Coping During a COVID Layoff
The pandemic has been in full swing for over nine months now, and many people are still reeling. Although the massive wave of unemployment that struck in March has been slowly righting itself, chances are still pretty good that you know someone who’s out of a job because of COVID—or perhaps you’re in that not-so-happy boat yourself.
With the unemployment rate still high and millions of confirmed coronavirus cases, there’s probably still some time before things feel completely normal.
But for families who have been impacted by a pandemic-related layoff, here are some simple steps to take to help things feel a little less out of control on a personal level.
Taking a Deep Breath
It’s pretty common to feel emotionally overwhelmed over a job loss, even when the rest of the world isn’t also actively on fire. So if you feel bowled over as a response to this sudden change, try to be gentle with yourself: This is a difficult period of history for everyone on planet Earth.
Keep in mind that you’re certainly not the only one out of work right now, so as isolating as this whole experience feels, you’re definitely not alone. If you can, try to look for silver linings: Could this loss actually present an opportunity in the long run? Maybe you’ve long been considering switching roles, companies, or even careers.
Even if that feels disingenuous—if you adored your job and all you feel is anger and frustration—taking the time to meditate on the situation and get to the root of your feelings can help you put things into perspective. Maybe some of that sadness can be allayed by simply texting or calling the coworkers you miss. Maybe some of that anger is actually fear in disguise: fear of an uncertain future.
Once you’ve breathed through the initial shock of the situation, it might be time to start taking some action. Getting a solid sense of what your financial picture and career life looks like now can help you more intentionally and successfully plan for the future.
Applying for Benefits
It might be worthwhile to look into unemployment benefit eligibility. Through the CARES Act, you may be able to collect extra unemployment insurance, at least for a limited amount of time, and you may be qualified to receive those benefits even if you’re an independent contractor.
If your job loss also includes a loss of health insurance, you might consider investigating your options. Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, commonly known as COBRA, your employer may be obligated to continue to provide you healthcare benefits for a limited time period after your layoff, though your monthly premiums may rise significantly. If you’re married and your spouse is still employed, it may be worthwhile comparing what the cost would be to add you to their healthcare plan, or consider purchasing one on the Marketplace .
Looking at Your Budget
Once you’ve got that process rolling, it’s time to check in with your budget. (Don’t have one? Now’s a fantastic time to make one!) What might you be able to adjust in order to make ends meet more easily during the lean times to come?
When your income is at a minimum, looking for ways to cut back on spending to stretch your cash is a good first step to take. This is one reason it’s so important to create an emergency savings fund, which can help you sustain your lifestyle for a few months while you’re between jobs.
But even if you do have a cushion to fall back on, it may be smart to use it as slowly as possible. No one can predict the future, and 2021 is still yet to be seen. Even when things start to look promising, it’s smart to conserve as much of your emergency cash as possible.
While canceling your Netflix subscription or making coffee at home can be a good first step, one of the most immediate ways to make significant budget changes is by looking closely at what you’re putting in your grocery cart. According to the USDA’s most recent data, a young couple might spend as little as $403.20 per month on food, or as much as $802.50—which is a whole lot of wiggle room to create savings.
Of course, be sure to loop in your partner or family during this process if you’re not living alone. Finding places to cut back and ways to stretch savings will likely affect everyone in the household. Other household members might be able to help find ways to contribute, too.
Looking Toward the Future
Although this may seem like exactly the wrong time to tackle financial goals like paying off debt or doubling down on savings, once you’ve gotten more familiar with where your money is going (and made some adjustments as to where it should go), you may be in a better position than ever to set yourself up for success.
For example, using a cash management system like SoFi Money® can help create a plan for how you want your finances to flow in the future. And with the vaults feature of SoFi Money, members can create separate savings funds for different goals. You might create a vault for an emergency fund or, once the job situation is corrected, to set aside cash for that vacation that will be welcome after months of lockdown.
Getting Back in the Game
No matter how well someone plans for a potential job loss, the goal is usually to get back to being employed ASAP—and that’s a process that takes planning and organization, too. This may be a great time to tap into your existing network to see what opportunities might be available. Some experts say as many as 70-85% of jobs are filled through networking.
Updating your LinkedIn profile to ensure it lists all of your relevant experience can be helpful. You can also navigate to your settings, and then click “Job seeking preferences,” and toggle on the option that allows your profile to show up in recruiter searches.
While it’s definitely a rough market, keep in mind that the coronavirus has actually created a hiring boom in some industries, such as shipping and delivery, digital communication platforms, and childcare. Better yet, more opportunities are remote than before COVID-19—and many may allow employees to maintain remote status even after the pandemic abates.
Keep Calm and Carry On
A job loss might feel like just another in a long list of 2020 tragedies. But there is help out there.
For instance, SoFi members get free access to professional career coaches who can help you not only achieve employment status again, but possibly even score the position you’ve long been dreaming of.
SoFi also offers access to a line of insurance products through SoFi Protect, which can help ensure you and your family are covered when the unexpected happens, as this year has proven so well.
And if you’re struggling under the weight of credit card debt or other making-ends-meet burdens, SoFi’s unsecured personal loan options may be able to help you finance, consolidate, or improve your financial landscape.
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