How to financially prepare if you’re worried about a job layoff

How to financially prepare if you’re worried about a job layoff

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If your company has been going through rounds of layoffs lately and you fear you might be next, you’re probably starting to wonder what you should do with your finances. As you navigate these stressful and unpredictable times, you may be asking yourself how long you’ll be able to live off your savings or what you should do about your monthly student loan payments.

These are all valid concerns, and while you might not be able to fully prepare for an impending job layoff — especially if it’s expected to happen soon — now is a good time to take a closer look at your expenses, income and debt so you can be as prepared as possible for whatever comes next.

Select spoke with Blair duQuesnay, CFA®, CFP® and investment advisor at Ritholtz Wealth Management , about what people can to do to prepare financially in case they were to be laid off.

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The general consensus is that people should have three to six months’ worth of living expenses saved up for an emergency fund . That means having enough money to cover essential expenses such as rent, transportation, food and health care.

duQuesnay recommends that people who work in fields more susceptible to job layoffs consider saving more than six months’ worth of expenses .

That, however, may not be a feasible option for many American families. According to a 2022 report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau , nearly 40% of consumers had less than one month’s worth of expenses saved up, while another 24% had no emergency fund at all.

If, for whatever reason, you aren’t able to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses, don’t worry, as you may not need to save up that much after all.

A 2019 report by the JPMorgan Chase & Co. Institute centered around income volatility found that families would need six weeks’ worth of expenses to handle a simultaneous uptick in expenses and decrease in income. For just a minor income dip, three weeks’ worth of expenses were needed to sustain families.

Additional research conducted by the Social Science Research Network, or SSRN, that was specifically focused on low-income families yielded a similar conclusion: A family of four making less than $30,000 should have roughly $2,467 or around one month of expenses saved up.

If saving many months’ worth of expenses is an unattainable goal, setting a smaller target of saving up a few weeks’ worth of expenses could be enough to get you by. Start saving by setting aside money from each paycheck after you receive it (try to automate deposits into a savings account if you can ), which will reduce your temptation to spend the money on other things.

You don’t necessarily need to save a substantial amount of money from each paycheck, either — start small and increase your savings rate every so often. For example, you could start by saving 5% of your paycheck, then increasing that percentage over time.

For your emergency fund, consider saving with a high-yield savings account, which offers a significantly higher interest rate or annual percentage yield than a traditional savings account but isn’t as volatile as investing in the stock market would be.

Select ranked Marcus by Goldman Sachs High Yield Online Savings , Ally Bank Online Savings Account and Synchrony Bank High Yield Savings among the best high-yield savings accounts.

You should also look into whether or not you’re eligible for a severance package which is money that employers provide to employees who have been laid off. And if you’re laid off, you should be eligible for unemployment benefits through your state and/or the federal government.

duQuesnay suggests that people also think critically about their investment portfolio allocation, explaining that if your employer offers stock options, you generally don’t want to have too much money invested in that stock, as a layoff typically indicates the company may not be faring well. Take a look at your current debt

If you have any type of debt — whether it’s for student loans , credit cards , an automobile or a mortgage — you’ll want to figure out […]

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