Lose your job? Here are 6 money moves to make ASAP

Best course of action is to remain calm and start getting an action plan together

If you lose your job it can be upsetting, daunting and frightening. Not only is your emotional health at stake, but obviously your financial future is of concern. The best course of action is to remain calm and start getting an action plan together.

"Losing your job can feel like the end of the world, particularly if you haven’t planned for this scenario," says Brad Hindman, managing director of investments at Wells Fargo Advisors. "Don’t panic – this is likely just a temporary setback."

Hindman suggests having a family meeting (if applicable) to reset expectations and make compromises to get through it together.

After discussing expectations with your inner circle, it’s a good idea to incorporate specific "money moves" to handle a job loss.

FOX Business asked three money experts to share what money moves you should make in the event of a job loss.

Losing a job can initially come as a shock, these tips will help with getting back on solid ground.

Conduct a financial audit

Hindman advises examining your bank accounts, and your credit cards, to categorize and evaluate your spending.

"An important exercise is to categorize your spending in "essential/needs" and "discretionary/wants,’" he says.


Under essential/needs, says Hindman, list things you can’t do without, like a mortgage, car payment, food, etc. Then, under discretionary/wants, list things that are "nice to have" such as dining out at restaurants, manicures/pedicures, gym memberships, etc.

"The reason I suggest this exercise is that most people simply do not know how much they’re spending in the discretionary/wants column," Hindman tells FOX Business. "For example, one of my clients looked at all of the apps and subscriptions that are automatically debited from his account and by eliminating those that he rarely used or didn’t need, he saved $250-300 per month."  

Hindman says budgeting is a word that makes most people cringe.

"I like to think of it as being a ‘smart shopper.’ You’ll be surprised at how much money you can recoup. Money has meaning and value, so using it wisely and intentionally can feel not only empowering but inspiring," Hindman says.

Take an inventory of your debt

Inventory your debt to determine if there is any debt that you can eliminate immediately or negotiate a better rate with your creditor, says Hindman. For example, he suggests, if you owe hundreds of dollars to a service provider, contact them to inform them that you lost your job and would like to create a payment plan or make a one-time payment for much less than you owed.

"It doesn’t hurt to ask, and you’ll find that your creditors are much more flexible if you negotiate with them before you go into arrears," he says. 

Taking an inventory of your debt is an important early step if you lose your job. (iStock / iStock)

Determine your benefits

Hindman recommends closely reading the details of your severance package if you receive one. He says to focus on how much money you will receive and what length of time; unemployment benefits as well as health insurance and life insurance.

"If you had healthcare coverage through your employer, you’ll need to evaluate your options," he says.

For example, if you can’t be added to your spouse/partner’s health insurance, you’ll need to compare COBRA rates with those in the marketplace as well as if you or your family qualify for federal and local programs, says Hindman.

"You can also look for deals to bundle your health insurance and life insurance with other policies for additional savings," he says.


One of the biggest and easily avoidable mistakes is to go without health insurance when you unexpectedly need it, as it can be financially devastating in the long run, Hindman says. 

Apply for unemployment benefits

Meredith Stoddard, life events experience lead at Fidelity, says after being laid off, contact your state’s unemployment office immediately to enroll in an unemployment insurance program to receive compensation as soon as possible.

"While the benefits may not amount to what you were making before, unemployment benefits can be a crucial lifeline when you can’t rely on a steady income," Stoddard tells FOX Business. "Each state has different benefits and eligibility requirements, so be sure to check your state’s unemployment site to understand the process and when you can expect to receive benefits."

Manage your retirement savings

Stoddard says it's important to make a plan for your retirement savings and research the best options based on your current situation; depending on the terms, most companies will let you keep your money in their plan even after you’ve left, as long as it is more than $5,000.

"You can also roll over the money into an IRA with a financial institution, like Fidelity where you have access to a full range of investment options and financial guidance," Stoddard says. Other options are to move your money into your new employer’s plan, once you get your next job if that is an option through the new plan, she says.

While it may be tempting to use your retirement savings during this uncertain time, Stoddard says to try to avoid it unless you’ve exhausted all other options as there will likely be a 10% penalty plus federal and sometimes state income taxes due on those withdrawals. In addition, you’d be losing out on potential growth in the future, she says.

401(k) statement

401(k) plans help Americans have enough money to live on after they retire and no longer receive an annual wage. Understanding your options regarding your retirement plan can help you get through a period of unemployment. (Getty / Getty Images)

Remain optimistic

Losing a job can be an understandably terrifying situation for people, but keeping your mental well-being intact is integral for you to get back on your feet, says Alyssa Schaefer, a New York-based general manager and chief experience officer of Laurel Road, the digital banking platform and brand of KeyBank.


"It is important to realize that this situation is in no way permanent, and by developing a plan ahead of time, you can find easier ways to manage your finances," says Schaefer. "To avoid falling into this downward spiral you should consider weighing all of your options when budgeting to set the foundation for financial peace of mind."

And, she says, should you have to dip into your emergency fund, don’t panic.

"Be proud of yourself for creating one in the first place," Schaefer tells FOX Business. "Acknowledge that you built up savings for an emergency and you will be able to do it again once you settle into a job."