4-Step Financial Survival Guide: How To Prepare For An Unexpected Job Loss

4 steps financial survival guide

The morning started out as any normal day.

I’m awoken by the alarm clock as I lie half-unconscious waiting to be pulled out of bed for the day ahead. I’m not a morning person, ok? I trek into the closet perusing the normal clothes I tend to wear and fall upon a $10 plaid pink shirt I bought over 10 years ago, and my go-to black ankle pants.

To finish it off, I grab my tuxedo looking sweater jacket that I don’t wear that often – only on certain occasions. I’m all set for the day I thought. I just need to get through today and I will be good. At this point, I knew what was to transpire later that morning.

This was the last plausible day.

Upon arriving to the office, I sat there unable to work – just waiting. A colleague, I will revisit later in this article, stopped by my desk to ask how I was doing. A nervous laugh was all I could really muster. What else was there to say at that point? I sat at my desk looking straight ahead allowing my mind to wander, waiting for the inevitable call.

4 steps financial survival guide

The Meeting

And then the phone rang…

*Ring Ring*

Me: Hello?

Caller: Can you please come down to the conference room.

Me: Ok, I’ll be right there.

I walked down to the conference room and was surprised to see only my supervisor waiting for me. I walked in, sat down, and was slid a piece of paper.

It was official. I was being laid off.

I won’t tell you in-depth what exactly this interoffice mail said. My supervisor essentially reiterated what was on the announcement and asked if I had any further questions.

As he spoke I could tell he was somewhat insincere with his words as he hadn’t been with the company long enough to know who anyone was, much less myself. He was just doing his job.

Relaying the bad news.

During the whole conversation, in which I only piped up once to ask a question. The only question I had was regarding my end date – it was tentative.

Wait, what? That was a curveball I didn’t see coming.

It’s ironic that it was the only fault I found in the layoff announcement that day. The fact that there were some folks who were not asked to vacate the premises immediately, and instead would have to continue to work for a vague amount of time. Great…

The Pep Talks

As I left the conference room I felt a wave of relief, annoyance, and unsettledness.

Before I took my seat back at my desk, I peered across the walkway to find my colleague from that morning gone from her desk. I asked myself, could she also be one of the chosen ones?

I texted her right away to ask her where she was so I could chat with her. After trekking down to the floor she was on, I was greeted with a pale and concerned face.

We sat down and I listened to her concerns.

I tried to comfort her, just as I had previously done when she voiced insecurities about possibly losing her job. We had both started working at the company around the same time – 3 years prior. Though she didn’t get promoted along the way as I had, she was no doubt a reliable and hardworking individual. She was definitely an asset to the company.

Hoping to comfort her, I told her what she needed to hear. I offered her reassurance that she wouldn’t have any issues in finding her next job. I knew that she was worried about her livelihood and the home that she may have to sell if she didn’t find a job quickly.

Though we had talked numerous times prior, I never gave her financial advice. It can be a very personal topic and oftentimes people have to be ready to seek out that type of advice.

IRL, I generally don’t advertise that I live a frugal lifestyle while working towards the end goal of retiring from the traditional 9-to-5 to a life redefined.

I would rather be incognito about my big picture goal.

Here though, I will take this chance to let you, the reader know, that the only reason I was able to keep a cool head throughout this whole process was the financial backbone that was already implemented prior to losing my job. Stay tuned for more specifics as we continue on with the storyline…

Fast forward, a week into the transition of the new department, you can imagine that the mood of the existing personnel shifted negatively. There were valid concerns about the additional workload, the attitudes toward the company, and just the fearful pondering of office workers thinking that they may not dodge the upcoming round of layoffs.

Normally when you are laid off you are escorted out immediately with your box of belongings.

OR the company sends it to you at a later date, so you never really learn of the aftermath in person. Well, I got to listen in on the “pep talk” that was given to the remaining employees regarding the layoff.

