If you lost your job or fear you may lose your income, keep reading. My hope is that this article helps anyone who finds themselves without a job, coronavirus or not. If you are willing to get busy and to take responsibility for your life, there is absolutely a bright path ahead for you. In my usual fashion, I will simplify this into concise steps that you and I can walk through together.
The coronavirus pandemic has destroyed lives in different ways. The country has lost millions of jobs in numbers not seen since the Great Depression. It is unclear how long this will last and the degree to which the numbers will improve. I would love to dive into that forecast but will save that for another time. This article is the definitive guide that you send to someone when they lose their job. Here’s what ya do:
FILE – File for unemployment benefits. Get this done right away since many states are having significant delays. Be aware though that you will owe income taxes on the money you receive. Not sure who designed that policy, but that is the way it works today.
INSURANCE – Health, vehicle, renters, owners, earthquake, alien abduction… do your best to keep your insurance coverage current. If you can’t afford COBRA or medical insurance, apply for Medicaid. If you can adjust your insurance coverage down, that can save some money while still keeping you covered. In my book I share a story about a young woman who tried to save a few bucks by not getting renters insurance only to have a kettle of water that she left on the burner for too long burn her kitchen down. Insurance would have cost much less than the $14,000 bill she received from the landlord. Do not lose your insurance coverage.
SEVERANCE – If the possibility exists to negotiate a severance package, do not let that slip. You were a good employee and should politely fight for at least two weeks of pay to help carry you to your next move. Severance payments of course depend heavily on the role, the industry, how long you worked there, etc. And remember that, in most states, severance will prohibit you from receiving unemployment benefits for a period of time. Be sure to do the math and read the fine print before accepting severance.
CUTS – Get rid of everything you don’t need. How many subscriptions are you paying for? Drinking too much? How much do you love that friend living on your sofa? Maybe hit pause on things like your gym membership until you’re back on track and workout from home. Make changes to stop the bleeding today to give yourself more flexibility down the road. Sell anything you can. Do you need two cars? Maybe that “thing” you bought while buzzed two Saturday nights ago would be better off in someone else’s home. Get creative and clean house.
CASH – Build or maintain your emergency fund. Even if you’re on unemployment, get your expenses to a level where you have at least one month of living expenses in a savings account. This is as psychological as it is financial. Once you have a little cushion, cut the emergency savings additions until you have the discretionary income (i.e. – the spare cash) to continue.
401K – If you have a 401k or similar retirement vehicle, it often seems attractive to borrow from it. Try to avoid this as any accumulation of debt and/or reduction in retirement savings is bad. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress in late March and, among of its many opportunities, it removed the 10% early withdrawal penalty from 401k’s. If you’re within the allowable window for bypassing that penalty, and absolutely need to access this cash, borrow from your 401k as a last resort and before touching your emergency fund.
CREDIT – Avoid bad credit by proactively reaching out to your creditors, utilities, landlord or mortgage company. By notifying these entities of your change in income, they may offer programs that can help you. If you miss a payment, you can also ask that it not be reported to the credit bureaus. This will likely only work if you had a flawless payment record prior to your job loss. These programs will buy you valuable time and allow you to preserve your credit even during bad times. Stay ahead of these problems so they don’t become bigger problems. Don’t be ashamed to ask. People like to help people.
MOVE – Consider moving in with friends/family. Or take on a roommate. Or move to a city or state with lower expenses. Many stories of people here in Los Angeles moving to Texas, Arizona, Oregon and Utah since the pandemic started. Not everyone lost their job, some people just retired to these places. Or wanted to live in a place with a lower cost of living since they could now work remotely. The point is that if you lost your job or source of income, every aspect of your life should be on the table and that includes your location.
NETWORK – Having a strong network is critical. Think of a genuine and diverse network as you would an emergency cash fund. Help people as often as you can and when you need a favor, you will have people who want to help. This doesn’t mean you have to be an extrovert either. You can network completely online. What if you just lost your job and have no network? Then it’s time to get started. Use LinkedIn or other tools to find connections in the industry or company that you want to be a part of. Research to find something you and this person have in common. If not a common friend, maybe it is an experience you shared (i.e. – getting yelled at by a customer) or a job change. Find something similar and include that in your communication when you reach out. Remember, the best way to build connections is to ask people about themselves and their experience.
GOALS – Set short and long-term goals. Keep a paper, computer note or use an app, but your goal list should be the first and last thing you look at each day. Have a section for “tomorrow” goals, “this week” goals, “this year” goals and “next year” goals. I cannot tell you how quickly this can change your life.
DIET – Eat quality food. I get it. You just lost your job and you’re calling me names in your head. But a can of black beans and some frozen broccoli with some seasoning will make you more productive than greasy fast food. Yeah, that didn’t sound good to me either, but it is frequently my lunch anyway. Buy a whole chicken and it will last you a few days. Make some wraps with leftovers! You get the point, but eating clean absolutely does not need to cost more than junk food.
CREATE – Create instead of consume! Turn off the streams and make a video of your new vision and who you’re working hard to become. Share the video with friends. Draw, paint, take photos, write music using a free app, create an exercise plan and share it, start a blog… all free (or mostly free) things to move your mind from consumer to creator. Always mind that balance.
GO – Exercise, wake up early, make new habits. This is all part of the process that will change your luck and connect you to a better future. This one costs zero dollars. In return, you will be more focused, more energetic, have less/no anxiety and have stronger will power. Move to get your energy, strength and creativity strong.
READ – Read a lot of books. Use Blinkist if you are short on time and just want to read summaries of the top non-fiction books. I use Blinkist as a shopping tool. If I love a Blink, then I order the book. Reading will keep you ahead of the game, costs little and will make you more equipped to do what you want to do.
DIVERSIFY – Generate multiple streams of income. Get out of the situation where 100% of your income is based on trading your time for money. You want to earn income while you sleep. Work towards getting a new job and then simultaneously do these two things:
- Improve your skills in the job that you have or want. If you’re a food server, find videos, seminars or master classes on customer service and management so you can grow your career. If you’re a marketer, read a Seth Godin book and watch the thousands of free marketing videos out there. So much self-learning available.
- Start another stream of income or side hustle. The “side hustle ideas” article has been written many times and I am not going to write another one. But click that link if you want what I found to be a good list.
There is a lot to do and you can enjoy the journey. You have a choice today, regardless of how good or bad you have it… you can eat junk food, drink too much, consume endlessly and believe that it’s okay to be idle and feel sorry for yourself.
Or you can get pumped, work on being a stronger person and be the next success story. Being the best version of you will attract better relationships and completely change your luck. If you apply yourself and do what is on this page, this will work for you. Believe in yourself!
Is there anything missing from this list that should be included? Do you want to share your story? If so, I’d love to hear from you on social media. Links below.
P.S. – If you liked this post, enter your email below and get my free updates!
Photo Credit: Thank you to my friend @vancity13 for letting me use her Instagram photo for this article. She didn’t lose her job. She is a school teacher here in Los Angeles and her photo mirrors what I was seeking to accompany this article.