Coping Financially During Tough Times
Job loss and other financial hits from an economic downturn inevitably take a toll on your household. Even if you have your budget and spending under control, you may face difficult decisions about how to protect your household’s financial future.
Anticipating a Layoff
If you suspect that your employer is planning a layoff or other measures that will affect your job, you should avoid spending more on luxuries, even if they’re available at a discount. Instead, hints of a layoff or work slowdown should alert you to the need to revamp your finances.
Planning now will help cushion the impact of a significant decline in your income, whenever it occurs.
Look at your savings. Focus on “liquid” funds that you can tap quickly if you lose your source of steady income. Unless you already have enough to survive on for months of unemployment, you should start saving as much as possible now. Cut nonessential spending—eating out, premium cable channels, subscriptions—to increase the amount available to save.
Pay off as much debt as possible. Without sacrificing your savings, use any additional income, such as a tax refund check or recent salary increases, toward paying down debt. Start by paying down the balance on credit cards and other high-interest debt. If you must use your credit card for a purchase, pay the balance in full each month. Try to pay off vehicle loans and other forms of short-term debt. This will protect your vehicle and your credit rating if a layoff occurs, while freeing up more funds for saving.
Review your mortgage. Talk to a credit union loan specialist about refinancing while you still are employed. Refinancing your home at a lower interest rate or for a longer repayment term can cut your payments to shift funds to cover living expenses, save, or pay down debt.
Consider a Home Equity Line of Credit. If you lack emergency savings, again, consider talking to the professionals at your credit union about getting approval for a home equity line of credit (HELOC), which you should only tap in case of an emergency. Resist using the line of credit to pay for routine expenses; inability to make payments later could cause you to lose your home.
Gather information from your workplace to cope with the potential of job loss. You’re likely to lose access to workplace computers if a layoff occurs, so transfer personal files and contact lists to another format that you can access from your home computer or the public library. Update your résumé and share contact information with co-workers or supervisors who could provide a reference or information about job leads.
File for unemployment benefits as soon as you know you will be laid off. It could take days before your claim is processed and benefits can begin, so the sooner you file, the better.
Review your health insurance options. If you can’t get COBRA or cannot get on your spouse’s insurance, check healthcare.gov for your options.
This is a difficult period for all of us. But know that GNO FCU is committed to helping our members stay financially safe and healthy. Call us at 504-454-8224 for more information.