12 Tips for Surviving a Job Loss

Getting dismissed from your job is on the list of most stressful life events. Learn how to get through it and thrive.

Male Elementary Teacher Reading Story to Children

by NEA Member Benefits

Key takeaways

  • Losing your job is stressful but it can also be an opportunity to open new doors.
  • Allow yourself time to grieve and then resolve to take positive actions to improve your situation.
  • Cut back on spending and recognize that an austere lifestyle is only temporary.

It’s never a good time to lose your job. But for Nancy and Tom, the layoff was particularly ill-timed. They had recently completed a summer move to a larger house (with a bigger mortgage) in a different state. Now their twins were ready for the first day of kindergarten at a new school and Tom’s salary and benefits were history.

Nancy and Tom went through a progression of emotions—denial, anger, acceptance, hope and eventually, resolve. As soon as they got to “acceptance” they started the process of making what had initially felt like a horrible event into an opportunity to build something even better than what they had before.

Nancy found part-time work to augment their savings while still being able to take care of the kids. Within three months, Tom had landed a new job with a higher salary and richer benefits. They chalked up their success to flipping their initial destructive emotions to a positive, “can-do” attitude.

If you’re facing your own layoff, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) offers the following tips for surviving it:

1. Allow yourself to be upset or even afraid. These are natural reactions. However, should they become intense, be willing to seek professional help. Talking things through and hearing another person’s perspective can bring relief and help you move forward.

2. Take advantage of any assistance your school district or community offers. Many districts provide placement assistance, job retraining and severance packages. Make sure you are aware of all benefits offered.

3. Apply for any applicable government benefits. Your HR representative at work can be a good resource to apply for unemployment insurance and other sources of support.

4. Resist the urge to solve your problems by spending recklessly. It may feel good for the moment, but the high of spending won’t equal the low of dealing with additional debt when you have no income.

5. Don’t be tempted to live off of your credit cards. Someone with a good line of credit could potentially support a family at their current standard of living by using credit, but there’s no guarantee that a new job would materialize any time soon. Hopefully, you have an emergency fund to carry you through this difficult period.

6. Take a personal inventory. Consider all assets, income and expenses. Hopefully, you will not have to liquidate any assets to survive financially, but it is good to know what you have to fall back on.

7. Drastic times call for drastic measures. Nothing is off-limits. If necessary, consider selling a second car or any recreational vehicles, real estate holdings, rental properties or jewelry.

8. Review income versus debt obligations. If there is not enough money to make ends meet, calculate how much is needed to take care of basic household living expenses. Your goal is to pay all creditors, but if you must make a choice, keep your home life stable by first paying your rent or mortgage, utilities, childcare, insurance premiums, health care, food and keeping gas in the car.

9. Have a family meeting that includes the children. You don’t want people pulling in different directions, and a joint effort yields a greater result. Make cutbacks wherever possible, knowing that an austere lifestyle will only be temporary. Resolve with all family members to stop all non-essential spending immediately.

10. Track your spending. It’s always a good idea, but when money is tight, it’s essential. Write down every cent you spend. At the end of 30 days, review where the money went and make conscious decisions about where to cut back. You’ll be amazed by how much you can save and not even feel the pinch.

11. Contact your creditors to arrange lower payments. Most major credit card issuers have in-house assistance programs. Explain your situation and what you’re doing to resolve it. The creditor may be able to temporarily lower your monthly payment or reduce interest.

12. Call your mortgage lender or servicer and inform them of your situation. Be prepared to provide them with documentation of the setback, and have a resolution plan in mind. Since the average consumer doesn’t know all types of loan modifications available, it is advisable to first sit down with a certified housing counselor and map out a plan. This way you’ll know the option that is best suited to your situation.