Thursday, June 2, 2011

Preparing for Disaster Series (Part 3 of 10): Job Loss

Continuing on in our series about ways to prepare financially for the most common types of disasters that you may face in your lifetime, today we will look at how you can prepare ahead for job loss.

A decade ago, losing a job was a big deal but, for many people, all you had to do was dust yourself off and go get another job. These days that has changed quite a bit as over the past few years people have lost their jobs and there are literally no comparable (paying) jobs to be had. Scary. Here's ten ways to prepare yourself now for the possibility of losing your job.

  1. Have an emergency fund. Notice how this is the common denominator of ALL of the preparedness plans? With an emergency fund of six to twelve months worth of expenses in savings you will be able to give yourself quite a financial cushion if you should suddenly lose your job.

  2. Have six months to a year's worth of food in storage. It seems like a lot but there are a few reasons for this. First, if you find yourself the host of an impromptu family gathering, you can easily pull out enough food to feed everyone, often without even having to run to the store. Second, in the event of a major natural disaster when the stores shut down, you will be fine holed up with your stash of food. Finally, if you find yourself in the middle of an extended job layoff and you only have to pick up perishables once a week instead of ALL of the groceries your family needs, you will be able to save a lot of money (and stress!). Consider watching 'Extreme Couponing' then begin your stock up plan.

  3. Be amazing at your current job. I have hired people away from other jobs simply because I saw them working and they were AMAZING. Great work, great attitude, great people skills...think of how you currently conduct yourself at you job as a never ending job interview. People who do a great job tend to be noticed (and sought after!).

  4. Be aware of what is happening in your job and in your industry. Often job loss shouldn't come as a surprise because there are a number of clues in the months leading up to termination that should scream "there won't be a job here much longer!" Clues can range from the internal--your boss is bouncing checks like a mad man, to the external--the housing market is circling the drain so if you are even remotely in this industry it may be time to jump ship.

  5. Know what benefits you are entitled to. When termination is imminent, figure out what you can get on your way out. A 'golden parachute'? That would be nice. Severance pay? Back pay for unused sick time and vacation time? Unemployment? Re-employment training? Take whatever you can get as the time between jobs can be lengthy.

  6. Get out of debt and stay out of debt! It is much easier to cover your bills with unemployment or side jobs if the bills are small. If you are drowning in debt, a job layoff will probably push you over the edge to bankruptcy. Ditto with keeping any other debts you have as small as possible. Your house payment should be no more than 25% of the family's income (this way even on one spouse's income the mortgage can get paid), car payments should be as low as possible (actually you should pay cash for cars so you will have NO payment), and sundry items (gas, clothing, cell bills, etc.) should be able to be immediately ratcheted back if necessary.

  7. Always be prepared to change jobs at the spur of the moment. Always have your resume updated, network to "stay in the loop" in your industry, continue to refine and add to your current job skills, etc. This way, whether you become unemployed or you just run across an amazing job opportunity, you will be ready to bounce.

  8. Always have multiple streams of income. I have done this for most of my life and it just makes me feel comfortable. Having side businesses or side jobs is a great way to always have money coming in no matter what your current job status. For example, I know quite a few guys who started in construction trades, became white-collar office workers, yet still keep doing construction-type side jobs (roofing, flooring) both for the extra money it brings in and for the added exercise it provides.

  9. Look at other options when the hatchet falls on your job. This is what I did at the end of last year when my biggest business client went toes up. Instead of sticking with the status quo (find another client or another job to replace the income I was losing) we decided to make a radical change (sell the house and sell almost everything else we owned) in order to try something new (traveling and living on one income). Granted not everyone can easily do this but many people have made very radical lifestyle changes (one family decided to live in an RV and travel, another family decided to bike from the North Pole to the South Pole) in order to enjoy opportunities that having a regular job wouldn't have allowed them to do.

  10. Don't be afraid to seek help. A job loss is a pretty scary, disorienting thing. If needed, don't be afraid to ask for and seek out what you need whether it is food from the local food pantry, psychological counseling to get you through a rough patch, financial assistance from family and friends, support from your church, or just a hug from your SO. Everyone goes through hard times and everyone deserves a little help now and then just as you help others when you are able to.


  1. This is a very good list it sounds like one put out by my church. However I would add have a skill that is marketable or a trade that you can trade goods and services. If all you know what breaks loose you will be a lot better off if you can sew, milk a cow, raise a chicken, fix a car or a motor, knit a sweater, spin some wool. You don't have to do it all but one or two good skills will be really useful.