By Sue Stevens and Tim Wrobel

Losing your job can be a tough blow, and it’s completely normal to feel hurt, sad, angry, or even depressed. People around you will say, “It isn’t about you” – which is true, but it’s hard to wrap your head around it and push out all the self loathing and ‘what if’s’.

Best advice: Take your time to adjust to this major change and get in the right headspace. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in going through this difficult period. Share the news with your family, close friends, any mentor you might have, and let them be a source of strength, humor, and inspiration for you.

While some years experience more of an uptick in job losses – like 2020 that saw a lot of job losses due to the global pandemic, and in 2023 many people are still struggling to figure out what to do next. It’s crucial to take practical steps to stay afloat during this challenging time.

Taking the First Steps

Get an accurate accounting of your current assets. In simplest of terms, have a command of money coming in and money going out. If you were fortunate enough to have received a severance package, factor that into the income/expenses equation. It will provide a handsome financial boost to help you reboot for that next opportunity.

If you fail to plan, the plan will fail.

That’s either a quote by Ben Franklin or Groucho Marx. Either way, it’s spot on. Let’s talk about a practical 90-day game plan for dealing with job loss.

Your First 30 Days:

  • Carefully review any severance package you received with an advisor who can guide you through its details and understand fully what you’re signing. Human nature tells us to sometimes shut off and ‘just sign’ things to get it over with, which may hurt you especially if the wording is such that it puts you at a disadvantage for things like health care or legal remedies.
  • Update your Net Worth Statement to have a clear understanding of your financial standing. If nothing else, this puts YOU in control and emotionally this is a good thing.
  • Make sure you have an emergency fund to cover three-to-six months’ worth of expenses. If you haven’t saved up enough, consider selling investments or utilizing a line of credit or cash value in life insurance. Every little bit of wind you can put at your back is helpful.
  • Check your options for continuing health insurance coverage under COBRA or through state programs or exchanges – here again, having your health and finances buttoned up will make you more confident during this challenging time.
  • Take a closer look at your bills, prioritize payments, and don’t ignore them. Have an honest conversation about what you really need. Monthly subscriptions are hidden surprises that can add up – twelve dollars here, $39 there – it makes a difference. Anything that’s not critical should be evaluated honestly.
  • If you haven’t been updating your resume through the years – guess what? Now is the time! Refresh your resume, highlighting your credentials, accomplishments, and relevant training.
  • Find out if you’re eligible for unemployment benefits and apply for them. Don’ let your pride get in the way of this resource – it’s a temporary benefit that can make a real difference.
  • Understand the terms of any company benefits or stock options or restricted stock options you may have and make the most of them. Don’t be too proud to exercise!

The Next  30 Days:

  • Network both online and in person to increase your chances of finding a new job. Platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook can be useful. Don’t forget to stay connected with anyone from your previous employer. Your colleagues can be a great support network personally and professionally.
  • Beware of predatory ‘resume services’ or ‘professional coaches’ across social media – there is a glut of these expert services out there and they can take advantage of you when you’re feeling vulnerable. When in doubt – ask your colleagues (those who you trust most) if they have any recommendations.
  • Take the time to review your investment portfolio and consider repositioning it to generate income if you need to.
  • If you’re now in a lower capital gains tax bracket following your job loss, it might make sense to sell any appreciated investments.
  • After the review, it might be most beneficial to rebalance your portfolio – here again, embrace this as a short-term exercise – you can rebalance when you’re back in the saddle.
  • Again, if you’re in a lower tax bracket, consider converting any Roth IRAs or making contributions to a Roth IRA.
  • The part everybody loves – take an honest look at your debt and explore options for restructuring or consolidating it.
  • Cut unnecessary expenses to manage your finances better. Some ideas could include eliminating subscriptions (mentioned earlier), dialing down certain utilities, change your buying habits, look at generic brands, eat in, rediscover your public library, or brew your own coffee (THE HORROR!).
  • Understand how any deferred compensation will be paid out and its tax implications. This may or may not have been part of the separation letter from your employer.
  • IMPORTANT! While these steps are the ‘business side’ of managing job loss, it’s critically important to take some time to relax and have fun with your loved ones. Read that book that’s been collecting dust…listen to that album (yes, album!) that you used to listen to all the time…learn a musical instrument…take a long walk to inventory all the good stuff in life. Your attitude and well-being are arguable more important. Remember – it’s just a job you lost.

After 60 Days:

  • Consider rolling over your company retirement plan to an IRA, but first compare costs and investment choices before making any decision.
  • If you’re at least 55 and separated from service, you may be able to take distributions from your company plan without penalties. If you need to do that, don’t rollover the plan. Otherwise, you have to wait until age 59 ½ to be able to withdraw from your traditional IRAs without penalties.
  • Repay any loans from your company retirement plan if possible. Otherwise, that loan is considered a distribution and you may end up owing a 10% early withdrawal penalty on top of taxes.
  • If you have company stock in your retirement plan, consider pulling it out before you roll over the rest of the plan. You’ll pay ordinary income tax on the cost basis and capital gains tax when you eventually sell the stock. The rules are tricky here, so consult an advisor if you are thinking about this option.
  • Adjust any education funding if you need to, and explore financial aid options if your child is in college. Remember – this is temporary, so don’t beat yourself up!
  • Communicate with lenders and try to negotiate payment terms if you’re struggling with credit card debt. It may feel awkward but you’d rather have an uncomfortable conversation than fall behind with your monthly obligations.
  • One person’s trash is another’s treasure. Sell items you no longer need to generate some extra cash – you’d be shocked at what people will buy on sites like Craigslist, Poshmark, Facebook Marketplace, or OfferUp. You may carve out a nice little side hustle through this time and get rid of the junk in your basement at the same time!
  • Broaden the scope of your job search and explore new opportunities that take full advantage of your skills and the intangibles unique to you. Not sure what those intangibles are? Maybe it’s your spouse, your best friend, your mentor – they see you differently than you see yourself. They know your superpower even if you don’t – and likely, that superpower can help you find the perfect next gig.
  • Finally, understand the tax implications of severance pay, unemployment compensation, retirement plan withdrawals, job hunting deductions, and moving costs. I know – boring, but you don’t want any surprises come next April. Remember – YOU’RE taking charge. The IRS publication at can provide helpful information.

Write this down:

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

Either Confucius said that – or Groucho Marx. Either way – it’s spot on. You got this!

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