I will sum it up for you as to not divulge too much, but essentially what the official said in his speech was this:

“Like a sports team, you need different strengths to achieve your initiatives. Different skillsets were considered and selections were based on building a team. The results are what we have today. The layoff was not based on performance, but based on what we need in order to move forward, stronger than ever.”

4-step financial survival guide

No Job Is Guaranteed, My Mindset

The company I worked for had to undergo layoffs due to an effort to remain profitable amidst volatility in the industry. I get it – it’s business. It’s the nature of working in that particular industry.

At this point, you’re likely curious about how this layoff affected me.

It would have been a lot worse if I enjoyed my daily work and saw a future with the company. Though, I tried to put myself in a better position within the company, about 2 years in I came to the realization that it wasn’t going to happen.

What I can be thankful for is that this job displayed the life that I didn’t want to live – trapped in a job that I didn’t like and having to do it day in and day out. How was that living?

And, as an added strike against this particular life event, my job was not secure as proven by the layoff…

It’s a fact of life that no job is a guarantee, so you have to ride the waves as they come and go.

There is nothing you can do in that regard, so I always do what is in my control. Prior to the layoff, I was part of a dual-income household, where our frugal mindset allowed us to cover all expenses from one income stream.

My paychecks were almost entirely earmarked for saving and investing. You could say I worked to save. Being laid off didn’t rock my world like it would others because I didn’t rely on my job for my basic livelihood. Instead, it simply elevated our position and allowed my household to be prepared for uncertainties in the future – like this layoff.

This past year, you know what I didn’t do? I didn’t lie awake worried about where I was going to find money to pay the bills or fretting about when I was going to find a job.

This same mindset can apply to you.

Why leave your livelihood in the hands of someone else?

Make the choices now to prepare for one of life’s variables.

Take back control of your life!

4 steps financial survival guide

4-Step Financial Survival Guide: How To Prepare For An Unexpected Job Loss

I was fortunate. I had a few days of warning that a new round of layoffs would soon occur at my company.

All too often, there is no warning at all.

They simply show up to work and in the worst case scenario, find a chain on the door. A job should never be taken for granted because it can vanish on you.

The smart approach is to pre-plan your response to occurrences that are beyond your control.

#1 – Have a well-funded emergency fund.

This is crucial. At the root of financial wellness is an emergency fund that actually has money in it! Even with my husband’s income source, there was still an emergency fund to draw from – just in case! You need at least 3 months’ worth of expenses tucked away in an account that is off-limits. A 6-to-12 month expenses fund would be a better bet.

Here’s a suggestion.

If you have trouble saving for an emergency fund, take a look around your house. Surely, you have something to sell. Put up a listing, sell the item(s), and sock all the money into your emergency fund – pronto.

Having an emergency fund allowed me to sleep at night. It also gave me the ability to seek out different types of job opportunities for an eventual industry transition.

Related article: Selling Your Goods Online For Extra Money

#2 – Live a frugal lifestyle.

A good start to living a frugal lifestyle is mindful spending.

If you take time to figure out what you spend your money on and start cutting back, it can make a noticeable and meaningful difference. And no, it doesn’t mean throwing out all your normal purchases – just try to be selective on what you spend your money on.

Sure, I love myself a nice hot coffee, ahem from Starbucks, but I do that mayyyybeee twice a month.

Practice living well below your means to see what you could do without. This keeps expenses down so that your emergency fund can stretch further.

This also makes it easier if you need to scale back some, as you are already practicing self-control. The hardest wake-up call imaginable would be undergoing an entire lifestyle change from living the high-life to rice and beans.

Related articles:

#3 – Pay down debt.

This is what happens when you lose your job. You reconsider all the expenses that you incurred while working.

It could be the new car in the driveway, the latest and greatest smartphone, maybe the big screen TV you bought on “sale”. Consider paying down the debt now while you are still employed.

Bad debt – what is eating away at your bank account waiting for its monthly snack.

