It has happened to some of us: being fired or laid off. I wanted to include some statistics about how the average adult experiences this so many times in a lifetime. Then I thought about it and realized it wouldn’t help. Who cares about how you are becoming another statistic! Who needs a speech or a quote about how “everything’s going to be ok.”! Reality has slapped you in the face and now you want to swing back, right? You need a plan for you to keep moving forward.
So after you clear out your desk, what do you next? Obviously, you leave the premises. But what do you do when you get home? Having a strategy is essential to any change, improvement, or progress, especially in dealing with unemployment. The purpose of the strategy is forcing you to evaluate the circumstances from all aspects, the most important being finances. This a moment when being fired can force you to be financially fit.
I have some tips created based on what I did after I was laid off in October 2012. I know that my outlook may be different than others. However, I believe my experience is teachable moment. But here is an outline what I did the same day I was let go.
1). Get everything you have coming to you!
If you have not kept track, find how much paid-time off benefits have left. This includes unused vacation and sick days. Also find out if you will receive a severance package. Some employers offer severance pay if you have been laid off. Also, now would be the time to find out when your health benefits expire (if applicable). Be sure to ask about any retirement options in which you are enrolled. Leaving or moving retirement accounts and benefits is a critical decision to make in regards to your financial future. Finally, mark on a calendar or set a reminder in your email or phone of the day that you will get your last paycheck.
2). Let it all hang out!
Get all emotions and thoughts about what just happened out of your system. Do not hold it inside. Get it out so the dust can settle before your next move. The first person you should tell is someone who is the most important in your life. After all, you are going to need them now, more so than ever!
3). Brush yourself off, build your network and use your resources.
As soon as you can, update your resume! If you do not have one, use this template or build one on job board sites like Careerbuilder.com or Monster.com. LinkedIn and Facebook are also good places to start a resume. A good book in times like this is The Resume and Cover Letter Phrase Book by Nancy Schuman (ISBN-13: 978-1-4405-0981-0).
Ask for a letter of recommendations from previous supervisors, direct reports, and anyone who was in a position to mentor you. These letters will give you insight to how others value you and what you can ask for in the job market. Granted, I am not a career columnist or expert. Yet, I do know the power of a well written resume and cover letter and a list of contacts who can verify my “awesomeness”.
4). File for Unemployment.
Most states have made it convenient for former employees to file their initial claim. In some states you can submit these claims online. When your are calm enough, get your most recent paystub and last year’s tax return out and file your unemployment claim. Having this financial information will prepare you for any questions you make have to answer. It also prepares you for the next day.
5). Don’t do anything else, just be YOU.
After you ranted and raved, gathered information, updated information, and submitted information: RELAX. Just for a little while. Give yourself time to pull it all together so you can be more effective the next day. TAKE THE REST OF THE DAY OFF!
A couple of years ago, I tried to get into the housing marketing. I did all of the home ownership classes and received 2 pre-approvals of about $150,000 each. I was trying to get in the house market because of the low home values. From a financial standpoint, I would have been about the same cost to own as it was to rent.
As I went through the process, I became aggravated. I ran into so much red tape and income restrictions for the down payment assistance programs and housing programs. I was paying money out for home inspections and application fees for houses I could not get. The realtor I worked with did her best to keep my posted on new houses and regulation changes. I decided to wait 6 months and try again.
During my 6-month "time-out", I realized that owning home is not as high on my bucket list as I thought. As time passed, I just simply gave up for several reasons. One, I am not handy. I don't anything about replacing or fixing pipes, gutters, etc. The second reason is I having a very busy life right now. I am hardly in my apartment. The same would be true for my house. Another reason: student loans. If I did not get my master's degree, I could most definitely afford a home that is reasonably priced. Also, the job market has been in the toilet for about the last 2 years. It would not have been a good move to buy house when my employment had a high risk of changing for the worst. And lastly, I would not have had any substantial financial benefits.
There are two reasons why people by a house: for the space and the financial benefits. I didn’t really need the space. But who passes up a financial benefit? Not this gal! So I finally sat down and did some math of how much homeownership would have cost me and how it would have impacted my tax situation.
My monthly housing payment would have been $230 more, along with an increase in utility payments of an additional $140 each month. My grand total of expenses as a new homeowner would have been roughly $1,150 each month, which represents a $510 (44%) increase. I included $250 extra each month for updates and repairs. I would have been able to deduct my mortgage interest and my mortgage insurance if I itemized. To create a tax savings, my state income taxes, mortgage interest, and insurance would have to equal or than $5,700 annually. Based on my estimates, I would have had $12,090 in itemized deductions. In the end, I would have saved $2,327 in federal taxes only. My state tax return would have been exactly the same. The tax benefit would have been only $193 each month.
I’d rather keep my additional $510 to fund my Roth IRA, save for a vacation, or pay off debt. I am not homeowner, and proud of it.
"Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is" is a journal about real life experiences and answers to tough tax questions posed to Jéneen R. Perkins, Owner of Eclat Enterprises, LLC