finance experts, you have at least three months of expenses available in liquid savings. But now is the time to assess precisely how much you have and what your expenses actually are. With proper savings and cuts to your spending, you should hopefully be able to pay your bills until you get back to work.

3. Reduce Unnecessary Expenses

You may think you're living frugally, but now is the time to really strip life down to the bare essentials. Your expenses should really come down to your rent or mortgage, utilities, and a modest food budget. (Keep the Internet and cell phone services, as you may need them for your job search.) But that cable TV subscription? Kill it. Gym membership? Suspend it. Avoid going out to eat, or shopping at high-end grocers. And turn down the thermostat a couple of degrees. Every penny you save now is money that will help get you through to the next job.

4. Assess Your Health Insurance Situation

If you received health insurance through your employer, your benefits may no longer be accessible to you. It's likely that you are eligible for COBRA benefits, which provide discounted coverage between when your benefits run out and when new benefits kick in. After a job loss, you usually have 60 days to apply for COBRA benefits, and they last between 18 and 36 months, depending on your situation. At this time, it's also worth exploring insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act at HealthCare.gov.

5. Apply for Unemployment Benefits (But Don't Necessarily Claim Them Right Away)

If you've lost your job, there's a good chance you'll be eligible for compensation from unemployment insurance. In most states, unemployed people are entitled to up to 26 weeks of benefits that are a portion of their previous salary. Note that earnings from part-time or freelance work can be deducted from unemployment benefits. You don't necessarily have to claim unemployment benefits right away if you still have some money coming in, but it's still important to research options and get your name into the system immediately after a job loss.

6. Accept Outplacement Service if It Is Offered

You may feel like you can do a job search by yourself, but if your former employer is connecting you with assistance for free, take it. Outplacement professionals can help you update your resumé, assess your skills to see what jobs might be right for you, and even help you with interviews and salary negotiations.

7. Update Your Resumé and LinkedIn Profile

Hopefully, these are things you've kept more or less up-to-date anyway, but if you haven't looked at them in a while, give them some attention now. You don't have to necessarily reveal that you are between jobs, but it's important to have up-to-date information on your skills and accomplishments. Be sure to make several resumés based on the different types of jobs you may be pursuing. (See also: 30 Minutes to a LinkedIn Profile That Gets You Hired)

8. Collect All Your Retirement Account Information

If you've lost your job, you're no longer going to be able to contribute to your company's 401K, or other similar retirement plan. You don't necessarily have to do anything with the account right away, but eventually, you may want to roll your old 401K into another 401K or IRA.

In the immediate term, make sure you save the login and password information to the account, as well as any relevant paperwork. It will also be important to check your account balance to see how much of your matched contributions were "vested." If you leave a company after a short amount of time, it's possible that the company can reclaim some matching contributions.

9. Adjust Your Auto Insurance Premium

What you pay for auto insurance is often partially based on how much you drive. If you are no longer commuting to work, you may be able to reduce your premium slightly by arguing that you're driving less. Your rate is especially likely to go down if you're no longer driving and parking in a dense, urban area.

10. Take a Breather

It's okay to take some time off before doing any hardcore thinking about your next career move. While you don't waste a lot of time in getting back to work, it's important to make decisions with a clear head. Do you want to remain in the same field? Do you want to start your own business? Do you even need to go back to work full-time? There is a lot to think about, so take some time. This is as much a financial move as one for your mental health, because the last thing you want to do is rush into a job that you're not suited for and find yourself back in the unemployment line again.

11. Reallocate Some Investments for Income

If you have some investments in a non-retirement account, it's worth examining whether you can adjust them to produce some income. It's not necessarily a good idea to immediately sell a large quantity of stocks or mutual funds, especially if they are for long-term savings. You certainly don't want to do anything rash. But perhaps a portion of your portfolio could shift to bonds or dividend stocks that will help bring you some extra cash.

What other money moves should you make after getting fired? Share with us in the comments!

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