In conjunction with putting money away in an emergency fund, if you have debt, pay it down. Generally, focus on consumer debt such as credit cards, loans, and advances.

My approach is this. Other than the mortgage, if I don’t have money to pay fully for it, I won’t buy it. That means that if my car breaks down tomorrow and I don’t have the money to pay the full cost – it’s hello carpooling, hello public transit. Ya, get me?

#4a – Leverage your household’s income potential. 

If there is a stay-at-home partner in your household, consider brainstorming ideas to fully leverage the earning potential. An additional income stream will lessen the impact of a potential job loss.

Here’s an option.

In the midst of my unemployment and seeking out ways to make money from home while I looked for my ideal job – I found plausible ways to make money. There are a ton of options out there in customer service, IT, administrative – the list goes on!

If you or your partner stay-at-home, consider telecommuting options. An example of a viable option I came across was with customer service companies as they are always looking for representatives to answer calls.

The pay is around $7.5-$15 depending on where you look. It would work if communicating over the phone with people is ok with you.

Customer service representative employers*:

  • Alorica
  • Amazon (select languages)
  • LiveOps
  • Concentrix

*I don’t have first-hand experience with these employers. Feel free to check out Glassdoor.com for more info.

#4b – Consider a part-time job.

If you are the primary (or only) breadwinner, you will have the most luck getting out there and finding a part-time job. Always consider working part-time as something that you are willing to do.

Put your ego to the side and remember that it is short-term! Decide prior to a job loss what you are willing to do for a little extra cash until you land your career position.

Here are some ideas.

  • Substitute teaching (easy to schedule around interviews)
  • Temporary contract work (doubles as a skill-builder)
  • Drive for Uber or Lyft (good option if you live in a large city)

I didn’t mind taking on contract work because it diversified my experience and kept me in touch with an eventual return to work.

Let’s take a look at a few non-financial considerations related to before and after a job loss…

Other Non-Financial Considerations

— Deal emotionally with a job loss and move on.

Even though I was fine losing my job, it still made me question MANY THINGS.

It has been over one year as I reflect on this.

Should I have spent all that time getting an advanced education? A certification? Kept quiet about wanting to move to a different department?

Of course, it also made me question the path I took to work at this particular company. At first, I was sad in the way it ended, but I dealt with it without it taking over my life, and I moved on.

If an unexpected job loss ever happens to you – yes, you will be down, but you will get over it and find something more suited for you. Chin up!

— Take advantage of outplacement services.

If this option is offered as part of your severance package, utilize it.

It is a service to help you get back on your feet after a job loss. Mine was 100% free for a short period of time. This is one of the areas I should have utilized to its greatest benefit.

I believe it would have given me even more tools to leverage my job search ability. When you are looking for a job after losing one, it is best to have all the advantages you can get.

— Have your resume in tip-top shape.

This is not fun and can be very time-consuming, but it is far better to have it ready when you need it. Why throw on the extra stress of updating it in a rush after a life-changing job loss?

Related article: Job Search, What To Do Right Away

— Consider your career goals.

Evaluate your skills and where you want your career to go.

If you need additional skills, find classes or workshops now so that you can sell yourself to future employers later. If you lose your job, you need to be sure that you are not forced to settle for the first low-ball offer thrown your way. Make a list of must-haves for the company and position that you can see yourself working in for your next career move.

4-step financial survival guide

The Bottom Line

Now that you have the 4-step financial survival guide + a few non-financial considerations you will be well-prepared should you face an unexpected job loss.

You will notice that it’s mostly about looking at your saving and spending parameters. Spend less, save more, and make your hard-earned money work for you.

You got this!

I will be writing about my job search saga in the near future, along with the job I landed. Stay tuned!

Full-Time Dollars

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Readers, have you faced an unexpected job loss? How did you deal? What are your suggestions for others reading this? Do you have a financial survival structure? 


Photo cred: Pixabay










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