Building your nest egg in case of getting laid off

There’s nothing fun about getting laid off, particularly these days when the amount of time it takes to find the next job is still way above historical averages. But if it this financial setback has to happen, you’re best off if – like Carolyn and her husband – you’re in a place where you can weather it financially. As she noted: “We travel. We eat out. We don’t skimp on anything except we don’t own expensive cars. We don’t buy expensive clothes. Everything is just living within our means.” That’s what I call doing it just right. Checking the following off your-to-do lists will also enable you to handle a lay-off if one should happen to come along. (On the flip side, if you’re the one who decides you simply can’t stand one more day at your current job, they come in handy as well.)

Build up your emergency funds. Financial experts’ advice varies when it comes to recommendations for how much is enough in your financial cushion. I like to see at least three months of living expenses if you’re a two-income family and at least six months if you’re living on a single income. Why the difference? Because if you have two incomes, chances are you won’t lose both simultaneously. And note Your monthly living expenses do not equal the amount you spend every month. It’s the amount you’d have to spend in a month if you weren’t spending on the things you want but don’t really need.

Put it somewhere you can access it. I know interest rates on savings and money market accounts are low by historical averages. When it comes to your emergency fund, it doesn’t matter. The money still needs to be somewhere you can get at it easily in a pinch. To me, that means in my local bank, in a savings or money market account. Not in a CD., and not in a mutual fund. I’ll earn my return on my investments instead.

Consider a back-pocket emergency cushion, too. Should your layoff drag on, you’ll want to know that you have other sources of potential cash to tap. My suggestion? A home equity line of credit. Now, as far too many people learned during the financial crisis, you don’t want to use your home as an ATM unless it’s absolutely necessary., and you do not want to pull more equity out of your home than you absolutely need. But this is one of those things you have to secure while employed. So if it sounds good to you, do it sooner not later, just in case.

Keep job networking. When’s the best time to get a new job or start a new business? When you’re currently employed. Yes, it means working a little harder, putting in considerable extra hours. But the pressure of doing these things while you have a paycheck rolling in is nowhere near the pressure of doing them after being laid off and your severance is running out. Take the time to maintain your connections, keep your resume and contacts up to date, and preserve your memberships in important organizations. They’ve never been more valuable.

Getting laid off can be devastating, both personally and financially. Be prepared for emergencies by looking into some of these easy steps today.

Jean Chatzky

About Jean Chatzky

Jean Chatzky, the financial editor for NBC’s TODAY show, is an award-winning personal finance journalist, AARP’s personal finance ambassador, and a contributing editor for Fortune magazine. Jean is a best-selling author; her eighth and most recent book is Money Rules: The Simple Path to Lifelong Security. She believes knowing how to manage our money is one of the most important life skills for people at every age and has made it her mission to help simplify money matters, increasing financial literacy both now and for the future. In April 2013 Jean launched Jean Chatzky's Money School , a series of college-style, interactive online personal finance courses that give men and women across the country the opportunity to learn from and interact directly with her. Jean lives with her family in Westchester County, New York.
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