“What’s that paper you’ve got there, Sam?” Duane drained his orange juice and set the glass heavily on the table. It was another Saturday morning outing at the Café 23.
Survival Sam held up the page in question as Tina stealthily took his plate and silverware. “This is a list of tips to prepare for facing a possible job layoff. I found this recently and thought John might want to post these on his blog.”
“What a coincidence,” Duane said. “My brother-in-law Bill is worried about getting laid off.”
“Sorry to hear it,” Sam said. “Tens of thousands are losing their jobs now nearly every month, so it’s something to prepare for.”
“Yeah,’ I chimed in. “It seems some company’s always in the news saying they’re going to cut 3,000 jobs here, or 9,000 jobs there. It may be months before all those people lose their jobs, but the numbers are always pretty big it seems to me, and they sure add up.”
“So, what’s the first tip?” Duane leaned forward with his elbows on the table.
“First, establish an emergency fund. Set aside enough money to cover your basic living expenses for three to six months. I’d call it a survival fund.” He put his hand down on the page. "It goes without saying in my book that you should have food and basics on hand as well."
“The money would be enough to pay bills for a little while,” Duane said.
Sam read on. “Second, live within your means. Don’t spend beyond what you bring in. That should include setting some aside in that emergency or survival fund.”
“Easier said than done,” I said.
“Yes, but you have to remember the goal here—preparing for job cuts.” Sam flattened out the paper in front of him. “Third, use credit cards with great caution.” He looked up. “I’d say cut them up altogether and pay them down. You don’t need to add to your debt and the stress it brings with it.”
“Good point,” I said.
‘Fourth,” Sam went on, “Talk about money with your partner. Communicate. Make sure you’re on the same page, so to speak, with plans and goals.”
“Yeah,” Duane frowned. “It’s not hard to assume everything’s OK and that you understand each other, only to find out you’re going in different directions. I guess it happens in the best of marriages.”
Sam shifted his reading glasses. “Fifth, tackle high-interest debt. Move high interest credit cards into lower interest cards if possible. I think it makes sense to practice what one financial counselor calls the snowball effect. Pay off smaller bills first so you feel you’re accomplishing something, then hack away at the bigger bills.”
“Good advice.” Duane leaned back. “What’s next?”
“Sixth, network, network, network. You know the old saying. It’s not what you know, but who you know. Make sure you know people in your line of work or the work you want to go into next perhaps.”
“I’ve been able to get jobs over the years because of contacts I’ve made and friends I’ve known,” I said. “I’ve also learned that you make new friends along the way when you’re searching for a job.”
“You have to,” Duane said.
“Seventh, try to get disability coverage before you lose your job. That’s closely tied with number eight on the list. Investigate your medical insurance policy at work. You should determine whether you’ll be able to afford the full cost of the COBRA plan.” He looked up from his reading again. “By law, when you lose your job, you have the option to continue the medical coverage your employer arranged. Personally though, I’d suggest looking into a Health Savings Account. Premiums are lower on HSA’s than other plans, and you have the option to set aside some money in a dedicated medical savings account. This way you’ll have portable insurance you can carry from place to place and not worry about losing medical coverage on a future job.”
“Not a bad idea,” Duane said. It really means biting the bullet and being prepared, doesn’t it?”
“You have to be thinking ahead,” I said.
“You have to really study some important issues very carefully,” Sam said. “And that brings me to number nine—last on the list–pursue higher education while you can. This is a good idea if your company offers opportunities to further your education. It will help your skills and perhaps earn some college credits for you.”
Sam handed me the list. “Duane, I hope things turn out all right for Bill.”
“Yeah, thanks. He’ll be a bear to live with if he loses his job.” Duane pulled on his jacket.
“I’ll get you a copy of this list to give to him,” I said. “I’m sure he could use it.”